Monthly Archives

December 1916

I pictured my little sisters with music in the air

December 25, 1916

France, Dec. 25th, 1916

Dear Amy,

I guess you are in the midst of harvest and heat and dust and I hope a good time too.

I was looking amongst your letters and noticed Nona’s letters, kisses etc. I am trying to picture how big she would be and imagine she is going on six years. She was a wee kiddie when I last saw her. All my little brothers and sisters will be big ones when I see them again sometime next year – and next year will come and my little sister, best girl will be a woman.

We had a sing-song for Christmas and I had to drink the toast of those at home and among other things I pictured my little sisters with music in the air and felt it would be great to be among it all again. But we had a good Christmas.

I’ve been at military school for three weeks and our lecture hall was made into a dinner hall and we had plenty of good things and a really good time. We had it yesterday because we were not sure we would be here today. We go back to our regiments tomorrow. There are about 100 of us here from many regiments – Australians. We have had plenty of work and tons of lectures and tons of good time mixed up with it. As it is midwinter I feel pretty lucky to be in dry quarters for nearly a month of the worst of the year. It has frosted, snowed a few times and rained many times since we came.

It’s wet today and tonight, so if my luck holds as it usually does I might not have to put up with very bad conditions, but it is mud everywhere when the ground isn’t frozen solid and it is not really good for the semi open air life we are living.

There is much peace talk in the papers we get each day but I feel it will take next summer to get a peace that is any good to us.

We had another Christmas dinner with good English pudding. It’s good food anywhere but more so in the cold. Of course I would enjoy it more in sunny Australia.

Your affectionate brother, Stid.

It’s something like being an M.C. at a bush ball

December 18, 1916

France, Dec. 18, 1916

Dear Amy,

I am a little away from the section at a Military School. I will only be away for a few weeks. I am pretty lucky that it is in the middle of winter because it is much more pleasant – better and drier than being on duty. It’s pretty cold now- ice nearly always, rain almost every day- only a drizzle. I haven’t seen it rain hard here like it does at home but the ground is always very wet and it has snowed a couple to times lately.

I have been made a corporal which means 10/- a day to me and makes me more comfortable. There are lots of things- food and warm clothes- that extra money brings and in this cold weather a pair of warm gloves means a lot. We have our gloves on always when not writing, drilling or handling rifles or gear. Usually gloves don’t last very long.

We get plenty of work at school, drilling between lectures. We have to move quickly to get a wash or shave or clean up but it is very pleasant compared with wallowing in mud and plenty of work keeps us warm. some days we wear Great Coats all the time. Everyone gets a turn drilling the others. It’s something like being an M.C. at a bush ball except an M.C. must be very particular about detail. I am at an Infantry School, by the way, but haven’t dropped my Specialist job.

All the trees have lost their leaves and the country that looked so pretty when we came is looking very dull and wintry. I give a good lot of attention to my feet to save them from chilblains and frostbite. I wear several pairs of socks and cork insoles. They need changing often.

We can get one day old English newspapers daily and have been getting good news lately. Huns talking peace, even though we know peace won’t come right away, it’s a sign he is going down. We can easily notice he hasn’t as much metal to throw as we have now and we can tell by the amount of time we spend out of the trenches. It’s great to get a week or so to recover, get warm again and get washed and cleaned up. In this wet country it’s really rough- a few days in the wet without a change – perhaps snow one night and ice the next. It is pretty hard at times, but a lot is done to try to make us bear it with food and one thing or another. We have to use whale oil on our feet pretty freely to stop them from freezing. It doesn’t make them warm, but it’s supposed to save the bite from killing the toes altogether. There are many canteens where we can get food, underclothes, tinned fruit etc.

I am feeling very hopeful that the Hun will be smashed next warm season. He is a hard nut to crack but the British and her allies are growing stronger.

It’s awful the way earth, trees and villages get pounded up. Sad affair – any of us that have the privilege of returning will, I think, be much better men for having gone through it all. No one else could realise what continual wet, snow and ice means to men who carry all their clothes on their backs. See the old swagman and load him up with extra gear then put him in drains to walk and work brushing against the muddy sides, falling or being knocked over in the mud. It’s not unusual to get enough force from an explosion to knock mud all over a fellow and cause him to fall over.

Looking forward to my guiding star getting me home for next Christmas.

Love to all, Stid