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Mother

It always reminds me of home

August 22, 1917
Montivilliers - Postcard

France, 22/8/17

Monte Villiers

Dear Mother,

About the time of the Battle of Crecy, this place was besieged. It is a valley about 200 feet deep which is heavily timbered and is very pretty. I spent last Sunday rambling along down one side of the valley and back the other with another Sub. We got home to camp about four hours after dark. When we get off for a ramble we become kids again and as happy. It always reminds me of home and I think I’ll always like the timber country before the city.

Love from Stid.

Even a horse that once fought for it is in armour

April 29, 1917

Dear Mother

This old pot is about three or four feet deep and is used for making punch when big Balls we are given in the castle. It’s in the corner of the Great Dining Hall.

The old armours on the wall have been warn by diffreent defenders of the Castle even a horse that once fought for it is in armour there.

Love from Stid

Enjoying it while it lasts

April 22, 1917

New College Oxford

Dear Mother

Every thing is old about Oxford even the new College. I got a book of views of the college that I will send home in a day or so. We got a group photo of the Australian Cadets taken and when it’s printed I’ll send a copy. I had intended getting a photo of self but will wait until I can put the Star on my tunic. Now the course has about 5 weeks to go and I’ve been getting good passes on the exams lately. So I hope to get through all right. We are having a huge picnic here plenty of work and a fair amount of play. So are enjoying it while it lasts.

Love from Stid

The Coffee pots Silver are very old

March 20, 1917

New College Oxford

20/3/17

My Dear Mother

This is a fine place for nice windows it’s a constant puzzle to me the fine state of preservation the place is in. The walls look old outside but inside everything is fine. Every piece of wood is Oak. The old trays they use at meals are all about four feet long, two wide and have sides four inches high. The Coffee pots Silver are very old. Teapots and milk jugs the same.

Love from Stid.

I haven’t got real steady or quite used to real fine feathers yet

February 17, 1917

“A” Company, #4 Officer Cadet Bttn.

New College, Oxford. 17/2/17

My dear Mother,

I’ve been here since the 6th inst. and England is very pleasant compared to France.

There are a few civilians here, all Rhodes scholars. They don’t work with us but some dine with us. One of our instructors is a professor of science so we get plenty of work but it is interesting and a picnic. The living conditions are first class and so is the food. The same cooks, and waiters from peace time attend to us. We are treated like officers but must act as privates until we pass our exams. We were sent to the tailors to be measured on the first day. We will get smart clothes and must carry a walking stick and wear gloves when we are out. We have fine reading and recreation halls with their old fashioned oak furniture and pictures. Everything about the place is refined and the grounds are splendid – all old English customs. There are lodge keepers at the entrance who touch their caps and call us Sir.

Some of the English are pretty foppish but to be clean and in these conditions is a great pleasure after muddy old trenches. I thanked my Colonel when he sent for me to tell me he was sending me here and he said I had earned both a raise and a change. He said I had talked little and had done a lot and that he could give me a commission in the field but guessed four months would be fair treatment for me in England.

The Adjutant of the 18th Bttn has friends in Oxford. He is a Rhodes scholar and gave me a letter of introduction so I would have a home away from home to go to. I haven’t been to see them yet. I haven’t got real steady or quite used to real fine feathers yet and thought I’d get into good working trim before getting into the social part of this life.

We are to be examined at the end of the first fortnight to see how we shape up and then there is to be some weeding out so I think it is as well to do some work. I felt a bit rusty on study the first day or so but today the lecturer gave us a set of papers that were given the last last lot of cadets to do. We were given an hour and a half to do them. I managed all right. Of course they were only given to us for practice so we may have an idea of what to expect, but with my usual luck at the military business – my luck has been wonderful – and a reasonable amount of work I have confidence of getting through. The work is very interesting and the conditions for so good it will be a pleasant four months. Some of the lads are swells’ sons and haven’t seen action. We get put in charge of a squad to drill in turn and they are not brilliant! I was at it yesterday and when I finished the officer said “O, but you are a sergeant and used to it.” It was a compliment all the same.

Sergeant pay is very handy, too because clothes cost money. I have a pretty fair egg in my playbook, too, so there is no need to worry about Stid for the next part of the war. It may be over anyway, I hope, for everyone’s sake. I have nothing to grumble at in as much as anyone who hasn’t been crippled has nothing to grumble at. We have had some pretty warm work at times but we get a lot of sightseeing and we’ve spent more time back from the front line than in.

Strange countries are always interesting, still a glimpse of sunny Australia would be very pleasant. It’s very wet here. The Thames has a lot of ice on it and the ponds are solid enough to skate on. I haven’t had a glide yet, but it is fashionable in Oxford. The town is all colleges and very fine most of them are.

I met W.Davis in the street here. He wished to be kindly remembered to the Palmerston folk. He is at a college somewhere similar to this only he is briefing for the air service.

I am going to try to get into the Flying Corps while here if I can. I will try to get to fly if I get a chance and try for a Pilot’s certificate. They have a hard and fast rule to take no-one over 25 but if I get among the machines I think I could get in. Many of the men aren’t really expert with the machinery and I think I could master them pretty quickly and being a signaller is one of the main things and having a mechanical mind, too. It appears to me to be easily the most interesting part of the military and there is a lot of room for individual success at it. A little success in the military makes a wonderful difference in one’s comfort and the danger isn’t really any greater – in fact it’s less. I was used to sending others to work when I came here and in a concern like soldiering there really isn’t as much fun in digging trenches as seeing others do it properly and it’s easier to send a message than to do it if one has to attend to a number of things.

It seems a very long time since I enlisted and civilian clothes now look as strange as the uniform did at first. I’d like to get all over grease and oil about a harvester or plow back at my home life for a while again with all the sun and heat – better than cold and fog.

I would like to get among the kiddies again. I’ll send them some pictures of the place on Wednesday. I must get one of myself, too. It’s the thing to do – to rush off and get a picture as soon as the nice uniform is donned but I’ve held off so far and watched the lads go off to the photographer and count the days for the proofs.

How is the farm in general? It worries me often. Haven’t had any paper news of the seasons. We have a great lot to be thankful for that Australia isn’t being fought on. War is hell for the country it’s -frightfully knocked about.

Love to all, Stid.

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It’s wonderful the amount of good spirit there is

November 1, 1916

France Nov 1st 1916

My Dear Mother

Tomorrow our Christmas mail closes within a few days of your birthday. May You have a Happy Xmas and good New Years. And a decent crop to Help everything along. We will be having a good time of some kind and if we are lucky and not in Front Line and I’ve to have a good day it’s wonderful the amount of good spirit there is among the boys, especially when we get to a town and there are so many we can always get into one of some kind.

Love from Stid

FranceNov11916

The kiddies are keeping me well in touch with home

October 22, 1916

France,

22nd October, 1916

Dear Mother,

I got some letters yesterday. The kiddies are keeping me well in touch with home.

They are splendid. Norman writes a real good letter. They all do in fact. Amy’s give a lot of news. I have been away so long it looks so far back – much further than it really is in time and distance that I relish the home news much more than I otherwise would.

It seems like a glimpse of home to get the letters.

I meet men I knew at home but it is long since they were there they are as keen on home news as I am and almost forget they are military men. It’s getting cold . We have had three pretty heavy frosts even at noon. the fingers and toes are cold and it will get colder. In case I don’t get a chance to get another letter away – it’s been rumoured we won’t be able to for a while- I wish you a Merry Christmas and look forward to being home for the next.

Love to all, Stid.

Got turned down as an old fogie

October 8, 1916

France,

8th October, 1916

My dear Mother,

This ought to get home in time for your birthday (Nov. 5th) so I wish you Many Happy Returns of the Day. I would sooner do it personally, but will next year. We are out for a month’s spell now. It’s getting cold and by the time you get this it will probably be very cold.

I don’t like the cold much but we are as well provided against it as possible under the conditions. I tried for a commission in the Royal Flying Corps and almost got in because of my grip of things mechanical but they turned me down as too old by five years. They want men of twenty and have a limit of twenty five. and only asked my age as a kind of parting shot. The examiner seemed very surprised at me being thirty and said I could have passed had I lied but twenty five was the limit. I was very disappointed. It is hard to realise I’m an old fogie. I invited them to give me a trial and told them they didn’t have a twenty year old who could give them more fight and still have some up my sleeve. I’d got in first class fighting condition to reduce my weight before applying. Got rid of a stone weight and came in just under 11 stone – felt like jumping over the moon then got turned down as an old fogie. It almost made me fight. I never missed examining planes when I got a chance and knew a wee bit about them. Being a signaller was helping me until they asked me my age. At thirty I am a long way younger than many soldiers at the same age who have kicked from pillar to post in an irresponsible manner but couldn’t get through my CO – and the doctor gave me an excellent recommendation too.

Love to all, Stid

The Hun is on the downgrade

August 24, 1916

France.

24th August, 1916.

My dear Mother,

I am still a tourist, and enjoying it. We have seen some more of France. it’s a splendid country and very fertile. It is worked in little garden-like farms in an old fashioned manner, but they grow everything. There seems to be more wheat than anything else.

Fruit trees are planted along the roads in places as if they belong to the traveling public.

A chum and I went for a days ride on bikes along a fine valley. It’s farmed all the way and towns which are so close together they have to put hyphens in the names of pairs of them. It’s all open country – no fences except an odd one right in the villages and there are a good many hedges but they are only for yards about houses. the towns are in the valleys and the farms on the slopes. They plow as soon as the harvest is finished for fallow.

We get English papers one day old pretty often and see descriptions of affairs we have had a hand in. our papers give true news. They have nothing to hide being British. The Hun is on the downgrade. It may take some time to finish him up. He is a very poor last in the air. His trench fighting is second class and so is his artillery and his old fleet – well, I haven’t seen it in action or otherwise, but it seems second too. His artillery is the best of him. He will use long distance fighting machines then when it comes to hand-to-hand work, throws in the sponge. He is only a cad at best or worst. We see a good many prisoners whenever there is any fighting. It is wonderful the way our fellows have dug them out of the earth. Our artillery is wonderful. It’s impossible to describe it but when it lets itself loose the air sounds as if it is full of express trains that collide when they hit the ground. One of our boys says there are so many in the air at one time two more were let loose the whole lot would jam in mid air.

Gordon Low got injured in both legs. He is getting along well, but is crippled.

Love to all, STID.

Lost some of our chums

August 10, 1916
Letter from Stid France 1917

France

10th August, 1916

Dear Mother,

I am still sailing along well. Have seen a little more of France. The people are harvesting now in many places. There are some reapers and binders about but they do a lot with scythe. Many of the crops are self-sown but they will reap very well. There is much wheat that looks like Federation only it grows much higher. Some plows are horse worked, threshers about as big as a winnower. Women and old men are doing the work – and the youngsters.

All the timber about has been planted in rows. Fruit trees are growing along the road in some places. It has been pretty warm lately, a muggy heat that is pretty distressing to work in, but it’s cool at night – too cool to sleep without blankets and we have none. One great coat is on our bed plus the clothes we have on and a waterproof sheet.

When we can we get straw and make a bed. It’s plentiful – so are sheds, barns and stables etc. There are few horses about. They are probably in use for war purposes.

Rabbits are kept in cages and bred like fowls. We see a few hares running around. We shot a few and cooked them. They are good for a change. I have seen some of our chaps get quail and partridge.

I met G. Low recently. He has been wounded in the eyes. G. Irons, Lockhart was killed by a shell, hit in the head on the 27th of July. Poor boy’s body was buried decently by his chums Frank Crane, (our old mail was injured in the same action, but not badly. (Poziers ??)

I saw W. Davies, Lockhart. He is OK.

We got into a big push for a while and succeeded well, but lost some of our chums. 10 signallers got wounded and sent away, none killed.

We are back spelling for awhile now and probably won’t get into action for awhile.

Love to all, Stid