It has been quite some time since I have last written, the more I learn about this god forsaken war the less I want to discuss it, however I know you are sixteen now and may see it a duty to follow my footsteps. So I am taking the time to describe the theatrics of my life in the trenches and the daily occurrences. Firstly I must enquire on the home life, how is your brother and mother? Has the grieving process of father slowed, are they coping? Make sure you take good care of them Michael, keep the farm up and running and enjoy yourself at Christmas time.
The time spent at the Etaples base training camp was hard, the men began to realise what we were going to face, and the Bull ring training, created to prepare us for time in the trenches was nothing like the horrors I face daily. After the training I was sent to the western front, I had made several close acquaintances but evidently we were split up.
Life in the trenches is hard, they require constant maintenance, sandbags need to be refilled and stacked, new duckboards placed to aid against trench foot. So much time is spent around waiting for a battle, in the lonely boring times my friends and I play cards, or dice. Bill is especially good at poker, he is my closest friend out here, and he seems to be coping better as he is older and seen a lot more than myself. One night I awoke to him sobbing, we shared a friendly conversation on the toll this fighting takes on us, he changes his socks only one time a day, two is recommended to stop trench foot.
Speaking on trench foot, my close friend Mark was sent home with a severe case and is requiring amputation. Michael I want you to sit there read this and picture what I tell you, imagine men shouting as fighting breaks out, the rain is flooding the trenches and you’re knee deep in it. Your whole body is shaking and you aren’t sure if it’s from the freezing cold or the fear of the enemy. The trench floors are made up of clay and sand on top, when it rains water is unable to pass through and the trenches flood, craters from shell fire fill then flood the trenches more. Suddenly a noise whistles and gas is released into the trench, men collapse all around as you’re handkerchief is dampened in urine and placed around you’re mouth to combat the gas. Nights are restless, uncomfortable sleeping quarters, weather conditions; there is no dreaming as nightmares are lived both awake and asleep. Constant itching from lice which has spread amongst our men, this leaves us in mental agony.
Sometime i feel like ending it all, this war has got to me; I joined thinking I was fighting for a reason, for the people, the country’s freedom. Now I feel I am a pawn fighting a pointless battle to which hundreds of thousands of men die. I can’t help thinking each of those men has a story, every individual has a loving family, a job or a wife and just like that his chapter is closed.
The younger officers may choose to censor some parts of this so I pray that you can understand and fathom what I write to you. It’s been a week since I last went over the top, our rifles are loaded, knuckle dusters and bayonets placed, helmets intact then we burst over, adrenalin fuelling our scared minds and weak, feeble bodies. We lost half the men that time, shots were fired everywhere, survival is an instinct and we are forced to kill to remain alive. I was eating part of my rations, 6 ounces of meat and eight ounces of vegetables with Nick and Bill when they attacked us. Chaos, the officers ran around shouting orders as bullets lifted dirt and sandbags leaked because of holes; the constant kluging of a machine gun being fired was evident in the sound waves, as to was the screams of men facing death.
That night the middle ranked officers did their checks on their section of men, woke the posts who had fallen asleep and sent out death listeners, that’s what Bill and I called them. They were people who nestled in a crater and listened to enemy talks in the hope of finding plans out. We were indulged in drinking an expensive port around Sergeant William Edgington earlier today; this was a custom to drink around high officers.
Please don’t think any differently of me Michael I am still very much a gentle man, just this war, can bring about the savageness of any human.
Bill and I were granted a week’s time off in the rotation of men through the front, we resided in a camp near a town, miles away from the battlefield. This time was more relaxing and fun, food was a lot nicer and we even mingled with the town’s people. I met a very pretty woman named Janette and I have plans of possibly seeing her after this all ends, have you got a special lady at the moment Michael? Friends are very important hold them close, Bill, Tom and Baz pull me through each day and we look out for each other, its nice knowing someone you trust has your back.
I have to go now; I’d have you know it was very hard putting the occurrences and state of my mind into words. Look after you’re mother and stay as far away from this war as you can.