William Todhunter- Wartime letters Essay
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The whimpers of horses continued long after the firing had stopped. Those poor creatures- sent by fat old men to do their bidding. This great war. This perfect waste. Wipers November 8th Dearest Mamma, Your letter arrived on Thursday, but already that seems an age ago. Day and night seem to fall into one and at the moment we are under almost constant bombardment. The shells tend to fall behind us but you are never sure whether one might not have your number on it.
It is difficult to get used to, but we are so tired that we fall into our dugouts as soon as we come off duty, snatch a mug of tea, and sleep in our damp clothes.
I have been over the top several times now, but every time we have only got so far as the wire, and had to fall back under heavy German fire. It is simply ghastly out there in no-mans land, and the gung-ho patriotism we once felt has dissipated among the smoke and the stench of corpses. I feel particularly sorry for the poor horses, it is not their war. Still keeping hopeful for Tommy’s return. I am sure he will be back with us soon, as they have only been missing for a few days now, and scouting parties often go missing for several days. Still raining, and dark, heavy clouds are rolling in from the west.
However we are bearing up and at least the falling rain and the heavy grey mud seems to constrain enemy activity, although we still have to watch out for sniper fire. It is terribly cold at the moment, in spite of our best efforts at putting small fires, even candles, in every nook and cranny to keep warm. And we have a hard time sleeping between the look out duties witch are two hours in every six. I am sorry this letter is a bit depressing, my mood matches the weather. Your Loving Son, William November 25th Gas. Cruel green hands of twisted nature. Grasping at the lives of innocent men.
What can I do though? All I am able to do is stand. Wiped of emotion. Watching contorted faces of those whose masks had failed, I cannot even breathe on these occasions. Not out of being scared, but from utter helplessness. All is numb. How can I tell mother about this? How can I even write to her? Our letters are being censored anyway, so even if my hand could write, it would be snatched up, and I would be on duties. During the battle at Wipers we suffered many losses- far greater than those of the Germans. But more men are sent. Why do they come? Do they truly believe in the old lies?
They remind me of how I was once- nai?? ve, patriotic and simply, blissfully ignorant. The mud is always up to our knees. Corpses often find their way into the dugout entrances. Supplies are shortening, and home is far away. Oh mamma, what if I am to die here? I cannot, could not, tell you of the possibility. God has left this place. Left it to rot in Hell on Earth. December 26th Dearest Mamma The strangest things have been happening over the past few days. I do not think there had been a single shot fired since the early hours of the morning of Christmas Eve, when the first carols were heard.
After a while, the sound of German singing floated back over no-man’s land and met our ears. In the afternoon, after we had had Holy Communion, a few foolhardy Germans appeared and exchanged some of their songs with us. It was the strangest thing. We had been blowing each other up for weeks, and then I suddenly found myself shaking hands with a sniper, who spoke a bit of English, and seemed nice enough. He must have been the same age as me, if not younger, but they may have different regulations for signing up there, and I forgot to ask him his real age.
A few fellows followed them back, but returned safe and sound, missing only buttons and cigarettes, which they had traded for similar souvenirs. On Christmas Day, I had just finished morning service, and was heading down to our dugout, when I realised that a game of football was being played out in no-man’s land… against the Germans! I couldn’t believe it, but climbed out and joined in. We lost, but it was good fun, and well played by the Huns! It was the queerest thing! Our dinner party was well enjoyed. It started with fried bacon and dip-bread; followed by Christmas pudding.
But you can guess that we all were thinking of home. I think that it has been the most memorable Christmas I have ever spent, or likely to spend. I never expected to be shaking hands with Germans in enemy trenches on Christmas day, and I do not suppose you thought of us doing so either. So after a fashion I have enjoyed my Christmas. But who knows what the New Year will bring. Looking forward to hearing from you. Kind regards to all. Your loving son, William P. S. Don’t forget to feed the rabbits! December 29th Dear Mrs. Todhunter, I regret to inform you of the death in action of your son, William.
He was killed yesterday by sniper fire. The mood in the camp last night was solemn. I cannot stress how well the men regarded William. Always cheerful, always ready to lend a hand, always ready to share his rations. He will be much missed. His personal effects will be returned through the usual channels. Yours sincerely, Hugh Lonsdale (Lieut. ) Show preview only The above preview is unformatted text This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Miscellaneous section.