October 2nd 1915.
My dearest Mother,
At last I have the opportunity to drop you a few lines. No doubt you have received various post cards from me, saying that I am well, I can't tell you very much news even now as all out going mail has to be censored by our officers and just at present the censor is very strict.... Almost hourly in the day time we would see either one of our aeroplanes or one of the German's shelled by the anti aircraft gun, the shells would burst all around the aeroplane but I have never seen one hit yet. When the shell bursts one can see from the ground the fire and the smoke hangs like a cloud for ten or fifteen minutes. The aeroplanes fly at a great height and as a rule are out of range.
It is the custom here for troops to take turn about in the front lines of trenches, one regiment taking a number of sections of the front trench for three days then moving back to the second line for another three days and then back to the third line, then back again to the front line. About once in six weeks they come back to the reserve lines for a rest. I have been up into the front line and just came back yesterday, conditions are not exactly pleasant there, but one feels they are doing their bit and finds out what our troops had to put up with during the past seven or eight months. How some of them have stood it I don't know. All the time that we were in the front line we were submitted to fire from the hostile guns and rifle men.
The trench was very narrow, just room for two men to push by each other. In front of each trench is a parapet made of sandbags, these are more or less bullet proof, but afford little protection from shell fire. The height from the top of this parapet to the bottom of the trench is between six and seven feet and the trench at the bottom is not more than four feet wide. There is a small ledge along the front on which one stands in order to fire over the sandbag and cut into the rear of the trench are the dugouts, these are small caves with room enough for two men to lie down in, there is space enough to sit up in one of these but not enough to stand up in. The men's duty in the trenches are [sic] to keep up a more or less continuous fire on the German lines, which are about 150 yds. away, and to pick off any of their men that show up, also to be ready to resist any attack that may be made. All night and every night, every man has to stand by, none is allowed to sleep or to be in the dug outs, during the day one man in every three has to be on duty, taking their turn in shifts of two hours, this gives each man four hours of so called rest, but during this four hours one has to cook and feed yourself, clean out the trench and do any other fatigue, from this you will see that there is very little time for sleep, indeed, when one comes out of the front line they are just about all in. The mud and wet are awful, there was just about a foot of water in the bottom of our trench and it rained all one day and night. Anyway all the boys we met were fit, none hurt. Maddocks wishes to be remembered. Will write again first chance. Love to Hilda and the others I know, good luck to you at Mt. Tolmie.
Yours most affectionately,
The day before yesterday, we advanced to a nearby town, which we garrisoned in. We woke up with our eyes burning and the taste of mustard in our mouths. A call came in that we had just been gassed and to put on our gas masks. They told us that the enemy was advancing and that we would have to protect the town. So we set up everything we had. Unfortunately, we only had about fifteen 10mm rifles with 500 rounds each, one mortar with 100 rounds, forty grenades, and a scope! But only twenty people.
When the enemy finally came, they were huge! We used all the grenades and mortars we had, but they just kept coming! We finally had to retreat, seeing that we were highly outnumbered, outgunned, and we had lost fifteen men. As fast as we could, we ran to our outpost to warn the others. But when we got there, it was deserted! So we ran back to headquarters. But while we were going there, a German plane flew over us and dropped a barrel in front of us. When it hit the ground, all this gas came from it. Unfortunately, some didn’t have a gas mask, for it had been destroyed. Those people died.
Our number was now two and it was ever growing smaller as the Germans were taking us out one by one. We finally reached headquarters at dawn, seeing that we didn’t sleep. They were all surprised that any of us had survived. They took us to the hospital where we have to stay for a while.