Somewhere in France – 11th December 1915


Alexander Henry Tod writes of some trench repairs in this letter to his parents. He’s still in northern France.

I have your letter of 16th November enclosing the snapshots of yourselves, which I think are splendid. Mother you are looking plumper than ever if I may say so [not sure I would want to hear that from my son!] and Dad is wearing a smile that won’t come off. It is a pity the youngster was cut out of the picture but no doubt I will get that later. Sybil ought to come out here with her camera. She would do a roaring business, if only for the reason that that sort of thing is strictly forbidden. If I can raise a snapshot of myself here I will let you have it. You ask if I am eating a sleeping well. It is about all I am doing at present.

We are behind the line again doing our six days in reserve, and unless the unforeseen happens this will be followed by Divisional rest of some three weeks a little way further back, so we are all feeling very bucked. We should move to our new quarters the day after tomorrow. From all accounts it is not much of a place we are going to – a little mining village, like most of the places hereabout. However we will be well away from the racket [!!!] and our nerves soothed back to normal by peace and quiet.

Yesterday I took a working party of 100 men up to near the firing line to repair some trenches which the recent heavy weather and shelling had seriously damaged, and had another nasty does of shelling. We travelled in motor buses, from Peckham Rye of thereabouts a good part of the way [perhaps he means the buses were from Peckham Rye which is in the London Borough of Southwark], which we had to discard when we got into the danger zone.

When conducting these parties up to the line you have to spread yourselves into as long a line as possible, so that if anything gets amongst us, there are some of us left to carry on. [He doesn’t spare his parents the gruesome details, does he?] The weather was dull when we started and I was hoping it would remain so as the artillery is not usually so active then as the aerial observers cannot see what’s going on. That’s why the reliefs take place mostly at night as their balloons can look right down our communication trenches. The weather cleared as we were almost at the scene of operations and evidently someone spotted us as for the best part of two hours the Bosche shelled our immediate neighbourhood. We did a little work but for the most of the time we had to lie low and wait till the storm blew over. Luckily I had no casualties but a party of Suffolks who were working behind me had several.

With luck I shouldn’t see the trenches for nearly a month but of course we never know our luck.

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M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union on August 16, 2016. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website


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8 Responses

  1. Another wonderful post about your forebear. It is so fortunate
    that his letters were saved. In my own family my uncle died
    on the Kodoka Track in New Guinea in WW2 and his sisters
    burned all his letters and disposed of the Egyptian jewelry that
    he either sent or brought back from Egypt. I often wonder about
    what he said in these letters.

    1. Hi Elise .. so pleased you are enjoying these posts. I’m astonished at your aunts’ actions. Why on earth would they destroy such important family artifacts? Did you ever have a chance to ask them (politely, of course). A very unfortunate loss.

      1. No, unfortunately I didn’t know about it until later in their lives. I wish I had of asked them about it but now they have all passed away and the thread is lost.

  2. Wonderful, thank you. Just to say; a lot of places in the trenches and along the Front were given the names of English areas, and London in particular, so Peckham Rye might be the nickname given to an area near where they’re dug in. Just a theory 🙂

    1. What a great theory, Terri. I had no idea but, of course, it makes a lot of sense! Many thanks for stopping by. I’m publishing these letters one by one and so far I’ve resisted reading ahead to see what happens!!

  3. These letters are fantastic and I am enjoying them so much. Already I feel a huge amount of liking and sympathy for the writer. I hope they can be published somewhere and made more widely available.

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