Somewhere in France – 18th March 1916

Lewis Gun

Just a line to keep you going, although I have none of your meantime to acknowledge. When we went up to the trenches last time, I was fortunate enough, after a couple of days there, to be sent on a course of machine gun instruction some seven miles behind the line. Here I have been for nearly a week, the course finishing tomorrow with an exam. It has been interesting work and I can take the gun to bits and put it together again in quick time. The Lewis gun is particularly adaptable for the firing line as it is light and can be shifted about easily and does not require the cumbersome platform and stand of the Vickers. We had a few nasty knocks during my sojourn in the line, one shell accounting or 9 men, 4 of whom were killed. Sim, one of the Company officers, was hit in the head but I learn that it is not very serious.

Vickers gun

The battalion has been out for three days while I have been here [I think he means on the training course], and we go up again the day after tomorrow. After that spell is completed we should go on Divisional rest for about three weeks, if the general position permits.

The weather has turned much better and spring seems to have arrived at last. There is an aeroplane base close at hand and it is a pleasant diversion to watch them at work. They go on patrols of about three hours duration, both forenoon and afternoon, and it is interesting to see them all trooping home at dusk – perhaps one of their number absent. Relatively speaking their casualties will be pretty heavy but I envy them their comfortable quarters and independence of the muddy trenches.

We are all very bucked at the stand the French are making at Verdun and this ought to go a long way to bring home to Fritz the futility of the struggle, but that is probably too much to expect.

How right he was – the war lasted more than two and a half years after this letter.


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3 Responses

  1. What a great letter! Were you able to get such detailed letters throughout the First World War?

    I’ve got a number of World War II letters from my dad, but they don’t say much. They’ve been so severely censored that I wouldn’t even know where he was if I didn’t know what unit he served with–so that I could track the unit history after the fact. I’m writing a chapter now that has me in despair because I can’t get any of the personal detail.

    1. Hi Faith Ann – my husband and I discovered these letters in his father’s family history files. Ian had never explored them before despite having them in our basement for quite some time. One day he was looking for a family tree he knew his father had created and found these letters. They’d been transcribed by someone using a typewriter and are just as presented on my blog. I wonder if the censors had different standards in WWI than WWII? You will note that Henry Tod never discloses where exactly he is although he does give a lot of information about the war. Compelling stuff. I’ve not read ahead so as I transcribe them I too find out what happens to Henry 🙂 Wish I had access to them when I was writing my WWI novels!

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