Search The Archive

Search form

Collection Search
Date: October 12th 1916
Henry Crozier Smith

Oct. 12, 1916

My own Darling,

I sent you a card thanking for the last parcel. The socks just arrived at the right time and the other things were delightful. You always make a good selection. Those "thirst quenchers" aunt Helen sent are very good, better than the ones you sent before. Don't send anymore cocoa tablets at present now that we are going into more open fighting. I won't have much chance of making things, besides water will be too valuable. We got to this place on Tuesday after a hard bit of marching, pulling our carts through muddy fields. The whole country here seems to be one huge camp as far as the eye can see. There is a town in the middle, pretty badly shelled. A big church with only the walls and tower standing, the steeple ends with a huge big gilt statue of the Virgin Mary but she has been knocked over and now is hanging on by her toes at right angles to the steeple.

Yesterday, more than half the battalion went up to the front line. 4 men with each gun went, but I was not picked, however the rest of us had to go to help to take the guns up. We started at 3:30 and marched through the town and out the other side. Hardly any inhabitants left but troops billeted everywhere. Beyond the town we had a mile or so of camp to pass through, then open land cut up by trenches (old) and then when we got to the top of a hill the scene was the most desolate I have ever seen. Fairly level country and not a living tree or a house to be seen anywhere. Just a weed grown plain filled with shell craters and old trenches. We passed through a big village where there was very hard fighting earlier in the war, but not a sign of a building is left. The only signs of the village are the number of bricks used to repair the road, smashed up farm implements and carts. The whole place is simply a mass of craters. There were big guns now all round us firing away incessantly. A bit farther on we turned off the road and had a hard time pulling the carts along a narrow track twisting about between the craters. It was dark now, but luckily there was a moon. Finally we got to a big chalk pit honeycombed with dugouts where the battalion were making their headquarters. It was a very fine night watching the bombardment of the German lines from there. We could see our guns firing all round, and the whole front was lighted up with bursting shells. We spare men (4 to a gun) started home with the empty carriages at about 9 without having had any supper and got back to camp about 11:30 and found that there was no food to be got and no tents for us. Luckily I still had a bit of cake left and a little potted meat and crust of bread so I shared them with McDonnell and after a drink of water rolled up in my blanket behind a tent and slept well. This morning we found that our rations had been sent up to the front so we had breakfast off a little tea and dry biscuit! This morning I had a peep at Max. I saw his battalion passing so I went and walked with him for a bit. They are going to camp the other side of town. He is looking very well and cheerful. I don't know whether I will be going to the front line or not here. I suppose it depends on whether they want reinforcements or not.

I got a very nice parcel from Georgie from Scotland a few days ago, short bread and cake, etc. That last cake you sent was a beauty. This is a wonderful place for traffic, a practically endless procession of motor and horse vehicles both ways, day and night.

Tell Emma I will write and thank her for the socks later.

With very much love to all,

Yours ever, H Crozier Smith