Oct 31st 1916
Lt Cp W.J. Stares
Dear Mr. Irwin:- Your long and welcome letter reached me to-day 31st and was very interesting reading. The circular sketch make a fellow feel Homesick, but it makes him think of the Happy days to come when we get home.- Sorry to report the death of Henry Murphy. A large piece of shrapnel struck him in the head- The poor fellow did not know what hit him. Kettridge made “Blighty” with a wound in the arm. That leaves T. Long and Myself left of the Boys who left Norwood 2 years ago.-
I have up to the present been unscratched, the worst time I even spent was in the Chalk pit at Courcellette – 3 days and nights under a steady bombardment-
Frits threw over every thing he had except the guns and at times I was waiting for that- Our only salvation was by digging in and you can bet we got to work- we made 3 trips into the line – going over the parapet twice- Since then we have marched over 60 miles and now occupy a very quiet part of the line.- A Real cure for our nerves.- One can hardly realise that a War is on. Here we are billeted in a village 300 yds behind the line- Spring beds to lie on – tables, chair, and evey convenience – We can observe civilians going to and from the mines (Coal) back of the German lines.- The mines are in full working order on both sides – How long this will last I do not know –
Was very pleased to meet some of our Norwood Boys.- Wilbert King – Roarbeck Land.- and Seriber. They came out just as we were leaving the Somme as reinforcements so they were not in the Big Push and here will give them a good insite of French life – a good spot to steady ones nerves. We met every time an opportunity presents itself and have enjoyed many pleasant evenings talking of Old times in Norwood and myself telling them of the experiences of the Ypres salient and the Somme- You will notice that I have been promoted. Some day if I keep on I shall be a General. (A General nausea the Boys says) anyhow the Boys say it only a protection so that they will not set about me- The Norwood fair will of course be over by this time. Hoping you had a fine day and a successful time. Word reached me yesterday from F.B. Garlick he is at present in Hospital undergoing an operation on his knee- Another old Friend of mine who used to board at Mrs. Sedgewick (Fred Wright by name) wrote me saying he was out here “Doing his Bit” he is in the 8th Battalion. We lost a valuable Scout a few nights ago (stray bullet) it seems hard to go through the horrors of the Somme and then to meet his fate in a quiet place like this- He won the Military Medal and with it Honor to our Scout Section- Your Pen sketch of the Wilds was fine. I could just picture the scenes passing through my mind, in fact I could just sit down and Sketch them in my book as if I was there.- Mother and Father are well and have had many anxious days, especially when my letters have been delayed- I can just picture them looking over the Casualty List each day – Christmas will soon be here I was thinking last year that I would be home by this time – amongst the many Friends— the War over— but it seems as if another one will pass and who knows, perhaps another— Well it is getting rather late and I can see my Spring Bed awaiting for me, so I will conclude for this time with Kind Regards to all.
Remember me to all the people and to Mrs. Irwin and Family. Any news or information regarding the Boys I will be glad to give- We spoke of Wm Starkey on the annaversity of his death- but could not visit his grave- (not being that part of the country). Before we left the Salient we paid a visit and fixed his grave up.-