Sunday, November 20, 2011

France 18/12/16

France 18/12/16

My Dear Dad,
I received your letter of 31st September yesterday. The cable you sent on 28th arrived a few days later having gone to different hospitals in England and France before reaching me here. I did not reply to it as you should have received my letters long before this. I was really not much hurt, my steel helmet stopped most of my share of it, so that beyond a jolt on the head and a small piece in the thigh which is still there I escaped. Two others who were with me then are still in hospital. The fourth man was afterwards killed.
We are at present having a very quiet time. This is low lying country here and things are very damp, but we are well provided for and do not feel the cold much.
The papers you send arrive fairly regularly as do the parcels I receive advice of.
I returned from England three days ago and have been putting in the time since then at a gas school. It is in the charge of Dr Borrie who is Divisional [illegible] as Officer. You will know him, he is the one that played football for Otago.
It is quite likely that we will not spend Xmas in the trenches.
With best wishes to all for a Happy New Year,
Your affectionate son, Rawei

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

France 6/12/16

My Dear Gwen,
Here I am in London at last on ten days leave. We came over a week ago today and since then I have managed to see a good deal of the place. Every where there are Overseas Clubs and similar institutions which are run entirely for the convenience of the Overseas troops. While in Edinburgh I met Linus Walker, he was on furlough, and I had his company down in the train yesterday as far as Leeds where he was going to relations. He has a bit of a limp and expects to be sent back to NZ soon.
Scotland is a fine country and the people are very hospitable, if I have the luck to get more leave I would spend most of it up there, for by the time you have seen the sights of London you begin to long for some fresh air and sun and the north seems to be the place for that even at this time of the year when everything is white with frost both day and night.
Enclosed are some views of Armentiers, the place in which we have spent most of our time since coming from Egypt. It is an ancient town substantially built, but now for the most part in ruins. I am also enclosing a Hun Field Post Card, which is their equivalent of the ones we use. I got that in the last bit of trench we captured before leaving the Somme. We took the trench with the assistance of our artillery and liquid fire at two o'clock on a Sunday afternoon and I had to put my gun in a part of the trench that had previously been held by four german guns. We got the guns their teams were for the most part dead. Fritz tried to bomb us out of that twice. I had quite a collection of curios at this place but of couple of Maoris got down on them so that all I came away with was a telescopic sight for a machine gun that will post if I can from here. Now I must go and see if I can get some (illegible).
Goodbye for the present,
Love to all, Rawei

Thursday, June 2, 2011

France 16/11/16

My Dear Dad,
I have just received your letter of 9th Sept and was glad to learn from it that you were all well. We get most of the news here before it is very old and of course hear a lot of rumours. We are only about twenty minutes away from a fairly big town where we can buy English papers only a day old. I have just come in from town where I have been for a hot bath and a change of clothing. We usually manage a bath about once a week. Needless to say the trenches here are fairly wet in the winter, but we are provided with gumboots, dry socks every day, and whale oil to rub out feet with, sot that the wet does not trouble us much. We are sleeping in concrete dugout which is supposed to be proof against high explosives, it leaks a bit but is very warm, and we manage to keep it dry with the assistance of a beer pump that we have installed. The pump we rescued from the ruins of a pub, about every other shop in the town is now some sort of a beer shop, they sell only French beer and light wines however and are under strict supervision so that a drunk man is rather a novelty. Along with several others from the Company I was recommended [illegible] not nothing will come if it but if it does it will mean a spell for a few weeks first.
Hoping this finds you all in good health,
With best regards to all your affectionate son, Rawei
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Sunday, May 1, 2011

France, 20/10/16

My Dear Mother,
Here we are back at the same old spot we left two months ago. Things seem to be very quiet here after our experiences in the last place. We expect a mail in any day now but have had nothing for a week or so. I am now a corporal and if leave is not cancelled should have leave to Blighty in the next fortnight.
This place will do us for the winter if we only have the luck to be left here. Plenty of comfortable dugouts and nothing much doing. Each gun team does its own cooking. When in the trenches we have have a mess fund and what with the tucker issued and what we buy we live very well. One chap shot a partridge the other day but when it was nearly roasted poured some rifle oil on it in mistake for fat, another one fried his bread in dubbin. What with dubbin, grease for our feet, and rifle oil we have to be careful what tin we dip into when cooking. I am in good health and trust you are all the same.
With love to all,
Your affectionate son,

Friday, April 1, 2011

France, 9/10/16

My dear Dad,
I was glad to learn from your letter of the 12th that you were in good health again. Since writing you last we have been into the big push and can now say we have seen the last thing in modern warfare. What with gas, liquid fire, and big shells, it is hell with the lid off as they say.
Fritz is a hard fighter and is well equipped but we can shift him any time we like although not before half his garrison has been killed. If it has done nothing else our trip down here has shown us our superiority in artillery and men. The scale on which things are done here is enormous and quite beyond my powers of description.
The last day we "hopped the parapet" here to advance we had the "Tanks" (heavy armoured cars) with us and while going forward with our guns I met Cecil Walker coming back with a bullet through the chest. He was alright and should now be in England if he got back without stopping another. The next day Saturday 16/9/16 Fritz put a shell right into the gun position we have dug and got the whole lot of us. Two were seriously wounded I stopped a small piece in the thigh which took me out of it for a few days. I got back again in time to go over again last Sunday when we took another bit of trench. On this occasion we used liquid fire. I have not been able to find out how Gordon fared yet but trust he is alright. I will write again soon.
Love to all,

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

France 31/8/16

Dear Mother,
We are now a good many miles behind the firing line having a spell after three months in the trenches.
Since coming out of the trenches a few days ago we have travelled a good two hundred miles by rail and road for the most part through land that we passed on our way into the trenches the first time. The place is now a picture. Despite the lack of men to work the land it all seems to be in crop and everywhere old men, women, and occasionally French soldiers are busy harvesting.
The fields and roads are all unfenced here and one can march for days along the roads without seeing a fence except in the villages which lie along the roads every mile or so. Even the smallest village has a big stone church and at most of the crossroads there is a crucifix or wayside shrine of some sort. The spires of these churches jut up above the trees which line the roads and surround the villages and so make excellent marks for artillery fire.
I do not know whether I told you before but I was made a lance corporal two months ago. Not very rapid progress for nearly two years in the army but I had to start again when I joined the machine gun.
We are training hard while out here. Today we were to have taken part in some field operations but rain stopped that so we did a ten mile march before midday and are now in our barn writing, sleeping, playing cards.
Well, I hope this finds you all in good health.
Love to all,
Your affectionate son,

Friday, March 18, 2011

France 12/8/16

Dear Mother,
Enclosed are some photos of some of the Canterbury section. I hope to have some of myself to send you when we go out in a day or two for a spell.
We have been having fine dry weather for the past month or more now and as things have quietened down a bit here are not having such a bad time just at present. I trust you are all in good health as for myself I am well. This is a very short note but there is little that we may write of.
Love to all,

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

France, 6/8/16

Dear Dad,
Just a line to let you know that I am still going strong. We are having a fairly quiet time just now but are still in the trenches with our prospective spell apparently about as far away as it was three months ago. Still we cannot growl, the Brigadier, Brig. Gen. [illegible] seems to have a lot of time for machine gunners, and allows us privileges not enjoyed by others. Twelve months ago today we made the advance on Gallipoli, at nine thirty we moved out of Happy Valley for the left.
Conditions are very different here, the shell fire is heavier for one thing, but no one who was through it would ever wish themselves back on the peninsula.
A week ago I posted you a book "Fragments from France". The characters in the sketches are of course exaggerated but both the incidents and the surroundings as drawn are fairly true to the real thing and give a better idea of things as they are than yards of the stuff one sees in the papers.
Herewith are a few snaps taken in Egypt. I had them printed in France here a day or two ago. They have not turned out very well. Mother sometimes enquires after young Hamilton he is still in Egypt with the mounteds and I enclose a letter which I have just received from him which gives you a fair idea of how they are faring.
Trusting you are all well.
Best regards,

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Somewhere in France, 25/7/16

My dear Mother,
Just a line to let you know that I am still in good health. I came out of the trenches yesterday and am now in billet in the town here. We had been about eight weeks in and I am now out for four or five days spell but expect to have a much longer spell shortly. We are in a fairly big town here which has once been a very busy place, now however most of its manufactories have closed down and only those civilians remain who cannot afford to leave. There are soldiers clubs and canteens here, a picture show & baths all run for our benefit so that we are fairly well off.
Your parcel containing the vermin proof shirts, socks, etc. arrived all right a week or so ago. I came across Jim Fleming, Bob's brother, the other day he is in one of the ambulances and seems to be getting along all right. I intend to have my photo taken before I return to the trenches, but am waiting to get a new rigout before doing so at present I am a bit ragged.
A New Zealand mail is expected in any day now, no doubt there will be letters for me and I will write you again. Thanks for the presents & goodbye with love to all at home.
Your affectionate son, Rawei

Friday, January 7, 2011

France, 14/6/16

Dear Gwen,
The letter you wrote me you wrote from Wellington in January was a long time in reaching me but it arrived alright about a fortnight ago. I am glad you had such a good time while up there. We are in the trenches now for the second time since coming here. This seems to be a very wet place for although it almost midsummer we have just had a weeks rain and no prospect of its clearing yet. Of course this makes things grow so that between the trenches there is a field of grass two or three feet high. When out in billets last time I saw Gordon McDonald who is in the 1st brigade he looked well. I think I mentioned it in my last letter but in case it did not reach you my address is now No. 2 Coy. N.Z. Machine Gun Corps. N.Z.E.F. Enclosed are a couple of views of Anzac which I have been carrying about for some time. The photo is taken from the lower end of the beach looking towards Suvla Bay the one in colours is taken looking down towards the entrance to the Dardenelles. We hear all sorts of rumours here as to how long the war is going to last but we do not take much notice of any of them. 'Fritz' is reported to have stuck up a notice in his trench a few days ago which read "Fire high boys. The war will be over in eight days". That was when the first account of the last North Sea fight came through. He is not so optimistic now I think.
Well Gwen there is not much more I can write about.
Give my Best Regards to all at Home.
With Best Wishes from your affectionate brother,