3rd – 4th Nov. In Rest Billets. (Refitting Bn after Battle)
5th Nov. Fri: Marched at 8.30 am to PARADIS near MERVILLE and went into Billets.
GUY FAWKES DAY. 5 th Nov/ 15
My Very Dear Mother,
Another coincidence Mum. Today, or rather tonight, will be the unique Bonfire Night. For the purpose of seeing the enemy’s movements at night star lights (1) are used & these lights have been improved & there are many different kinds, some giving off an illumination like those of the Flower Show (2). Indeed every night in the trenches is a Guy Fawkes affair, what with shells & star lights.
And again another feature, which is all the more unique, is that I am undergoing a course in bombing. I was examined in the oral part yesterday (3).
The Batt. has moved further away today. Sydney I’m partly sorry to tell you is in Hospital with influenza, but I think it is the only way of obtaining a rest, – as the Doctor put it also. Thirteen went including Arthur Brown* who came back, I think on Wednesday, after 3 or 4 days.
I hope you aren’t giving up making toffee on this bonfire night & I hope Dodger will enjoy a lump and not deny himself a second piece either. I was not able to see the Observer about the attack, (Vernon having gone to Hospital when your letter of Tues 26th arrived, about the Bishop at St Paul’s) – but never mind I am not the worse off.
The bombing party will go near the Batt. tomorrow. I am afraid this letter will not be accepted here. I shall have to keep it until I get to my Company. I shall be rather glad when I get back to my platoon again.
Mrs Evans sent a parcel to Vernon when he was in Hospital, the parcel went to the trenches & I had a letter from her saying the contents were for Sydney, myself and pals. Wasn’t it jolly good of her to think of us. We must bear in mind it is not so much the gifts as the thoughts, especially nowadays. I am looking forward to a parcel from you as I expected one today if the Batt. had not moved.
I suppose all the little boys in Walsall will substitute the dummy of Guido for William eh!
News in the papers has somewhat surprised us out here. Oh! that reminds me, we Grenadiers (4) had a bit of a concert in the barn here on Wednesday last & I gave the men an effort of mine. We shall very likely have another soon. When I entertain any party I like to give them a really good piece of recitation or a jolly good song. So I wonder if you could try & send me that poem Ida loved so much ‘The Highwayman came riding, riding, riding up to the old inn door’ (5). I should be delighted if you could. Don’t think that I am absolutely theatrical with the men, but I have come to the conclusion that one cannot get on with such a crew of chaps like these without chumming up & being merry with them.
Any other humorous poem you’ve got just send along by return post & oblige. Ida loved to gather us around the study fire & have a little ‘Sing Song’.
As for the other it is appropriate for a fireside song & reminded me of the singsongs we had round the fire at Home Sweet Home, the Little Grey Home in the West.
Best love to all, Father and bestest love to Mummy,
(1) “Star shell”: artillery shell for illuminating Battlefield & No Man’s Land at night, to catch enemy patrols or wiring activity. Fuse burst at a given height igniting a magnesium flare which burned while the shell, with parachute, gradually fell to earth. Multi-coloured flares used for passing signals. <https://www.firstworldwar.com>
(2) Flower Show: Aldridge near Walsall held a annual Flower Show and no doubt Mr Frank O. Bates*, exhibited his roses. cf. Letter: 12th July 1915.
(3) Bombing Course: Training in throwing & firing Mills grenades: stick attached extended their throw. Used effectively in Battle of Loos/Hohenzollern. See Post 13th Oct.1915. Also 20th -31st July 1915.
(4) Grenadier: (from French ‘grenade’) ‘bomb thrower’ from 17th cent.
(5) Alfred Noyes: 1880-1958. English poet, short story writer & playwright. Born Wolverhampton. The Highwayman: ‘best narrative poem in existence for oral delivery‘. Voted 15th in The Nation’s Favourite Poem. BBC poll. 1995. Film made.
The Highwayman: The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees. The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas. The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor, And the highwayman came riding—Riding—riding—The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.
Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard. He tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred. He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there But the landlord’s black-eyed daughter, Bess, the landlord’s daughter, Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair. (Part I verse 1 & 3).1906.
(6) Laddie in Khaki: Ivor Novello. 1893 -1951. Words: James Edward Myers. 1915.
There is a girl who waits at home Who’s full of charm and grace. Tho’ her heart is saddened She keeps a smiling face. Ask her whom she’s thinking of All the livelong day With a smile that lights her face. She will softly say: ” Laddie in khaki I’m waiting for you. I want you to know That my heart beats true. I’m longing and praying And living for you, So come back little laddie in khaki!”.
NEXT POST: 7th Nov. 1915.