Letters from the Great War – “They can kill me but they can’t scare me”

Codford, England – December, 1915 – (Letter #7)

My Dear Brother;

Just a few lines to let you know I am well. Hoping this will find you all the same. I told you I received your watch O.K. and your letter and the dollar in it. Well, dear brother, I did make good use of it. This is one hell of a place. Mud up to your knees and the damn huts. They leak like a sieve, and rain, we are here now two weeks and it rained every day.

You know the Canadians were here and they lost 300 men with fever, so they went away and then sent us here. I think we will help fill up the graveyard. You talk about your American army, but I think you could get enough to eat. We rose hell in the mess this evening. I will tell you what we have for tea – two small slices of bread and a pint of tea and one teaspoon full of jam, so the major came in to us. So you can bet we told him. Some think he is going to make us parade all day Sunday in the mud, and if we does, we will all lay down in the mud because we can’t march or work on an empty stomach. Give me the trenches, the sooner, the better. We will be out of here the 9th of January.

We are under orders to go at a week’s notice, that is why they took us away from Southport. You see we are handy Southampton. I was in London two hours last week after a prisoner. Quite a city. We are about 70 miles from London. If I can get a pass this week, I am going to Tidsworth to if see if I can find any of the Island boys. It is about 25 miles. This is a part of the Salisbury Plains and damn the plains, if they are all like this. I am still on the machine gun, but we did not get started since we came here  – have not got our target yet, but we will have them this week. If not, I hear we will have to go to Aldershot, that is quite handy London, I think, and it will be better as we will be in barracks then.

Well, we have been getting it pretty hard for the last two weeks from the Germans. In fact, on all our fronts. I think that is why we got so sudden a shift. We sleep on a board with two blankets and lousy as a skunk. I got up last night and killed two rats. They had my rifle doing musketry and they could do it in good style, but never mind, Jack, they can’t jar me any. I keep at it and say nothing.

They say we are going to India, that will be a pretty fair climate if we can keep clear of fever. Well, whenever peace is declared, they will have to give me my ticket. If the food don’t come up a little I can’t soldier because I can’t carry my pack and gun and the machine gun, too, that weighs 60 lbs. So you see, we get something to carry.

I tell you, Jack, in this damn outfit, they don’t seem to have any system on the feeding point. You can guess what it is like when 12,000 men are rushing into the messes. Every man grabs. If you are not quick, you won’t get yours as they only put out for the number of men in each mess. Someone will have yours in his pocket.

I got the cake and the other things Flo sent me. Let her know I got them today. All my back mail will be sent to me from Southport. There is 21 of us in this hut, so I tell you there is some rough times. I can hold my end up with them. The English don’t seem to be a strong race of people.

Well, I told you enough, so now I may be on my way to the front before you get this letter, but never mind, I will be there with the goods. They can kill me but they can’t scare me. Well, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Give a kiss to Mary and Teddy and all. Remember me to all, not forgetting Eugene and Lillian. I am going to write a letter to all the kids if I don’t have to parade next Sunday, so goodbye.

With love and best wishes for you all, from Lee

Editor’s Note:

He references India. Over one million Indian troops served in WW1 fighting against Germany.

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