Letters from the Great War: “A letter like this could cost me 10 years in prison or up against a brick wall”

France – March 18, 1917 – (Letter #22) 

Dear Brother Jack & B;

Just a few lines to let you know I am in the pink. Hoping this will find you all the same. I am still on top, but this is a hot show and we are giving them their money’s worth and some change. I tell you, Jack, stick up for the Turks. They will fight square. They are sports. I will give the devil his dues, but the damn German will not. I don’t think they know how to fight square. It is quite a change for us fellows here. We had open fighting in Egypt, but it is trench warfare here. We can shift them.

It is iron foundries flying here. It is marvelous how on earth a human being can live through it. We can put it all over them in bombardment. I don’t see how in hell they stick to it, but, Jack, the mud is my worst enemy here – up to your armpits. When you get stuck, you are in for it. We had one of the boys stuck in it for 27 hours last week – could not get him out with rope. All we could do is give him plenty of rum and a sand bag to rest his head on. Of course, conditions here won’t allow you to do what you would do if you were stuck in the mud in Boston. It cost one life to save this boy. We had to do it in the open and a sniper got one of us. I am on the Somme front and there are worse places than where we are. I am going to send this letter to England with one of the boys, as a letter like this would cost me 10 years in prison or up against a brick wall. They watch you.

Send me a watch. Ask Florrie to chip in with you. It is hell on sentry going without a watch and especially when I am out on night patrol around the German trenches. It is to know the time to get back before daylight. There is not three watches in the company. We can’t buy nothing, not even bread. I think damn little of some of the French. You can’t get nothing out of them, and when you steal, they report you to the officers. I am up for stealing straw, about 200 of us. It is hard sleeping in mud about six inches deep, so we pinched the straw. I don’t know yet how we will come out of it. It is better in the front line trenches than back in the rear and you are safer, too. I am not with the machine gunners now. I am with the Battalion.

My address is 17 Lancashire Fusiliers, C. Coy. B.E.F. ℅ G.P.O. London, the same as my first address only B.E.F. I hope you get this letter alright and I hope you won’t be mad for asking for another watch. You can see I don’t expect to get knocked out. Give my best regards to Sam and Florie and kids. Teddy and Mary, not forgetting yourself and B. Write me a nice long letter like the last one. Will close with best wishes and love to all.

From your brother,
Lee

P.S. Remember me to all the boys.