Archive for the ‘WW1’ Category

At Sea, May 7th, 1916 – (Letter #13) 

Dear Brother;

Just a few lines to let you know I am well. Hoping this finds you all the same. Well, I am on my way but don’t know where. Left Mulford last Monday night and we are having a fine trip. Jack, you know we can’t tell what ship were are on or where we are going. You know from experience yourself, but I don’t know myself where we are going to be. It don’t bother me any. I do not know my address. Will write when I get to know my address, so you can write and give me the news. Hope they will get Teddy Roosevelt in this Fall and that he will get after the Germans.

Give my love and best regards to Florrie, Sam and kids, not forgetting Ted and Mary. Will close for this time.

From Lee

Editor’s Note:

Teddy Roosevelt criticized Woodrow Wilson for not entering the war with Germany. In 1916, Roosevelt was encouraged to run again for US President, but eventually he declined and placed his support behind Republican leader Charles Hughes.

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Wittey Camp, April 9th, 1916 – (Letter #12) 

Dear Brother;

Jack and B, your most welcome letter and Sunday Globe received last week. Glad to hear you are all in the pink as this leave me at present. Well, Jack, they keep us on the move. We left Codford last week and thank God for that. It was the worst place in England. I think we are now in a very nice camp. We are 35 miles from London. It is a fine place, a good dry camp and we are handy a town, only five miles from a place called Godalming, but we call it God Help Me. We are right in the path of the German airships. They went over our camp three times last week when they made their raids, but they were flying so high.

We can’t leave our camp now as I am in No. 1 platoon and I have to mount gun. I am number one man that pushes the double button. Jack, we have been under orders to go this past month. We may go any minute or we might be here for three months yet. We had our last laugh. I had six days, went to Southport to my old billet and had 8 shillings to spend, that is about $1.75. And since we came back, we only get a shilling a week, that is 24 cents in American money, by God, can’t buy tobacco on that. We will go to Egypt or Mesopotamia, as we got our light drill suits for a hot climate.

Are you working every day? Hope you are. I had a letter from Ina yesterday. Only had one letter from home since December 15th, I write every week. I would like to know where in hell all the letters go to. I get tired writing and getting no answer. There were Canadians in this camp before we came. They are now in Aldershot. It is not very far from here. I am going there next Sunday if I can scrape up the fare. That is the hell of it – can’t go any place without some money. We get hell and no money.

How is Dave Ross? I wrote to Flo and Eugene, but never got an answer. Well, Jack, I will have to come to a close for this time. When you answer this letter, register it, as I am sure of not being here and then I am sure of getting it. Give Teddy and Mary a kiss for me. Our last draft of machine gun men got all cut up and killed and I suppose I will get the same. To hell with them as long as I get a few of them first.

Give my love and best regards to all friends, not forgetting yourself and B.

Editor’s Notes:

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Codford, February 18, 1916 – (Letter #11) 

Dear Brother;

Jack and B, you are most welcome letter received yesterday. Glad to hear you are all in the pink, as this leaves me still in Codford and still at the same old job. We have been having it very exciting around here the past couple of weeks, as the Germans have been getting pretty handy us. They went over our camp the other night, but we knew they were coming and we had all lights out. I was right on my machine gun but they did not come low enough to get a shot.

They dropped 500 bombs on Bath, right in the city. I do not know what to make of it. England is slow in regards to not having the coast better guarded because they can only come one way and we could knock the hell out of them. We could catch them either coming or going, but, Jack, we can’t do it without the guns and zeppelins. I see Russia is doing a great work. I think you will see a big move within a very short time, as they are sending us away from here in very long drafts. My mates in my old Batallion are all gone, Lord Derby’s men in their place, the ones that fetched up, so we don’t have anything to do with them.

We had rotten weather here all the time, rain all the time and mud up to your knees, the kind that won’t come off when you lift your feet. You have about a ton on.

I got Mother’s parcel at last. I did have one great feast on tobacco and cake. Did you say Eldon had enlisted? Let me know when you write again. Had a letter from Eugene and Flo today – very pleased to hear from them but no letter from Mother yet since November but I have written just the same.

Well, I will have to come to a close for this time. Grub is a damn sight – worse since we came here. Every damn shilling I get my hands on goes for grub, so I try to manage to pull through. Give my love to all and lots of kisses for Mary and Teddy, not forgetting yourself. Tell Herb Hatch all the damn lies you can think of. I would like to see him here when the airships are dropping bombs. I bet he would shit his pants, excuse my plain talk and scribbling.

Goodbye, with love and best wishes from Lee.


394 Private Lee G. Darrach, Camp 4, Hut 33, 3/7 L.F., Codford, St. Mary’s, Wiltshire, Machine Gun School, if not at this address, please forward.

Editor’s Notes:

  • During WW1, Germany initiated 50 bombing raids on England – referred to as Zeppelin raids. Even though there were both Zeppelin and Schütte-Lanz airships, the Zeppelins were better known. Weather made it difficult for them to hit target, so bombs were often dropped miles off target. Zeppelins were named “baby killers”. In 1917, they were replaced by airplanes.
  • Lee refers to Lord Derby’s men being fetched up. Lord Derby was appointed Director-General of Recruitment in 1915 and he initiated the “Derby Scheme” where men ages 18 to 41 years would volunteer to being called up (or fetched up), if necessary. Single men were called up first. However, this plan did not produce enough men and they introduced conscription in early 1916.

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Codford, January 20th, 1916 – (Letter #10)

Dear Brother;

Jack and B, just a few lines to let you know I am well as this leaves me at present hoping this will find you all same. Well, Jack, all we are doing is moving about, as we have fever in about all the camps in Codford. We have moved five times so far and I head tonight. We are going to move again next week. Well, we have had pretty fair weather the past week, but, Jack, we have had some awful rain here, in fact, it rains now every day for about an hour. There is no wonder we have so much sickness and fever. I don’t know how I escape. I have some bad colds. I am having a lot of trouble with my left eye. It is caused by the cold. It is a hard sight sometimes, but it don’t bother my sight any.

Well, Jack, how is the war going along? We don’t know anything about it here. We might as well be in the woods a thousand miles for all that we don’t know that there is a war.

Well, Jack, I have not had a letter from you now for 7 weeks. I wrote to the post office in Southport, so you can see what they say on this slip. I never got the parcels that Mother and Fran sent to me. There is no use sending me anything without registering it, as there are some awful damn thieves over here. They won’t take anything they can’t carry.

Well, Jack, every time we move, it is worse. In this camp, we can’t get enough to keep a rabbit alive. I went to the major yesterday and put in a complaint for our hut. And he went to the Brigadier and there was hell to pay today in the cookhouse, so I don’t know yet if it will be any better or not. If not, I think I will jump it, if they don’t send me right to the front. We are all ready to go. I am on another gun. It is called the Lewis. It is a lighter one and is easier to work. I passed first class in the Maxim Gun. There is a lot to learn on what you have to know.

Well, are you doing anything this winter? Hope you are. Is Sam working? I hear Eldon is married. I think I will get married myself. I would if I could get out of here, but not churched. But I think we are all quite harmless on the grub we are getting. When you write, give me all the news. I think I will be OK if I can kick clear of the fever. It is a hell of a thing. It is called Spotted Fever and also Pneumonia and, believe me, Jack, you get pretty poor care, as there is so many here.

Will close for this time. Hoping to hear from you all soon. Give my love to all. Tell B to put in a good word for me in her prayers, as I think I will need it. Give Ted & Mary lots of kisses and Eugene and Lillian. I wonder if I will ever see them again on this little earth of ours, but I don’t think I will. I am more scared of this fever than bullets. I am not down hearted. They can kill me but not scare me.

Remember me to Flo, Same and Dave Ross. How is Dave? Tell him to drop me a line when he gets time. Will close with love and best regards to you all. I hope I will hear from you before I leave here.

Goodbye, Lee

Editor’s Note:

  • It was determined that Spotted Fever during WW1 was Meningitis. Men had to sleep in overcrowded huts with little heating or ventilation, and those nearer a heat source were at higher risk.

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Codford, not sure of date, but it seems to fit within the January, 1916 period (Letter #9)

Dear Brother;

1st page of letter missing, so this letter begins on second page…

We got the Maxim 303 and the Vickers light and heavy and the Lewis. The Lewis will fire 1000 shots a minute, but is a very light gun. It won’t last long like the Maxim, the best. It is a good reliable gun. We are not having quite so much sickness here now. They are getting the best of the fever, but I am just getting rid of a bad cold and it was a damn bad one, too. Jack, it is a hard job to get rid of a cold here, as all the training is lying on the ground and as you know it is always wet. I have been here 11 weeks and we had three fine days.

Well, dear brother, I can’t get drunk here because I can’t get the price, but another thing, we are restricted to certain hours in the canteen and those hours is so we cannot get very much because we have not the time. Jack, I am writing this letter in the dark and I cannot see any lines to make it out, but dear brother, they don’t give me much time to write in the daylight. I do hope you are working this winter, as I call it winter but we have no winter here. It is cold but no snow, cold and raining all the time.

Well, dear brother, I have no news that would interest you, so I will close for this time. Send one Sunday Globe, too, and see if I will get it. And be sure and put in all the letters, if not, at this address, please forward. Give my love and best wishes to Flo and Sam and kids and a whole lot of kisses for Mary and Teddy and all friends, not forgetting yourself and B.

From, Lee

Address: #3949, Private Lee G. Darrach, 3/7 Lancaster Fusiliers, Camp 4, Hut 33, Codford, St. Mary’s, Wiltshire, England
Machine Gun School

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Codford, England – January 1st, 1916 – (Letter #8) 

Dear Brother;

Jack and B, just a few lines to let you know I am still here. I have been very sick for the past two weeks with a cold or the good old-fashioned grip, but am getting O.K. again.

Well, Jack, the fever is awful bad here in a lot of the camps, especially the one I was in. We got moved to another camp or I think we would all be dead. I do wish they would send me to the front before I will croak here. We will all die if they don’t move us. We must have lost about 200 so far with fever and pneumonia. It is a hell of a place. Rain, there has not been a fine day here for two months. We are halfway up our knees in mud and water.

Well, we did not have very much of a Christmas. I thought of you all and was saying to myself, I bet your are enjoying yourselves by this time. I was not out of my hut, as I was sick. I did not get Mother’s parcel yet. I do hope I will get it. It is a damn sight worse here than in Southport for grub. I don’t know what is the trouble. We do not get enough to live on, but, Jack, I am standing it pretty good. If I can only keep clear of the fever, I think I will be O.K. I like the machine gun alright and you bet I can make it go. God help the Germans or Turks when we get a few hundred guns on them. They will think hell got loose.

Well, Jack, I will have to close for this time, as I have to parade again. Give my love and best regards to all and kiss the children. Wish you all a Happy New Year.

From, Lee

Address: #3949 Private Lee. G. Darrach, 3/7 Lancaster Fusiliers, Machine Gun Section, Camp 8, Hut 6, Codford, St. Mary’s, Wiltshire, ℅ ⅗ Manchester’s

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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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