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Friday, 22 October 2010

Letter Home - 23 October, 1915

R.A. Mess
23 October 1915

Dear Mother,

We have had no mail this week, and can't think what happens to it as other men got theirs early in the week. Letters seem to come along any old time. There has not been much during this week, anyway nothing out of the ordinary.

We have weekend leave today, and go up by the 12.30 train, coming back tomorrow night. This marriage business seems to be very catching. Freyda is to be married at midday to Pyman. It is sudden news to me, but one never gets excited over these sorts of things in wartime.

We are to meet Mr and Mrs Rutledge in town today, and our dining with them tonight. I have been taking a slight rest since Wednesday:  during battery drill I was No. 3 gunner, on a gun, and lumbering up got my hand slightly jammed between the lumber and jam wheel, but it was only a scratch. However, the hand is bruised inside and I have to take it gently till it works off. It is just about all right now.
I was very glad when my duties at camp expired, as living under canvas in old England may be a healthy life to lead, but it has its disadvantages.

Mr Gilliard came down last weekend, to see how we were. He stayed till Monday morning. I went down to Felixstowe on Sunday for lunch. Felix Hotel was crammed with military, and we got what the other people left, which was not much. In the afternoon we had a glimpse of Shotley and then motored home for tea.

On Wednesday morning, I was orderly, unluckily. as the sergeant major came and knocked me up because there was a Zep hanging about. It was 4.30 by the clock and very chilly. We rang up the Mess, and the Adjutant said he had no word about any Zeps, so I retired again. We were informed a few days later that they were testing a submarine engine in the government works at that time, so it was a false alarm.

The OC put two 18 pound guns in a pit about 2 miles out of the town and set them at an angle of 45° for the purpose of using them as anti-aircraft guns. The whole mess have had arguments as to whether it would be safe to fire them or not, and we came to the conclusion something would go if they were fired. During the week they were inspected by an ordinance man, who said they were useless.
We are now getting 2.15 pounder anti-aircraft guns to take their place, which I hope will give a good account of themselves next raid.


(the next post will be a letter home dated 6 November)

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Letter Home - 18 October 1915

RA mess, Ipswich, 18 October 1915

Dear Family,

There is a good lot to write about this week, but very little time to write. I was sent off for a week at camp on Wednesday night, and was camp orderly. Things were pretty lively for the first half of the night, as we had two Zep raids, one at 11.30 and the next at 1.45. The first one came over after I and two other officers had been in our bunks ten minutes. Of course, there was nothing for it but to turn out and wake all the men. Everything went splendidly - or rather was going well, until some silly asses outside Ipswich had a go at the Zep with a maxim. He promptly turned round and dropped five bombs, which made a fiendish noise. The bombs fell about one and a half miles away, very near a big camp, but I do not think they got anybody. We were nicely tucked in again when we were wakened up for the second time, and in the excitement I put my boots on the wrong foot, and there they had to stay. This one went straight over us. We could not see either, as there was a fog hanging over us. It was just a thin one but enough to hide us from the enemy.

The Tommies took a lot of looking after, as the silly asses would light cigarettes and strike matches. We put a couple of them under arrest, but it did not seem to do much good. I think if we had left them alone it would have been better.

Things are still going on in the same old way here: plenty of work to do, very little time to do it in. However we all muddle along and get strafed by the Adjutant, whom everybody loathes. Every day you get a sort of hopeless feeling with him that you can never do anything right, but who worries? There are some nice men here, but there are also some awful rotters who seem to think they are here on a picnic – a sort of don't-care-or-try brigade: why they joined at all, I don't know. There are very few English born men in the Mess - nearly every man has either come from the Colonies, or has just come back from living there. There are even some men from Rangoon and China.

Well, goodbye, it is so nice to see that we are getting the rain,

I hope you are all well,


(The next post will be a letter dated 23 October)

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Letter Home - 5 October 1915

RA Mess

5th October, 1915,

Dear Dad,

We have not had a letter from down under for some time, the boats seem to run rather irregularly. I hear that you had good rains and that there promises to be a fair season.

Political matters are not looking too good over here at present, as Bulgaria certainly have their hand in with Germany, and Greece looks as if she will also break her alliance with Servia and Roumania. There is talk of the war going on for three years and also that we will have to have conscription in England.

We have had a fairly strenuous week - at least our 4th battery have. We were taken out on what they call an instructional battery on Monday, and it was the first time we had been out with a battery - and also the Tommies' and horses' first trip. You can imagine the result. I had rather an important position as a No. 1. It means I was in charge of a gun, and rode at the head of my near leader - I mean the left of him - and was supposed to repeat all signals, but, as I did not know them, we were not a great success. I must say that there is a lot of talk going on in this room as I write, and I keep putting in part of the conversation.

Well, we eventually came into action, and I had to supervise the work of the men on the gun and see that they were doing their work correctly, and before we had been in action very long we discovered that we had all been wiped out by our left section who were too far to the rear. However, I suppose one learns these things as one goes along.

Tuesday, was what is called driving drill, with the firing battery wagons. We had to ride the teams. I was in the centre, which is an easy position. Bee was on a leader. We managed to get along fairly well, but it is jolly hard with horses that don't know their work. On Wednesday, it was instructional battery again, with the same position allotted to us. We were a little better this time, but by no means good. Coming home the corrector scale, a brass instrument about two foot long, dropped off the gun. We ran over it which gave it a bit of a gliff. However, we were not as bad as the 6th battery, who ground a ladies' bike to powder—it was left standing against the curb. Thursday was a heavy day at the riding school, with a crowd of Tommies who did not know the horse's tail from its ear, and we, the officer, had a very rough passage, as they used to jamb in the centre and cross in front at a canter. The air was very thick that morning.

Friday, a big squad of us went out on reconnaissance. There were about 20 of us. You are taken down by lanes in the country. Then you are halted and have to find your position on the map. The squad usually has the senior sub in charge, and he has not much chance of keeping his brother officers in check. If the people on the road only knew what danger they ran in passing us, they would have a fit. Half the men have no control of their horses at all, which is not to be wondered at, considering they have only ridden for about seven days. One man, a Canadian who has rather a nice horse, tried to jump a gate. The beast took off too far before, and he crashed through it, finally finishing up on the horse's ear. The horse lowered its head and he slid nicely to his feet.

This morning was driving drill, but nothing exciting happened, except that we all got our legs well jambed and bruised by the offsiders squeezing the traces against our legs.


PS We were pleased to hear by the mail that the sheep country is looking so well and hope there is a good clip, but should think it very improbable

(I am putting this letter up a day early, as I'm not sure if I will be near internet access on the day. The next letter will be on 18 October.)

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Letter Home - 2 October 1915

RA Mess

2nd October, 1915

Dear Mother,

There is little news this week, and am afraid there will be less every week now until we move from here. We are all quite broken into the place and its ways, some of which take some understanding. This week has slipped by very quickly: I suppose it is because the routine of work is always the same and also because one does not get much time to sit down and think about anything.

I discovered the other day they are trying to teach the officers here in three months what in peace time takes three years – sort of explained a great deal to one who is in the place and trying to get hold of things.

On Friday, or Thursday rather, we went out on horses with prismatic compasses and tried to find our way by the map and to sketch the country. I'm afraid we did not know much about it, but I suppose it will come later. The best part of the whole business was that we were out for a ride, instead of being in the riding school.

We were out with our battery today, and I had to ride one of the centre horses. It was rather exciting work as we missed several posts by inches. Most of the horses were strange to the work.