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Saturday, 14 January 2012

Letter Home (Bee) - 14th January, 1917

15th Battery, RFA

14th January, 1917

Dear Mother and Father

We have had a mail this week and I was very sorry to hear about Rex Dabbs's death. We are not far from where he was wounded, a few hundred yards ahead of that spot. Dad sent me some pieces of wool. What a wonderful price it is fetching. We are gradually settling down. It is wonderful how soon you adapt yourself to the conditions. Our Mess at present is eight feet by six feet, with two bunks in it, so you can see it is not overly large. I always think of dad in the cottage when the house was being built, saying he liked a small place as you only had to stretch out your hand and you got what you wanted. In our case you hardly have room to even stretch out your hand. There are three of us there and it is a case of when one moves we all move, like a game of drafts. It is very safe, as we have a mineshaft we can pop down.

We have been very lucky as we have had three direct hits on our gun pits and not a soul hurt. Four men were in one pit but, beyond having their hair and faces burned with the burning ammunition, no one was hurt, which was very fortunate. On the other hand, of course, it was only a bit of luck the Huns hit it.

I have been having a great time draining the water off the position and am lucky as nature is in our favour. We are gradually clearing the mud off the road I was talking about last time. I am at present in a huge dugout which holds about 300 men. There are no billets for them round in these quarters so they have to live in these places. It is hard on the men though, as they have very little room to lie down. When in the line, they stand up to their knees in water and really have no means of getting dry when out of the line. The Huns have left us quite a lot of dugouts which, of course, are blocked up with mud and water. I was in a party clearing one of these out the other night. Night is the only time you can work and in the dark is the time you flounder in the shell holes, which are full of water. I soon found that we had to put on our gas helmets, as we kept bringing parties to the surface which fairly talked. We got the main part of the dugout clear and found it very useful.

I must close now. Mother, thanks for "Ginger Mick". I think it is splendid and will write to those girls who sent me the socks as soon as I can. The socks and mittens are grand. I could not do without mittens now. We have had two light falls of snow. Hullo, there is a shell just come to earth about a yard off our Mess. No damage done. A few plates broken and a tin of coffee spilt.

Good night, from your loving son,



  1. Do we know who Rex Dabb(s) was?
    The most likely man was
    Initials: R H
    Nationality: Australian
    Rank: Second Lieutenant
    Regiment/Service: Australian Infantry, A.I.F.
    Unit Text: 8th Bn.
    Age: 21
    Date of Death: 26/09/1916
    buried in a German cemetery in Cologne so probably wounded and captured and died in captivity

    1. I haven't found anyone in the family who recognises the name yet. Your information fits, so I think it must be him. I don't suppose you have any idea where he came from in Australia? If not, I can almost certainly find out from the Australian War Memorial. Presumably he was a fellow Victorian.