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Monday 9 May 2011

Letter Home - 6th May 1916

Dear Mother,

We were glad to get two mails this week and hear you are all well. There is absolutely nothing to write about. I wish you could see me in my tent now in a wood. One can almost believe one is camping out in the bush with the cuckoos and other birds chanting among the trees, but when the guns start firing it brings you to the realities of life again.

We have a detached section of two guns in a wood about a mile distant from the main battery. The wood has been part of the grounds of a huge white chateau which must have been a beautiful place before the Hun got to work on it with his guns. Unfortunately, the chateau, which was well fitted up with heaters, baths and 'every modern convenience', is on the side of the wood nearest the trenches and consequently in full view of the Hun artillery observing officers, who seem to love seeing the brick dust flying. Our position is on the drive, and we fire down this narrow strip through the timber and over the ruins of the chateau and enfilade Boschie's front line about 2000 yards away. Observation is carried on from a very tall tree - 80 foot - which one climbs by ladders put up by the French, who use it also when the spirit moves them. I was never any good at heights and, when I get up there, spend most of my time trying to hang on. I find there is not much time for glasses so use the naked eye. When perched up there the other day, and trying to get another officer up, our General came along underneath and, though he is usually keen on inspecting your front, he never attempted to come up and look at ours. The tree was too much for him, I expect. We are going to have a rope put up for hurried retirement, in case a sharp-eyed Bosch spies us. The trees are all in leaf now and the wood is full of blue bells, so you can picture what a nice spot it is.

It was rather amusing the last time I was at the main battery OP - there were four Australians observing for four different batteries: Bee 15th; Sanger 56th; Armytage (Charlie) 71st. On Wednesday when at the OP, Bosch brought down one of our aeroplanes near this wood I am in now. The pilot planed down and must have caught a wire on landing as the machine turned over, threw both men out and caught fire. The men were all right and dashed for the wood and got under cover before Fritz turned on his artillery. Of course, the machine quickly burned to ashes.

Bee is back with his battery now and I think is pleased to be back. His OC Palmer is a very nice man and very different from our man Suttie who, though considered bearable by his subalterns, is very unpopular amongst other batteries.

Ever your loving son


PS Suttie is on leave now. He went on Friday night. He has been ill with malarial fever, which seems to stick to all Indian soldiers.

I was afraid the foal would play up when it lost its old master but I am glad it is going well now. It must have been a good season, Dad, with such good oat crops and I don't suppose North Station are feeding the sheep this year.

Mum was talking about the end of the war. I must tell her about theTommie who wrote home and said, 'Never mind, Mother, the first five years of the war are always the worst.'



  1. This Armytage seems to be Charles Morell Armytage (of Alta Vista, Punt Road, South Yarra, Melbourne). He and his brother Clive Norman both went to England in 1914 with 4th Light Horse Regiment, AIF (C Squadron), and latterly were both commissioned into the Royal Field Artillery, Charles in 1915/1916, and Clive in April 1917 I think. I had come across Clive's name when he was serving in 36th Brigade with 15th Battery in late 1918, and won a Military Cross.

  2. I think that's absolutely right. The Armytage family's early years in Australia are discussed here: