Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Spike: or, Victoria University College Review, October 1918

Soldiers' Letters

page 19

Soldiers' Letters

France, 16th July, 1918.

Dear Sir,—I have to thank the Association for a very excellent pair of socks which reached me yesterday. Besides their usefulness, they are a reminder that one is not forgotten, and so doubly welcome.

I don't know that I can give you any interesting information from France. I have been here for just over three months, the first of which I spent with the First Entrenching Battalion, which reinforces the First Brigade, but was then transferred to the Rifle Brigade and posted to D. Coy. of 1st Battalion. H. A. Mackenzie is in the same company. I have met a great many old students since arriving in England. G. H. Nicholls was the officer who met us on our arrival at Sling. Later on there I met C. F. Atmore, who was commanding a Reserve Company, H. R. Biss, H. Lawson, Brigade Gas Officer, Major F. L. G. West, Lt.-Col. J. L. Short, C. A. L. Treadwell, and I expect some others that I have forgotten. Atmore and Lawson are over here again now, of course. Another one at Sling was H. D. Banks, a one-time law student away back in 1906 or so.

Over here Leslie Edmondson was in the Entrenching Battalion, and R. V. Kay and Charlie Robertson when I last heard of them. Then I have met H. G. Brodie, N. M. Paulsen, R. B. Gibbons, D. G. Morison, H. T. Fathers, B. Egley-a Q.M.S. in the Pay Office. Five parcels have just come for me. I must stop.

Great excitement opening New Zealand parcels. All eatables this time. We don't really need them, as our rations are ample, and we can supplement them from the canteen, but they are handy sometimes when we are in the line and away from canteens. That's where we should be now, but Mackenzie and I both caught this over form of influenza at a suitable time, and were left behind at a details camp. When the battalion went in, however, two new officers joined the company and so filled our places. One is J. Hinton, the Otago nominee for the Rhodes schol. last year, so we are a learned company. Don't imagine, please, that I include myself, H. A. Josy, the Auckland representative, has just joined the battalion, too, and is in C. Coy. Am afraid I can't give you any thrilling accounts of "stunts" yet, as I haven't been in any Mackenzie's account of how they filled a gap here on March 24th should be interesting if you could get hold of it. Perhaps you have done so.

The summer weather is beautiful on the whole, though there have been some very heavy thunderstorms lately. Extremely hot to-day. Mackenzie and I went for a swim in a creek a little way off. A dam above a mill a makes a good pool, but the water was very dirty after this morning's heavy rain.

With kind regards to all the committee, and hoping that I may have occasion to write again some day. I am, yours very truly,

F. T. Clere.

I have seen Ken Caldwell and E. B. Tustin, S. I. Jones, N. A. Foden, and I don't know how many more besides.

In the Field. 16/7/18.

The Secretary.

V. C. Students' Union.

Thank you very much indeed for the parcel of socks, which reached me safely yesterday. It was very thoughtful of you all to remember me, and as a matter of fact you could not have sent me anything more acceptable at the times as I had just come in from wet and muddy trenches to find that I had no dry socks. The arrival of the gift, too, almost coincided with my birthday, but I don't suppose there are any present-day students who in the pre-historic days "celebrated" a birthday with me.

I keep wonderfully fit, and have done all through except temporarily on receipt of one or two Hun donations. I do not get many V. C. students in this unit, but plenty from the College in the province from which my unit is recruited.

I understand that you have new one of my old company commanders lecturing at the College. I shall be glad if you would remember me kindly to him, but don't believe all he tells you about me—I am not as bad as that, really. I was close by him when he was hit at Messiness, and he will probably tell you that I am a most unsympathetic mortal. I refer, of course, to Capt. Jas. Thompson.

I saw de la Mare in London hospital when I was on leave some six months ago, when he was a near relative of a "sieve," but I understand he is due for N.Z., and has probably let by now.

page 20

This war seems almost interminable, and I am longing for a suit of "civies," but don't think the time is just yet. Four years is a big slice out of man's life to spend Hun-strafing, but it will be well worth it when he has been put in his place.

Once more thanking you for your kindness, I remain,

Sincerely yours,

A. B. Charters.

My dear President,—

You may know better than I whether I have written to you or no since I left New Zealand, for I have completely forgotten and can call up no clear recollection on the subject. I wonder whom the meeting elected this year to pilot the Association through another period of office; I wish him luck and hope his period of office will be successful, and that he will be able to look back on some pleasant memories. The meeting may possibly be in process on this very day. I wonder if it is? It's just after Easter.

Well, I have seen much since the "Athenic" took us from New Zealand, over three months ago now, and it seems a very long time ago too. You will all know before this our route; we have seen the wonders of the Panama Canal, have passed Haital Islands, and have called at the ports of Newport, New York, land Halifax, disembarking finally at Glasgow on the "Bonnie Banks of the Clyde." We were fortunate in having some excellent weather throughout the whole trip, save about one week in the Atlantic, which few will forget. The Atlantic is famed for its storms, and it was our fortune (very nearly bad) to run into one of the worst our skipper has experienced in his career on the sea. A copy of the Magazine of the 33rds is being posted to you, so you may see there what we did and how we enjoyed what we did do.

Exactly eight weeks after sailing we anchored at Greenock, at the mouth of the Clyde, in the Firth of Clyde, and steamed up the river the following morning. There was a clear sky, and we would all have seen as much of the Clyde as of the Canal had it not been for packing, handing in equipment, etc. It was a gorgeous sight, and where there was not green vegetation there were the ship building yards. Scores of ships-mostly fairly small-were in various stages of completion, and thousands of workers, both male and female, lined the banks and cheered us; they ran from their tasks to join in welcoming the new khaki.

In the afternoon we disembarked and at once entrained for our destination in the south of England. The train took us through Carlisle, Crew, Preston, Birmingham, Oxford, and other places I lost in sleep, to Amesbury, a little station near Salisbury. Then we marched a few miles to our camp in Larkhill, where we lived till a week ago; we were in isolation there through measles having broken out on board a short time before landing.

Though we had experienced ice and a temperature just over and mostly below zero from Newport till after leaving Halifax, and a chilly atmosphere all the way to England, we felt the cold at Larkhill very much. I cannot say I am in love with an English foggy day!

All of us were treated lightly at first, for the authorities learned that it was of no use over-working a draft as soon as it landed; but soon the drill came "thick and fast." Most of us were getting our land legs back again, and into good form, when that medical staff took its sweet way and innoculated us for bronchial pneumonia. The result was that the percentage of those sent to hospital (including measles as the other cause) rose to nearly 50 per cent.! Fortunately there were no deaths here, though I hear that of those who went to Brocton Camp to join the Rifle Brigade two or three died.

We N.C.O.'s all dropped to a rank below that which we held in New Zealand, and went through a class and an exam. to keep or lose that rank. I was fortunate enough to remain a corporal.

You may like to hear of some of the old Collegians whom I have seen over here. Henry Williams is a corporal in the Wellington Battalion at Sling here; I met him unexpectedly one day, and found him the same as ever. Eric Clere was with us in our class, as he missed part of the 32nd class having had measles. F. L. G. West is a Major here, I saw him in the distance, he is still far form well I hear. H. Lawson is a Battalion Gas Officer, and put us through our taste of the real gas. L.J. Short (whom I do not know) I find is a Lt-Col., and is O.C. of this Wellington Battalion here. Bert Tucker is a corporal in the Wellington Battalion, and was orderly room clerk to our company in Larkhill. Ken Adams I saw in the 32nd Reinforcements before he left for France on 20th March. J. Ryan left on he same date. K. Archer is a sergeant in the Battalion orderly room of the Wellington Battal page 21 ion here. C. Robertson is still in the same company and hut with myself; we shared the same cabin with another sergeant on the "Athenic." N. Robertson went to Brocton Camp to join the Rifle Brigade.

We all expect to have our leave very shortly now, and when that is done, we shall be going across the France to see how this "bit push" is going. The Germans are making unpleasantly good headway now; but I hope we do not lose our leave through it!

Please give all my friends at V.U.C. my kindest regards and best wishes.

I cannot name them all in detail. I wish you and your committee the best of luck for the ensuing year and hope you will enjoy it. Please don't forget a "Spike," if I may be so bold as to ask for a copy.

With best wishes to the Association, yours very sincerely,

Reg. V. Kay.