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Walter Carter
WW1 Soldier's Tale

31st August 1918

Walter: What a strange night. Reg brought information along the line that the enemy was withdrawing on our right. So we sent out patrols to check and, sure enough, we were facing empty trenches. The Germans had evacuated all along our section! I mean, it would be easy to get your hopes up and go marching over but we’ve learned to be cautious. We weren’t sure if they were pulling some kind of trick. So we pushed more and more patrols forward, carefully, but it was the same all along. By morning we had men beyond Kemmel Hill and were straightening out the new line! What do you make of that?

Lily: Do you think it could mean the end, Walt? Maybe they’ve surrendered? Oh, wouldn’t it be wonderful?

Walter: If that was the case we’d have heard I think. It’s gone well but we don’t know what Ludendorff’s got up his sleeve. Fingers crossed though, eh?

To hear first-hand accounts of the Allied advance, visit https://goo.gl/in8g6j

29th August 1918

Walter: John – I remember you said we’re losing ships faster than we can build them. Do you reckon this is the way forward? Concrete ships?

John: Odd, aren’t they? Still, if it means we don’t have to find yet more timber and steel then why not? Not sure how I’d feel about serving on one though.

To find out more about concrete ships used in wartime, visit https://goo.gl/1aR4fF

28th August 1918

Walter: New offensives further down the line and they’re pushing forward all the time. The Allies have taken Albert too. This has to be good news, doesn’t it?

Fred: I hope this is the end of the whole rotten thing. I almost wish I could be there to see it through.

24th August 1918

Mary: We have some very special people arriving back in London. Men who’ve been prisoners for four years, since Mons. They’ve been let free and now they’re coming home. Isn’t that wonderful? They’re Charlie’s pals from the original BEF, the ‘Old Contemptibles’. There’s so few of them left these days. And I know I mustn’t hope, but seeing as they never found dear Charlie’s resting place, I can’t help but think ‘maybe’. Maybe he’ll come through the door like he always did and tell me they made a mistake and he was just taken prisoner all along. Oh see, Thomas was right, now I’ve made myself upset.

Walter: Hope you’re alright, Ma. It’s natural to wonder about Charlie but we can’t get our hopes up. They wouldn’t have sent the telegram unless they were sure.

Rose: I’ve thought it myself sometimes. But, sad as it is, I have to accept that he’s gone and try not to be too jealous of the families getting their boys back this week. It must be so lovely for them.

To read about the rare soldiers who were mistakenly reported dead, visit https://goo.gl/N2Vgi4

23rd August 1918

Walter: Managed to get a good plate of egg and chips in one of the remaining houses near here last night and read a paper another Tommy had left behind. It said there’s been food riots in Japan. You forget how this war affects faraway countries, but Japan is one of our allies and has been occupying German-leased territories out there. We’ve been glad of their navy too. But Reg said they eat lots of rice and now it’s at least three times the price it was before the war.

Mary: That’s worse than us then. The price of our bread went up nearly double. But your father says he’s glad you’ve had some egg and chips. That’ll set you up nicely.

To find out more about the ‘Rice Riots’, visit https://goo.gl/YsEyRq

21st August 1918

Walter: Hi Lily. Thanks for your letter sweetheart. It’s always nice to get post from home but this one did make me worry about you a bit. I’m sorry to hear you’ve been having nightmares. Reliving the bad things that have happened is what gets to a lot of men out here and I’m not surprised you’ve had it too, what with all that rotten ambulance work. I’m glad the raids seem to have stopped for now but sometimes that’s when the nightmares get worse, when you have time to think about it. Can you talk to some of the other ambulance girls about what happened? Wish I could get home and take care of you.

Lily: Thanks sweetheart. I think I’ll be alright – if you boys can stick it, so can I! I just never thought I’d see anything like what I have. Maybe it’s easier for people like Rose because she was a nurse even before the war…

Rose: You can write to me anytime, Lily. If I can help in any way I will. Lily likes

To read more about the forgotten female victims of shell shock in WWI, visit https://goo.gl/t2kvov

17th August 1918

Walter: Nice bit of distraction from constant patrols – Thelma the doughnut girl wrote to my brother Ed after all!

Ed: Been relieved by another battery and finally had a chance to pick up some post. Got a letter with handwriting on that I didn’t know. So I got a bit jumpy in case it was from my American girl, Thelma. It was and all. I must have read it 20 times already. And to top it off, she said she misses seeing me and hopes I’m alright. Because of the big advance and everything. How about that? Got to work out what to write back now.

Lily: That’s so nice that she wrote! What do you think you’ll say?

Ed: Thought I’d tell her a bit about the pigeons.

Lily: Pigeons?

Ed: I’m being sent on a pigeon course. The signallers have all been for carrier pigeon instruction so they reckon us gunners should know about it too.

Walter: Romance runs in the Carter genes, Lil, you should know that by now.

15th August 1918

Walter: Good to hear from my sister Rose. She’s following the advance now. Interesting that Fritz doesn’t seem to be using his artillery –

Rose: Thought I’d send you all a bit of an update, now that I’ve been back out here nearly a month. I’m with a Field Ambulance near Le Hamel, not far from where you were lately, Ed. The boys are still pushing forwards and we’ve been told we’re to follow them, to keep the evacuation chain as short as possible. I’m caught between being happy that we’re making progress and upset about what it’s taking to get there. The wounded that come back to us are almost all machine gunned rather than shelled now. After all, as one of the VADs put it, ‘his big guns are busy running away’.

Mary: I keep reading about this advance in the papers. Do you think this could be the end of it?

Ed: Not yet, Ma. He’s still putting up a fight and we’ve only had success in one part of the line. Plenty to do yet.

To read more about the Hundred Days Offensive, visit https://goo.gl/8wGcj3

13th August 1918

Walter: You’ll like this, Lily. Looks like my chances of home leave might be getting better. They’ve agreed to let 6,000 of us per week go on leave from France. Just got to hope my turn comes around soon. Still, at least I get to see you all when I do get home. Bob and me were sharing a cigarette this morning and he was telling me about his wife and kids in Westchester. Near New York, he says. So, what with them being so far away, he won’t see them until the war’s over. He has to spend his leave (or furlough, as he calls it) here in France. But the Yanks all seem to love Paris so they don’t mind it just yet. Give it another four years and they’ll change their minds.

Lily: Don’t say ‘another four years’! I miss you so much. Mabel’s round today, as it’s her birthday, and we were saying how much we want this stupid war to be over so everything can go back how it was.

To see a short film about the American home front that Bob had left behind, visit https://goo.gl/egqaEA

9th August 1918

Walter: Patrol sent in to probe the enemy line overnight. A few of us were required to bring our attached Americans too, to show them the ropes, so I had Bob along for the ride. He stuck it really well – crept across with me, ducking and crouching like an old hand – but we got a surprise when we were almost there. There’d been a recce done on the position a few days ago which showed it was barely manned, but Fritz must have got wind of something because there was a whole load of him waiting for us tonight. Bob and I got ourselves and our nearest neighbours back but further along they lost a machine gun and had 7 casualties with 3 missing. Not our finest hour, which is maddening when we’re trying to show the Yanks what we’ve learned. Still, maybe it’s a good lesson even so – ‘Fritzes are shifty blighters. Never assume the coast is clear’.

Reg: It’s because the Sammies have been firing too much. That lets the enemy know they’re facing fresh troops, don’t it? Us veterans know you fire as little as possible, and only when you’ve pinpointed a target.

Walter: Top marks, Sergeant.

Lily: What an awful night for you. I hope the missing are found. And I’m glad you got back safe at least.

To find out more about the 27th American Division’s time on the front line, visit https://goo.gl/DqH2sH

8th August 1918

Ed: No time to write much as we’re keeping up artillery fire. Infantry advancing miles at a time. Streams of prisoners being brought in.

Walter: Just seen this from Ed and have had bits of news coming up the line too, about the Allies advancing near Amiens. Hope they can stick it. Starting to feel like this might come good… and all of us here wish we were part of it. But then, I suppose the Germans must have felt like this when they were pushing forward in March. Best not to lose our heads just yet.

Rose: Busy here in the Field Ambulance too. All the boys who are able to speak can’t stop talking about the advance –

To watch a video about what General Ludendorff dubbed ‘the black day of the German Army’, visit https://goo.gl/7GZQM8

6th August 1918

Mary: Mabel, I saw this and thought of you and Clifford. They say if you stir Bird’s custard powder into milk, it adds 25% to the ‘solid food value’ of the milk and gives you five times more ‘scientific calories’. Might be a good way of building the little fellow up.

Mabel: Thanks, Mrs C. Clifford’s not doing too bad but it’s hard to keep a baby nice and fat with all this rationing. I’ll try the custard powder if they reckon it’ll do him good.

Walter: Cor, what I’d give for a bowl of hot custard… Didn’t know it was important for your health though!

To find out more about the origins of eggless custard, visit https://goo.gl/tx17pM

4th August 1918

Walter: Four years now since we stayed up late cheering the war announcement, Fred and Bert. I wish we’d known better back then. You remember Bob, the American First Sergeant who’s been attached to me? Well, he means well but he’s been going around saying, ‘Four years of sitting in a goddamn hole in the ground! What the hell were you cheering about?’ Still, it looks like the French do have something to celebrate today – Fritz has been turned around so the pressure’s off Paris. People are daring to hope I think. But we’ve got to keep even more secret about our movements now. Every one of us has had a new notice pasted into our pay book:

'Keep your mouth shut. The success of any operation we carry out depends chiefly on surprise. Do not talk—when you know that your unit is making preparations for an attack, don't talk about them to men in other units, or to strangers, and keep your mouth shut, especially in public places. Don't be inquisitive about what other units are doing; if you see or hear anything, keep it to yourself. The success of the operations and the lives of your colleagues depend on your silence'.

Fred: I hardly remember what it was like to think that way. We was different folk back then.

To watch a video about what became known as the Hundred Days Offensive, visit https://goo.gl/qHzBuK

To see what Walter posted when war was announced, visit https://goo.gl/2BPhed

3rd August 1918

Leonard: What a blow to hear about the ‘Warilda’. It was an Aussie ship, full of our Diggers. Marked as a hospital ship, on its way from Le Havre to Southampton and sunk by a German U-boat. That was the same route I took when I was on my way to you, Mary Carter. Hope you’re all doing well. It’s the middle of winter here in Australia, so the weather’s making me nostalgic for London!

Walter: Nice to hear from Len, Ma and Pa’s Australian lodger from last year. And Rose’s friend. Shame it’s news about another hospital ship though.

John: We’re still losing ships quicker than we can build them. It’s getting us all worried.

Mary: How nice to hear from you, Leonard. And I’m so sorry to hear about the Warilda. It makes me so cross when they sink ships that are clearly displaying the Red Cross. I hope you didn’t have any friends on board.

To find out more about the SS Warilda, visit https://goo.gl/t6auiW

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Now available as a Paperback and on Kindle
Walter Carter
WW1 Soldier's Tale