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

30th December 1916

Walter: Spent most of today with Company Quarter Master Sergeant Geoff Adams. We’ll be working together a lot so I was relieved he seemed like a decent bloke. From North London, but I won’t hold that against him. So long as we don’t talk football, I think we’ll get on fine. And a couple of my sergeants seem alright too. Will Kelly was a Terrier, like me, but originally from the Liverpool Rifles, and Don Chapman from Kent seems to have a sense of humour. Better see if I can find mine again. Harder work than you’d think when you see what’s going on up and down the line. Couldn’t be more different from that ‘truce’ a couple of years ago…

Geoff: Nice to meet you too. I’ll look forward to the next Fulham-QPR game…

To read a recap of 1916 from a military perspective, visit: https://goo.gl/H5WGUq

28th December 1916

Walter: Relieved by the 32nd Royal Fusiliers but one new lad was badly wounded during the relief. His pals didn’t take it too well. You forget what a shock it is for the fresh ones. They might have seen that Somme film and had all the training but nothing can prepare you for the first time you see a mate go down. I tried not to go too hard on them this afternoon – told them our nurses can work wonders these days. Made me wonder how you’re getting on, Rose? Any thoughts on getting Annie better? You must have a tip or two?

Rose: Sorry to hear about the wounded lad but glad you’re getting on alright as a CSM. I’ve been writing to Ma about Annie. I’m hoping that if we can get her temperature down then she’ll start to improve. She’ll need to be kept sitting up as well, to try and ease her chest. It seems everyone’s poorly at the moment. Combination of bad weather and food shortages, I’d say. I took a trip to see little Edouard on Christmas Eve – the orphan I took care of earlier this year – and he’s suffering too. All the children at the orphanage had come down with the same bug but all the others seemed to have a few visitors to give them some fuss. Poor Edouard only had me. He’s such a poppet, you’d think some kind family would snap him up. Not in these hard times, I suppose. So I made sure we had a nice day and I think he felt better for it. It was hard to leave him. Wish I could get home and do the same for Annie.

27th December 1916

Walter: They managed to get the post out to us today, including a letter from Ma. Doesn’t sound too good. After Annie was doing so well on Christmas Day, a heavy fog came down over London and now she’s suffering badly again. All the soot from the city hangs in the air when it’s like that. Ma said she bumped into Lily’s mum too – said Lil’s right miserable. She can’t work at the moment because of the fog so she’s moping around the house. Don’t see what right she has to be upset – she’s the one who decided it was over. And the weather’s just as bad out here but I’m outside and up to my shins in freezing mud. Bloody awful. Anyway, I hope Annie picks up soon, Ma. I’m worried about her.

Mary: We’re worried too, love. She really isn’t well. I’ve got her wrapped in blankets but she’s got the shivers something terrible and a cough to shake the rafters. You know how bad her lungs are anyway, if she’s caught a chill on top of everything it’s only going to get worse.

To read more about the history of fog in London, visit https://goo.gl/8u7V02

and to read about Annie’s post-polio ‘infantile paralysis’, visit https://goo.gl/auubQZ

25th December 1916

Walter: Happy Christmas, I suppose. Joined the rest of the battalion in support at Ridge Wood today. Wish we could have got a spread laid out like these fellows in Beaumont Hamel but no chance while we’re in the line. And anyway, I had to go straight for my interview with the Company Commander, Captain Hambledon-Fox. He seems a bit green – like Mr Bennett was. No real experience as far as I can tell. He pointed out my Military Medal. Asked how I’d got it. I gave him the short version of the story. Didn’t want to frighten him on Christmas Day.

Mary: Happy Christmas, love. I’m sorry you haven’t had much in the way of festivities. We’ve had chicken here and Annie was well enough to sit up at the table. We missed having all the family round though and, far be it from me to say, it was strange not to have Lily popping round. Rose and Ed, we were thinking of you too! And dear Charlie, of course.

To find out about Christmas food in wartime, visit https://goo.gl/1rFJKz

23rd December 1916

Walter: Long trek from the railhead but now arrived near Ridge Wood in Belgium, where the rest of the battalion is in support. Busy sector – the noise from the artillery is something else, even back here. Been posted to ‘A’ Company and my next task is to get to know them. They’re certainly going to get to know me. The first thing I found the ‘resting’ ones doing was wandering around like a bunch of civilians, fixing mistletoe to the front of their hats! I told them they could pack that in straight away. If I’m honest though, I felt like joining in. If Lil’s not interested I may as well kiss as many French girls as I can. Shame I’ve got to keep up appearances as the sergeant major.

Bert: Go easy on them Walt. Poor lads, it’s Christmas! You remember what it was like. I know you’re not feeling too happy at the minute and I’m sorry about you and Lily but don’t become one of those sergeant majors who gets upset about something personal and takes it out on the troops.

To read how soldiers celebrated Christmas in wartime, visit https://goo.gl/awpKhI

22nd December 1916

Walter: We’re off. Just got to Victoria station with a new draft of replacements who I’ve got to deliver safely to the West Surreys near Ypres. They’re a rough lot, and it’s my job to keep them all in check. I have a feeling I’m turning into a grumpy git – these lads seem to think I’m a real pain in the backside anyway. It’s for their own good. They’ll see that once they get out there. Anyway, my job wasn’t made any easier by all the well-to-do civilians making a fuss because they couldn’t find a porter on the platform. What do you reckon to that, Fred?

Fred: Never would have happened in our day mate.

Mary: Take care, love, and write to us when you can.

20 December 1916

Walter: Managed to get home to say goodbye to Ma, Pa and Annie last night. I’ll be off back to the front in the next few days. Feeling miserable about it – it was hard to say goodbye and hard not to see Lily. Seems like everyone’s set on keeping on fighting. No truce for me and Lil and no truce for Britain and Germany. And now I’ve got to go back out to it. Life’s really rotten at the moment.

Rose: Chin up, Walt. I know it’s rotten to leave home, especially after an argument, but you’ll soon get back into the swing of things. Let me know if you’re near Camiers any time and I’ll see if I can get out in a motor to see you.

To read about the various peace initiatives of the war, visithttps://goo.gl/CGy4yA

19th December 1916

Walter: Well, the news is coming thick and fast this week. Just when I’m not in the mood for it. Had another interview with the Commanding Officer and have been informed that I’ll be “posted to the 10th Battalion, The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment as a Company Sergeant Major with immediate promotion to Warrant Officer class”. Crikey. Straight to CSM. I suppose that’s just what the vacancy was so I’ve skipped Colour-Sergeant. A promotion’s always an honour but it means I’ll be transferred to the West Surreys now. A service battalion, not Terriers. And I’ll have a new cap badge after wearing the London Regiment star for as long as I can remember. The West Surreys have a lamb and flag instead – that’s why they call them (us, I suppose) the ‘Mutton Lancers’. So no more 1/23rd. And no more Lily. This new year’s going to be a change around and no mistake.

Mary: Good heavens, Company Sergeant Major! Well done, you deserve it. At least it’s still a Battersea regiment, eh? And a pay rise, I should think. Keep your chin up.

To find out more about The Queen's Royal West Surrey Regiment, visit https://goo.gl/480gXy

17th December 1916

Rose: I’ve been rushed off my feet the past few days and didn’t see your message from yesterday about you and Lily breaking up. Surely not? I reckon you need to go and have a word with her, tell her how you really feel.

Walter shares: Thanks for asking, Rosie, but would you mind leaving it? I don’t fancy talking about it and I’m busy back at Stoughton. Ask Lily if you want to know – she’s the one that called it off.

16th December 1916

Walter: Sat in Battersea Park on my own watching the rain drip off my hat. Talk about a good day turning awful. I met Lil earlier, after she’d dropped off the motorbicycle near Westminster and we decided to walk back home together. I offered to treat her to a show but she said no, her mum would worry and she had to get back. So we walked along the embankment but she kept marching on ahead and when I asked her what was wrong she just said she was cold and wanted to get back before the rain started. Well I could tell that was a load of rot so by the time we got to the Albert Bridge I told her she had to stop and tell me what was what. So then she starts going on about Fred and Mabel, of all things, and I can’t for the life of me work out what she’s getting at until she says, ‘a girl shouldn’t have to ask a man whether he fancies marrying her or not!’ and storms off again. So I told her how could I ask her to marry me? When I was going off to fight and might not come back? And she said that’s the exact thing that might make some fellows more keen. She said I’d been ‘different’ this time, while I’ve been back, like I’d piped off her altogether, and she wasn’t going to be messed around by someone who didn’t love her and she’d decided for her own good to end things between us. And I found myself thinking how difficult it’s been with her lately and didn’t know if maybe she was right. And by the time I’d got hold of my thoughts we’d got to Limburg Road and there she was, in the house and gone. So that’s it. If it’s marriage now or nothing, I suppose it’s nothing.

Mary: Oh love. I wondered where you were. Get yourself home and we’ll talk it through – I’m sure all’s not lost.

Fred: Mate I’m sorry. I reckon I scuppered you without meaning it. With the wedding I mean. Try talking to her tomorrow?

Walter: Wouldn’t do any good. Apparently she’s made her mind up. And anyway, if she can’t see my reasons, maybe she’s not the girl for me after all.

To read more WWI love stories and break ups, visit:https://goo.gl/WMxzWD

16th December 1916

Walter: Had my little presentation at Clapham Junction today. I say ‘little’, there were far more people there than I’d ever have thought! Seems word gets round quick. I shined up my buttons until they were dazzling, bulled my boots, blancoed my webbing and walked down to the station with Ma on my arm and Pa leading the way. Bit of a shame Lil couldn’t make it, but then, she’s always working these days. Still, it was cracking to see all the old boys from Clapham Junction – there’s none of the young ones left here of course – and funny to be treated like a kid porter again after being a sergeant. It was a gentleman from the Railway Company board who presented me with the medal and pinned it on my tunic. You could tell he was chuffed to do it and I almost let it all get the better of me too, what with everyone cheering. It was nice. Can’t wait to get home and show Annie.

Lily: I’m sorry I missed it, I just couldn’t get out of working today. How about I come and see you later? We’ve got a few things to talk about I think.

Walter: That would be nice. I’ll be staying here until tomorrow morning so why don’t we meet before tea tonight? I don’t mind you not seeing the presentation or anything like that, I just wanted to see you.

14th December 1916

Fred: Afternoon all. Sorry I’ve been quiet. Been getting better but still not feeling top notch. Got a nurse who helps me with the writing. Well I’ve got some good news anyhow. My Mabel’s expecting! That’s good ain’t it. She’s coming along well already. Must have been a wedding night baby don’t you reckon. So I’m trying hard to get better to get out of the hospital. If the army could give me a job so I can take care of the little nipper and my missus that would be alright. Doc says I can’t leave until I’ve got rid of the twitches though.

Walter: Wonderful news! Not the biggest surprise I’ve ever had, Fred… but a corker nonetheless. Hope you’re getting on alright at the hospital. I reckon it won’t be too long before the army will find you something to do.

Mary: Lovely news! I must say, I thought Mabel was glowing at the wedding.

Lily: I knew it! How exciting. Mabel, I need all the news immediately. Hope you feel better soon, Fred.

To see footage of WWI soldiers with shellshock trying to overcome their tics, https://goo.gl/Zags1G

PLEASE NOTE, some of our followers may find the contents of this link disturbing. Discretion is advised. 

 

12th December 1916

Walter: Seen the news about them stopping Christmas leave. Ed’s not too happy about it. Maybe count yourself lucky… I reckon I might be back at the front for it this year.

Ed: As if it couldn’t get no worse, now they’ve said none of us training here in Britain can have Christmas leave. Sorry, Ma – looks like I won’t be back. Well, unless Lloyd George accepts Germany’s new offer of peace. Can’t see it happening, but here’s hoping.

Lily: Do you really think you’ll be away for Christmas, Walt? I thought you wouldn’t be gone that soon. Please see if you can stay put.

Walter: Not my choice, Lil, you know that. I’ve had it lucky so far – some lads have spent two Christmases out there already. And who knows, maybe they’ll keep me here in Stoughton longer? No promises though.

Lily: ‘No promises’. Never any promises, are there? Not while this stupid war’s on.

Walter: What promises? You alright?

To read Germany’s peace request of December 1916, visit: https://goo.gl/mJuHBJ

9th December 1916

Mary: I’ve got some exciting news! Your Military Medal just arrived at home. It’s very special. We’ve all been saying we’ve never seen anything like it. Your father was speaking with your old stationmaster at Clapham Junction and he thought it was a bit of a rum deal that you didn’t get presented with it properly. He said we ought to have been going up Buckingham Palace or something! Can you imagine? So we’ve had a bit of a conflab and agreed we’ll have a little event at the station. So everyone local can feel a part of it. What do you think? Would you be able to get home for it?

Walter: I still think it’s a fuss over nothing but if it would give the locals something to be happy about then I suppose I can’t refuse.

Lily: That’s a nice idea. Do you think you’ll be able to get back for it, Walt? Let me know when.

Rose: Wish I could be there! Well done, little brother.

7th December 1916

Walter: Settling into Stoughton now, getting the recruits doing field exercises and route marches. Weedy-looking bunch and a lot of them none too keen to do as I tell them. They really are very raw – some of them still have great coat buttons sewn onto their hats in place of cap badges because they haven’t been allocated yet. And they were all especially keyed up and hard to manage today because of Lloyd George taking over from Asquith. Bit of a surprise – just yesterday the papers were going on about how Bonar Law was going to step in instead. Everyone I’ve spoken to seems happy though – lots of people have been behind Lloyd George for a while.

To read about Prime Minister David Lloyd George, visit https://goo.gl/ApypP6

5th December 1916

Walter: Had to leave for Stoughton Barracks and the Royal West Surreys this morning, where I’m going to be training their new lads. Thankfully not too much fuss leaving home as I’ll be able to pop back now and then before I’m posted back to the front. Took over my accommodation in the Sergeant’s Mess (not bad) and drew up all the kit I lost in France – webbing, mess tins, groundsheet, that sort of thing. Just been in to see the depot Commanding Officer who says I’m not far off being fit enough to go back into active service, so chances are I won’t be staying here long. I half expected as much. Doesn’t mean I’m glad to be going back though. It’s odd – when you’re home you almost want to be back with lads at the front, but when you hear you’re actually going out again soon, you’d give anything to stay put.

Lily: Walt, I thought maybe I’d see you before you left for Stoughton…

To see Stoughton Barracks today, visit: https://goo.gl/ggpouB

and to read about its history, visit https://goo.gl/JIxOUB

2nd December 1916

Walter: Bit of an unusual one today – when you win a gong like the Military Medal they get you going round schools talking to the children about where you’ve been with the army. So guess where I was today? Back at Shaftesbury Park! My old school. There was a bloke in before me talking about the workings of a Zeppelin so I thought I’d be a bit of let down for the kids after that but nothing of the sort. They seemed to think I was the king of the castle. Told them a bit about what it’s like being a soldier but went easy on the gory details, even though they asked. You know what young lads are like. Kept thinking what a shame it was that Fred couldn’t have come with me – he’d have loved to see the old place but, as planned, he’s back in hospital again after the wedding. Hope they can do him some good.

Lily: Good old Shaftesbury Park. Do they still have Infants on the ground floor, Junior Girls in the middle and Junior Boys on the top floor?

Walter: Just the same as when we were there, Lil. I told the boys I’m still seeing a girl I met there and they all got embarrassed!

Lily: ‘Seeing’. That’s it, is it?

To read about the Great War and education, visit https://goo.gl/DtK3fp

and to read about the history of Shaftesbury park School, visit https://goo.gl/PrKOM2

Website Designed and Built by B&M Design & Advertising

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