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Walter Carter
WW1 Soldier's Tale

29th December 1917

Walter: Thought this was a bit of a snub at first. I mean, you’d think any spare money the government gets its hands on would be spent on the war, not on lighting people’s houses up all fancy back home. Then you read it’s going to save a hundred million pounds a year and you start to think they might be onto something…

Mary: Well now, would you look at this? I’ve always been nervy about electrics. The electric trains and all that. But if electrifying everyone’s houses will save money then that’s good. Just as long as they can guarantee it’s safe. And reducing the smoke in London would be a godsend. It cuts me up to think maybe that could have helped our little Annie and her poor lungs. If only she could have held on a bit longer.

Rose: Don’t think about it too much, Ma. You did the best you could for Annie.

To see some of the electrical advances expected post-war (including a ‘dishwashing machine’), visit https://goo.gl/SAqJ4E

27TH December 1917

Ed: Nothing doing. Too bloody cold.

Walter:  Another cracking insight from my brother… Sorry it’s freezing, Ed. We’ve been a bit luckier over here in Italy but I think they’re forecasting snow soon. Plus we’ll be in the mountains with only our greatcoats and mufflers for extra warmth. The Italians and the French, even the Germans out here, all seem to have much better winter gear than us.

To see photographs of WWI soldiers in the snow, visit https://goo.gl/WV177o

25th December 1917

Walter: Merry Christmas, all! We’ve been glad of it for the day off. The Touring Club Italiano gave out some Christmas gifts and the British Red Cross supplied a bunch of turkeys for us. What a run-around that was – we had to catch them and pluck them ourselves. (I couldn’t help but laugh remembering you and those escaped chickens on the platform at Clapham Junction, Fred, all those years ago). Anyway, we had to get an Italian lass to give us a hand with the turkeys in the end. George made a joke about her being ‘plucky’ and that set us all off again...

Mary: Happy Christmas from me, your father and Lily! She’s popped round to see us, which is very kind. Just in time too as the cooking group had just left and the house was feeling a bit empty. We’re all glad you’re having a better day than this time last year, love. Enjoy your turkey!

To see Walter’s first ever post (about the escaped chickens), visit https://goo.gl/Yn2PwF

To see Walter’s post from Christmas last year, visit https://goo.gl/iPnkZa 

22nd December 1917

Walter shares: I don’t know about this… my girlfriend is going to be an ambulance driver. Are you sure, Lil? It’ll be a rotten job. The stretcher bearers here could tell you stories that would put you right off. Not to mention it’ll be dangerous dashing about above ground when there’s a raid on. I’d rather know you were safe in the shelter. Think it through carefully, won’t you?

Lily: We’ve had that many air raids lately, it feels like the Germans come to visit almost every night. I get so nervous and fed up sitting around waiting for the all clear and feeling helpless. Then yesterday evening I saw an ambulance rushing by with a woman driver! So I’ve decided, I’m going to join them. I know it’ll take you a while to get used to, Walter, but If I’m going to be awake half the night down the shelter anyway, I may as well be making myself useful.

Ed: Lil, being out here I’ve seen all sorts that I’d rather not have. Believe me, there’s no need to get involved if you don’t have to. I’d stay out of it if I was you.

Rose: Good for you, Lily. It’ll be tough but worthwhile. A few tips if you’re caring for people – 1. Clean any wound as soon as possible. 2. Don’t ignore the patients who aren’t making as much noise, sometimes they’re the sickest. 3. Carry a flask of tea with you if you can. If someone’s had a fright, a sip of tea can go a long way.

To find out more about Ambulance drivers visit: https://goo.gl/CukNwy

21st December 1917

Walter: We’ve been building up the defences here and digging saps. The Italians seemingly had all their men shoulder-to-shoulder in the front line. All their eggs in one basket, so to speak. So we’ve made a few improvements to the sector. Merry Christmas lads, have a reserve trench.

To read more about changes and improvements to the trench system during the war, visit https://goo.gl/CmaBxZ

19th December 1917

Mary: Trying not to think too much about it being the first Christmas without even one of our children here in the house. I do miss them so much. Then you see a news story like this and I can’t help having a little cry. I wish one of you had been so lucky – Ed, Rose, Walter. Still, I don’t think there’s a family in the street who isn’t missing someone, so I’ve suggested all of us from the cooking group get together on Christmas Day. It’ll cheer us all up. Oh, and the chap from the local paper says the article about us saving food is going to be printed in the new year! We’re all very excited about it.

Walter: I know we’d all love to be with you for Christmas but maybe next year, eh? I’ve learnt better than to think the war will be over by then but got to keep our chins up.

Margaret Wiggins: I suppose that’s because of the sugar rationing coming in in January. I told you they’d want my low-sugar parkin recipe.

15th December 1917

Walter: Much quieter again now (only a few enemy aeroplanes overhead). Sounds like Fred back at home is busier than I am… Hope you’re doing alright mate.

Fred: Never seen anything like the Christmas rush here at the Home Depot in Regent’s Park. Everyone’s sending parcels out to the lads at the front. Sometimes I wish I could go back out with them but I can’t even stay too long under the mountains of parcels without bringing back memories of sandbags and getting buried at Givenchy. Brings on the shakes and the sweats. What sort of bloke can’t cope with a few bags of letters? I’d be no good in action – I’m barely keeping my job here.

Mabel: You’ll be alright, love. Get yourself home – I’ve got a Surrey stew on the go.

To find out more about the Home Depot, visit https://goo.gl/jmEhLc

12th December 1917

Walter shares: Peace shattered today by heavy bombardment from the enemy. Mostly aiming for the roads behind us. Turns out they switched the Austrians for more German troops as soon as they realised the British Army were in the line and that we weren’t going to keep up the ‘live and let live’ policy…

Lily: Keep safe, sweetheart. I was happier that you seemed to be in a quieter place so I hope it all calms down again, even if they have changed the troops opposite. I miss you.

Walter: I miss you too. Wish I could get home to see you.

11th December 1917

Walter: Word is the Allies have occupied Jerusalem and General Allenby is going to enter the city with his troops today. Bit of a farce by all accounts – we heard the mayor first tried to give the keys to the city to a second lieutenant from the Royal Artillery a few days ago, but he was only foraging ahead in search of eggs for the Mess… Anyway, it’s been a long fight against the Turks out in the Middle East but you can be sure Allenby and co. won’t stop there. George knows his stuff and says Jerusalem has been in Ottoman hands for 400 years until now.

Evan: Didn’t the Allies promise that land to the Arabs to get them to fight for us?

Walter: No idea. All that stuff goes over my head. I tend to leave politics to the politicians…

To see a 1960s documentary about the conflict and how it influenced tensions which still exist today, visit https://goo.gl/hVXjwR

7th December 1917

Walter: We’re taking over a sector on the banks of the Piave river. It’s not what we’re used to at all – we’re facing the Austrian Army and they all take a nap at midday! I spoke to George about it and he says the Italians (who were in this line before) took ‘siestas’ so the Austrians on the other side have picked up the habit as well. They won’t get away with it now we’re here. The OC says there’s been a ‘live and let live’ policy, which is why the trenches don’t have proper parapets or much in the way of reserve trenches. I suppose there’s no need if there’s hardly any action. It’ll be our first job here to build them up.

Ed: ‘Live and let live’ sounds like a good motto to me. Can’t you leave them to it and take a nap yourselves?

6th December 1917

Lily: Just emerged from a shelter in central London after we heard a boy scout cycling around giving the all clear. There’s fire engines out too so I expect the Germans have dropped those awful ‘incendiary’ bombs. The ones that start fires. I can’t help but feel for the people whose houses must have been hit. It makes me so angry! I’m going to have to think of a way I can help.

Mabel: Good on you wanting to help, Lil. I wish I could. Maybe when little Clifford is a bit older, if this stupid war is still going on.

To see teachers’ notes on air raids in WWI, visit https://goo.gl/yUDo6M

4th December 1917

Walter: All doing training under specialist officers – working on tactics for open warfare, which is a bit of a novelty for us. Still, it’s not easy to make progress when so many of us are sick. We’ve come down with something rotten en masse. I won’t go into details, but the latrines are getting heavy use. They’re part of the problem, actually. The terrain here means you can’t easily dig a new hole and put a plank over it, you need to get hold of a rock drill. And we cover the contents with lime and soil but it’s still a fly trap…

Rose: How rotten for you. Drink as much water as you can, won’t you? We’ve lost a lot of men with dysentery to dehydration. If you think the water might be contaminated, add some chloride of lime to it.

Walter: I would but the chloride of lime makes it taste awful! I know I ought to purify the water…

To find out how a soldier who died of dystentery in 1915 could give clues to a possible modern-day vaccine for the disease, visit https://goo.gl/vpqvca

2nd December 1917

Walter: Heard today that a Russian armistice is looking likely. We had a briefing with the OC after a long march to Volpago and one of the officers asked how it would affect us if Russia made peace with the Central Powers. The OC looked him in the eye and said, “It’ll free up 30 German divisions for the Western Front, so what do you think?” That made us pause.

To read more about the Russian armistice, visit https://goo.gl/Ctmfya

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