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Walter Carter
WW1 Soldier's Tale

28th February 1915

Walter: Happy birthday Rose! Hope everything’s alright out in France.

Rose: Thanks Walt! It’s been alright – I’ve had an easy day compared to most. It’s been sunny weather the past few days so the ground is drying out a bit and we’ve only got a few fellows on the train – mostly measles, diphtheria and some enterics. Florence gave me some fancy soap what her sister had sent her, ain’t that nice? Still ain’t heard nothing from Jamie. I don’t suppose he’ll write after all.

Mary: Good to hear you’re having a nice day darling – and I’m glad to hear the weather has eased up a bit. Don’t give that James fellow a second’s thought. I sent up a parcel – did it arrive?

Rose: Thanks Ma – we’ve been at Chocques for a few days so I haven’t had any post. I’ll look forward to picking it up next time we go back!

Walter: I sent you a card as well Rose – Mrs Abbott told me about a nice stationers on the high street. It is nice being back in St Albans… but I can’t help wishing we was out there with you lot.

Rose: Thanks little brother. And I’m sure it won’t be long – they need as many men out here as they can get…

26th February 1915

John: The navy has been trying to get up the Dardanelles Strait – Churchill’s orders – so we can take Constantinople. This article seems to think they’re getting on alright but I don’t know – don’t our ships look like they’re on fire to you? There’s rumours coming through that they had a hard time with the Turkish guns and mines.

25th February 1915

Mabel: This is for all you folk who thought the suffragettes was keeping quiet until the end of the war – 1000 of them just landed at Le Havre! Two battalions of 500 women each. They’re going to be telephone operators, signallers, telegraphists and chauffeurs. It’s just what Christabel Pankhurst said last year – women can keep everything running while the men are away. Why not? Hope it happens over here soon, I’m just about fed up with working at Arding and Hobbs.

Walter: What do you think about that, Fred? A bunch of women got to Le Havre before us! That’s just about the last straw…

Fred: Blimey Walt… we’ll be the last ones out there at this rate! Still, good on them – don’t know how much good they’ll manage to do but they sound plucky. I like that.

Lily: Oh Arding and Hobbs is alright really Mabel… besides you’ve got me to talk to. What would you do otherwise anyway?

Mabel: I would miss you Lil, but I wouldn’t mind being a chauffeur – I’d like to drive a motor.

Lily: Now that you mention it, that would be alright wouldn’t it? I can just see us setting off around London!

Fred: Gawd, London’s got enough to worry about without you two wreaking havoc…!

 

To hear more about female telegraphists during the war, visit http://goo.gl/ClmI3Z

 

24th February 1915

Walter: What a shock with the Indian troops in Singapore! It happened last week – can’t believe we’ve only just heard about it over here. It was a mutiny – some men from the 5th Light Infantry rioted. They killed a lot of British officers and even some civilians. The British and the locals fought back, and they had help from the Sikhs and some French, Russian and Japanese sailors… but more than 40 people was killed. I hope it don’t happen on the Western Front now.

To find out more about the mutiny, visit: http://goo.gl/7XQMgD

22nd  February 1915

Walter: I told you, didn’t I Ma! The enemy tried their hand at bombing again and made a right hash of it. They came all the way to Essex to knock down a shed and a cherry tree… I wouldn’t worry if I was you

 

20th February 1915

Walter: Here’s some news that will make you feel better Ma – I read today how good our airmen are getting. The Germans don’t stand a chance in the Channel with this lot overhead. Take a look –

“The remarkable efficiency and development in tactics and daring of our army of the air have been one of the most wonderful features of this almost world war. Two short years ago people stood and stared at a single aeroplane as something which was the latest marvel of science. To-day one fighting fleet alone of forty aircraft is the result of British brains and enterprise.” Daily Mirror, February 1915

Mary: Thanks for this Walt. I just hope the enemy aren’t getting good at it too… I suppose we wouldn’t hear about that in the papers. Do you think our boys would be able to see submarines in the sea from up in the air?

Walter: I don’t know – I reckon the best way would be to hit their bases, like they tried to do in Belgium.

Lily: I heard some of our pilots only have 5 hours of training before they go up! Sounds terrifying…

To read more about aerial combat in the Great War, visit http://goo.gl/gMJ0Yo

18th February 1915

Mary: I’m so worried about this blockade – it’s hard enough getting food as it is, what with the prices.

17th February 1915

Walter: What a piece of news we’ve had! We’re moving back to St Albans! Not back with the Abbotts, which is a shame, but where the First Surrey Rifles was staying before – near Holywell Hill. It’ll be nice to see the old place again… I’ll drop by one day Jane, see how Jimmy and Jack are getting on – I’ll bet they’ve grown a bit since last year!

Fred: It will be nice alright, but I’m that fed up with moving about… we’re going to spend the whole war getting trains backwards and forwards from St Albans.

Walter: I don’t know Fred, I overheard Captain Wright saying about getting more horses, mules and waggons – now why would they do that if we wasn’t planning something?

Fred: Did you? Well I’ll believe it when I see it…

Mary: How nice, Walt! Let us know your new address when you can.

Jane: Oh that’s exciting news! Bring Bert as well, won’t you. I won’t tell the little’uns just yet – they’ll be that surprised when you boys walk in!

Walter: I’ll look forward to it Mrs A.

15th February 1915

Walter: Rosie – I’ve just seen this in the paper. Is it true? I don’t know how you can treat a German soldier just like he was a Tommy.

Rose: It’s a difficult one Walt… I feel strange treating them, especially when I think about Charlie, but you has to sometimes. In the base hospitals, if they’ve got German soldiers in, they’ll keep them in a separate room. By and large they gets the same care though. Some nurses don’t like it, some don’t mind it. My friend Florence said that when you’re a nurse you can’t help but see that we’re all just human flesh underneath anyway.

To see a notebook belonging to a British nurse who treated German prisoners of war at Dartford, visit http://goo.gl/gQfXGM

13th February 1915

Walter: Our boys have carried out an air raid on German bases in Belgium - Bruges, Zeebrugge, Blankenberghe and Ostend! 34 aeroplanes and seaplanes… they bombed railway stations, railway lines and some of the places where they think the enemy are hiding them submarines for the blockade. Well done lads! They didn’t actually find any submarines mind, but the Prime Minister says they’re there somewhere.

Lily: Serves them right after the raid on Great Yarmouth! Somehow I think planes are a bit less creepy than those big Zeppelins though.

Ed: They’re all creepy if they’re carrying bombs, aren’t they?

Lily: I suppose so. Anyway, well done boys. Shame about Ostend Station though – I heard it was quite pretty. Poor Belgium has had a rough time of it.

Mary: The paper says there was no casualties though – very glad to hear it.

To read more about the air raid, visit http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/british-planes-raid-belgian-coast

12th February 1915

Mary: I was saying this to you, wasn’t I, Ed? Food is so dear… The Express says it’s because they’ve closed the Dardanelles so we can’t get nothing from Russia and then so much of our food has to go to the army. They’re the ‘best fed army ever known’! That’s good ain’t it? But I’ve got nothing left over to make leftovers from… Still, I suppose there ain’t so many mouths for me to feed now… but then I don’t get their wages neither, except the odd half-crown that Walter can spare.

 

 

To find out more about food shortages visit: http://www.bclm.co.uk/ww1/food-in-world-war-one/25.htm

11th February 1915

Walter: Well this just goes to show you don’t it? From today’s Daily Mirror:

9th February 1915

Walter: What happened with the Scottish fellow, Rosie? Did you give him your address…?

Rose: I did it! Well I sort of did. I decided to give him me name and where to write to me out here, not at home… so if he does write me any letters they’ll come with the mail like yours do. I wrote it on a scrap of paper and kept it up me sleeve for hours, blushing like anything whenever I walked through his carriage… and me a thick-skinned nurse! He must’ve thought I was going to give him the cold shoulder. In the end I called Florence over when we stopped to take on water (she’s another nurse – couldn’t help it with a name like that, could you?) and told her about it. And she went marching right over to his bed and said, “Nurse Carter, come here, you need to take a look at this man’s vitals…!” Well I thought the ground might as well swallow me up. But I went over, didn’t have no choice, did I? And I checked his pulse, though he could’ve been stone dead for all I could feel through me trembly hands, and just when I was about to walk off I pushed the note under his pillow. And now I’m fretting that he won’t be able to turn around and reach it… but he did give me a wink when I come back through so I think he must have got it.

Walter: Blimey, Rose… you sound just like a schoolgirl. Well at least you didn’t give him your home address.

Rose: He probably won’t even write, Walt, and it will all be a big fuss about nothing!

Lily: It is exciting though… did you get to say goodbye?

Mary: Just you be careful – you could get dismissed for something like that.

Rose: No Lil – I was down in another carriage when we got to Boulogne and the orderlies got them off quick. I’ll let you know if I get a letter…! And Ma, I think it’ll be alright – letters don’t matter too much, it’s just if I went walking out with him, then they’d have something to say!

8th February 1915

Rose: Well today’s been a turn up for the books! Ha ha. I’m almost a bit shy to say it… I met a very charming Scotchman on our train today, and he asked for my address so he can write to me when we’re all done with this fighting! But now I don’t know what to do… We ain’t allowed to talk with patients like that. I told him I’d think about it, and I’m back in the nurses’ quarters now… but he’s only on the train until tomorrow (we’re putting him off at Boulogne), so I have to make a decision! I might make one of the others do his dressings in the morning – I don’t ever feel shy about them things but with him I think I would!

Lily: Oh Rosie that’s exciting! What’s his name? Does he wear a kilt? Oh you have to let him write to you – imagine if you ended up getting married…

Walter: Well hold on a minute – what does he want with writing to you? I reckon he just said that to get friendly with you. You don’t want to give anyone your real address anyway – tell him a pretend one or just tell him to sling his hook.

Rose: Ha ha, you two are like the angel and the devil on me shoulder! I’ve thought about all them things… and I keep changing me mind! I did say I wouldn’t get married ever, so as I could keep being a nurse… but this ain’t marriage anyway, it’s just a few letters.

Mary: Did you forget I was going to see this, Rose? You need to be careful here love… what if you two find out you get on and then he has to go back out and fight? You know better than anyone what can happen to lads out there.

Rose: Thanks Ma. And no, he got a blast right through his right leg… so he won’t be going back out, ever. It would be nice for him to have someone to write to while he’s resting up, wouldn’t it?

Mary: Well there’s another reason to watch yourself – do you mean they had to take his leg off? How would he support you then, if he can’t work? I’d steer clear of that one if I were you Rosie.

Rose: They didn’t have to take it off – the Germans had already done that for him. I don’t know… I think I’m going to get some kip and make me mind up tomorrow. Oh and his name’s James, but he says to call him Jamie… ain’t that nice?

5th February 1915

Walter: This don’t sound good, Ma… Germany’s going to ‘blockade’ us with them submarines. They say all the sea around us is going to be a war zone, starting 2 weeks from yesterday. I suppose they’re trying to starve us… and they ain’t going to hold back on neutral ships neither – they say they might get caught in “accidents”.

Ed: Serves us right really – we’re the ones being crafty by putting neutral flags on war ships.

Walter: Are we? Didn’t hear nothing about that. It’s no good for Germany to fire on ships like that though – not when there might be civilians in them.

Ed: There might be, there might not be… that way we can use the civilians to protect the ships. Don’t seem right to me.

To read more about the blockade, please visit http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/germany-declares-war-zone-around-british-isles

4th February 1915

Walter: Poor old Turks eh? Tried to get across the Suez Canal in Egypt to attack our lot and didn’t get too far. They wasn’t expecting the firepower – all sorts we had: Indians, Gurkhas, even Australians and New Zealanders, all on our side. The enemy ran back into the desert – don’t know how they’ll get on there, there ain’t no water.

Rose: We gets Gurkhas on our hospital trains sometimes. I like them – they’re everso brave and don’t moan at all, but they do have a bad habit of taking off their underthings if they has lice (which is always, we all has lice out here) and throwing them out of the train window! We’re running out of spares to give them…

Mary: Rose! For the last time, we don’t want to hear about underpants. Or lice. I hope you’re getting on alright. Why don’t you tell us how the weather is?

Rose: Well it’s cold, which at least makes the lice a bit calmer… ha ha, sorry Ma. It has got a bit more like Spring over the last couple of days – sunshine and that. You’d like to see the honeysuckle east of Rouen, it’s got leaves on already.

To find out more about the raid on the Suez Canal or the involvement of other fighting forces,
visit http://www.1914-1918.net/suez.htm
and http://www.ww1commonwealthcontribution.org/WW1FSCommonwealth_Contribution.html

1st February 2015

Walter: Strange news from the Eastern Front yesterday – they say the Germans used a type of poison to fight off the Russians, but they put it in a gas… Didn’t work – the gas got froze up because it was too cold. Weird though, ain’t it? Don’t like to think about it…

Fred: That gives me the creeps, that does. Would you breathe it in then?

Walter: I suppose so. I’ve had good practice standing next to you on manoeuvres though – I can hold me breath at the first sniff of deadly gas!

Fred: I might have saved your life there mate.

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