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Walter Carter
WW1 Soldier's Tale

28th February 1918

Walter: Something light-hearted to distract me from training for the Western Front. Not only is it Rose’s birthday, but the folks back home are having a potato-growing competition! Imagine winning £500… It would take me 6 years to earn that.

Mary: We’ve started already! All us ladies from the cooking group are sharing tips on how to grow the best ones. Mrs Talbot’s Belgian guest, Mrs Maes, says using hay as mulch is the key, so I’m trying that. And happy birthday, Rosie! I’ve sent you a parcel full of new knitted socks. Rose likes

Lily: What counts as the ‘best’ potatoes though? Do they mean the biggest ones? Or the smoothest? Maybe the tastiest. Mum and I are having a go too – we can compare notes, Mrs Carter.

To see a WWI recipe using potatoes, visit: https://goo.gl/aXj2mj

26th February 1918

Walter: Bad news. The OC called the officers and senior NCOs together when we stopped at Limena to tell us. Reggie was right – we are going back to the Western Front, after all. The whole 41st Division, along with General Plumer. Glad he’s coming back with us, at least. We’re to stop here for some training first, then set off in early March. Keeping morale up with the thought of France looming isn’t going to be easy, especially with rumours of a German offensive.

Fred: That is bad news. Hope things have got better since we were there together though. Good luck mate.

To find out more about the 41st Division, visit: https://goo.gl/UMCgtD

24th February 1918

Walter: Well, our orders to move can’t have been to do with the firing further down. We’re marching away from the front. Almost exactly the route we took to get here, but in reverse... Reggie has started muttering that we’d better not be heading back to the Western Front. Have to say I’d agree with him.

Mary: Oh I hope not love.

Lily: Don’t say they’re sending you back there… I’d love to have you nearer so you could have more home leave but I like knowing you’re a bit safer in Italy. Fingers crossed it’s a false alarm.

23rd February 1918

Walter: Orders to move at two hours’ notice. Maybe something to do with the increased firing to our left – not sure yet.

20th February 1918

Lily: Well, tonight’s been a surprise. I’ve been called to the ambulance station three nights in a row, heading out to help casualties as normal (thank goodness nothing as rotten as last time) but yesterday evening we waited and waited in the station while the air raid was on but no orders came through. Turns out our anti-aircraft guns saw the German planes off! No casualties. Not a single one. The Kaiser can stick that in his pipe and smoke it, can’t he?

Walter: Great news, Lil! Glad the anti-aircraft boys are doing their bit. Things are looking up out here too. The warm weather’s making us look forward to spending spring in Italy. Would rather see you, of course, but a bit of sunshine will do for now.

To find out more about anti-aircraft artillery, visit https://goo.gl/fzCioq

15th February 1918

Mabel: Today is one of those days when I want to shake whoever is in charge of these things. They’ve decided to use rockets for air raid warnings up to midnight, rather than the cut-off being 11pm. Why? I understand they’re trying to keep us safe, but the advice now is to stay at home anyway (they say it’s likely as safe as a shelter), so why not stick to the bobbies on bicycles? You can still hear them perfectly well but it don’t set off Fred’s waking nightmares like the rockets do. I’d like Lloyd George to spend a night in my shoes, taking care of a baby and a husband with the shock and see how quickly he gets the order changed…

Walter: Seeing things like this leaves me torn in two directions. I want to make a comment like, ‘I wish there was a midnight cut-off for explosions out here!’… but then I remember they’re at home, where it’s supposed to be safe, and Fred’s still suffering, and I wish there was no need for the damned rockets in the first place.

14th February 1918

Mary: I was getting worried about this. I’ve been watching the post, waiting for our food cards so we can get meat and butter, but nothing showed up. Spoke to the other ladies in the street at our cooking group and they hadn’t had them either so we all thought we’d been forgotten. But then Thomas spotted this in the paper. I suppose it’s taking them longer than they thought to get them all out.

Walter: Happy Valentine’s Day, Lily! I sent you a card and everything. Speaking of cards, Ma’s food card hasn’t arrived – has yours?

Lily: We were one of the streets that got our food cards, thank goodness. Hope your family’s arrive soon. And Happy Valentine’s Day! I got your card. Thank you, darling. It’s… sweet.

12th February 1918

Ed: Been to pick up remounts from the local railhead. Horses, that is. I was glad to go – I tend to prefer the company of horses to people. This new bunch seem alright. Not too nervy. Kicked up a load of chalky mud onto my uniform when I was exercising them though. Now I’ve got to scrape it off. Sticks like cement.

Walter: Glad working with the horses suits you, Ed. I’m sure you’d change your mind about who you’d rather spend time with if Thelma the doughnut girl was around though! Have you seen her lately?

To find out more about animals in WW1, visit: https://goo.gl/S7jFnB

8th February 1918

Mary: The rations and food rules are really getting going now. If you go to a restaurant (like we could afford it!), you have to take your own sugar with you. I suppose it’s to avoid people pilfering it and getting more than their share. And there’s to be two meatless days a week and no meat at all for breakfast. No drinking milk neither, unless you’re under ten or an invalid.

Walter: Pa isn’t going to enjoy the meatless breakfasts… although he ought to try this ‘polenta’ stuff we get in Italy. We’ve taken to putting jam on it to make it taste more like rice pudding.

Mary: I thought this was interesting, Margaret. Especially after that MP got arrested for hoarding food.

Margaret Wiggins: I don’t know what you think it’s got to do with me.

6th February 1918

Mabel: The king has agreed to the bill allowing women to vote! For the first time. Six million women, so anyone over thirty, with property... And two million more men too – even soldiers under 21 who don’t own a home. We’ve fought for this day for so long. Still more work to do to make things equal, of course, but we should celebrate! What do you think finally changed their minds?

Lily: Can’t quite believe it! Though it seems a long time to wait until we’re thirty… especially when they seem to think I’m old enough to drive an ambulance into an air raid zone.

To find out more about women gaining the vote, visit: https://goo.gl/r7fTQd

5th February 1918

Walter: Been hearing more and more about this. German workers striking for food and peace, and rumours of a revolution inspired by the Russians. Could give us the upper hand, if true, though we’ve had our hopes raised like this before and nothing came of it.

To find out more about protests in Germany in early 1918, visit https://goo.gl/zJ9xYi

2nd February 1918

Walter: Spending the morning organising training cadres for the platoon officers and NCOs – trying to make improvements after the Divisional Scheme disaster. Cheered up a bit when I walked past Reggie Tallis though. He was teaching the others some ‘Italian’ he’s picked up. Apparently it goes like this – ‘buona sera’ at any time of the day or night for hello, ‘minestro’ for soup, ‘key auntie’ for wine and ‘tootsweeto’ for hurry up… What else do you need?

Rose: I bet the Italians love you lot…

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