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Walter Carter
WW1 Soldier's Tale

31st July 1918

Walter: You’ve got to read this. Poor old Pa must have been desperate for a bit of bacon! If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be part of my barmy family, this story from Ma hits the nail on the head. I don’t half miss them…

Mary: I tell you what, husbands are more trouble than they’re worth. I came back from running errands to find the house stinking of burnt bacon and the kitchen full of smoke. Had me worried out of my mind for a minute. Then I heard a groaning from upstairs and found Thomas having a lie down and looking right sorry for himself. When I finally got the story out of him, he told me, all sheepish, that he’d read in the paper about bacon not being rationed anymore and now you can buy as much of it as you want. So he’d got in a fever about it, run straight down the butcher’s and bought nearly half a pig’s worth! Then he’d brought it home, all pleased with himself, tried his best to work the stove that he’s never been near in his life, burnt it to a crisp and ate the lot standing up. And now he’s made himself sick, silly man.

Ed: Best thing I’ve heard in months.

Rose: Oh Pa… Sounds like he could do with a Number 9 pill from one of our Medical Officers!

Mary: Rose, the last thing he needs is a Number 9…

Fred: Hang about, did you say bacon’s off rations?

27th July 1918

Walter: Well, now the Americans really are working with us. We’ve had the 27th American Division attached and are supposed to be tutoring them in trench tactics. I think I’d rather be teaching them open warfare now the fighting’s getting more mobile, but this lot still need to catch up. I’ll let you know how we get on once I’ve got to know them a bit…

Ed: The Sammies are doing alright down here on the Marne, Walt. They’re daredevils sometimes but they’re picking it all up quickly.

To read more about the American Expeditionary Force in the First World War, visit https://goo.gl/h5Gfo1

25th July 1918

Walter: Blimey. Just been handed a small article from the paper saying the ex-Tsar of Russia, Nicolas II, has died. This article says his son passed away a few days later as well, of ‘exposure’. Wonder how that happened? Poor kid. The queen and her daughters are meant to have gone to the country to be looked after. I don’t know. It’s really hard to know what’s going on in Russia at the moment. Not much of it gets into the papers.

Lily: I saw that article too. You could easily have skimmed over it though, couldn’t you?

To find out what really happened to the Romanov family, watch this video (some may find its contents upsetting): https://goo.gl/ZoDFTo

23rd July 1918

Walter: Seen this from my mate John in the Navy. Ever heard of Boney Joe…? Seems he’s quite the celebrity on board ship!

John: This has given us all a chuckle. Our mate Boney Joe got himself in the paper! Typical Joe. Everyone knows him in the Navy. He’s the one who goes on and off ship, gathering up the rubbish that can be used for some other purpose instead of being thrown away.

Children sometimes performed this task on the Home Front. To find out more, visit https://goo.gl/MTqmZS

20th July 1918

Walter: This has to be a joke, surely? I will never understand these things… Still, I do know a lot of blokes out here who would be glad of not having to shave. We could all dunk our chins in a wet shell crater, electrify the lot, job done!

Mary: Good heavens, the things young women are going in for these days. Electricity on the face! I suppose it’s for these long, thin eyebrows that the fashionable ones have started drawing on, to go under their ‘browbands’.

Lily: I tried making myself a browband from some ribbon. Not sure about getting the eyebrows to match though!

To find out about the new fashion for browbands, visit https://goo.gl/gkcfYk

18th July 1918

Rose: I’m going back to France! Ankle is mended (as much as it needs to be, anyway) and just in time too. I’ve had it with sitting around at home. Ma and Pa tried to stop me but I wasn’t having any of it. And then Jamie, of all people, joined in on their side! He surprised me. They were all saying things like haven’t I done my bit by now? And hadn’t I earned a bit of rest? Well, rest doesn’t agree with me. Never did. Even if I’m working with a bit of a limp, at least I’ll be out there, getting on with life. I did think about trying to get a position at one of the London military hospitals but I’d rather be back where I think I’m most needed.

Walter: My sister Rose never did sit still for long. Take care, sis… Maybe I’ll see you around here soon.

Jamie: I’m sorry, I know you’re happiest when you’re busy but I just couldn’t resist the chance to see more of you. And it’s not easy to see someone you love head back into danger.

Rose: Someone you… love?

Jamie: Yes, Rosie. Hadn’t you worked that out by now? I love you. And I don’t want you to get hurt. But I also don’t want you to drive yourself crazy. So, go. But come back to me, eh?

16th July 1918

Ed: The French and the Americans seem to be holding Fritz back near Reims on the River Marne. They found out what time he was planning to attack yesterday morning and beat him to his own game. So he hasn’t got very far. You can see his artillery trying to do the same as what we do – a rolling barrage ahead of the troops to clear the way for them. But our side has so many lines of defence for him to get through that he’s getting behind and now his artillery fire is too far ahead, where it’s no use at all. If he can tire himself out on a hiding to nothing, that’s when we can try to turn this around.

Walter: How’s it going now, Ed?

Ed: Word is German Stormtroopers have got over the Marne on the East of Reims. Will see how far they get.

To find out more about the Second Battle of the Marne, visit https://goo.gl/yxVEdL

To watch a video about ‘Sturmtruppen’, visit https://goo.gl/euvxZZ

12th July 1918

Walter: Damn. Damn. I was just gathering a working party together when the Company Commander came over to say that George, my mate who was buried by the shell blast, died before he even got to the CCS. I’ve been worrying about him off and on since we sent him off on that stretcher but that just goes to show you worrying doesn’t help anyone… I’ll miss the bloke. You’d think it would get easier, wouldn’t you? Losing so many pals. But I don’t think it does. Anyway, the next thing out of the CO’s mouth was, ‘Now that George has left a vacancy, who do you recommend for promotion?’ So I’ll have to sort that out and all.

Reg: Poor old George. That’s rotten news. He was worth two of the rest of this lazy lot.

Lily: So sorry to hear about your friend, sweetheart. This horrid war – I wish it was over. Hope you’re alright. I’ll send you out some cigs and chocolate to share around.

10th July 1918

Walter: Having a rough time. Just sent my mate George off on a stretcher looking touch and go. I’d only left him a few minutes before and was on my way down the trench to the next platoon when a shell hit the parapet behind him, burying George and one of the lads from Reg's platoon. We got to the other fellow first but you could tell straight away he was a goner, so we laid him in the trench and kept digging. I kept on telling them George ought to be there too. Eventually two of the boys pulled up a splintered bit of duckboard and there he was. Knocked out but still with a pulse. Took us a bloody long time to get him out safely. When we finally lifted him free, gently as we could, I could feel he had at least a couple of broken ribs and probably a dislocated shoulder. Grey in the face too, which is never a good sign, though it could just have been the dust and debris. Poor bloke. It’ll likely be the end of his war either way but I hope he pulls through and gets to go home. He’s a good lad. He deserves it.

Lily: Oh sweetheart, to think you’d only just walked away! It shakes me up to imagine it. I hope your friend is alright.

Reg: He’ll be alright. Glad of a Blighty One, I expect! We’ll miss old Ernie from my platoon though. I suppose when your luck runs out there’s nothing you can do about it.

To read more about the evacuation chain for wounded soldiers, visit https://goo.gl/T8tpmY

6th July 1918

Walter: Back into the front line and dodging plenty of artillery fire from the other side. No raids to follow it up though. The outgoing lot said the same. They’d even started to wonder if there was any German infantry over there at all… And then there’s this talk of a ‘mystery illness’. Do you think Fritz has had this flu outbreak too and that’s why he’s not attacking?

Reg: Everyone’s calling it the ‘new war plague’. Sounds a bit grim, don’t it?

Walter: I’ve heard it called ‘the grip’. That’s French I think.

To find out more about the outbreak of ‘Spanish Flu’, visit https://goo.gl/862SLu

4th July 1918

Walter: Had a letter from Lily – she says there’s going to be a big baseball game at Stamford Bridge football ground today for American Independence Day. The US Army against the US Navy. King George will be there watching. Goes to show you how many Sammies are over there now, doesn’t it? That’s what we call the American soldiers. We’re Tommies, the Germans are Fritzes and the Yanks are Sammies. Or Doughboys. There’s plenty out here who’ll be celebrating too. George says there’s more than a million American troops in the warzone now.

Fred: I wish I could go along but I can’t stand the crowds. Didn’t you learn baseball while you was in the convalescent hospital?

Walter: That’s right. I got quite good at it in the end. It’s not cricket though.

To see footage of American Independence Day in England during the war, visit https://goo.gl/VWXDd1

2nd July 1918

Walter: Glad someone had your back, Fred. You were lucky – there’s not many people who understand. I’ve had to discipline some ‘slackers’ out here but I reckon at least one of them has the shock like you did.

Fred: Every now and then, someone surprises you. Whenever I get off the train after work, I have to steel myself to walk past those lads who take the mick out of my shakes. Today they were even pretending to walk with a shuffle, the way I do now, to make each other laugh. But then I heard this ‘Oi!’ from behind me and I saw another bloke from the train come storming up. And the ringleader of the lads swore under his breath, saying that’s his uncle. And this uncle, would you believe it, he tore them all off a strip. Told them they should be grateful for veterans like me. Well they slunk off in the end and the bloke clapped me on the shoulder and asked if he could buy me a pint. I said my Mabel would have the dinner on but if he could wait till Friday, I’d buy him two. Nice to know there’s good people out there.

Margaret: We must be careful, mustn’t we, not to knock the pluck out of those young boys. They’ll be next off to war when they come of age and we must nurture their enthusiasm, not parade rare cases of mental disturbance in front of them.

Reg: Lady, I don’t know who you are but you’ve got it all topsy-turvy. Enthusiasm only gets you so far and shell-shock isn’t ‘rare’. You ought to come out here and have a see for yourself.

To find out more about how WWI affected perceptions of mental health, visit: https://goo.gl/Rb94vD

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