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Walter Carter
WW1 Soldier's Tale

30th May 1918

Rose: How funny to be home again! Well, I’m in hospital being checked over, of course, but even to see a British hospital instead of our tented ones in Belgium and France is quite something. The real treat though is that Ma and Pa have come by to see me. They’ll bring me home too, if I can convince the doctors that I can take care of myself. Oh! I could have sworn I just saw my Jamie pass by the ward… It certainly looked like him and he was on crutches. Do you think he could have taken the train all the way down from Scotland? Oh gosh, now Ma’s gone to intercept him.

Walter: This made me laugh, Rose! Typical Ma. Did she manage to track him down? And was it Jamie? Hope you heal up well.

Lily: Was it Jamie, Rose?

Rose: It was!

28th May 1918

Walter: Had orders yesterday to stand to, after we heard about the German attack on Scottish Wood. Got all fired up and ready to go but the order was cancelled at 3.30pm. The worry is that Fritz will make a run for Paris now that the French 6th Army seems to be crumbling at the Aisne river. We can’t let that happen. My brother Charlie lost his life trying to keep the enemy away from Paris and I couldn’t stand to let him down now. The one bit of good news we’ve had is that the US troops seem to be doing alright at Cantigny. It’s their first proper offensive, so it’ll be good for morale if they can pull it off.

To find out about an attempt to lure enemy aircraft away from Paris, visit https://goo.gl/VEukjG

25th May 1918

Walter: Change of tactic today. The top brass want to try and turn the tide back towards Jerry so we keep getting orders to send raiding parties to collect prisoners. We’ve lost enough men like that already, so everybody gets windy about it, but we had a bit of success this time. Reg took out three men from his platoon overnight and, true to his luck, managed to bring back a German officer. We’ve got him in a prisoner’s cage at the minute with another fellow that B Company brought in. The ’cage’ is really just fenced enclosure, but they won’t be going anywhere with all our guards round them. Next step is for the IO (Intelligence Officer) to search and question them. See if they’ll give away any plans.

To find out more about POWs held by the British, visit https://goo.gl/wFthCh

24th May 1918

Rose: Well, my ankle has been set and is in a cast. Very painful and I’m not allowed to put any weight on it but hopefully it should heal up alright in time, especially if I get a go on one of these ‘passive ankle exercisers’. And, what’s more, I’m coming home! In some ways I can’t wait, of course, but it’s frustrating too. Hopefully I won’t be out of action for too long.

Walter: They say it’s going to be the hottest day of the year so far, so I hope it’s not too sticky having that cast on your ankle, Rose. Hope you heal up quick. Let me know if you get to use an exerciser…

Mary: So glad to hear you’re coming home, love! Your pa and I will take care of you while that ankle mends up.

To see another ‘exerciser’ in use, visit https://goo.gl/SD8rSq

21st May 1918

Lily: Busy night with the ambulance crew. We had what felt like about 40 Gotha aeroplanes over London, dropping bombs wherever they pleased. By the end of the night I was so done in I could barely think about what I was doing, but we kept heading wherever we were needed. There were people who’d been killed while they slept in their houses, some while they were walking down the street and even one lady who’d been watching the aeroplanes from her doorway, in her nightgown. It was horrible. The papers reckon more than 200 Londoners were killed or injured. But we did some good work too. I’m a dab hand with a tourniquet now and can fix up a decent splint. It helps to know I’m doing my small bit to make things better.

Walter: I need to focus on what I’m doing here in the Zillebeke support line but all I keep hearing about are raids putting the people I love in danger. London, this time. It happened on the same night as the Etaples bombing but I only just heard about it. Sounds like you did a grand job though, Lily. I’m proud of you. And the anti-aircraft boys too. George read they brought down at least six of the Gothas.

To read more about air raid casualties in the war, visit: https://goo.gl/yyrdWz

20th May 1918

Rose: Just able to pen a quick note – I’ve been injured but am doing alright. You’d think I’d be safer out at Etaples, wouldn’t you? But I’m being taken to another hospital (this one’s been bombed out) with cuts from flying glass and what seems to be a broken ankle, amongst other bumps and bruises. The Germans raided the whole hospital district here last night, with the Canadian hospitals coming off even worse. Don’t worry about me though as I should be fine, I’m just a bit shaken up and cross that they would shell hospitals so far from the line! Horrible for the poor patients too, and just when I’d managed to make progress with some of them.

Walter: Sounds awful, Rosie. Are you alright? We heard about the bombing at Etaples but I’d forgotten you’d been moved up there. What a rum move to shell hospitals. That’s out of order if you ask me. Well, I hope you get a chance to rest and heal up. Broken ankles can be tricky.

Mary: Oh Rosie, what a horrid thing for them to do! I hope you’re alright. Will you be sent back here, do you think?

Rose: Yes, highly likely. I wanted some leave, I suppose…

Jamie: Just seen this! I hope your poor ankle isn’t too painful. Good news if you get to come home though. If so, I’d like very much to come down to see you.

To read the War Diary of the BEF’s Matron-in-Chief, which mentions the raid, visit https://goo.gl/xLWeXu

16th May 1918

Ed: Got shelled yesterday afternoon. Not too many hurt but my horse, Bram, caught a piece of shrapnel in his flank. I know a bit about horse care now so I did what you’d do for a bullet wound – cleaned it, dusted it with Boric Acid and covered it with a lint pad (not too tight). Then I followed the advice in the handbook and gave him a pint of warm beer. Kept an eye on him overnight but he seemed rough this morning, so I had him sent off to the Veterinary Service. Hope he gets through it alright if they operate. There’s no sense letting a good horse die when we’re short of them anyway.

Walter shares: Glad you’re alright Ed but sorry about your horse. I hate seeing how many get killed out here. Hope he pulls through.

To see footage of the Veterinary Corps treating horses during the war, visit https://goo.gl/KbdrFY

15th May 1918

Walter: The battalion’s back in the support line, which has given me a chance to make sure every man in the company has had a spruce up and a decent shave. Best to use the dregs of your cup of tea for that. It makes the lather a bit warmer and saves you using the grotty standing water that’s lying about. Not that the water we get for tea is much better. It often gets brought up to us in petrol cans that haven’t been washed out properly, so it still tastes of the stuff. Reg, of course, drinks it happily and calls it ‘fuel’.

To read about use of the Gilette ‘safety razor’ in WWI, visit https://goo.gl/ymdg52

11th May 1918

Fred: I’ve had it with this group of young lads. They hang around on the corner by the station and give me stick whenever I’m on my way back from work. They call me ‘old man’, though I can’t be more than ten years older than them. And the more they shout unkind things at me, the more I shake and the more they laugh. I hear them saying things like, ‘The war sent the old coward barmy,’ or, ‘When I’m old enough to face Jerry, you won’t find me shaking in my boots.’ They don’t know. Maybe I’d have felt the same once. I’m afraid one day I’m going to lose my temper with them and get myself in trouble.

Walter: This message from Fred makes me furious. Anyone who thinks he’s a coward should get out here and see what it’s like for themselves. They’d soon change their minds. At least he’s got a veteran’s badge, so people know he’s seen service.

Mabel: If they keep at it, I’m going to give them a piece of my mind and all!

Bert: I know that lot. They take the mick out of my missing ear too but I’m playing the long game – I ignore them and tell myself they’ll more than likely be called up in the next year or so. Still, I’m sorry to hear you’ve come in for it as well mate. You don’t deserve it.

To see a short video about care for military personnel today, visit: https://goo.gl/Z9Fvqa

10th May 1918

Mabel: I’ve been fed up with not working and starting to get nervous in case Fred isn’t able to keep his job. So now I’m taking in a bit of stitching work at home. It’s alright, but it’s not easy looking after a nearly-one-year-old at the same time, much as I love him. And it brings home to me how much I miss the girls at the munitions factory. The daily grind at home can feel very lonely in comparison.

Walter: Sorry it’s tough, Mabel.  I hope the new work brings in a bit more cash for you. And no wonder you miss your munitions pals. I know I’ll feel it too one day when I’m not spending all my time with George and Reg and the other lads out here.

Lily: Walt, it won’t be the same for you at all! You’ll still get to go out to work. It’s us women who have to go from working back to home life, as if nothing had ever happened. Mabel I’ll come over later. Sounds like you and Clifford could do with some company.

Mary: There’s a joy to be found in keeping a nice home, Lily love. You’ll come around to it one day, I’m sure. And Mabel, I’ve managed to get hold of some extra rhubarb. I’ll bring you over a pie.

Mabel: Thank you, Mrs Carter.

8th May 1918

Walter: I got your parcel, Lil! What a big box of goodies to share out. I could hardly believe it when I saw it. Brown sauce, chocolate, tins of strawberry jam… You must have queued for ages to buy all that. Not to mention the money it must have cost. And then I got to the bottom of the box and there was a tiny knitted jumper in there! Now, I know you’re not mad keen on knitting but I take it that’s for Biscuit the pocket bear, not me? As ever, I wouldn’t hear the end of it if the boys got wind of him… but the jumper hides his missing arm, so there’s a good thing. Thank you sweetheart. It’s cheered me up no end.

Lily: I’m glad they arrived alright! I’d knit a jumper for you too if I thought the army would let you wear it. Just keep Biscuit with you, and think of me.

To find out more about pocket bears like Biscuit, visit https://goo.gl/S44LQU

4th May 1918

Walter: We came out of the line last night. Still very quiet. No enemy artillery or infantry activity. I mean, you’d be forgiven for thinking there’s nothing going on, especially after all the news about the German advance being over and done with. But then we’re hearing they’ve captured parts of the Crimea and the Russian Black Sea fleet, so maybe they’ve just turned their attentions elsewhere. George Stone reckons they’ve got designs on places like Finland and Sweden as well.

To find out more about the Russian Navy in the Black Sea, visit https://goo.gl/2kRdo2

2nd May 1918

Mary: Mrs Talbot up the road is having ever such a hard time over what to do with the family dog. The pet food companies used to use the low grade flour but now that we’re having a shortage, that’s all going for our bread instead. Good job too, or we really would have nothing left, but it leaves the poor doggies without their food. Anyway, she’s talking about going to this protest meeting…

Walter: I’m back with the boys in the Ypres defences. Finally able to open my eyes properly again. A few scabs from the mustard gas blisters but otherwise hunky dory (as the Yanks say). And there’s not much doing in the line, so it looks like I haven’t missed anything big. Saw that Ma had written this – I hadn’t even thought about people’s pet dogs back home. The army dogs that we use out here as messengers (or sometimes to find the wounded) are on the unit ration strength, so they are pretty well looked after and even the strays that the lads adopt as unit mascots get fat with scraps of whatever we’re eating.

Rose: Good to hear you’re doing alright, Walt. I found putting bicarbonate of soda paste on my blisters helped, though I don’t know if you’d have access to any. I’ve been moved back to a General Hospital at Etaples now and here they’ve noticed patients can get irritated stomachs after a gas attack, so do take castor oil as well, if you can.

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