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Walter Carter
WW1 Soldier's Tale

21st September 1917

Walter: ‘Leap frog’ tactic seems to have worked so far. Holding our position. Lost a lot of officers though, and Major Andrews who was commanding the battalion. Real shame. Things got a bit disorganised without the CO but Captain Wilson Hart came to take over and we got ourselves back together again. It was two machine guns that did the worst damage. We’d only got 50 yards when they started up. Captured them in the end by getting around them and attacking from behind. Now digging in for the night but a bit worried about rations getting low. Lots of shelling too. Thinking of you to get me through Lily.

Lily: Thinking of you too. I miss you so much. Hope you’re alright.

To see footage from the Battle of the Menin Road Ridge: https://goo.gl/y2fhXP

20th September 1917

Walter: Moved up to our assembly positions under cover of darkness. Weather seems to be staying dry. Have all been fitted out with bombs and two days’ rations. New tactics to put in place this time – A&C Companies will take the first objective then hold it instead of pushing on, while B&D Companies move through us and go on to the next objective, with the 32nd Royal Fusilliers following on to take over from them in the same way. It’s called ‘bite and hold’, or ‘leap frog’. Hope it works. It’s General Plumer’s idea so that bodes well. He planned Messines and that ended up alright.

Lily: Good luck, sweetheart. Keep safe. I’ll be waiting to hear.

To read about the Battle of the Menin Road Ridge, visit https://goo.gl/FXBq9s

15th September 1917

Walter: A rest day for the battalion today. Nice to have a break but it’s only because we’re heading into action. My new CQMS brought us up a post delivery. His name’s George Stone – came over from B Company. I can’t expect him to be as much of a pal as Geoff was but he seems alright and he’s been out here since early last year which is longer than most. Anyway, the post cheered everyone up a bit. Ma sent this cutting from the paper for me. First I’ve heard of it. Apart from the tin hats we don’t really have body armour. It’s just too heavy and you’d sink in this mud straight away. Not to mention getting exhausted from carrying it all. Some of the machine gunners and sentries have shields and protection but that’s because they don’t have to move too much. And it only protects against shrapnel anyway, not bullets.

To find out more about WWI body armour, visit https://goo.gl/Tf4hKX

13th September 1917

Walter: Of all people, I wouldn’t have put my brother down as one for heroics! If you were in my company, Ed, I’d have torn you off a strip for disobeying orders… but it sounds like you pulled it off. Well done on the promotion too.

Ed: What a load of fuss. Stayed at my gun position today while we were under fire and now everyone thinks I’m the latest hero. The shells started falling heavily when we were mid-attack and one of the officers ordered us to retreat. Everyone else ran to take cover but my idiot mate Saunders had got himself knocked out and was lying at my feet. So I sent a few more shells over by myself to try and buy us some time then lugged Saunders back, draped over my shoulders. Even a small bloke like him is a pain to carry as a deadweight. Anyway, now they reckon they’re going to promote me to bombardier. Just my luck.

Mary: Edward, what a story! We’re very proud of you. Your father says he knew you had it in you. Is your friend alright?

Margaret Wiggins: I thought you were one of these peace cranks?

Ed: I am a pacifist. That doesn’t make me a coward. This war shouldn’t be going on and I’m only here because of conscription, but if your mate needs rescuing you do what you can. He’s gone off to an Advanced Dressing Station, Ma. Hope he’ll be alright.

11th September 1917

Walter: Well, ‘here we are again’, as the song says. Back with the battalion, in training behind the line and Battersea already feels a million miles away. While I was away they received warning orders about an upcoming action so lots to plan and train for. Everyone’s a bit jumpy though. The Russian troops seem to be in a right mess because of the revolution. Some of their soldiers are deserting and others are attacking the ones who try to leave…

To read about how the Russian revolution affected the war, visit https://goo.gl/v4oipT

and to hear the song ‘Here We Are, Here We Are Again’, visit https://goo.gl/w5FXnj

8th September 1917

Walter: Got to set off back again tomorrow. It’s funny being on leave – in some ways all you want to do is get back to the boys because they understand everything, and in other ways of course you never want to leave home again. Especially getting to see Lily every day. That’s been better than I ever hoped. And we visited Fred and Mabel with their little lad Clifford last night. Nearly 4 months old, so the yellow colouring from the munitions chemicals has grown out of him and his mum. Fred isn’t in good shape though. I thought from the things he’s written he was managing alright but when you see him in person he can’t focus his eyes on you and his shakes are worse than I thought. It’s always nice to see him but I came away feeling really rough about it.

7th September 1917

Walter: Took a walk along the Embankment and through the West End today, on my way to meet Lily from her motorcycle job. It’s still odd to see people going about their business back home but somehow it feels a bit different here this time. I suppose it’s because London’s had so many air raids now. You notice bomb damage here and there, all the food shops have information about what they can and can’t give you, and there’s signs up all around offering shelter -

 To see photos from London and the home front during the war, visit https://goo.gl/EV6wTP

5th September 1917

Walter: I almost thought I wouldn’t get to see Lily today after that air raid last night. The first large-scale moonlit raid here in London. Still, despite none of us having much kip I turned up on Lily’s doorstep at 10 o’clock this morning. Nervous as you like. Her mum opened the door and rolled her eyes at me. I suppose she thought Lil would have been better off with that Herb fellow. But Lily ducked under her arm and said, ‘Right. Bandstand?’ So we walked off towards the park, just like we always used to. She looked such a treat I forgot the things I’d worked out to say but I needn’t have worried, Lil had it all planned out. She said it was her mum who’d said we ought to be married but thinking about it herself she can see my point about waiting till after the war. She had a few conditions about us getting back together though. She wants me to be honest if I’m upset and not just go silent. Says she’s not a mind reader. I told her it’s not as easy as that, what with the nasty things we deal with at the front, but I’d have promised her anything right then so I said I’d do my best. Then she took my arm. Now it really feels like I’ve come home.

Mabel: Great news! I knew it was daft you two keeping apart. That’s cheered me right up. Just wait till I tell Fred.

4th September 1917

Walter: Got back to Sabine Road yesterday evening. Could smell a roast cooking before I even knocked! Sure enough, Ma opened the door with her same old apron on and said she had a leg of pork in the oven as it’s 1d/lb cheaper this week thanks to the Food Ministry. I told her to stop rabbiting and give me a hug. She made a fuss about the scar on my head of course. And neither of us has mentioned Annie but the house feels horribly empty without her, even since Pa got back from VTC training. No wonder Ma started her cooking group.

Lily: You’re back! See you tomorrow? I’ve got the day off.

Walter: See you tomorrow. As long as you’re still sure you want to see me? I’ll knock for you at 10, like old times?

1st September 1917

Walter: Well, what do you know? I got my leave papers! 10 days (including travel of course). Can’t wait to see you, Lily. And Ma. And everyone.

Mary: Wonderful news. I’ll get the bed aired! How wonderful that you can spend a week at least. Any requests for your tea?

Walter: Thanks, Ma. I’ve spent the last 6 months dreaming of a good roast, so if you could rustle that up with some bread and dripping I’d be a happy man. See you soon.

Lily: Hooray! I’m so excited to see you, I can’t tell you. I’m a bit nervous too… We’ve got lots to talk about.

To hear veterans speak about going home on leave, visit https://goo.gl/zWdffr

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