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Walter Carter
WW1 Soldier's Tale

30th July 1915

Ed: Anyone who calls me a slacker don’t know the half of it – I’ve just spent the whole of me lunchtime digging taters. We’ve turned over all the ground out the back to growing veg. Everyone’s doing it, so we get enough to eat. Except now I can’t stop whistling that Harry Champion song that’s everywhere – “Get up like a farmer’s boy in corduroys and gaters, dig up all your old backyard and grow some bloomin taters!”

Walter: Seems everyone’s spending this war doing nothing but dig. Still, I’d rather be digging veg than the trenches and graves we do out here... Glad the folks back home are getting some food though.

To hear the song ‘Taters’, which was adopted by the government to encourage people to grow their own food, visit

and to see footage of children in WWI planting vegetables, visit

28th July 1915

Walter: Reading this really brings it home to you… Not even a year since this rotten war started. And our Charlie, and Corporal Dart, and my mate Perce, and Maurice Galloway and all the others… they’re one of them numbers. And it will have gone up since they printed it too. It’s not right.




Up to about ten days ago the total British casualties in all fields of operations, except South-West Africa, numbered 330,995.

The figures were printed in yesterday’s Parliamentary papers in the form of a reply by Mr. Asquith to a question from Mr. Molteno.

Putting naval and military figures together (naval casualties being stated to July 20 and military to July 18), there were, of all ranks:-


Mary: It does bring it home to see it written like that. Poor dear Charlie. I hope they find a way to bring it all to an end soon as they can. No mother ought to lose her son like this.

24th July 1915

Walter: Big day today – the first unit of Kitchener’s Army arrived in the line! They don’t know what they’re in for, poor lads. We’ve got the 12th Battalion, The Highland Light Infantry, with us for instruction – so as a Section Corporal I have to look after a bunch of their lads as well as me own Section.  I gave each of them a talking to about not sticking your head up, which noises you need to worry about and which you can ignore, ways to sleep so the rats can’t get at your face – all the sorts of things we was taught by the Guards Division. Seems such a long time ago that we was new to all this.

Fred: It's 4 months since we came out... don't feel like it, eh? The new lads are alright, they just ain't got the experience like what we've got. I found one lad who’d dropped his rifle in the mud. It was in a hell of a state. Taught him to put a cloth over the working parts like we do.

To find out more about Lord Kitchener’s ‘New Army’, visit:

and to read more about the 12th Battalion, the Highland Light Infantry, visit:

22nd July 1915

The rest of the battalion have gone to relieve the 6th Londons in section W3, but we’re in reserve at Maroc. Managed to read a bit of the Mirror – the bit about Lord Kitchener meeting Subadar Mir Dast at Brighton. Sounds like quite a fellow – he won a Victoria Cross for saving eight British and Indian officers during heavy fire at Ypres. Takes a lot of pluck to do that, to go back and fetch survivors. In a pinch you’ll always do what you can for your mates, but I don’t know if I could manage it eight times over…

Sidh: I am proud to see this Walter. I hope to be half as brave as Mir Dast.

To see more Indian VC winners from WWI, visit:

21st July 1915

Walter: It was only a matter of time really – a chap called Phillips, a Corporal like me, got accidentally wounded by his own trench mortar today. They’re dodgy as hell these mortars – no one’s hardly used them for the last hundred years and here we are using them again. Fred and I was getting taught about them the other day – the idea is you fire bombs out of them at 45 degrees so they come straight down in the opposite trench. Ours ain’t much cop though… I reckon they’re more dangerous to us than they are to the enemy, and we don’t always have the right ammo to put in them, so we fills them up with whatever we can find. I feel sorry for the Germans who got sent over the contents of our latrine the other day.

Lily: Oh Walt, that's disgusting! Did you really?

Bert: They send just the same back Lily! What did you expect from a bunch of lads? We've got to get a laugh somehow.

To read more about trench mortars, visit: and to see a picture of one in use, visit:

16th July 1915

John: Looks like our coal troubles ain’t getting any better anytime soon…




Despite all appeals to patriotism, the South Wales miners went on strike yesterday and openly defied the Government. With the exception of two small pits, the whole coalfield lay idle, and 150,000 men helped the enemy by refusing to supply the Navy with coal.

Strenuous efforts were made by the more responsible leaders to induce the miners to return to work to-day, but after a stormy meeting at Cardiff the delegates rejected this advice by a majority of two to one.

In consequence, the Admiralty have taken over all the reserve supplies of coal, and the Government have appointed a Munitions Tribunal, whose duty it will be to enforce the royal proclamation and inflict, if necessary, penalties of £5 a day on each striker.

Are the men being misled by German agents? The opinion is growing that this is the root of the trouble, as it has been the labour troubles in America where German money has undoubtedly done its work.]

Ed: Well hang on a minute – the cost of living has gone up no end over here and from what I’ve heard they wasn’t allowed more pay to cover it. Not to mention they’ve been left doing double the work since everybody’s been queuing up to go and get killed. If I was the Chancellor I’d give them what they want and be done with it.

To read more about the South Wales strikes, visit:

15th July 1915

Lily: Saw this in the paper today – looks like the war can’t last much longer because of all the money it’s costing… I hope they’re right – I miss you so much Walt. It’s ever such a long time since I saw you, and even longer since we talked properly. I miss our evening walks down the bandstand, I miss you making me laugh about things the railway passengers said to you, I miss you larking about putting your hat on me – all sorts of funny little things I keep thinking of.


During a discussion on the Finance Bill in the House of Commons last night Mr. McKenna, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, said :-

“We cannot expect that a war costing 1,000 millions a year to more than one of the combatants can be maintained for twenty years like the Napoleonic wars. From its great cost the war must be comparatively short.

“I do not think it is within the power of man to estimate what the cost of this war would be if it lasted thirty-six months.”]

Walter: I miss you too sweetheart… them walks we used to take down the park was lovely wasn’t they? And as soon as this bloody war is over we can do just the same again. I’ve still got that picture of you – you remember that one you give me for me birthday last year? You are beautiful Lil.

To read love letters from the Great War, visit:

13th July 1915

Walter: Well this just goes to show you – you can’t trust nothing in the papers. Some cheeky blighters in Austria and Germany have been faking photographs so it looks like they’ve been blowing up Allied airships!


A Vienna fake. This one, however, was not dumped on a neutral country, but was hoisted on a confiding Austrian public. The picture really shows a sea mine being exploded by rifle fire, and appeared in the Daily Mirror recently, but the Austrians have added to it and called it the destruction of an Italian airship.

Left caption: The picture as it appeared in The Daily Mirror

Right caption: As it appeared in the Wiener Illustrierte Zeitung]

Mary: I hope they wouldn’t do that over here! I always thought you could trust a photograph.

To see a modern example of the manipulation of war photography, visit:

12th July 1915

Walter: Bert Hopkins has been promoted to Lance Corporal, would you believe – he’s now my section second-in-command. I had to take six men today as a covering party to protect a bunch of tunnellers – took Bert to see if he’s up to the job. He didn’t do too bad. We has miners out here to dig under the ground towards the German trenches so they can blow them up from underneath. They have to work in the dark, in silence and never knowing when they’re going to bump into enemy sappers coming the other way, or get blown up, or have the tunnel fall in on them. Most of them ain’t military men neither – some was clay-kickers who was working on the sewer systems and underground railways back home and only had a couple of weeks to prepare before they came out here. If I’m honest, it grates on us lot a bit – mostly because they gets paid double what we do! Don’t see how that’s fair – especially as we has to do extra fatigues because of them. All the soil that comes out of the tunnel, guess who has to move it?

Fred: I don’t fancy it much. When you’re out in No Man’s Land there’s nowhere you’d rather be than out of the way underneath it, but seeing those fellows today all cramped in the dark, moving 9 inches at a time… it gave me the creeps. Still, I reckon I’d do it for double the pay…

Lily: If they’re in the dark, how do they know they’re going the right way? I’d be worried about blowing up the wrong thing.

Walter: Same as anyone else Lil – with a compass! The tunnellers at Hill 60 back in the Spring had some trouble though – some of them didn’t get far enough and blew up our own forward positions. Anyway, they’re not totally in the dark – they have one candle to give them a bit of light. If it goes out they know there ain’t enough oxygen and they got to get out.

To find out more about tunnellers, miners and clay-kickers in the Great War, visit:

9th July 1915

Walter: Good news from German Southwest Africa! It ain’t ‘German’ no more. The paper says the fighting has stopped altogether… though the enemy’s still in East Africa. Anyway, here’s hoping it’s a sign of things to come. Sounds like we could do with General Botha up here.

To find out more about General Botha and German Southwest Africa, visit

6th July 1915

Jamie: Thanks so much for your latest letter Rosie – it does a man good to read your kind words.  I like hearing about your days in the Field Ambulance too, except it sounds like you could do with a lot more sleep… And you say your brother was trained by the 1st Guards Brigade when he got to France? I knew a fellow who was with them, in the 1st Coldstream: an Alexander Croft – I wonder if he met him. As for me, I’m doing alright but I’m fed up with not being able to get about. I’m afraid the mind tends to forget what the body knows… I wake up thinking I still have two legs, looking forward to a good game of footie, and then have to break it to myself gently that I don’t and I can’t. The staff here at Netley are very good though and they’ve given me a fine set of crutches to practise with. My pal Terence is still here in the next bed and we’re plotting all sorts of japes – I’ll be his arms and he’ll be my legs! Together we just about make up a whole man. Well I hope you’re keeping well and things aren’t too awful out there. Looking forward as ever to your next letter, your Jamie.

To read more about the hospital at Netley, visit:

3rd July 1915

Walter: Remember that chap I met at the Indian Village back in April, called Sidh? Well he wrote this today – I hadn’t heard nothing about it. Heard a lot of good things mind – about how well they been doing in Gallipoli and how the ANZACs nick their grub because they like it better than their own salted bully beef…

Sidh: A terrible thing to hear about the 8th Cavalry. Life is very difficult for us in this war – daily we give our lives for the Sircar, but we do battle also with the weather, the uniforms, the food. These men who send us to our deaths do not understand that some of our number cannot eat food prepared and transported by men of another caste or religion. They do not understand that many do not wish to fight against the Turks. Many of the Indian Army officers who understood our language and dialects are gone. But mutiny will not help. Every man wants one thing only: to see his family again. If some say mutiny is the only way to do this, I cannot agree.




The Government of India reports the occurrence of a lamentable tragedy in the 8th Cavalry, Indian Army, stationed at Jhansi.

Two Mahometan soldiers ran amok in the lines, shooting and killing Major Gale and cutting down Lieutenant Courtenay, who has since died of his wounds. The murderers ran towards the officers’ mess, and on the way met and wounded Captain Hudson.

Turning towards the artillery barracks, they fired at a sergeant and a bombardier, slightly wounding the former, but killing the latter. The murderers were pursued and shot down by a party of men of the regiment led by two British officers, but not before they had fired at and killed another officer, Captain Cooper.

The two men are reported to have been of a morose and fanatical disposition. They kept aloof from their comrades. The act was an isolated one, in which no one but the two murderers was involved.]

To read about both the difficulties and the triumphs of Indian Army, visit:

2nd July 1915

Mabel: Saw these next to each other in the paper. I don’t know about you but I reckon I could give the government a tip here. If they’re worried about how long it will take to make lots of steel helmets and thousands of women are looking for war work… then why don’t they get us making them?



When the Minister of War decided to supply steel helmets for the French army many comments were made both within and without the firing zone as to their utility, weight, cost, time of delivery, etc.

They have been now sufficiently long in actual use at the front to prove that they have saved a large percentage of men from being either wounded or killed by shrapnel fire, and have effectively warded off the side-strike of rifle bullets. The soldier, I am told, is enthusiastic  about their use, and the delay anticipated by inability to manufacture them rapidly in large quantities is overcome by the fact that the helmets are only used in the firing line and supporting trenches.

It is officially stated that the thin chrome steel life-saver costs 3 1/2 d.]




The number of women who had placed their names on the war service register up to June 18 was 87,241. Of these 2,332 had been placed in employment.]

Walter: Mabel has a point here. It’s about bleedin time we had steel helmets like the French instead of these cloth caps. Not long back we had a mortar blast just in front of the trench and I got the shock of me life when I went to check the damage. A chap called Percy was sat down, leaning just a bit to the side and I said “Alright Perce? You dodged one there!” and he didn’t say nothing so I went over and looked properly at him – dead as a doornail. A piece of shrapnel had gone straight through his cap and into the back of his head. Horrible. I suppose at least it was quick. Trouble is, what we really need is helmets that come down over our necks, but then we’d look like Germans. And no one wants that.

To read more about the Service Dress Cap worn by British and Canadian soldiers in the early years of the Great War, visit:

1st July 1915

Mary: I think I’ve had a bit of a breakthrough with your father – he saw this letter in the paper from your friend Maurice’s pa (so sad, poor man) and it struck such a chord with him that he started talking about Charlie, for the first time since October. It’s still very painful, but sometimes it helps to talk about it. The portrait is a nice idea – perhaps we could have one done too, if we could ever get the money together.




The following beautiful letter has been received by the “Daily Express” from the father of Private Galloway, of the 23rd London, who was killed after an act of great gallantry:-

To the Editor of the “Daily Express.”

Sir, I notice in your paper to-day an account of the 23rd in action; also relating the brave action of my only son and child, not nineteen. The blow is irreparable, but I am glad he did his duty.

God bless him! He has only gone before us a little while. I do not know why I unburden my thoughts to a stranger. Please excuse me. I am very pleased to think your paper published the item.

I am only a poor man, but I should be so glad if you could put me in touch with some artist who could paint his portrait. I could manage a few pounds. I should like to present it to the regimental headquarters some time.

Please pardon a demented old man’s scribble.


Larch-road, Bedford Hill, Balham.]

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