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LETTERS FROM THE FRONT, Issue 15673, 11 December 1914
LETTERS FROM THE FRONT
IMPERTURBABLE TOMMY ATKINS. We are all very cheerful, but rather done up, as one docs not get any real rest. After the most furious onslaught and incessant attacks (shells fly over us at about 20 to the minute), the most prolonged and ghastly battle the world has ever seen, the British Army stands where it was, not giving way an inch, and only worn out and rather exhausted, but ready to fight for ever. “ Wo had such a reception all along the line. Every Tommy had a bouquet, I think. Tommy is such a marvellous person. At every train stop for five minutes we get out, and in about half a minute Tommy has a fire lighted and a meal cooked in a few minutes. One sees hundreds of little fires on the line. It does not matter about trains coming. Tommy just lights his fire on the line and does not worry. When he travels, he travels either hanging on to the train at the side or on top, but ho is very seldom inside. Then ho will go along the train, hanging on like a fly, to see a pal at the other end and to get a light. And it is just the same in the trenches. Ho will risk his life for a light or something to talk about—Gunboat Smith and other things—apart from what he is doing. . . . The thing that tells on us all is not the hard work, but the nervous strain of prolonged tension. I am enjoying it all; I love the hardship and sport. We are out for big game. The woods around are infested with snipers. These fellows are often behind you, and if you get clear in front these have to be contended with. I am 'writing this in a comfortable billot, the Mayor’s house in a deserted village, every house of which has been shelled by Germans. There remain in it only a fewold people, who wander about what was their homes, looking for food, etc. I think it is the most pitiful sight one could witness. Poor old women, very old, wander about in a dazed manner, quite lost. The Germans have looted the place fairly well. . . . Everything is so quiet, and there is just the never-ceasing din, with shells screaming overhead all the time, to which one gets so used that one does not notice it. . . . This was a beautiful house, with beautiful furniture and full of valuable curios, but it was in a dreadful state when we arrived. Of course, we never take any things' away." —Lieutenant Gilbertson's letter to his father. EVERYDAY HEROES. “ There has been some rough work and hard work, but I seem to have got a new lease of life. I never felt better. I see heroes every day—English, Scotch, Irish, and Welsh; wounded men who say : ‘ Get us a light for my pipe,’ and ‘ Thank you r making light of their wounds. It
makes tears of joy come to think that wo have such men left in the Old Country yet. And the Germans know it, too! We nave had a few wounded Germans through our hands, and they told us that nur fellows had worked havoc in their ranks, and they were glad to get out of it. We are up against a stiff proposition at present. but I think the boys who have arrived with the big guns will soon bowl them out and to Berlin—which I hope will be soon, for I would like my Christmas glass with,' you all.’’—Sergeant M’Hatton, of the R.A.M.C., to a cousin in Durham. DERATIONS IN EASTERN AFRICA “I am in charge of the mechanical camp at Voi, and, by Jove, I have had a lifetime of adventure. It is hard to say which is the most dangerous, Germans or lions. The Germans in British East Africa havo 2,500 white troops. It is a huge country, and has a. lot of minerals in it, several gold mines, and soda lakes. I was out scouting on my motor hike late at night, and all at once thought I saw the lamp of a car. so I slowed down. Suddenly the car (?) loomed into sight. It was a huge lion, and my lamp was shining in its eyes. Well, you may bo sure I pulled up sharp, but i finished up about six yards from it, and, by Jove ! you talk about shiver! It did give mo the creeps to stand and stare at that thing and expect ' any moment that it would spring and with one blow of its paw blot me out. I had only a .305 revolver, which was worse than useless for a lion, so I very, very slowly opened my petrol tank cap, dipped my handkerchief into it, then held the handkerchief to the lamp. It burst into flames. 1 then threw it on the open petrol tank, and, what with the explosion and burst of flames, the lion made off.” The bicycle w r as wrecked, and Mr Lawson had to tramp 10 miles, fighting off a pack of wild dogs and nearly treading on a huge python on the way. “ Two days ago wo had a pitched battle with the Germans. Wo had six _whito men killed and about 20 blacks killed and injured. Wo were fighting at about 25-yards range in the bnsb. It is so thick that one can .hardly move, so we stooped down and shot under the bush at a pair of legs. That was all you could see of the Germans, i Nearly all the men that were injured were I shot in the legs. We drove the Germans off, and the next night -wo took about 200 troops (native) to try and cut the Germans off. When about 50 miles out a rhinoceros charged our car, but missed it hv inches. Then it turned and charged the next car and knocked it over, killing four natives. We had a terrible job to kill it, because we did not want to shoot, as the noise of the guns would have given us away. So we had about 50 natives slashing it with knives, b%t before it was killed it put another car out of action.”— Lieutenant Lawson to his father.
LETTERS FROM THE FRONT, Issue 15673, 11 December 1914
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