Extracted from 1915 editions of the Wycombiensian
We have received many letters from O.B.s at the Front. Space does not permit us to include them all,
but we print the following extracts as likely to be of particular interest.
Corporal Jack Birch, Motor Cyclist Section, R.E.,
" On my first dispatch I had to pass through Ypres. It was practically deserted. Whole streets of houses had been blown to pieces. The Cloth Hall was one gigantic heap of ruins and burning. It is sights like this that make one think that the Germans must not win under any circumstances. When going towards the firing line, we generally get shell fire the whole way. I can say for myself I have not got used to it. The greatest difficulty we get is riding at night near the firing line. Of course, we cannot, show a light, and the roads are crowded. The Germans make a point of shelling the roads behind the firing. line at night, so you can imagine the chaos when a shell happens to hit the road!"
Pte. Eric Thurlow, of the Queen's Westminsters, writes: " When you are being shelled, a feeling of utter helplessness oppresses you, and you can only lie still and hope they won't burst near you. We are right in the -thick of it."
LIFE IN THE TRENCHES.
Lieut. Douglas Fleck, 7th Essex Regiment, formerly in the 5th London Rifle Brigade, with Pte. C. R. Watkins, writes:- " The last visit I made to the trenches was in the most awful weather. It was pouring with rain and beastly cold, and the trenches were already a foot deep in water in some parts, and everything one touched was covered with wet mud. The dug-outs were fairly dry for a few hours, but, alas, not for long. The rain it ceased not, the dug-outs filled with water, and eventually fell in, at times burying the men and all their kit. The water gradually rose above our knees, although we baled continually However, we were cheery through it all, and we had a slight warm occasionally when cooking our breakfast over a charcoal fire. Once when coming out of a trench, I was walkingover a plank under which there was water five or six feet deep, when suddenly a flare went up, and we, with all our kit and rifles, fell headlong into it. When I arrived home, I had my first night in bed since the war started. It seemed so strange to have one's clothes off, and, above all, to feel clean. The only ill effects that I suffered were frost-bitten feet, which, needless to say, were very painful."
THE CHRISTMAS TRUCE
In a letter home, C. M. Leys, Queen's Westminsters; gives a very interesting account of the cessation of h08-tilities on Christmas Day:- " The fun started about 6 o'clock on Christmas Eve. Our chaps sang a carol, which was immediately answered by cheering from the German lines. Then they sang.something to the accompanying shouts of our men. After that there were individual conversations. A German would shout" Merry Christmas," and we would reply, " Same to you.". After that, several of our chaps climbed on to the parapet and lit matches simultaneously, . there seemed to be a mutual agreement not to fire . When daylight came we saw several people on both sides walking about in full view of each other, and so climbed out ourselves and looked round. At any ordinary time this would be madness and an invitation for a perfect hail of shots from snipers. But that mornIng all was quiet, so we fetched wood and water, which, as a rule, must be done under cover of darkness. After a bit we came to a group of men talking together, and found they were composed of previous deadly enemies! Weshook hands and exchanged cigarettes, Some of them asked if we had a football, and were very keen on getting up a game. However, that came to nothing, and we gradually dispersed. Not a shot was fired for over 24 hours."
In another letter he writes:
"Yesterday I had the first warm bath since leavingEngland.
You can guess what a boon it was. It meant a walk of 14 miles, but it was worth it three'times over! On my way back, I suddenly heard my name called, and found myself face to face with D. J.
Watson, of the old R.G.S."
A REUNION OF OLD BOYS
D. L. Gates, Artists' Rifles, writes :
"Of course, you know Watson is out here in ' A' Co. I have also- seen Desmond Griffin (Northumberland Yeomanry), who came across Jack Appleton, a Corporal in the R.F.A., so we are having a reunion of Old Boys out here ; in fact, it is quite the fashionable place. I have also met Wilfrid Butler in the H.A.C."
We have received letters from V. G. W. Rogers, in hospital at Torquay, with frost-bite, from F. Youens, R.A.M.e., on the eve of his departure, and from Mr. Griffin, whose son Desmond, mentioned above, went Through the .desperatefighting in the 7th Division in the retreat from Antwerp. T. R. Yeoman, 8th D.L.I., wrote on Jan. 24th to say he was going abroad, and E. Munday, 3rd Batt. Rifle Brigade, in hospital with frost-bite, has written, saying how glad he was to have had three years' training in the: O. T.C. We have heard also from D. J. Watson, C. H. Thomas, G. W. Gotch, H. D. Griffin, A. W. Thomas (Rhode.sia), D. G. Leys, G. A. Sanders, J. E. Howard, and F. fl. Barfield.