How are you getting on? I hope that Dad's cold is better. Send my best wishes to everyone!
I am writing to you from the barracks of our regiment. My training is going well; I have many good friends here, and although the training I have been getting is necessary, I cannot wait to finish it, and get out to the Front, because the chances are that the war will be over within a few months, and I want to get a good chance to have my go at the Boche.
All kinds of rumours are spreading through the regiment about the things that the Boche are doing. They are supposed to have committed all sorts of atrocities in Belgium, such as butchering defenceless, innocent women and children, and also raping and pillaging.
I cannot understand why anyone would not want to take their place in Kitchener's New Army; it makes me angry that cowards should be able to duck out of their responsibility to their country. The whole idea of conscientious objection seems absurd to me; it is just a front used to cover cowardice. Conchies don't object to war, they are just scared that they might get hurt. They should see this war for what it is: a chance to help and serve their country, and earn some glory, both for themselves, and for Britain.
The Boche needs to be taught a lesson; they cannot expect to just march around the globe, invading countries for no reason, other than selfishness. If we do not step in and act decisively soon, who knows where they will stop?
How can the army act decisively if many of the men who should be soldiers decide to stay at home because they are scared?
Those who claim that their religion stops them from fighting are in the wrong as well; I am a religious man, and God has said to me (and I believe him) that He agrees with our fighting the war; God is on our side!
Lots of Love
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I am writing this letter to you from one of the support trenches, about half a mile back from the front line. I am sorry that I have not been able to write properly to you for the past few weeks, but you can probably guess how it is out here. Everywhere you look, dead bodies are piling up, as we (our battalion) sit here, there is an almost constant flow of dead and injured soldiers from the front. When you hear about the glorious victories achieved by our boys, don't forget that we are losing men too; it is so depressing to hear the numbers at roll calls gradually going down. Whether you, or the man who is next to you dies, and also when it happens is completely random, there is no justice to it; great men, generous, cheerful men, who are lights to us all, they just disappear without warning, just like everyone else.
It is impossible to get any real sleep here; yes you can shut your eyes, and call that being asleep, but you never really relax; there is always the fear lingering over you that the Boche might overrun the trenches at any time, or that the perpetual thunder of the shells crashing down on the trenches might start to move in this direction, and the whistling projectiles might start slamming into the ground around you, throwing mountains of earth into the sky, or releasing their deadly cargoes of choking, blinding, gas into your lungs. Sometimes you do not take your boots off for days and days on end, and when you do, you suffer from Trench Foot, a rotting disease.
The conditions here are worse than you could imagine; when it snows, it is so bitterly cold that quite a few of us get gangrene. But the worst thing is that generally the drainage in the trenches is awful - when the snow melts, it has nowhere to go to, the ground is already sodden, and so huge puddles build up. But they are not normal puddles; they have a consistency like treacle, and in places they are so deep that it is not unusual for injured Tommies who fall into them to drown, especially if they are trying to make their own way to a first aid post.