Dear Father, Mother & Arthur,
I just wanted to let you know that I`m doing well and the healthy meals you gave me Ma are truly coming in handy! The truth is that the battles here are tougher than I thought but this is what enlisting in to the army would have brought me. But there is some good news; I have been ranked as a Corporal. Also how is the entire family doing, Arthur, Uncle Nichols and the rest? Father, how have the crops been doing this season and is Arthur helping out? Hopefully the new techniques are working!
Since the day I have arrived in France, I with all the other soldiers have been fighting in trenches. You probably are wondering what are these so called trenches. Well trenches are long and narrow pathways dug into the muddy ground by the soldiers and they help us in order to give shelter from all the air raids, bombs and bullets. These trenches are strategically designed for all activities, with interlinking pathways. Since the weather only consists of rain, the mud has become unimaginably thick in the trenches; it has become incredibly difficult to complete simple tasks such as walking. Since all the soldiers have to live in the trenches the wet and thick mud has established its own disease called the trench foot; this is when the foot has a fungal infection. Each day the conditions are becoming worse in the trenches and now these trenches are infested with lice, flies and rats! Everyday each soldier is assigned specific jobs to do and because I am now the corporal I must keep an eye and aid the soldiers in the trenches. Sometimes, the other solders and I would play a game to see who can kill the most rats and the reward for the winner is a pack of cigarettes. However the lice and flies have become extremely irritating, so many of the soldiers have shaved their head and even their pubic hair. But some soldiers are isolated from the battle field in order for them to recover from the infections and diseases these rodents have caused. Also, there is not a signal soldier that has bathed since the arrival to Vimy Ridge. That is why there is a distinctive odour that can be smelled from each soldier and in addition to that, our uniforms are extremely filthy, which adds to the stench! Also the trench latrines release unbearable smells that degrade the conditions the soldiers live in. Moreover, the gas that the Germans release into the air in deadly but the odour lingers for days which don’t help the conditions in the trenches. There have been gas mask designed to protect the soldiers from the poisonous gas and they are quite efficient. In the end the conditions that we must live in are indescribable.
Life in the trenches hasn’t been the experience I was hoping for but for my country, I will break brick walls with my bare hands if it needed! The truth is that, most of my time goes by in fear and boredom. When I have a few hours of leisure time, it just flies by so I make the best of it by either resting or sleeping. The soldiers all sleep in dugouts, which is an underground hole and in each dugout there are about 10 soldiers sleeping in them. These dugouts are neither the coziest nor comfortable, but it keeps all the soldiers safe at night. As you would know the best time of the day for me would be when we receive our routine meals. Although we were told that the soldiers would receive enough food to survive, the portions of each meal are extremely small; they are not filling and they are tasteless. Sometimes we warm up the canned meat in an oven, but it is usually just cold and stale food. I truly miss you apple pie mom and all the delicious meals you made for the family!
The family must be wondering whether if I have made any friends and the reality is that I try not to make many because the destiny that relies ahead isn’t too bright and the sorrow of a pal losing his life is going to put me at risk because I will not be able to concentrate on the battle field; which is the first priority. Here in the trenches all the focus is on what the next attack will be. There is a phrase that is used which is “Going over the top”, this is when soldiers leave the safe trenches, pass the barbed wire and enter No Man`s Land. Father must be wondering what is the barbed wire used for, well it is a safety tactic that stalls the enemy. Also, No Man`s Land, is the area between our trench and the enemy trench. In No Man`s land, it is very rare for soldier to come back alive or even wounded! This area of the battle field is full of mines, bombs and dead bodies! The weapons such as the machine gun can be extremely effective in No Man`s Land, however rifles tend to jam because of the thick mud that gets in between or there is mechanical issues! The bombing that occurs is feared the most because of the destruction it can cause and the loud explosion that rattles everyone and everything! This is life hanging by a thread. Fortunately, the battle that I`m fighting is at Vimy Ridge and there is word out there that we will make history on Easter Day. This is the first time in the Great War that all four Canadian divisions are fighting together on the same battlefield, led by Canadian Commander, Major General Arthur Currie. The general has created many new tactics such as “leap frogging” and “creeping barrage”, which is when the fatigue soldiers switch out with fresh soldiers. General Currie has been training each soldier for this mission and has created maps, plans and new artillery and methods. Now each and every soldier is prepared for this mission and hope everything goes to plan. Now that everything is in place and we are all ready, I know that God is one our side and we will be victorious! The victory will be not be only for the British Empire, but for Canada as well. Everything will be fine father and mother and make sure to tell the entire family. I will be sitting by your side soon after this war is complete! I miss everyone and the family is always on my mind. God Bless and may he be on our side. Sincerely from your Raja,
** Raja means prince in Punjabi
** I portrayed myself as a Sikh corporal; an ally of the British because many people don’t know the significance that Sikhs had on the victories of Great Britain.