A Tidman, Royal Navy

The sinking of the Lusitania was a foul murder, but of course we’ll make amends when we see those Germans, we are just itching for a rub at them. We lost eight men whilst covering the landing of the troops, but the troops have progressed all right. I shall never forget the night the Goliath went down, I had the middle watch, but it was sad to see the men struggling for their lives in the water, and all the ships showing their searchlights on the men in the water. You can’t picture it at home. We did our best to save a lot of them, I think we had about 100 survivors on our ship and 3 dead, the latter we buried at sea – a sailor’s grave. We were not far from her. We have been in the thick of it just lately, but still the old ship is as sound as a bell. The Germans are not men, the Turk is a gentleman to the German. I am safe as houses. I am as brown as a berry. It is lovely to have a swim not far from where the guns are firing. Don’t worry about me.

Private S H Irons

I am keeping well and hope all at home are the same. We are in the trenches again and only 50 to 80 yards off the Germans. Our fellows could hear them singing this morning is playing as anything. Of course they keep firing at us all the time, and we let them have something back you maybe sure. I don’t know whether you have written again but have received nothing from you since you told me of Violet Ashford’s death. My thoughts are always about you, I’m wondering if you’re keeping well. I suppose things are looking nice at home now. I hope you will have a good crop of potatoes as I know things are very dear at home. You must go out as much as possible and enjoy yourself. We’re having some lovely weather here again now, but all the same I would rather be at home with you. Of course we know some of us must be out here or we would have those binders over in England. May God keep you and protect you from all harm.

As I am writing these few lines the guns are going off and very fairly shaking the earth. Also rifle fire is going on, and as I sit in our dugout, I think that the shirkers at home ought to be ashamed of themselves for not coming and trying to do a bit for their country, but I hope and pray to God that it will not last much longer, it is wicked to see the lives lost everyday

Private W Sherman, C Company 1st Bedfordshire Regiment

Just a few lines to let you know that I am getting on all right and that I received the parcel, but it was rather smashed and knocked about. The apples and oranges were smashed, but I thank you very much for the parcel as the other things were all right. I was very pleased to hear that you are all getting on all right and that Jack has got his uniform and is getting on all right. We have had it a bit rough lately on Hill 60 and just round about there. The other day I was nearly asleep when some of my mates came rushing on me and said there was a lot of smoke over the German lines. I got up and before I could look at the smoke it was all over us. It was poisonous gas, and we soon had some pads over our mouths and noses. It gave us a “good doing” but we stuck it, and the wind took it away on time. It really made us cough for a time, and made us feel rather sleepy. I expect they can’t shoot s so they think they will poison us. I have seen that fellow from Waresley who is in the 1st Dorsets, and he is getting on all right, but he said he don’t think much of that gas, he said it made him feel rather funny for a time, but they stuck to it. I don’t mind the shells so much, but I don’t like the gases that they use. I have got plenty of mates with me – but only Medlock from Gransden. We are having some very nice weather here now. We are having a rest now, and are footballing nearly all day. I expect the garden is beginning to look all right now, as it is nice weather. I have some peas and potatoes up in full row about here, so I expect they are coming on about Gransden. I was very pleased to hear that the Gransden soldiers are getting on all right. I expect they are all cricketing about there now, as it is about the time they used to make a start. We get plenty of food – jam and cheese and such things, so you know I am all right and there is a canteen here where we can buy nearly everything we want. We are getting paid to-day (20 francs) – that is 16/8, and I expect some of us will get together to-night and have a drink. You can tell my mates I am all right.

Lance Corporal Webb, D company 1st Bedfordshire Regiment

Once again I am pleased to say I have managed to scrape the great battle of Hill 60 after 28 days in the trenches. It has been nothing more or less than murder. It is impossible to call it war. I had one very narrow escape whilst being relieved by another Regiment. I was coming down the line when one of our enemies’ big shells dropped between the line and there were more than fifty men with me and not one of them was hit. I was knocked down by the explosion, it fell about two yards from me. I got up after I got my breath back and went on with the others, and still the shell kept dropping behind us ; it is a miracle how we all got out alive ; it was heart breaking to see all the poor fellows coming down the line wounded – some with hands off, some with half their heads blown away. And what makes it worse, they sent us some asphyxiating gas to poison us. They cannot beat us with shell and rifle so they are trying to poison us; they are a cowardly lot , they cannot fight fair like men, they drove us from our trenches with gas and charged, and our maxim gun did some deadly work, there were Germans lying all over the ground afterwards. We made a counter attack and drove them back with more heavy losses to them. I got a little gas, but not enough to take effect, as we were told that the gas was coming, so we put our pads over our mouths to stop it a little. I was very busy bandaging a poor fellow up who was wounded and who had run to get away from the gas. There are one or two of our men from the Old Country wounded and dead, some are almost dead with poison. I am sorry to say that my brother was seriously wounded in the same trench as me, he had his arm smashed above the elbow with a shell, one piece in his left thigh, and one in his right. I can tell you it is horrible to see poor fellows dying with wounds. What a blessing it will be when this is all over. I would like to tell you more, but I am not allowed.

Private W Sherman, C Company 1st Bedfordshire Regiment

Just a few lines to let you know I am getting on all right. We have had it a bit rough but are getting on all right now. The Germans attacked us several times lately but we gave them it a bit rough. Ted Medlock has had another narrow go, he had a bullet through his hat, it cut his hair off as it went through but did no other damage. He is getting on all right. I am sorry I did not write before but we had several days in the trenches and have not had much time to write, I received the parcel quite safe and thank you very much for it as it came in very handy as I received it when we came out of the trenches. I expect you have seen a good deal about Hill 60. We were there so you know we had it a bit rough. I had a letter and parcel from Bedford the other day. I was glad to hear that Jack is getting on all right scouting. I did not think much to the shooting cards. Tell them they ought to put every shot in the black piece at that distance. They don’t seem much like winning the cup if they don’t shoot better than that.

Private G Corbett, C Company 1st Bedfordshire Regiment

Just a line hoping to find you well at home. I was admitted into Hospital on the 6th May. I have got a dose of gas poison, but I am getting over the effects of it now. The Germans shelled our trenches with poisonous gasses. It was awful. We could hardly breathe in it. I don’t know how I got out. I am afraid a lot of our chaps could not escape and a lot of them died when they did get out. It is not fighting now. We expect shot and shell, but no one can stand against that stuff.

Private W. Chamberlain, C Company 1st Bedfordshire Regiment

I am very sorry to tell you Bob has got wounded but I don’t think it is very serious. He got in the biggest fight we have been in this last few days, and that was the battle of Hill 60. It was just like Hell – and worse than that. It was simply awful and I am glad to say the gallant old 1st Bedfords and others stuck to the Germans like glue. Three times one night they came for us, and each time they came they received a warm reception and went back with very heavy losses. You ought to see what they have done, they have lowered Ypres to the ground, and what they could not knock down with shells they set on fire, and they have not left a house standing. It is simply murder not war. They are doing it because they cannot get through and they know it is no good trying to. I thank the Lord I got through it without a scratch. We have gained some ground and their trenches and also taken some prisoners. I have had a field card from Bob, and do not think you need to worry as he was not badly hurt. Previously I had heard he was dead.