October 30, 1916
Updated: Sep 19, 2019
My address if you have not already got it
18th Battalion B.E.F.
℅ Army Post Office
Dear Mother & Father,
Well I have been expecting some word from you but I suppose my mail is being held up at the 39th battalion and they will likely forward it on when it becomes a nuisance to them. I received a very welcome letter from Jack while I was in the trenches so you can see the wonderful system they have over here.
I suppose he got an opportunity to go up fishing with you Father. I hope he did. He mentioned going deer hunting if he didn’t. I will always remember the time we went up last fall. I intend dropping a line to Uncle Jack and a few others whom I have neglected writing.
We are at present in rest billets and I had my clothes off last night and enjoyed the luxury of having my pyjamas on for the 1st time since the 15th of the month.
I am in “D” coy of the 18th Btn. and have made some good new found friends. Percy Might and Jack Watt are in the same battalion with me and Worth, I just found out today is also with us but I hardly ever see them as they are in other companies and a company is more of a unit here than it is on the other side of the water.
We are in very comfortable quarters and certainly make the best of them. I am going to take the liberty of having a bath tomorrow. But the best thing of all here is that there is no rats.
When we were up in front line they were in swarms and you had to feed them or they would get nasty and try to lunch off your ear or what other part that suited their taste. They would run along the parapet at night and as they are so big you would think the Germans were coming over on a raid.
The 1st night in I was rather concerned about the rum jars and whiz bangs Hyne sent over and felt inclined to duck about five seconds after the shell went over but am learning something everyday.
Trenches are very muddy and have spent half a day cleaning up. It has rained here off an on each day for about two weeks so you can imagine what a hole in the ground would be like. Several caved in and of course we had to clean them out after dark.
Romaine Stevenson walked in on me this afternoon and I was out for a walk with him. I am going up to his dugout tonight for a little visit. He is in the front line at present.
I have been looking forward to getting some mail from home but it will probably be along soon. When you send a box send some tobacco and some heavy socks, also that underwear as soon as possible.
Well I must close for now. Hoping you are all well as I am and you may be sure I will not expose myself unnecessarily. We are at present in a quiet corner.
Your loving son,
First things first with this letter, Vincent has still not received his underwear from home that he has been asking for the last 4 or 5 letters. He must be getting pretty cold! Another thing that he shares at the beginning is the fondness he has for some memories with his Father. It's one of the many things he writes through his letters that shows how much the 19 year old man misses home.
There wasn't a whole lot to research about this letter but it does give you a pretty good first hand account of what the trenches were like during WWI. As we all know, they were muddy, cold, filled with vermin (like the rats he mentioned) and all together not very pleasant. It is very interesting to see these same observations written out by someone as they were in the midst of experiencing it.
Another helpful observation that we can find in this letter is exactly where his position is in the army. We get his Battalion, Brigade, Division and Company here. I have included a picture of the D company of the 18th Battalion from 1919 below. Unfortunately, neither he or the people he mention within this letter are listed there. I would assume, like Vincent, the others were sent home injured or worse before that time. This shows the brutal level of turnover through this war. I have also added below a link to an online war diary of the 18th Battalion during the First World War as well as links to the information I could find on his friends that he mentioned. I am 99% sure that the ones I have found are who he is talking about.
The last thing that I want to touch on is his friend Romaine Stevenson. To this point I can't find any record on him, though I will continue to look. If anyone reading this recognizes the name or the person please let me know!
For the most part I could read this letter fairly well. I have one sentence that I was really struggling with as you can tell and I have included that picture below. The sentence is right at the bottom of the picture.
*With some help from the comments, it is clear now that the words are rum jars and whiz bangs Hyne sent over.both rum jars and whiz bangs were trench mortar explosives I believe and the Hyne is another nickname that the Germans had from the allied soldiers.
Thank you all again for reading. If you know anyone in the Peterborough area that might have some connection to the people that are listed in this letter please share it, they might find it interesting. As always let me know if there is something that I might need to add.