H.E. WITTY Dec 16

H.E. WITTY Dec 16


  1. Section



1st December 1916.  Friday.  The page covering 30th November to 6th December is missing.


2nd December 1916.  Saturday.  The page covering 30th November to 6th December is missing.


3rd December 1916.  Sunday.  The page covering 30th November to 6th December is missing.


4th December 1916.  Monday.  The page covering 30th November to 6th December is missing.


5th December 1916.  Tuesday.  The page covering 30th November to 6th December is missing.


6th December 1916.  Wednesday.  The page covering 30th November to 6th December is missing.


7th December 1916.  Thursday.  Off duty.  Nothing doing as usual.  Weather very little changed.  Marked improvement in rations. No Mail.


8th December 1916.  Friday.  On duty with A.A.  Langstone leaves for home duty tomorrow.  Very quiet day again.  No MAIL.  Coal ration from BAZENTIN.  Did Ford’s & Keywood’s correspondence.


9th December 1916.  Saturday.  Off duty.  Arrival of men from Eng. Had a lot to say.  Spent the time in bed.  Had a warm time with it.  Good mail.  Letters R., Ma, home (also pcl), May, Wally Taylor, Scott (also papers) and Hilda.  Ans with pcs.  Sent £2 to R. and 10/- home.


10th December 1916.  Sunday.  On duty with A.A.  Drizzling day.  Observation and visibility still very poor.  7 O.R. and Mr Tribe to go on leave morning of 12th.  NO MAIL.  Ans Yesterday’s Mail except R.s (to be sent later).  Very quiet day in all ways.


11th December 1916.  Monday.  Off duty.  Nice clear day – Much activity in the air.  Two HUN Planes brought down.  Leave postponed until 13th owing to congestion at HAVRE.  Bosches throws plenty of scrap iron over – NO MAIL.


12th December 1916.  Tuesday.  On duty again with A.A.  Candling returns ”Wonders of Blighty”.  Letters R. and Badge Pcl (Mrs. Harpson).  ANS.  Also wrote Frank re 1917 diary – Heavy rain with snow.  Prep of forward position.  Bottomley here yesterday.


13th December 1916.  Wednesday.  Off duty – in bed most of the day.  Fitted up a toaster on the Primus.  Wet day again – Very cold. NO MAIL.  Payne returns – missed the boat.


14th December 1916.  Thursday.  Nothing doing today.  Weather still continues cold and wet.  Dug-out very damp.  Cold a little better today.  Warned for O.P. tomorrow.  Hope it clears up.  Letters G. and Gilbert (to be answered 16th ).  Razor returned from LEEDS.  Continuous shelling of MAMETZ WOOD.


15th December 1916.  Friday.  At O.P. with Mr. Campbell.  Fine day, cold, with intermittent fog and rain.  Dug-out ‘a foot’ under water.  Some place.  A sudden rift in fog revealed a German train to left of LOUPART WOOD.  Disappeared before we could get the guns on to it.  Saw occasional Huns on Bapaume Road.  High Wood and vicinity of O.P. shelled with 5.9.  letter from R.  (ans by P.C.)


16th December 1916.  Saturday.  On duty with Shippen.  Still cold rainy and thick.  Very little activity.  Letter from Douglas and P.C. from Gilbert.  Frost to be made A.J.  Tate to return to gun.  Recommendation for B.S.M. (home Service) required.


17th December 1916.  Sunday.  Off duty.  Very little doing.  Four men to go on leave on 20th.  still cold and muggy.  Spent a good part of the day in bed.  Letters Mother, Frank and N.T.  answered 19th.


18th December 1916.  Monday.  Nothing doing.  “Western Water Carrier”.  12 petrol tins  ¾ of a mile. Phew!!  No rain but very thick.  Fritz throws his customary scrap iron into the wood.  Letters Doris and Kathie.  Papers (home).  Ans tomorrow.  Issue of Whale Oil for Frost Feet.  Sergt. Major’s inspection.


19th December 1916.  Tuesday.  On duty with Shippen – Very cold & frosty with snow.  Great improvement on the fog.  Fritz shells our neighbourhood with H.V 4.2.  pretty near the Amn Dump.  NO MAIL.  Coal hunting a speciality at BAZENTIN.


20th December 1916.  Wednesday.  Off duty.  Lovely sunny frosty day.  Saw about 50 planes up.  Fritz very busy with H.V.  LX in action C.B.  letters R. and Mr. Taylor.  P.C home.  Ans.  Knight and Cable return former very despondent.  Blighty ideas had adversely affected his morale.


21st December 1916.  Thursday.  Off duty.  Much rain and increase of mud.  Heavy shelling of the vicinity about 7.30 p.m.  “Knights’ Scare”.  Nothing doing otherwise.  NO MAIL.  “Coal raiding again”.  Gill returns.


22nd December 1916.  Friday.  On duty with Shippen.  Very clear day – but fickle weather.  Guns and planes very active.  Letters R. (Christmas Card), Taylor, ”Times”.  P.C. from Frank.  Letter from Scott.  ANS.  (R. with P.C.).


23rd December 1916.  Saturday.  Off duty.  Very little doing.  Procedure as usual.  Letters N.T., Mr. Woodthorpe (with Photo), Gilbert and papers home Ans with pcs.  Letters to be answered on Xmas day.  Shelling in Mametz Wood.

24th December 1916.  Sunday.  Walked up to Bazentin Canteen for grub.  Nothing doing.  Also coke picking.  Weather warm with a little sun.  NO MAIL.  Intermittent shelling.


25th December 1916.  Christmas Day. Monday.  Fine clear day.  Very high wind.  Splendid for observation.  On duty with Shippen.  Splendid feed for dinner.  Quite a “Christmassy air”.  Major’s neat speech in round of dug-outs.  No armistice.  Bosches shell High Wood heavily.  Papers Ma and “Times”.  Ans previous mail.


26th December 1916.  Boxing Day. Tuesday.  Shell fell in our vicinity last night.  Chiefly “duds”.  Off duty.  In bed as usual.  Very little doing. NO MAIL.  Wet and misty.


27th December 1916.  Wednesday.  Scouting for grub at the Canteens.  Very fine just like a warm summer day.  Mud chronic.  NO MAIL.  Three leaves come in.  ready for moving forward..  sent Renie’s letter off.


28th December 1916.  Thursday.  Cold clear frosty day.  Fritz drops 12” shells (firing from Achiet) near us.  Narrow shave for Calley and myself.  Shell very Flying Corps.   Good mail.  Letters R., Ma, Mother, Marshals C.C.C., Cards Mag and Mum.  Books from N.T.  Ans (30th).  Wrote Carter and C.C.C. re Gardening notes.  Shippen goes to”Signalling School”.


29th December 1916.  Friday.  At O.P. with Mr. Tribe.  Heard wonderful stories of ’The New England’ and “a sub’s experiences in London” most amusing.  Very dull and wet in morning but cleared in afternoon.  Saw numerous parties of Germans walking up the slopes and on the ’High Road’.  Also two officers on horseback.  Unable to fire on them owing to lines”DIS”.  NO MAIL.  Many shells (5.9) in the vicinity of O.P.  Awful sights now visible in High Wood neighbourhood the recent heavy rains having revealed the shapeless bodies and skeletons beneath the surface.  Erection of a great Cross in memory of 1st DIV officers and men.


30th December 1916.  Saturday.  On duty with Gill.  Very warm day but dull.  Nothing doing.  Had a bath while on night duty.  Letters (& pcl) from R., Home, Mrs. Hampson, Pc from Frank, (AW) & Gilbert.  Answered all correspondence.


31st December 1916.  Sunday.  Off duty. NO MAIL.  Warm but foggy.  Repairing telephone dug-out side of which collapsed last night. Had a good bath.  End of 1916, a year of triumphs and failures!  Where will the new year lead us?  Surely to Victory.  Instinct seems to tell me that this is our last Winter Campaign.  Will Christmas 1917 find me at home?  I feel deeply grateful that I have been spared through this year and have endured successfully the exposures, dangers and hardships active service entails.  Here’s to a quick ending and a speedy re-union with my beloved wife.  Written in my dug-out BAZENTIN.

Summary of Year’s Mail

Letters Pcls  Pcs  Papers  R.      Home

472    64    37        67   109      99.




On back cover of diary: – Mrs. Hampson, Groveside, Westhoughton, Bolton.


Pte. H. G. Witty 37735 33rd I.B.D. 3rd West Yorks.  A.P.O. Section 17 B.E.F.



  1. W. Taylor, 153863 B Section No 4 Motor Amb Convoy B.E.F.


Private Arthur R. Witty, 33613, Block 29/B, 27th Company, 19th Battalion, Manchester Regiment, Gefangenenlager Dulmen i. W. GERMANY  Prisoner of War.


War Diary of AA Laporte Payne Dec 1916

War Diary of AA Laporte Payne




Brigade Diary, Personal Diary, Operation Orders, Note Books, Memoranda




DECEMBER 2, 1916.

I have just finished two days and nights in the trenches. It was not pleasant as it was so cold.  I went out to tea yesterday with the Sappers.  We had ration bread, jam and tea, and a very stale cake; but company was good.  I had dinner with some Australians.  Tonight I go to dinner with another battery, and I take some very particular records with me.  It is Saturday night again.  I have a record of the “Happy Day.”


December 5, 1916.


The German aeroplanes did not worry you I am glad to hear. I hope they will leave you alone now for you have had quite enough where you are.

The crisis in government circles, whatever that means, is amusing reading. I hope good will come of it.  Certainly I wish they would kick out Asquith, and I should much like to see Carson and Balfour given the whole job of running the show with Jellicoe and Robertson, now that Kitchener has gone.

The weather has been very cold here, and much too misty for good observation. The Boche is still here.  However the time is galloping along to next spring, when we hope to do the Hun in this time if we have any men to do it.  Leaders as well as fighting troops.

We are trying to arrange something for the men at Christmas, but it is difficult to know what to do. We shall probably be having some strafe ordered by the “Brass Hats”, who will sit with their feet on the dinner table in their chateaux, and say afterwards, “Oh! Good show”, or more probably “Oh! Dashed bad show, the troops are inefficient.”


(This letter had the red label attached to it on arrival containing the words “Examined by Base Censor.)


DECEMBER 5, 1916.

Two miserable mailless days were followed by the arrival of a large bag.

A gas alarm tonight, but there was nothing in it.

I get the Times a day late for 30 centimes.





We played bridge, and lost hopelessly. We have had two gas alarms tonight but nothing came of it.



December 8, 1916.


We had a large mail tonight.

The battery is still in the same place and fairly busy. It is cold and wet today.  I have been away all day at Ordnance with a gun which needs repairing.

I am glad to see that Asquith has gone. I hope there will be an alteration now, but I do not trust Lloyd George.  I sincerely hope Carson will be one of the “three”.  We cannot do without him.  He is an honest man.

The men are getting away on leave pretty rapidly now I am glad to say.


DECEMBER 8, 1916.

Friday night.

The greater the hell the greater the heaven! What a good there must be coming for some of us.  I have been reading William J. Locke’s “Beloved Vagabond” I don’t know why.  For lack of something else better to do I suppose.

The weather is beastly. The mud is simply appalling.  The Pave is bad enough, but they are infinitely better than the unmetalled roads.


DECEMBER 11, 1916.

We have been busy the last two days. The Boche has been much more active.  It is still very cold and wet.  I am sorry to hear about poor Gordon Nicholls.


DECEMBER 14, 1916.

At the present time I am attached to another battery, as its battery commander is away; but I expect to return to my own unit tomorrow.

Yesterday one of the best fellows I know, Cheadle by name, who is in a Trench Mortar Battery, called in to see me on his way up to the front line. He seemed very cheery about his job.  Then I went to our O.P., and a short while after on orderly came for me and said that an officer who was badly wounded wanted to see me in the Dressing Station.  I hurried there at once, and found the poor fellow on a stretcher badly knocked about.  I do hope he pulls through alright.  All the best fellows seem to go.  It is at times like these that one realises what the war means.  A friend killed or smashed up close by makes it a personal matter, which cannot be ignored.  At other times, when strangers or those to whom one is indifferent go down it does not make such an impression.  Then we do not take so much notice, and perhaps it is just as well that we don’t, it would be too exhausting.  The dead one can ignore if it is a stranger.  The wounded are generally so quickly carried away that those who remain do not come into contact with the results shell or rifle fire unless actually called to the Dressing Station.  He is the third officer who has been with me in the battery who have gone down.  Two were killed, and now he is wounded.  They were three of the best fellows we ever had in the Brigade.

It does not seem at all like Christmas out here. Such incidents make one rather sad, and to wonder if all the best are bound to be killed.  Why are not the rotters taken?  I suppose because they all look after themselves so well.



DECEMBER 16, 1916.

So my last letter was censored at the Base, but nothing was cut out. Christmas letters and parcels are arriving.

At present I am a semi-invalid, having been inoculated with anti-typhoid injection. My arm is very stiff.

They have turned on the gramophone again, and are playing rag-times, such old ones too. I hope the men break them at their Christmas concert.  We are giving them pork, Christmas pudding and beer.


DECEMBER 22, 1916.

Trench philosophy. There are only two requisites for the  “good life”, heart and health.  The only other condition that may help is independence.

The weather has been very bad here lately. It has been blowing and raining hard.  Colonial troops do not like it at all, and neither do we from England for that matter.

The air is full of peace now. It would be the height of folly and wickedness to listen to the Hun in the present state of the war.  No one wishes the war to be over more than I do, but I could not stick that.  Peace talk usually comes from those at home, who should be safe enough; but I suppose they are anxious for their money bags.  I have a vague recollection of hearing something about where your treasure is there is your heart also.

I shall spend Christmas night in the trenches as it is my turn for that duty. However it might be worse.  The Somme or even Ypres.

The gramophone is blaring out, “Happy Day”, “Oh! For a night in Bohemia”.  Why Bohemia? Blighty would be good enough.  At any rate as a change from the muddy plains of Flanders.

Some one has said that Victoria is the Gate of Heaven.  But it all depends on which way one approaches it.




So many thanks for the puddings, walnuts, dates, fruits and other excellent things, which all arrived in good condition. Last night I had a large mail, seven letters and three parcels.  It is all very good of everybody.

We have had some snow, but today is wet and windy, so unlike the conventional Christmas.

This is Christmas Day it is my turn for the O.P. during the afternoon and evening, so I am having a comparatively easy morning in charge of the gun-line. As we were up most of last night we are not as fresh as we might be.

What do you think of our Division’s Christmas cards? They were designed by a man in our Ammunition Column, and will serve as a reminder of the events of this year.



DECEMBER 25, 1916.

I had a large mail last night, three parcels and seven letters. They made it feel a little more like Christmas time.  It is a horrid wet and windy day, not fine and cold as it should be.  I am for the Observation Post this afternoon, and the trenches tonight.  We were up most of last night so we feel a bit off colour this morning, and our tempers are not of the best.  You will be in church now I suppose.  There will be no church for us.  We are becoming heathen.  There was a most amusing chaplain in the trenches last night.  He was helping the doctor attend to the wounded.  Nevertheless he was extraordinarily cheerful, and most refreshing.  He has not been out here more than a few days, but he has tumbled to it very quickly.

Our turkeys have not arrived yet. I expect they will walk here when they do.  Though the  A.S.C. gentry at the base have eaten them for us.  They are sometimes so obliging.

I must close have an early lunch and go to the O.P.


DECEMBER 28, 1916.

We had a merry Christmas. Eatables were received from various homes.  We received three large turkeys, a brace of pheasants, a ”Cheshire cheese” lark pie, six plum puddings and sundry other things.  The cake I kept until Christmas Day, when it was opened, and I found some holly.  How thoughtful of you.

The weather has not been too good. Today has been frosty but not fine.  The O.P. is not interesting in this thick weather.  I am keeping horribly healthy.  I should like a short time as an invalid somewhere else as long as I did not feel too ill.







Alf Smith’s letter 29 Dec 1916


No 27521

Pte. A. Smith

3rd Essex Regt

Att 27th Training Reserve

“G” Company

Parkeston Harwich


Dec 29th 16


Dear Father

I thought I would let you know that I shall not get any Xmas leave, week-end passes are also stopped. We asked the Captain about it yesterday & he told us that only 10% of the company were allowed to go.  There are a lot absent already, & they are going the right way to make a lot more chaps bunk off the prison is already full up; but never mind roll on the time when and the war is over that will be the best news.

Well how did you spend Xmas I hope you had a happy time? We had a farely good time considering; for dinner we had roast beef, pork, vegetables, a small piece of pudding, fruit & cigarettes; the pies would have been alright but the mince-meat was missing.  I went to the Y.M. in the evening it was not so bad everything was free.

I think I have nearly come to the end of the news now, so I wish you all a very happy New Year & that it will be much brighter for everybody than this has been.

I hope you are all in the best of health.

With much love to Jess, Ethel & Winnie, & yourself

Au revoir

Your devoted


P.S.      please remember me to Mr. & Mrs. Warman & Lilian & wish them the compliments of the season.  I hope they are quite well.

A.A. Laporte Payne letter 28 December 1916

A.A. Laporte Payne letter 28 December 1916



December 28th 1916.




Just a line to let you know that, though busy, I am still alive and thinking of you.  Thank you so much for your letter of the 22nd.  I am glad you are satisfied with the photos.  I wasn’t.  I am sorry that someone else had to give them to you and not myself.


I do hope you had a good Christmas. We did our best to enjoy ourselves.  Eatables were collected from homes and other places.  We got 3 large turkeys, brace of pheasants, a ‘Cheshire Cheese’, lark pie, 6 plum puddings and other things.  Now we are struggling to get through them.  It sounds horrid but we don’t think it is out here – we have deteriorated so.  Your cake I kept till Christmas Day when it was opened.  I found some holly – how thoughtful of you.  The cake was delicious and appreciated too much by others for my liking.  It goes too quick.


Who ever told you I admired Ethel Levy? I am sure I don’t.  She interested me because she was so ugly and yet seemed to fascinate people.  I suppose it was because she was so vulgar, and vulgarity is interesting at times – so long as you can get away when you want.


There is absolutely no news to tell you and I hesitate to repeat again and again what must bore you but which I shall never get tired of repeating. You know what that is.  I am getting more & more anxious to see you again.  I have such a lot to tell you and such a lot to learn, a lot to receive (perhaps) and still more to give.


Have you had any more riding lately or have you been too busy? I have not been on a horse for a long time.


The weather has not been too good. To-day has been frosty but not fine.  The O.P. is very cold and not at all interesting this thick weather.


I do hope you are keeping well and no colds or cracked lips! I am keeping horribly healthy.  I should like a short time as an invalid somewhere as long as I did not feel too ill.  I hope everybody else is alright.


This must go now as I want to catch the orderly now leaving with the mail. I will write again tonight if I am left alone.


With all my love & best wishes for 1917. May it be a very happy year for you.


Ever yours


A.A. Laporte Payne letter 25 December 1916

A.A. Laporte Payne letter 25 December 1916



Christmas Day 1916




Thank you so very very much for the two lovely photos which arrived quite safe last night together with your letter of the 19th – a delightful lot to get on Christmas Eve.  I had a large mail – 3 parcels and 7 letters, which helped one to realise a bit that it was Christmas time.


The photos I think are excellent, but I like the one of you looking down best. They are not quite like you used to be though.  Are you getting thinner – and perhaps a little sadder? Or is it the faultiness of the photographer?  I hope so.  My anxiety now will be to keep them clean and uncrumpled which won’t be easy out here I am afraid.  They are much too good for campaigning.


You are quite right in what you say about being understood. I wonder if you understand me yet.  To understand all is to forgive all as you say, but I had given up all hopes of anyone ever understanding my stupidity.


It is a horrid wet and windy day to day – and so unlike Christmas. Everything is as usual and I am for the O.P. this afternoon and the trenches tonight.  We were up most of last night so we feel a bit ‘off colour’ this morning, and our tempers are not of the best.


I hope you are enjoying a good Christmas. You will I suppose be at church now unless you found two days following too much.  There will be no church for me I am afraid.  We are growing such heathens.


There was a most amusing chaplain in the trenches last night. He was helping the Doctor attend to the wounded.  He was extraordinarily cheerful – most refreshing; but then he has not been out here more than a few days, but he had tumbled to it very quickly.


Don’t have too much Turkey and plum pudding.  We can’t at present as our turkeys have not yet arrived.  I expect they will walk here when they do.  Perhaps the gentry at the base have eaten them for us.  They are sometimes so obliging.


We still rub along and are having quite a good time in spite of adverse circumstances. We are still in the same place and I hope we shall remain here until the bad weather is over.


Have you read any more of Locke’s books yet? I suppose you have not got much time for reading now.  I have not been able to either.


I am living for my next visit to England, and longing for the time when I can see you again.  That precious ten minutes was a dangerous one for me as I want so much more now.  I wonder what you’ll be like next time.  Haughty and cold no doubt.  Even if you are not I shall have to take care not to get in the way, and so end the kind treatment I have always had.  You know if you of all people treat a fellow as you did me what are you to expect?  What a fool I have been.  If I had known I could not resist I should not have been so stupid and what I time I might have had – but you must have been thankful that it was only for the ten minutes.  But don’t be frightened I will be awfully good and obedient and do all you wish!


I am still filled with amazement and am quite unable to understand you.  Well I suppose even the best people do mad things sometimes.  May you always be mad if you are as you say you are.


I must shut up now as I am sure you are getting tired and I must have an early lunch and go up to the O.P. where I can think of you.


I hope you & all are well and having a good Christmas.


With a long kiss for Christmas. I think Byron was right when he said you don’t measure them by number but by length; really I am getting very naughty.

All my fondest love, darling.

Ever yours


Letter to Mrs Plant 24 Dec 1916

Dec. 24th 16


My Dear Mother,

Contrary to the p.c. I have written & posted tonight I am writing tonight while it is quiet before the men start coming aboard in a half canned condition & kicking up an awful row.  I don’t suppose I shall finish it but there is no harm in making a start.  I was hoping to be able to write both before going for the mails but it didn’t come off.

Blanche told me in her letter she had been to meet Maggie last Thursday dinner time but as she had not told her mother she had perforce to go home after seeing Maggie for her mother would keep the dinner waiting.  She told me of the arrangement for Monday night, which is tonight.  She asked me to tell her what I should like her to send for my birthday & as I can think of nothing better or at least anything I want specially, I asked her to send me a pocket knife.  I know she doesn’t like me to smoke so I wouldn’t ask for cigs. & besides I can get them for 1/0 for 50 in stead of 1/8.  It is rather early to think of the 26th of Jan. /17 but I can’t say anything for I was quite as previous with mine.  I suppose if you use your blinkers you will see the bag I sent her when you are see her tonight for she carries it always.

I went to church last night with another signalman off the “Ludlow”.  He goes to the Congregationalist Church & as he has never been to a C of E & I have been to a Cong we elected to go there.  I was a little lost but I liked it very much.  It seems years since I went to church about 6 months.  I haven’t been since I left Chatham.

I had a letter from Fred & Clarie & Blanche last night & one from you this morning & you all had something to say about the Zepps. Last Monday night I reckon you would be a little surprised to hear my version of it.  Eh! What Arthur lad.  I didn’t know anything about the aeroplane brought down in the daytime over London.  Blanche told me.  Of course if we don’t get the news by Wireless at sea we see nothing of what’s gone off from the papers when we come in & as the W.T. operator has to stay up till midnight to take the news he gives it a miss sometimes.

About the cakes & things. You may send me a few mince pies, a cake & a bit of pudding if it doesn’t cost you too much.  I don’t want you to go without sugar & things because of me.  I’m not hard up for grub you know.  I think if I send Auntie Kate my address I don’t know of anything I want specially so I’ll ask her to send me money as they’ve stopped me for the overcoat & I got 10/-. Well I will close with love & Kisses to all.

Your loving son


P.S. enclosed card for Phyllis & a card Stanley sent to me.  Please take care of it.



In cover addressed to Mrs. W.T. Plant, 176 Pomona St., Eccleshall Rd., Sheffield.  Postmarked Lowestoft 8.15 PM. 5 Dec 16.  Enclosed a card “Birthday Wishes from Herbert To Phyllis showing photo of young lass with a cat.

A.A. Laporte Payne letter 22 December 1916

A.A. Laporte Payne letter 22 December 1916



December 22nd 1916




It is a good thing for me when you are angry for I got the most delightful letter as a result. Thank you so much for it.  Don’t forget to be cross with everyone very often.  I like it.  Often I feel like that myself.  I do at present and I am afraid I shew it too much. My reasons  I do not know though. I am much too ambitious and when things don’t go right I get very irritable. It is then that I write these gloomy letters to you for relief.  You must be bored with them.  How I wish I could be with you to realise more than I do that there is one thing alone that more outweighs everything else.  You know what that is.  Someone-the-one-to-love more & more unselfishly if I can in this unsympathetic existence.


Thank you so much for the photo of yourself. My wish was gratified, but it is of course not a good one of you.  How could it be in any case?  No picture can be like the original and certainly no photo ever flattered you.


I am so sorry to hear of Mrs. Cross’ loss and that she finds the weather trying. I hope Christmas will find her in more cheerful spirits.  Poor Tubbie.  I am sorry about her hand.  It is most unfortunate.  I must remonstrate with you again.  Brains indeed?  Learning isn’t brains.   Thank heaven.  Any fool can appear learned if he (or she) reads a lot.  Some people benefit more by 5 minutes reading than others do in 5 years and as for you not having brains – that’s all rot (to be very rude again).  There are only two requisites for the ‘good life’ as it has been called ‘heart’ and ‘health’.  Learnedness per se is snobbishness.  The only other thing that perhaps helps is independence – to be able to tell others if you want to – to go to the devil.  How I do sermonise. Please forgive.  You are always right except when you talk rot about yourself.  If you do it again I shall begin to think you are fishing – so there, my lady.


The weather has been very bad here lately. It has been blowing and raining hard.  I hope you have been having better.  Colonial troops from warmer climates don’t like it at all –and neither do we from England for that matter.  We miss big fires and easy chairs and afternoon teas etc as well as the company we want so much and can’t get out here.


The air is full of peace now. It will be the height of folly and wickedness if we listen to the Hun now.  No one wishes it all to be over more than I do but I could not stick that.


How are you keeping? I hope well and not upset by Christmas festivities – for I suppose Xmas will be over by the time you get this.  I expect I shall spend Christmas night in the trenches as it is my turn for that duty.  However it might be worse.  It might be the Somme.


We have a lot of time doing nothing – though one cannot read or write – as for instance when observing or in charge of the battery – but I have something – or rather someone to think about which keeps me more cheerful than I could possibly be otherwise. So you see you have not lived in vain!


One of others is playing the “Happy Day” on the gramophone. “Oh! For a night in Bohemia” but Finchley is not quite Bohemia is it?  However I shall never run down Finchley again.  It is better than the muddy plains of Flanders.  If Victoria as someone said is the Gate of Heaven, Finchley must be Heaven for me.


I must close now. This letter is I am afraid very cold but I can’t write the thousand and one things I want to say.


Au revoir, dearest

Ever yours




Postcard to T. Smith 19 Dec 1916


Postcard to T. Smith Esq., 24 Palmerstone Rd., Bowes Park, London. N

Pte. A Smith

No 27521

3rd Batt Essex Regt ‘G’ Coy

Att: 27th Training Reserve



Undated. Postmark 3 De 16


Dear Father

I had a letter from my friend in France, he said he has sent things that I left behind, & his wife will forward them to you.  Do not send them on here as it will do when I come up if you will bring them along to Southend.  Please let me know when you get them as I would like to send him a few cigarettes in return.




No 27521

Pte. A. Smith

3rd Essex Regt

Att 27th Training Reserve

“G” Company

Parkeston Harwich


Dec 19th 16


Dear Father


I thought I would let you know that I am not home again yet; it was all a blooming catch like everything connected with the government.

The passes were supposed to have come through; & at the last moment they were all stopped I don’t know why it was at all.  I may go this week but I think it will most likely be after Xmas now.  They are going to send the men that were at the front last Xmas so that they will have it at home this year of course that is only fair.

I should very much like to have a parcel especially if I am here for the holiday but it is no use to send it until I know definitely when I am going.

I hope you are feeling better now; glad to say I am alright except for a cold but that is not to be wondered at considering the weather.  We had our usual route march to-day we have one every Tuesday, the dinner is cooked in a field it came on to snow just as it was ready what with the meat being tough & hands cold it wanted a bit of carving.

I saw by the papers you had a heavy fall of snow in North London.  The war news looks much better lately I hope it will continue so.  I had a letter from Albert to-day.

I hope Jess, Ethel & Winnie are quite well


With much love

From your devoted




Alf Smith’s note 19 Dec 1916

No 27521

Pte. A. Smith

3rd Essex Regt

Att 27th Training Reserve

“G” Company

Parkeston Harwich


Dec 19th 16


Dear Father


I shall not be home this side of the holiday now so I should be very glad of a parcel for Xmas if you have time to send it.

I know it is rather close so I shall quite understand if I do not receive it.

In case I do not have time to write again I hope you will all have a happy time.

With much love from

Your devoted


P.S. Please remember me to Mr. & Mrs. Warman & Lilian & wish them the complements of the season. I hope they are quite well.

A.A. Laporte Payne letter 16 December 1916.

A.A. Laporte Payne letter 16 December 1916.



December 16th 1916


Again I have lost the post through putting off whiting to you because I want time to collect my thoughts and things have interrupted so lately. I deserve every hard thing you can say of me.  Even now I have so much to say and there are so many ways of saying it that I am stuck before I begin.  Your note of the 12th deserves a frivolous reply but the one written on the 13th ought to have another.  Needless to say both were delightful and just what I wanted although even now I feel I shall have to wait until I see you to learn what I really want to know.


So my letter to you was censored. I hope nothing was cut out.  None of yours have ever been opened so don’t be frightened.  I hope you did not take that silly letter of mine which you called a ‘scolding one’ seriously.  I am sure you couldn’t so I don’t mind.  Of course, I always take things in the wrong way.  Surely you have not just found that out.


How is your lip now? I hope much better.  You will have to be careful in future.


So you have come to the conclusion that I am getting spoilt. Really, and what helped you to come to that conclusion.  Do you think I am one of fortunes favoured ones?  Perhaps I am in one way – in fact I know I am the favoured one – but that was your fault not mine and I don’t see why I should be punished for your faults.  I wish I were with you to complete my arguments with kisses.  I wonder if you would be very firm then!  I suppose you would, you are so very strong willed, I know.


Thank you so very much for your Christmas letter. It was the best one I have ever had.  But why write it at 7 a.m.  You must have been frightfully cold.  I could not write a letter like that at that early hour.  Thank you for your wishes and love which you send.  You are a darling.  I wish to goodness I could be in Finchley at Christmas and see you again, which alone can satisfy me now.  Yes I believe you could kiss a Happy Xmas much better than you can write it – and your letters are very nice.  What delight there is in store for me perhaps if the gods are good to a wretched creature like me.  You say we are fairly original in one respect in that we neither of us meant to do anything of the sort.  Please speak for yourself madam.  I may not have meant to, but I wanted to.  I hope I can be original in other ways – not that.


I hope you are keeping well and that Mrs. Cross is alright and has recovered from the death of the cat. I have received her kind letter and box of cigarettes.


I hope to be able to write a note to her tonight. Please forgive my last gloomy letter.  I feel better now.  If you will receive letters from me you will have to put up with my moody temperament. – That sounds rude but it is not meant to be – only an apology.


At present I am a semi-invalid. I was inoculated again this morning – anti-typhoid stuff.  My arm is very stiff and I am not in the best of tempers – but your letters keep me going alright.


What on earth can I send you for Christmas – I must mark the occasion with something this year of all years. You see you have been such a dear faithful correspondent all this year.  Do let me know.  I can’t think of anything.  Perhaps a lot of lip salve would be suitable.


Oh! Heavens, they have just turned on the ‘phone – the ‘grama’ – one – and are playing rag times – such old ones too. I hope the men break them at Christmas.  We are giving the men pork, Christmas Puddings and beer at Christmas.  I am afraid they will be very ill.


What’s the secret which you won’t tell me. I am most anxious to know.  Why raise my easily excited curiosity?  Am I ever to know?  I am actually getting curious but it is only because it is connected with you.


The best of wishes for Christmas for you and yours, darling,

And all my love

Always yours