Alf Smith letter 10 Feb 1917

No 27521

Pte. A. Smith

3rd Essex Regt

“E” Company



Feb 10th 17


Dear Father


Thank you very much for your interesting letter.  I was pleased to receive it as I began to think they were being lost not getting any since I have been here until Thursday.

Well what do you think of this wintry weather?  I shall be jolly glad when the warm weather comes.  I had to be in the fashion with colds but it is much better now.

I am glad they are all well at Queen’s Park.  Does Sid still like the army.  I suppose Albert was home at the same time that was rather fortunate; how is he getting on I guess he will be jolly glad to get back to his old job again?

I had a letter from Albert the other day. What did you think of the photo is it any good?  I have not seen one of that yet.

I have been doing a bit of scheming since I have been here. I managed to escape two drafts but was caught properly on Friday could not see any way of getting out of it.  I do not know where we are booked for or when we are going but it will probably be on Wednesday so I should like to have a few lines from you before then just to know you are all well.

I hope you will excuse the decorations but the pen is a bit of a rotter it is taking a long time to dry & there isn’t any blotting paper about.

Well I think I must finish now am going to see what the pictures are like this evening.

Hoping you are all enjoying the best of health.

I suppose you have not been doing any skating this winter.


With much love

From your





This letter is written in ink and has many ink splats over the pages.


WAR DIARY of AA Laporte Payne January 1917

WAR DIARY of AA Laporte Payne January 1917


Extracted from


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




January 3, 1917.

I am with the detached section away from the battery, and very busy. I go to the trenches tonight.


January 4, 1917.

I am back at the battery again but due in the trenches in ten minutes time for the usual night work. I had the joy this morning of discovering a Boche battery, and I was instrumental in giving them rather a bad time this afternoon.

The weather is fine but colder so I have just been issuing a rum ration to the men for tea.


E.A.L.P. January 5, 1917.

To day has been fine but cold, though the last few days have been warmer. I have been at the O.P. all day.

Last night I spent in the trenches.


R.P. January 6, 1917.

A man who has just arrived in the Brigade has been posted to our Battery as Captain, and I have been ordered to go to Headquarters as Signalling Officer.  I do not know whether I am glad or not.  Anyway it is Hobson’s choice, so it is no use grousing.  It will be interesting work, but it will not lead to promotion except one day I may get the Adjutant’s job.


It does not seem like peace yet, does it? We shall have to carry on for a bit yet, and then we may get a peace worth having.


January 8. 1917.

I am fed up with the war, it is worse than being in prison. It does not look as if it would ever end.


There has been another change for me I have left the battery. A man who has been a Staff Captain has been posted to the Battery.  Then the Colonel posted in orders that I had been appointed Brigade Signalling Officer, and I am now at Headquarters.  Orders have to be obeyed I suppose.  I get out of all O.P. work and live in a chateau further behind with a large bedroom and an office to myself, which is perhaps some consolation in a way while there is no real fighting going on but I hope to be back in a battery when the next show comes off.


The Colonel has been most decent to me so far; but he has the devil of a temper.


There are a lot of changes in the Brigade. Out of the whole lot which came out here only one battery commander and four subalterns remain.

We are still very busy here as no doubt you see in the papers.

I had a long walk this afternoon with the Doctor as I had to go somewhere on business.


R.M.L.P. January 9, 1917.

I have left the battery, and am now Brigade signalling officer at Headquarters. The Colonel sent for me.  I am not sorry; but it will stop any promotion for a bit.  But I should not have been made captain as one who has been a staff captain has been posted to the battery.


I now live in a large chateau in the town. It is not so bad; but I hope I shall not miss the fighting when the next push comes off.


January 14, 1917.

Page headed but no entry.


January 16, 1917.

We are getting along alright. The Colonel has been fairly sweet tempered, I am glad to say.  In this comparative comfort existence is not so bad, but I feel rather a brute when our fellows are having such a rotten time in the trenches.  But I suppose this will not last long for me.


M.F.L.P. January 17.1917.

It is fearfully cold here. It is snowing hard now, and it lies thick on the ground.  Thank you very much for the parcel of books for the men.


R.P. January 19, 1917.

We have just completed a move, and we are now in another part of the line.

In my new billet I have a good bedroom with a large bed, and carpets and china ware. It must have been a woman’s room for it smells of lavender.  The mess is in another house, but it is empty, bare and dirty.  We have cleaned it up a little, and have managed to scrounge some furniture.


There is plenty of work to do during the day, and so the Adjutant, the Doctor and I are rather inclined to stay up late talking after the Colonel has gone to bed. He is rather a wet blanket at times.


January 22, 1917.

We have just completed a move, which has upset things among them the post. We are now in another part of the line, but not a great distance away from where we were before.  We have not got such a good billet, as the mess was an empty and dirty room when we went into it, but we managed to raise some furniture, so we are not so badly off.  The Doctor’s and my bedrooms are in another house and well furnished.


It is extraordinarily cold at present and seems likely to continue. The mud does not trouble now but I think I prefer the warmer weather and mud.  We sit round the fire in the mess at night talking and shivering.  Going to bed is so cold.  Everything gets frozen even the sponge.


What have you been doing in England?  Blowing up our ammunition?  Did you hear the explosion?  The papers seem full of it, but there was nothing very definite.

I dine out tonight with another Brigade Headquarters.


January 28, 1917.

We have had another move to our surprise, and all at a moments notice. It was an awful rush, but we are now getting straight.  I had a large number of telephone lines to take over.  To day I have spent arranging for rations and forage for the Brigade, which has been a great nuisance.


It is brilliantly fine here but oh! so cold. Everything is as hard as iron, and shells and shrapnel instead of burying themselves decently, bounce about in an alarming fashion.

At present we have a fairly comfortable mess, but the bedrooms are not so good as they were at the other place. I hope they leave us alone for a bit now. I am tired of moving about.


January 31, 1917.

It seems fairly quiet in the line at the moment, so the telephone is not going so frequently as it has been lately. Last night it was never quiet.  The frost still continues as hard as ever.  It must be awful at night in the trenches.  I only go down there occasionally now when I want to visit the infantry and to O.P. exchanges.


I have just got a delightful mare. She has only one disadvantage.  She is inclined to bolt.  That is why the others at Headquarters are not anxious to ride her.  But she has not played the fool with me yet.  I may get landed in the river one day.  It is much too cold for that at present.


The mess is very cosy, but I do not get much time in it just now, as I am generally out in the morning and afternoon, and then it means office after dinner till about midnight. The time is going quickly, which is all to the good.  There is plenty of office work to be done, though it only seems to result in the accumulation of paper.  Office work always seems to me so futile in war.


War seems to be the normal thing now. We shall have to settle down here for life, live behind the lines, and take our turn in the trenches.  Then women ought to be allowed to come out here too.  Transfer half England to the north of France and the war could go on for ever.  I am sure the staff would like that.  When there is no push going on but merely trench warfare, we call it “peace”, and war only when there is a large organised strafe or advance to the attack.  The papers even talk about the battles of this or that, as if no fighting ever went on between whiles.


It is extraordinary how little one wants in the way of clothes and other possessions out here, or rather really needs. The extra we hope to get in England one day will seem the height of luxury.


The posts have gone mad again. No post yesterday, and none tonight.  We managed to get yesterday’s paper this evening, and we are glad to see that Blighty is still intact.


Alf Smith letter

No 27521

Pte. A. Smith

3rd Essex Regt

Att 27th Training Reserve

“G” Company

Parkeston Harwich




Dear Father


Just a few lines to let you know I arrived back safely 11.15 pm.

I had nearly two hours to wait at Chelmsford, but it was still worth it to get home for a little time.  I enjoyed myself very much.

Just having a few biscuits Bourbon creams whilst writing.  They are very nice.

Well Dad I hope your cold is better & that you were in plenty of time for your train this morning from Southend.  I guess you looked after that alright.

Please excuse more news now as I have quite a big collection of letters to answer.

I hope Jess, Ethel, & Winnie are quite well.


With much love to you all

From your devoted



Alf Smith’s letter 30 Jan 1917

Jan 30th 17


Dear Father


I am doing a little bit for my King & Country again & I don’t like it at all at present but I suppose I shall settle down again soon but it wants a bit of doing after a week’s freedom.  I had a jolly good time, & I was very pleased to see you all.

You will notice that I have not given you any address; Felixstowe seems to be full of soldiers so we are billeted all over the shop & the Orderly Room is in another part of the town but I will write to you again as soon as I find out what it is.

I have not been so fortunate for billets this time it is in an empty house & no fires it is perishing cold!  I am just about fed up with it.

Well Father there is not any more news to tell you this time.  I enjoyed myself very much at Wood Green.

Hoping you are quite well.


With much love

Your devoted



P.S. Albert Affie & Joy were quite well. He said he is always pleased to hear from you & he will write to you the first opportunity.

I went to see Mr. & Mrs. Witcomb with Albert they made us very welcome they are very nice people.

A.A. Laporte Payne letter 28 January 1917

A.A. Laporte Payne letter 28 January 1917




January 28th 1917




Thank you so very much for your letters and the box of cigarettes. You are much too good.  I am afraid I am failing horribly in writing.  We have had another move much to our surprise – and all at a moments notice.  It was an awful rush but at last we are getting a bit straight.  I had a large number (this shews how mad I am getting) of lines to take over – telephone ones I mean, and headquarters to move into.  To-day I have spent arranging for rations and forage for the brigade which has been a horrible nuisance and my temper has suffered sadly.


Now I am trying to write in the mess, but others are here and talking at great length, so I am, not like you, able to get away and think quietly what I shall write. My bedroom is much too cold to sit in.


I suppose you are having hard frosts as we are here. It is brilliantly fine but oh! So cold.  Everything is as hard as iron and shells and shrapnel instead of burying themselves nicely, bounce about in an alarming fashion.


This is perfectly horrible note paper to white on. I got it from the Doctor who delights in such stuff.  I have mislaid all my writing materials such as they are.


At present we have got a fairly comfortable mess but the bedrooms are not nice. It was the other way round in the place we have just left.  I hope they leave us alone for a bit now.  I am tired of moving about.


So you think I have been ‘good’ lately in not ‘answering back’. Well you see I am only waiting until I see you and then I shall have a field day.  So I don’t think I deserve anything; but I should probably take what I wanted all the same.  You know what that would be don’t you, dearest.


You really must not behave badly in public. Especially with Maude and Kathleen Gattergood who are usually very rowdy I know.  You must look after them better.


By Jove, how I wish I could have been in that room then – you know – the room with the red lamp and fire etc. the pigtails are easily remidied – but I did not think you went in for such atrocities!  It is funny but I do remember pulling your hair once or twice, but I thought better of it.  I remembered in time how trim and smart young ladies hate to be ruffled in any way.  I can even remember the cushion fight and can quite imagine myself under certain circumstances indulging in such a fight.  I suppose it was an unfair advantage to protect myself with my boot – but that is nothing to what I am capable of, in the way of taking mean advantages.  Wait and see.


I do hope you and all are keeping fairly well – no colds or any such thing. How is Mrs. Cross?  Please give her my kindest regards.  I am keeping fairly fit my head has ached a bit once or twice but I am much better now.


This letter I know is a miserable failure; but I have been trying to write it on and off since 9.o’clock and now it is 11.30 p.m. It has been nothing else than a series of interuptions – and I do so want to write something special for you – but this existance, Muriel, is very soul deadening.  You will have to take me in hand after it is all over.


Leave is quite out of the question at present. However you never know your luck in this life.


You seem to be having quite a gay time. London is still living then.  Do you still go to the Strolling Players every week?  What an age it seems since that night!  Does it seem a long time to you?


Well! I must close now and say good night as I have to be up early in the morning – and closing my letter does not prohibit me thinking of you.


With my love

And kisses

Ever yours


Alf Smith’s letter 26 Jan 1917


Postcard addressed to T. Smith Esq., 24, Palmerstone Rd., Bowes Park, London N Postmarked Southend on Sea 5.45 AM 27 JA 17


152 High Street

Southend on Sea




Dear Father


Arrived home 7 P.M. had a good time.  Just returned from the pictures.

With best wishes from all.


A.A. Laporte Payne letter 22 January 1917

A.A. Laporte Payne letter 22 January 1917




January 22nd 1917




We have just completed a move which has unfortunately upset things among them the post. We are now in another part of the line,but not a great distance away from where we were before.  We have not got such a good billet as the mess was an empty room when we went into it but we have managed to steal some furniture so we are not so badly off.  The doctor’s and my bedrooms are in another house and are well furnished.


I suppose you are having very cold weather as well as ourselves. It is extraordinarily cold at present and it seems likely to continue.  The mud certainly does not trouble now but I think I prefer the warmer weather and mud.  I hope you are keeping well.  I know this weather suits you.  Thank you so much dearest for your letter and parcel of chocolate which arrived safely and came just when it was wanted.  We were chewing it in the office when we felt hungry and cold.


I am very sorry you had the misfortune to upset the salt, but why trouble? You have nothing else than good luck, do you?


You must certainly not sit up too late at night. It is very bad for you.  And certainly not in order to write letters to me however much I may want them.  I am afraid we here are getting into the bad habit of doing that.  We sit round the fire talking at night.  Going to bed is so cold.  Everything gets frozen even the sponge.


What a lot you are reading! You quite frighten me.  Now it’s Marcus Aurelius!  You will grow into a ‘blue stocking’.  I don’t like blue ones.  I like black and silk at that.  Pardon the verb ‘grow’.  What have you been doing in England?  Blowing up our ammunition.  Did you hear the explosion?  I suppose it would be heard all over the London area.  The papers seem full of it, although there is not much news as yet.


Leave for me does not seem likely yet I am afraid. I want it badly and yet for somethings I don’t want it.  It will be so awful having to return after it when I have seen you again in such different circumstances.  I wonder what you will be like this time.  I shall be very shy I know – perhaps I shall run away and hide!


It has been most annoying not having the post regularly but I hope now it will be better. Your letters are all I wait for now.  You have been most good in writing.  I do hope you don’t find it difficult to write now as you used to do.  How awful existence would be without your letters!  When I get home how on earth are we going to continue to meet alone sometimes.  Shall I ever be able to have you all alone to myself once or twice.  I shall then be able to bear seeing you when there are others about.  Do you remember how you tried to evade taking a taxi with me in town last time.  I thought perhaps you did not want to be alone with me anywhere – even in a taxi.  That made me determined to get a taxi.  But I shewed you, I think, how good I would be however great the temptation was.  But what opportunities I lost!  Shall I be able to make up for them in the future?  You will have to be very strict I am afraid.  As I have promised to dine our tonight at another Brigade Headquarters I shall have to stop writing.  I don’t want to go but I am afraid I shall have to now.  I would much rather stay in by the fire and write to you and dream day dreams – the latter very unprofitable but very nice.


With all my love, darling and kisses

Ever yours