I am penning this missive to you from the front at Ypres, the reliable Postal Service should have it with you shortly. We have just returned with our battalion from the front line, it has been an intense time here, there seems to be constant fighting at the moment. Our battalion has suffered heavy casualties and we have been sent back behind the lines to regroup and tend the wounded.
As I have been used as a galloper for the officers, I only saw spasmodic action at the front, but I tell you my duties were no picnic. I was running back and forth from the front line to the buffers back at HQ, as the signals failed all the time. So much for vaunted modern technology. I was cited for bravery under fire, but I assure that I didn’t do anything brave, I just ran like the blazes. However, I was luckier than my dear friend William, who was killed by my side as we ran together.
I remember the enthusiasm and eagerness, the boys and I from the rugby club decided to join up. We queued in the warm summer sun at the local recruiting station all joking and reminiscing about the razzle-dazzle we had gone on the week before. Singing ‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary’ and other numbers, though, you would not be able to hear it with all the noise from the guns. That is one of things that they do not prepare you for at basic training. George, our scrum half, had a fine voice. I just got word he fell today.
Audrey, your grandmother, told me I looked handsome in my uniform, all smart and pressed, before we left. I am sure she would not be so impressed now. It is all mud stained and askew. I feel like I am walking like Charlie Chaplin in ‘Mabel’s Strange Predicament’, you know that ‘waddle walk’ he has? I am sure that would make Audrey laugh.
If I knew what I know now, I am not sure I would have been so eager to take the King’s Shilling, but I think with the way things are going all the able bodied men will be thrust into uniform sooner or later. I am doing my duty for King and Country and I believe I am fighting for what is right. I do hope when you read this you will be able to judge whether we did the right thing or not.
I must get some kip, it seems I have become the General’s favourite runner as he remembers watching me play wing three quarters for school.
Wishing you well,
Lt Louis Gentleman – Your Grandfather