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1915: Cheery letter to Cuckfield from the front line 'I for one am happy here'

Updated: Aug 30, 2021

Mid Sussex Times - Tuesday 07 December 1915




Corporal Edward McGeorge Mitchell, 24 Signal Company Royal Engineers, sent a cheery letter from France, dated November 27th, to his father, Mr. W. E. Mitchell, of Annandale, Cuckfield. He stated :--

"I am sorry that I have not been able to write earlier in the week, but we have been on the march and so have not been able to post any letters. The gum boots arrived all right, also the parcel. The fellows always express great wonder at my parcels. They say they never get so many useful things in theirs or so much variety. They are very hot stuff. The toffee was all right, and didn't take long to go down.

I don't know how long we are to be at the rest camp, but I guess it will be some weeks yet. We are expecting to be back in the trenches for Christmas. We are a long way back now, so far that we can only just hear the guns. We have been on the march since Sunday, but we took things easy and didn't march a great distance at a time. In fact I quite enjoyed the march. It is a treat to see some signs of civilisation after five weeks in the trenches.

In the part of Belgium where we were the country was horrible, very flat, and even the trees were half cut down by shells. I quite enjoyed climbing the hill we came to. We came through two sized towns, but we did not stop there. They seem afraid to let us stop in a town. One town was very curiously situated on the top of a hill, standing amidst absolutely flat country. We had a glorious view for miles and miles around. There was great excitement, too, over the first train we saw. You cannot realise how things seem when you have not seen much for some weeks. We were rather sorry, though, in a way to leave our place, as we had got the lines all right, and of course when we go to another place, it means some time to get things straight again.

Royal Engineers in Belgium circa 1915

There is talk of leave now that we are at rest, and as we have been just three made here something may happen. Don't be surprised, therefore, if I wander in some evening. It doesn't take long to get over. You leave here about four in the morning, and arrive at Victoria between four and five in the afternoon. They are giving eight days at present, so that means six days at home. But it doesn't pay to get too excited about leave here, as it very often doesn’t come off. There are still a good many here who have had no leave for sixteen months, so you see we shall be very lucky if we get our leave now.

I saw --- the other day. He had a bad nose. A rat bit him when he was asleep. There are countless rats here, but we don't take notice of them now. They are very fond of promenading over you when you are asleep. We have got a fairly decent barn here, though it is pretty cold. The warmest place is in bed, so we usually retire when it gets dark. I have sewn my blanket into a sleeping bag, and I think it is the best way.

The weather is still very cold here, but somehow we never seem to get colds. It is not the cold we mind, but the wet. I think the Huns are badly off this winter for warm clothing. A prisoner who was captured by one of our battalions had only a shirt under his tunic. Poor devils! I'm rather sorry for them. They are always shouting across to our me for food, too. There is no mistake we are absolutely the best fed and best clothed Army in the world. In spite of all the hardships, etc, and I for one, am quite happy here. I shall appreciate a good hot bath. I have only had two since leaving but that's more than some of the chaps had."



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