Transcription Page

Alma Russell Letters

Letters of British Columbia men on active service with Canadian and British Expeditionary Forces, 1914-1918. Learn more.

*All transcriptions are provided by volunteers, and the accuracy of the transcriptions is not guaranteed. Please be sure to verify the information by viewing the image record, or visiting the BC Archives in person. 

BC Archives MS-1901

*Please note that archival source materials are original historical documents that have not been censored, reviewed or otherwise altered by the Royal BC Museum. Some materials may contain content that is racist, sexist or otherwise offensive. The Royal BC Museum is only the custodian of archival materials; the content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Royal BC Museum.

Current Page Transcription [edit] [history]

British Exped. Force, N. France Jun. 28/16


My dear old pal,

I am living in this old German dug-out writing you in response to yours of 31st. May. This welcome letter arrived a few minutes ago along with one from Eric (written at Hertford).

I had been out all night working up in the firing line from 8.30 p.m. until dawn 3 a.m. when we returned to the Reserve trenches for sleep. We had breakfast at noon, - hen, biscuit, plum jam and tea; and then smoked, and while pipes and "the sweet post-prandial ‘Cigar’" were being lit, the mails arrived! We now get mails and parcels in reserve trenches and sometimes when things are quiet letters and papers are taken up at night to the firing line. It depends a great deal on whether the quartermaster is a sport or not. You have no idea how welcome and cheering your letters are and how appreciated the papers and magazines are by me and my comrades.

This is the 3rd. letter I’ve written since I returned from leave. He who excuses himself, says the old French proverb, accuses himself. Nevertheless, a few facts in explanation might not be out of place. Shince my return, we have been in the trenches all the time bar 6 days rest, and whilst in these rest billets I took very sick and recovered just in time to return to the trenches with the Battalion. Our Highland Brigade has been holding the line since the end of February and the longest spell any Battalion has had out has been 7 days. It is an exceptionally hard strenuous life, little sleep and hardly anything to eat and working all hours of day and night. But in the firing line we are waited on hand and foot, all our rations brought up for us by reserves (if it is possible and the Com. trench is not being shelled), and now parapets are repaired by pioneers and working parties. The idea is to keep the fighting men fit and ready to do battle on the fine step with rapid fire and bombs when necessary. It is a very hard duty, sordid, exceedingly dangerous life. You are cold, miserable, hungry and thirsty by turns and many times become despondent. Yet, (to fall back on Bacon’s philosophy) “As propensity hath many fears and distastes, so adversity is not without comforts and hopes”. If one survives the dangers and mines and gets relieved, he troops down the Co’n. trenches from the front line with his comrades in high spirits. A warm billet awaits him and though many miles lies in front of him his pack and rifle seem light, for he is leaving this Hell for a space. Ahead, there are pubs - beer, champagne, wines, rum - plenty of social fun well away from danger, whilst behind lie dead men, serial torpedoes, mines, bombs dropping from aeroplanes, hand grenades - danger lurking in every hole and corner and hardly a square yard free of shell holes or hits made by mortars and bombs.

Its only a private soldier speaking (or writing), no blooming plaster saint, mark you, but I am unprejudiced and do a plain unvarnished tale deliver :—

We are in a different part of the line now and have been here for two months. It is a hell of a place and there are hundreds

BC Archives, MS-1901 Box 1 File 5 / RUSSELL, Alma M., 1873 - 1964. Victoria; librarian. / Letters and associated items from Private Jack A. Gunn, 1915 - 1916.

Current Page Discussion [edit] [history]

Image 93 of 376