Historical letter (WWI, front lines)

Hello everyone,

It’s been a while since I’ve posted because I’ve been extremely busy with school. However, with December break approaching, I found a lot of spare time to write some posts 🙂 This post is a historical letter is during World War I and is  from a soldier in the frontlines to his wife. I did a lot of research in order to make it as historically accurate as possible, hope you enjoy 🙂 – Purple Pansy

February 14th, 1915

My Dearest wife Emma,

It is the eve of Valentine’s Day, and you are constantly on my mind. I miss you and the boys so terribly, there’s an ache in my heart. At times, all I find myself is longing for you…I’ve been dying to see you, the way your nose crinkles when you smile, the dimples on your cheeks, your sweet rosy smell, oh just one more time is all I need. My Dear, this letter shall have much more detail than the last ones… I need for you to be informed. I’ve intended of writing to you for more than a month, however I’ve been so occupied. I rather be at home, with you, John and Robert, but I must serve my country…

Thank you for sending the knitted socks, they’re very comfortable and keep my feet quite warm. I am in need of a thin tuque to keep my head warm; one that I can easily slip under my helmet. I’ve received all of your letters, they were written so beautifully, thank you for sending all of them. I’ll try my best to answer your questions my love…

I’ve had a long and tiring day today my Dear. We’ve been moving swiftly onto some French territory. Oh I wish I could tell you more but if somehow our letters end up in the wrong hands, our location would be revealed to the enemy and we’d be in great peril! But please do not worry about me my love; I have been mustering up my energy in our support line. Although I’ve been trying to get myself cleaned up, I cannot wait for the moment when I take a nice warm bath. Or when I am able to sleep in a comfortable, warm bed and eat your wonderful cooking!

Tomorrow at 00.00 hours, I must switch shifts with the men up front. Despite my sweaty palms and shaky teeth, I beg of you not to worry. I know some have died or have been injured while up top, however they’ll shoot me if I don’t… I must go my Dear, I must…

Life in the trenches are hard, fear constantly crosses my mind. The smell is ghastly; the smell of rotting corpses, filthy men, waste and the mud are stomach churning… The lingering chlorine gas odor doesn’t help either… We’ve invented our own gas masks by using our handkerchiefs and urinating on them. The smell is horrendous, but I must say, that I’ve gotten a little used to it… I prefer the trench smell and the handkerchief smell, than the smell of a fresh bullet fired into me or getting gassed. Although the conditions here are unpleasant, they’re bearable… I thank God for still being alive and look forward to seeing you again.

I’ve been wearing these same old boots, they’re starting to bruise my feet, they’re so sore and I think I’m developing trench foot. Oh and the worst part are the rats and lice… they’re everywhere! They’re such vile creatures; they feed off the bottoms of the trenches and scurry through the trenches at night … I even caught one nibblin’ on my mate! Some of the older recruits say that they’ve spotted some as big as a cat! Hopefully I won’t come across one.

The lice are worse… they won’t go away, no matter how hard I try; the lack of showers don’t help either. They’ve hidden themselves in my uniform, I’ve tried burning the ends but it only helped for a while… The itching got so bad that I was forced to shave my brown locks. My Darling, I’m a changed man. So changed that I’m afraid you won’t recognize me when I return… Fear not my love, I shall wear the scarf that you had knit for me, in order for you to recognize me for when I return.

My Dear, the food is always bland and the same at the trenches, either hard enough to break a tooth or stale and going bad. I’ve been living off dry biscuits, bully beef and portions of jam. Oh how I miss your cooking, I yearn for your roasts and soups. I crave for the sweet smell of your apple crisp, freshly out of the oven, filling our kitchen with its sugary aroma. I try not to let my mind wander off, thinking about back home but at times I just cannot help it. Worry not my Darling, things aren’t as terrible… Sometimes we get a small flask of brandy, which is always a wonderful change from the mucky porridge and tea.

My Darling, I terribly miss dancing with you. I dream of swooping you from your feet and listening to your childlike laugh. Our wonderful waltz music has been replaced by the booming rhythm of exploding shells. But please do not worry for me; with the help of God, I shall make it through this. I try to block the conditions from affecting me; I’m trying to avoid the shell shock. Instead I am thankful for each day that I’ve survived and I pray each night for the war to end.

I saw a few of our men lying on the ground yesterday… I shall never forget the ghostly looks on their faces, the color has been drained right out, and the poor men were as pale as a sheet! Others still had the fear in their eyes, their faces livid… All of them were like statues, stuck in their last position… My Dear, I tried to keep the tears back but I let a few go.

By now I’m sure that you’re wondering why I decided to include a beaten up, red flower… Well my love, this small little flower is called a poppy! They’re all over the fields here, or at least they were… Now all I see is a beaten up, brown land. The beauty of these fields has been trampled away. Luckily I made sure to pick the first one I saw and I managed to dry it in my front pocket. They reminded me so much of you, so delicate and their deep red colour reminded me of your lips. Every now and then, I take it out and reminisce our moments together. So I enclosed it in this letter for you to have a piece of me with you, and you’ll keep it in better condition than I will in the front pocket of my uniform…

Darling, how are the boys? I thought of Robert all day on his birthday this past week. Are their studies going well? Please make sure they practice their grammar every night. What about Uncle Charles? Did he recover from his pneumonia? I hear it’s such a nasty illness… Send him my best wishes for a quick recovery. And what about you my love? Are you managing everything by yourself? Get the choir boys to help, tell them Private Harrison needs them to do a favor.

I’m sorry for putting you through this my love… Death is like my shadow, it follows me everywhere. I dread to say this but I must; my love, especially if this is my last letter to you… In the event of my death, I entitle my earnings to you and give the whole of my property to John and Robert. Hopefully the war will soon end. Please know that I will always love you… forever. Please kiss the boys for me, send them my love.

With love to all I remain,

Happy Valentines Day my Darling,

Your loving husband,

Private Harrison Chapman


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