Letter from the trenches

Ploegsteet Wood, Belgium, 26 December 1914

Dear Mother,

I am writing from the trenches. It is 11 o’clock in the morning. Beside me is a coke fire, opposite me a dug-out (wet) with straw in it. The ground is sloppy in the actual trench, but dryer elsewhere. In my mouth is a pipe presented by Princess Mary. In the pipe is tobacco. Of course, you say.

But wait. In the pipe is German tobacco. Haha, you say, from a prisoner or found in a captured trench. Oh, dear no!

From a German soldier. Yes, a live German soldier from his own trench.

Yesterday, the British and Germans met and shook hands in the Ground between the trenches, exchanged souvenirs, and shook hands. Yes, all day Xmas day, and as I write. Marvellous isn’t it? Yes.

This is only for about a mile or two on either side of us (so far as we know). It happened thiswise.

On Xmas eve, both armies sang carols—there was very little firing. The Germans (in some places 80 yards away) called to our men to come fetch a cigar and our men told them to come to us. This went on for some time, neither fully trusting the other, until, after much promising to play the game, “a bold Tommy” went out and stood between the trenches, and immediately a Saxon came to meet him. They shook hands—then 16 Germans came out.

Thus the ice was broken: our men are speaking to them now.

They are landsturmers or landwehr, I think, and Saxons and Bavarians (no Russians). Many are gentle looking men in goatee beards & spectacles, and some are very big and arrogant-looking. I have some cigarettes which I shall keep and a cigar I have smoked.

We had a burial service in the afternoon, over the dead Germans who perished in the “last attack that was repulsed” against us. The germans put “For Fatherland & Freedom” on the cross.

They obviously think their cause is a just one.

If you get a Daily Mail of Dec 23, turn to the letter page, you will see an article entitled “Snapshots from the front” and in the second “snapshot” an article is given of what we, with others, have—one and the identical apparatus is mentioned.

When you find a sentence or word “flacked out”—by me, it it is the work of the censor.

Many of the Germans here are or were writers.

Thank—for his chocolate and Aunti Belle for the cigarettes. I have had an awful time with swollen feet and my toes are frostbitten now.

But it is all in the day’s work, as is working all night at digging or etc. etc., and sleeping in wet and mud.

Where we are billeted (8 of us in a cottage in a town which is shelled now and again), we have a good time. There is a family of Belgians here whose house has been destroyed and the old mother about 56 years old is very jolly and resourceful, as well as comical.

Regrettably, the last page is missing.

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