Optimist in the Trenches

October 1915.

More insight into life on the Front Line from Lance-Corporal John Gutteridge.  Letter printed in the Bromley & District Times..

The-Optimist-In-The-Trenches_Gutteridge_28thOct1915.png“A few lines showing how we spent our time in the rest camp, which lays seven miles away from the firing line. We arrived back in camp at 1.30 a.m., on the 28th October. We did not march, the best part of us rolled back, as we had had a pretty rough time of it. One can just imagine having to be on the alert for five days and five nights, without any sleep. Well, I fell over six times coming back to camp. We had rain here for a week – mud is always here, so you can just imagine what we look like.

Well, to return to our rest camp. Arriving back in camp at 1.30 a.m., I had to get up at six am to draw rations for the company, then letters, and see to other little things, which kept me busy till 7.30 a.m., when I retired for what I consider a well earned rest.

On Friday the 29th, the best part of our company were told off for the trenches. They started at 1.30 p.m., and returned at three am next morning, their work consisting of rebuilding the trenches that had been destroyed by enemies’ shells. I had another busy day, and slept through the night, in spite of rain and cold. On Saturday another fatigue party was told off for the trenches, the same work and the same time. On Sunday I had a very easy day, nearly all the regiment being on fatigue work – some in trenches, some building huts, and some on other work.

On Monday some 50 of our company were told off for the trenches, and we expect them back about 2.30 a.m.., when they will get a few hours sleep before we fall in for the trenches. We shall be away for another five days, then return to the “rest” camp. Of course, it’s a nice change to get away from the bullets and “whizz bangs.” They could reach us here with their Jack Johnston’s all right, but we do not worry about them one bit.

After a few days here one cares for nothing. I often wonder what we shall do after this war. I expect we shall lay in bed waiting for the order, “Stand to,” at the hours of one hour before sunrise. We may miss the bangs to wake us up, not to say anything about fellows walking over you while asleep. We have to sometimes lay in the trench to sleep, as there are not enough dug-outs for us all, I had no dug-out last time, and I had to stop out for five nights in the pouring rain, watching rats forming fours and marching up to our rations.

Rats here are as big as cats; we caught 18 in an hour with some mole loops we made, and one of our fellows shot two, only he did it on the quiet. All the Bromley boys are as happy and contented as ever, in fact, they are the life of the regiment.

I cannot get any news of Lance-corporal Lovell from Newbury Rd, and Private Boyce from Widmore; they took part in the charge of Hill 70, and I have heard no more of them since. I sincerely hope they are alive and well. Private J Barton, whom Mrs Dunmall, of Green-Street-Green, was inquiring after, is a prisoner of war, also some of the Wickham boys who enlisted in Bromley on the outbreak of the war, are prisoners”

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