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Durham County Record Office: the official archive service for County Durham and Darlington

Transcript of a Letter from Lieutenant Frederick ('Eric') Rees to 'Louie', 28 December 1915

Please remember that all transcripts show what is written on the page; spelling and grammatical mistakes are not corrected.

(D/DLI 7/560/4)

...out among my old friends
again it is almost like
going back to your home.
Now Mother dear I will
cease this epistle & get into
some shoes & smoke a
pipe of peace, we have 
just gone quite mad
with the gramophone, had
a dance round the hut
which being small made 
us get in each others way
Everything is much better 
than we expected so far
& we are all as cheerful
as mud larks- name
appropriate as there is 'some'
mud about.
Will really stop now
Best love & wishes to everyone
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You might send out my 
Sam Browne belt some time
as I find they are worn 
quite a lot out here.
Main use for revolvers out
here seems to be for strafing
rats which abound.

Jan[uary]1st Received. Dated 28th
1916 Army post card to Father.
I am quite well.
Letter following at earliest 

"Dated 28th Received Jan[uary] 9th

Letter to Louie

An Officers Mess (This was just on the outskirts of ARMENTIERES.) We could go to a Café there
Front Line

The above address sounds
alright,- The aforesaid mess
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however is a wee dug out
10 feet by 4 f[ee]t where four
officers of the "contemptible
little Army" assemble for
Well I will go back to Sunday
& tell you all that has
happened since we started
off for the trenches Sunday
night, & passed through a
small town completely
'strafed' by shells, all in
ruins, a guide met us
& led us into the trenches, I
being in charge of one
platoon, we were all
issued with long rubber boots
up to the hips & very useful
they are as the water all
along one part of the trench
is well above the knees
& if you are not careful
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& step into a hole, you go in
up to the waist, still we go
splashing & whistling along &
have a tremendous roar if
some poor fool suddenly sits
down in it. I was on second
watch, that is, the second half
of the night & wander about
seeing that the sentries are
awake and occasionally
sending up a flare, which is
fired from a special pistol, it
makes a brilliant light and
we can see the German trench
quite plainly, it is within
easy shouting distance, still
I have not seen one yet
although I have heard them
splashing along in their trench
& pumping the water out.
There are hundreds of rats
here. I amused myself on
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my rounds during the
night by firing at some with
a revolver but couldn't see
them well enough in the
dark, things were very
quiet here. The artillery keep
'strafing" but the Huns
opposite us keep pretty quiet;
of course snipers keep trying
their luck.
Last night we had a
small strafe (excuse the
frequency of the word but we
never call it anything else)
well we woke up the Huns
with a bomb or two & some
rapid fire which I don't
suppose hurt anyone but gave
them a bit of a start.
At five this morning we
fired two rifle grenades
over, which we saw land
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just inside their trench with
some explosion. I have reason
to believe that they at once
sang a hymn of hate, at
any rate they seemed fearfully
annoyed & replied with a
large bomb & a rifle grenade
and fired over 20 'whiz bangs'
- a shell so called from the
noise it makes, however
they never got near anyone.
We can hear shells going
over all day long & see
them burst right away behind
This Mess is 'some' place -
I don't think - as you see
there is not a great deal
of room but we have shelves
a table, & a stove, also an
acetylene table lamp, we feed
quite well, dine at night,
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soup, joint & sweets so you
see we are really doing
quite well. The other fellows
say it is the worst part of the
line they have been in yet,
for discomfort I mean, still
we have only a few days
& then a few days in billets,
huts, old houses or anything
for a rest. Then in trenches
again, but we shall not
[be deleted] come back to this particular
part again. Last night I had
the same watch again &
strafed more rats, one fellow
told me they were as big
as retriever dogs in fact
they are the biggest I ever
saw. I am as warm as
a pie in my dug out which
I share with two others,
there is only just room
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to creep in but it is not
much used as we have
not much time to sleep
except during part of the day.
This morning I issued the rum
to them all & did not forget
myself, it is jolly good stuff
& keeps you topping & warm.
It is really not a bit cold
& although we live up to the
knees in water except when
in the dug outs or the mess
I have never had my feet
cold yet.
A great trick with these rats
is to put a bit of cheese on the
bayonet & rest it on the
parapet & when a rat starts
nibbling pull the trigger -
result no rat.
I had a look through a
periscope to-day. They are
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wonderful things, I could
see all along the Hun
trench, of course a sniper
must have a shot at it &
scatter mud over us with
the bullet hitting the parapet
so I decided to rag the fool,
& left the periscope up & signalled
a miss to him every time with
a flag waved over the
parapet, he had eight shots
but failed to hit, he was
a rotten shot.
We have the gramaphone
with us which plays rag-times.
Last night I had a wee pup
with me all night, it sleep
by the cook-house stove.
It is now tea-time, my old
stick is useful, you would
roar to see me nearly
falling down in the mud
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& doing Charlie Chaplin walk
to save myself.
Well much love, Yours in the