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

Transcript of Letter from Captain John Jeffries to his Wife, Evelyn, 16 May 1915

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

(D/DLI 7/899/3)


"Extracts from letter of John W. Jeffries to Evelyn. May 16. 1915

Y.P.R.E.S.

Your Presumption remains essentially sound. I am at rest (more or 
less, they shell the place!) again, in a hut encampment. We came out of 
the trenches last night and got in here 2.30.a.m. I am annoyed at having
to come away as I had just had my dug out made more luxurious. 
I have quite an amusing yarn to tell you of my experiences on 13th About
6.p.m. I had a telephone message from the brigade that I was to report at 
H[ea]d. Q[uarte]rs of 1st Cav[alry]. Div[ision]. at 8.50 . I knew the cavalry had had a very bad day
& things were not looking too bright for us. I went along and in the dark, not
knowing where the H[ea]d. Q[uarte]rs of Cav[alry]. Div[ision] were I called out, as one does, as...
I was answered by a voice that seemed familiar to me saying, "Yes. I'm
going there & will take you". In the dark I made out a little man hoisting
an enormous sack on his back. He stopped periodically on our way, &
asked me to shift it higher on to his shoulders. When we got into the
dim light of the dug-out I found it was "Rattle" Barrett! - 
The Col[onel] of the 1st Life [Guard] came in, & sat down opposite me & said "I've only 2
officers & 40 men left". In the darkness afterwards I ran up against some one
and asked him, as one does, "What regiment?". He was a subaltern & said
"X [10] Hussars, only 50 here & 3 officers left." That night I had to take 800
men out to dig. Split them into 2 parties. I took one and was told that Major 
Pollard would show me where to dig. I met Pollard after a bit, and he said at
once though it was pitch dark "Which Jeffreys are you? Are you Jack?" Well
he said "I did tutor you one summer holidays many years ago"! Then I
remembered him. A charming fellow he was, who came and looked after
us one summer holiday at Canterton about 22 years ago. He's a topper-
He's a Terrier R.E. Major & was from Newcastle, he has some big job there & is
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well known. He has already got the D[istinguised]. S[ervice].O[rder]. in the war and is marvellously
cool and collected. When we went out to dig, he, who was to show me where 
the trench was to be made, did not exactly know which were our trenches &
which Bosch. There was one that we could see, every now & then, in the light of 
the flares about 120 y[ar]ds away from us. I asked if that was all right. "I'll go
& find out", he said. I managed to dissuade him from going him-
self (of course not his job) & he eventually consented to send 4 sappers. They 
had gone 10 minutes when they came running back saying neither side
held the trench, but that they had taken a prisoner! Anyhow we got down
& dug til 2.a.m with nobody between us & the German Trenches except 6
men on piquet- very entertaining it all is. Then yesterday I was sent for
to see Gen[era]l Chetwode commanding 5th Cav[alry] Brigade- stopped & lunched
with him. Delightful it is to get amongst those sort of fellows again
.....He & his brigade major took me birdnesting after lunch. (This was 
right up in the shell strewn area & only ¾ of a mile from the front line, & 
things were still supposed to be a little critical!) He shewed me a nightingale's
nest with 6 eggs, another with no eggs yet, a chaffinche's, blackbird's, & a
missel thrush! Then I got back to dug out & found it made awfully nice by 
PG Martins, (who is a topper) & to receive 6 new officers. Then had the order
to fall back here, about 4 miles, & tomorrow I am told to go back again.
Now. I'm delighted with the parcels of things you've sent, they've all rolled up............. My kit has just turned up, I've had nothing clean for
10 days...... an ambulance man was trying to get through supply
waggons the other night & I said "Who's inside?" "Two officers of the
Royal Dragoons. Badly wounded. Col[onel] Steele & Capt[ain] Waterhouse"-----
---am afraid it is ridiculous to think I shall be left in command.
When another Col[onel] comes I shall try hard to get something else......
I hear we are able to go into front line of trenches with the cavalry to learn
how to do it by platoons. They seem to forget that we've had 2 Co[mpan]ys there
already under the worst conditions!..........
I think things are going all right. We are hanging on here & the Bosches
are no good.... Lost my horse, but thank heavens he has turned up, I go to ride him & birdsnest. JWJ