I just received your letter and was very pleased to hear from you. I also received a letter from Mabel which was a nice surprise as I have been very anxious to hear from her also, so this is in reply to you both.
Not much has happened since my last letter but we are soon to be called to go over the top. We have been moved again, but not far this time. Whilst travelling I saw many terrible sights which will stay with me forever. We had to pick our way through mounds of bodies infested with rats, feeding on their remains. In the distance we saw our comrades move forward in an attempt to cross No Man’s Land, only to be mown down before our eyes .I felt sick to my stomach at the sight of this carnage. One chap was still alive, screaming in agony. We rushed over to see if we could help. We were horrified when we saw the extent of his injuries. Half of his face had been blown away and there was a gaping whole in his chest where his insides were spilling out. He begged me to shoot him. I stood rooted to the spot. The sergeant stepped forward and did the honours and we moved on.
I am feeling quite low at the moment. To think we all came here full of pride and patriotism, happy to be fighting for King and country. How naive we were.
I am frightened Mary, worried that I will not be able to do the job I came here to do. I know I am not the only one to feel like this. Some have self inflicted wounds in the hope that they will get the chance to go home. I do not blame them. We are all weary. I hope God gives me the strength to do my duty. I do not want to let you down.
The order to go over the top was given and it was our turn to crawl through No Mans Land, stumbling across putrefying flesh. And the smell. The smell of fear mingling with the sweat of dirty unwashed bodies, strong enough to cut with a knife. Nausea sweeping over us as we advanced towards the enemy lines. The horror of recognising the uniform of our own regiment. A body with no face. Who was he? The smell of mustard gas hung in the air and those lucky enough to still have them, scrambled for their masks.
My ears were bleeding from the noise of the constant bombardment of huge exploding shells getting closer and closer, waiting for the one that may lead to oblivion. The screams and the continuous noise of the battle around me were almost too much to bear.
I am hoping this will be coming to an end soon. I don’t know how much more I can take. Almost everyday another friend of mine is killed and although I count myself lucky to still be alive, I can’t help but think how many of us will be left, when its time to head home. My heart is with all of their families.
This brings me to the hard part, and I am sorry to tell you that Norman was caught on No Mans Land on the 27th and is no longer with us, so please send my condolences to Margaret. Tell her he was very brave and that she should be proud of him.
They have been teaching us new strategies this morning, so things could perhaps be looking more hopeful for the next advance.
My whole body aches and I am in need of a good wash, though not much chance of that. But I must thank you for the food packages, they were very comforting and tasted delicious, I need them to keep my strength up. I am very grateful. At night I dream of being home with you all, sitting around our table having Sunday lunch. I can taste the roast beef now.
Send all my love to the rest of the family, my mother in particular. I am waiting to hear from you all.
Spare a thought for me in your prayers as I do for you.