Gunner Bert Cox
June 17, 1918
My Dear Carl,
Thanks ever so much for your letters of may 4th and 7th. I certainly like to receive letters from you about how we should bring the unspeakable Hun to his knees. I always read out those vicious paragraphs to the boys, and they, like myself, only wish you were 10 years younger; there'd be one more man on his track I guess Murrill ought to be pretty soon, called up, won't he?
I am as bitter against conscripts as you are against Germans. I'd soon kill with my own hand, a man who is made to fight for his country, after 3 1/2 years of war, than any German, including the Kaiser, as much as I'd like to get his wrist watch, as a souvenir.
I'd like you to come over here, just for one night to see the illuminations. It's a regular Nov. 5th every night on the battle front. (Note: Nov. 5th is Guy Fawke's Day. It is celebrated with fire works in Britain to commemorate the 1605 AD attempt to destroy Parliament, using gunpowder)
Star shells, flare lights, ( which keep no man's land lit up), rockets, search lights, and S.O.S. signals of all the colours of the rainbow. It's a very pretty sight when there's a raid on. (note the bombardment at the Arras front)
The artillery, of all sizes, open up together at a certain hour, nearly always at night, and Fritz sends up signals of all colours for his artillery to open up. With these and the flashes of the shells as they burst, the front line is just one blaze of fire. The attacking side is ranging, of course, on the enemy support trenches to prevent them from coming up and the defenders on no man's land, to prevent the enemy from coming over. It's entirely a night war. From dark 'til dawn, it's one continual pounding . The Heavies, especially, are at counter - battery work.
The observation balloons do great work in spotting the positions of the enemy guns. They stay up all day. At present, I can see eleven of ours. And can see German balloons. Through his glasses, the observer can see ten miles on any side of him. They are about 4 miles in the rear of the front line and are very often attacked by enemy planes.
I saw a German plane sail over, about 2 months ago, and set five of our balloons on fire within 5 minutes. Just planed from one to another, passing each by about 25 yards and in about 10 seconds, you'd see it in a blaze. The observers jumped in their parachutes, except for the first one, who was too unexpectedly taken. The airman shot the observer of the 3rd balloon in mid air. ! It was a wonderful feat, and given a bit of credit, even by his enemies.
We were in Loos in the early part of the year. For the first 3 months that we were in France, we fired into Lens.
I was detailed for a working party one night in November. We went up to the front line which was on top of Hill 70. It's quite a steep incline, and it was one awful dark night, with mud that's indescribable. It was just like day, up there with all the flare lights, etc. and as we were going up through the support trenches, the enemy machine gun bullets were whizzing over our heads all the time. I soon found out that I was not cut out to be an infantryman.
On our way back he dropped about 200 gas shells around us. Then instead of standing where we were, until it was over, we moved on with our gas masks on. For once , the old saying was true, I could not see my hand in front of my face, consequently, we all got lost. She was some trip.!
If I'm a casualty at all, no matter how slight, Mamma will know within 24 hours. The casualty list is called every night to the next of kin.
I'll try to find out some information as regards the trunk and let you know. The man I left it with is a crook. (note: Bert never retrieved his trunk)
The 5th Division Sports are coming off very shortly and the boys are training hard. We have played several units at football and baseball and also at cricket. I went down to the horse lines, yesterday to play a match. Any time that any of the players are at the guns when a match is coming off, we are released for the day.
We had a lovely tennis court at the last horse lines we were in. New racquets and balls and I enjoyed some fine sets. Five or six of the boys play a good game. But the army boots are ruinous for tennis courts.
I got on the good side of the Quarter Master Sgt. And he got me a new pair of breeches, tunic, puttees and cap. All swanked up. The only thing I need now to complete it is, a 14 day pass to Blighty or Paris. I see no signs of getting leave this year.
Have been digging gun pits all day and its bitterly hot, but the nights are awfully cold. We do a guard of 2 1/2 hours every night per man, in case the Hun should come over. In winter we always built a little place and put a stove in it, making it quite comfortable for letter writing, which passed the time very quickly. We have no stove in this position, and its miserably cold, hence no letter writing.
We've lost one man killed, and eight wounded within the last 3 weeks. The 'horseshoes' we've had around us, seem to be dropping off. It was a high velocity shell, and with those, there is no time to drop. The whiz of it's approach and burst of the shell come together. With all other shells, one has about a second to 2 seconds to flop on the ground. With a little experience, you can tell by the whiz where the shell is going to land ( within 10 to 20 yards) and regulate your speed of ducking accordingly.
The limber gunner and I were the official painters of the ammunition wagons and limbers. (The limber is the shalves and front two wheels of the field cannon carriage. To 'Limber Up' means to get ready and join the limber to the cannon carriage.)
Of our sub Section "B", my last trip at the horse lines and I was properly camouflaged from head to foot, with green paint. Hence the new clothes.
Now I don't want to take a chance on writing many letters like this one, so will you give it to Herbert and ask him to send it to Murrill and ask Murrill to send it home?
Write soon again, lots of love for Mabel, Piggott, and self,
From your affectionate brother,
PS Received letters from Herbert and B'dos yesterday.