4th December 1915 What I would do to be home to see my wife and baby girls. Today is my Birthday; my present was to see my best friend Charlie being shot down by the Boche. He was killed by one bullet, straight between the eyes, as if he had been taken down on purpose. Just sitting here in the dugouts, waiting for orders to go over the top, makes me think about home. To keep our selves amused, we sing songs and tell each other stories of our send offs, and how we enlisted. I remember enlisting. Charlie, Richard, Harry and myself, were all down the pub smoking our cigars and having a jolly good time.
Harry said that in a week he would be fighting for our country’s freedom in France on the front line. Well, we weren’t going to have any of that, were we, so we went home and talked it over with our wives. We told them it would bring honour and glory to our family, so they let us go. If they didn’t, we would have gone any way, because nobody wants to be a coward, do they? So we all went to the enlisting station. All the posters on the way there, were as if they weren’t there to look at, but were screaming at you, as if to say, ” why haven’t you joined the army yet, you coward.
As we were living in Cheshire, I joined the Cheshire regiment I was Private Sarchet collar number 1222. I’m now Sergeant Sarchet, ready to serve and protect the honour of his majesty the king. My wife Margaret, before I left, promised me that she would write me letters on the first of every month, to keep me in touch with every one back at home. I still get those letters. Sometimes they are what give me the will to get up in the morning. I asked the boys down in the factory if my wife could have my job until I came back. She still works there, and it’s nearing a year now.
My send off was a glorious one. We stepped on to the train not knowing what we were letting our selves in for. Half of the men on that train will never be seen again. Their wives and children, my heart goes out to them all. There were also some people’s wives who were shouting out, “See you at Christmas, you wont be away for too long. ” This is all true to what we were told. We had all been spoon-fed propaganda by the government. So far, we have only lost one of our friends and that was today, so I think we will be all right. I just hope that our worst fear doesn’t come true, and that’s a gas attack.
The Boche have used that on a number of other troops and battalions and it kills hundreds at a time. We near Christmas again, and I still haven’t been able to use my present from my next-door neighbours. They gave me a pair of padded socks. A very generous gift, apart from I can’t take my boots off. It is agony to take them off, and it is near fatal to put the blasted things back on. So I think I will try them on when I get home. Lets just hope that I do get home, unlike poor Charlie, who will never see his daughter getting married, which is what he had always wanted to do.
I haven’t seen the true colour of my hands in three months. They are either caked in mud, or drenched in blood, or just blue from the cold. This place is truly terrible. The sight and the stench of rotting corpses is over powering. There is not one place where you can dig and not uncover a grave or a toilet. We believe that tomorrow will be the day when we go over the top, so I will not be surprised if we have a large number of losses tomorrow. I don’t think that there is any where in this land that is actually dry. It goes from one extreme to the other. One day its scorching hot, then another day its soaking wet.
My wife Margaret has sent me a couple of tins I’m not sure what is in them though, because the labels are missing. In one of my letters that Margaret sent me, she said that our large iron gates we had, have been taken away for scrap for bullets and guns. So I will have to sort that out when I get home. June 25th 1917 At last a break from the fighting. We have been billeted to a small village in France, about four hundred miles away from the front line. We had to walk about twenty miles through the trenches, to get to the train station. When my worst nightmare came true, we came under a gas attack.
Harry, being the man that he was, shouted “gas, gas, gas, quick boys get your masks on, don’t let the Boche get one up on us, hurry. ” We all had our masks on and couldn’t speak, but there was Harry’s voice saying “get your masks on boys. ” He began to choke, and so did the people behind us who couldn’t hear Harry. Suddenly Harry collapsed and he began to gargle. But the thing was it wasn’t raining. He was beginning to drown under his own fluids. His eyes rolled back in his skull. Richard and I picked up Harry. We were determined not to let another one of our friends die.
At least not today, whilst we could help it. We managed to put his mask on but he was still struggling to breathe. We managed to get our selves and Harry to the train station. But we were an hour behind the others. I went on the search for a nurse to come and have a look at Harry. That’s when I saw it. The most disgusting thing a man could see. Rows and rows of men all in straight lines. All holding onto each others shoulders queuing. All of that needless torture to innocent men. I have received two bullet wounds, one to my hand, the other to my shoulder. They hurt like hell.
But you could put up with the pain. There were men here crying and wetting them selves because of the pain. One man described the pain as ‘a thousand knives being slowly pressed into you, and this is being repeated thousands of times a second’. I can only imagine what pain those people are in. Its not a thing that goes away after a couple of hours. No this is ten times worse, some people never recover. But poor old Harry, he didn’t make it through the night. He risked his life to save hundreds of others. He had to be the bravest man I knew. Well, for a change of tone. This chalet I’m staying in is fantastic.
It has running water, a kettle and a stove. I hadn’t had a bath for over two years. The lice and fleas were screaming as I went into the bath. I have never felt so good in my life. I’m wearing my socks my next door neighbour sent me, they really are comfortable. I have eaten my biscuits that my mother sent me. They went down really well with the glass of port I had. I fell like royalty. Apart from Royalty wouldn’t have to put up with the sound of shell fire, or the sights of people being gunned down by the Boche. We have been fighting for over two years now and the loses of life have been catastrophic.
I still get my letters. My two twin daughters are now both five, and are called Gillian and Isabelle. I cant wait to see them again. I think that is what gave me the strength to get Harry to the train station. The thought of his little boy growing up without a father. Is the same as my daughters growing up with out their father. But sadly his little boy will never meet his father. I won’t be living the high life for very long. Richard and I are being taken back to the front line this time next week. So I will have to put up with being cold and muddy. But the worst part of it all is so degrading.
Having to go to the toilet in a hole in the floor, and being infested with lice. I hope I’m not in the trenches for too long this war has gone on long enough and enough innocent people have died. January 12th 1919 I am so glad to be home with my wife and two children. Today I went to see Harry and Charlie’s wives. I was able to tell them what brave and honourable men they both were. I looked in to Jacobs eyes (that’s Harry’s son) and told him what a brave man his father was, and that he died with dignity. Also that he should be very proud of his Father. As for my two little cherubs.
We had a very good day today, we were playing their favourite game. That is until they made loud banging and crashing noises. When I laid flat on the floor, and held my hands over my head. They just don’t understand what horrors I have seen. No doubt they will see films about this great war. It will probably be portrayed as a glorious and spectacular event. But I, and every other man that was involved, will know the truth. I had completely forgotten how beautiful my garden was. In fact I’m sitting out under my magnolia tree at the bottom of the garden. I can tell you something if someone complains about England being cold.
Well they have not experienced being cold. So it is quite pleasant out here tonight. My two daughters are sleeping here next to me under their blankets. They fell asleep listening to my stories of the war. But one day they will see things my way, because they will never know if this will ever happen again. I hope for my children’s sake it wont happen in their life time. Or their children’s lifetime. Nobody in their right mind would want to see the things that I have seen. The torture, the suffering, the noise, and the smells of war should never be heard, seen or smelt ever again.
If this ever does happen again I pity the person who brings it on. Not only am I upset about seeing my friends die, I’m upset for the German families as well. For how do we know that they weren’t like Harry or Charlie. There are probably men over in Germany in the same predicament as me. Missing two best friends and trying to recover from the war. So my prayers and my heart go out tonight, to those families in the same situation as me, and all of those who have lost loved ones. If I could make one wish, it would to be able to say that nobody has to see what I have seen. The Great War they say, more like a useless waste of life.