Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales
Letters to Mrs R. H. Caldwell, from her son Robert Douglas Caldwell and other soldiers, 1917-1919
[Transcriberís note: The letters of Douglas Caldwell cover his journey from Australia to England, via South Africa in the Hororata, departing in January 1917. He was in camp in Salisbury for training before going to France in December 1917. The devastation of villages, the shortage of food, the fighting in and around the Somme and further north are described quite vividly in his letters. In September 1917 he is sent to hospital in Birmingham with a septic finger. He is moved to a convalescent hospital in Alcester and at this time Armistice is declared and he describes the celebrations that followed in the town. Following leave in England, he returns to Australia in January 1919 in the Kamala. He frequently mentions Ken in his letters and it is presumed he is a relation. There is a letter from Sgt. Grange thanking Mrs. Caldwell for a parcel and also one from Frank Bailey, also mentioned by Douglas in his letters, telling Mrs. Caldwell of being wounded and carried out by Douglas.]
A Christmas Message
of Gratitude and Remembrance
from the Australian Red Cross Society
Expect to be leaving England in the Kamalla on the 2nd Jan. 1919.
This card was given us by the Red X in a very nice parcel given to every man.
Somewhere in France
21st Fbry. 1917
On behalf of the actual recipients I tender my sincere thanks for your very welcome parcels received recently.
Unprecedented delay occurred in the receipt of them & also on my part in acknowledging but "better late than never".
Our surroundings, conveniences & the weather in this part of Froggy land donít offer many opportunities for correspondence hence
[Various amounts of money on this page not transcribed.]
In expressing the sentiments of the men in my platoon I must abuse the French language "Oh! trez bon" but verbal description does not adequately describe their appreciation of your kindness.
894 Gordon Grange, Sgt.
On Active Service
Mrs. R.H. Caldwell
Passed by Censor
The Australian Y.M.C.A.
No. 7451, 25 Rein., 2nd Batt.
It is a week today since we left Cape Town & we have been making a quick voyage in good weather since. In a few days we expect to reach our next port the name of which you had better try & find out yourself. We have been keeping very well since we left Cape Town where we stayed about a fortnight & had a tip top time as my letters from there will tell. One bit of hard luck, my mate Smith was put off the boat the day we left there with meningitis & we have not heard whether he survived or not but think he will pull through as he was a very strong chap & I believe they operated very successfully before they put him off. We have had only one case since then & he has pulled through. I think the hot weather will kill it out. I am working at a job in the orderly room which will take about 10 days. I donít like the job as it means
sitting down writing all day without doing any exercise. We have to get up a 6 a.m. now & have Ĺ hr physical exercise before breakfast which I enjoy as it gives an appetite for breakfast, in everything else the routine is the same as before.
I expect before this reaches you you will hear that I have reached England safely, as we have good protection with us in case of submarines. An epidemic of influenza has been going round & a good many have got it. I had a slight touch myself & was off duty for a day. Today Saturday half holiday so we are having our usual sports in which there are some very good boxing events coming off. The warm weather is well on us now so that the only clothing I am wearing are a pair of shorts, a singlet & a pair of sand shoes. Today the tarpaulin awning was put up over the deck to keep the sun off. There is very little to tell now as everything is the same every day.
Love & kisses to all & an extra lot to yourself.
Your loving Son
P.S. We are both stony-broke & are not likely to get paid for some weeks but what we havenít got we canít spend so we are saving a bit. I lent £2 of my money but wonít get it till we get our full pay.
Letter No. 1
20th June Ď17
This is just a short note I am writing in case it gets posted back sooner than I expect. I am getting on tip-top and keeping pretty well on the whole. I had one day pretty sea-sick, the third day out but I got on all right after that. It has been very rough ever since we left. We have just come down from parade as the sea kept coming on deck and wetting every one. A letter collector has just come round so I thought this might get you on the off chance earlier than I expected any would. Ken has been pretty sick on it but is all right again now, pretty nearly everyone has been sick more or less although Corp Hosier has been one of the lucky ones and kept all right. Things are pretty nasty here in wet weather as every one has to stay down below and the port holes have to be kept closed. I suppose you have had Ida staying with you for the week end. I was very glad to have that party at Liverpool before we left, so that I could see so many relations. My air cushion has come in very handy. We sleep in hammocks at night and find them very comfortable although we have a good deal of trouble in keeping the same hammocks every night as they have to be rolled up and put in a bin every day and at night every one grabs the first he can lay hands on. We have a great supply of water laid on for washing and can have a hot salt water bath, fresh water shower and wash whenever we like, but I am afraid some men donít like very often. A compulsory shower parade would be a good thing once a week or so. We have a canteen on board but things are very dear excepting tobacco which is much cheaper than in Australia. I was glad to see Father on the wharf when we left but sorry we got into Sydney so early. Oh well, this letter is not supposed to be too big, so I will have to close this one. I expect I will be repeating myself in some of my letters but they may not arrive together.
Best love to all and much to yourself and Father,
Letter No. 2
Saturday 16th June Ď17
I am starting a letter to you now but donít know when it will get posted. We put out to sea about 2.30 Thursday and have been going ever since. It came up windy and rough on Thursday night & has been the same ever since. Nearly every one has been more or less sick, Ken has been pretty bad and is still down to it. I was pretty bad yesterday afternoon but am all right now. I think we are approaching the Bight now and therefore will get it much rougher soon. Did you get the card I sent you before we left the Harbour? I was very glad to see Father on the wharf but I am glad no one else was there. We are in the stern of the boat and pretty crowded. We sleep in hammocks which we hang up after tea and roll up at early morning parade before 7 a.m. The men are allotted off to mess tables, 13 men and an N.C.O. in charge to each table. I have charge of the table. We have to get up at 6.15 a.m. and fall in for first parade at 6.30. Breakfast comes on at 7 and we fall in again at 9.15. Have dinner at 12 fall in again at 2 p.m. and dinner comes off at 5 p.m. but things are still pretty upside down and irregular. There are a lot of Tasmanians on this boat and we met several Duntroon boys, amongst them is the boy in the snap with me that Les Read sent me from Duntroon. We have passed several rocky islands this afternoon, but I donít know the names for sure but I think they must have been Flinderís Island. This afternoon we have all been issued with head comforts and jack knives so we are all well set up now. What do you think! I left that writing wallet that Woody gave me at home or else put it in my other kit bag. Yesterday afternoon when I went to parade at 2 p.m. I had just got on deck when a big wave came swish! all over the deck. I got my legs and feet all sopping wet, but it has not been so bad as it might
have been as we seem to travelling head into it all the time. Corp Hosier is writing here next to me. He got back to camp late Wednesday night. We have a nice lot of N.C.O.s here on a whole, like all men on troop ships they are hard at card playing. We are still going, I think we are about crossing the Bight, the boat is rolling a treat. We have all the cups and plates up one end of the mess tables and every now and then the boat gives a lurch and the plates and dishes start walking down to the other end of the table, if no one catches them. It has been bleak and windy all day and as it is Sunday we have had no parade except church parade this morning. At 9.30 I went to a Communion service with Corp. Hosier and another boy Corp Upton. 10.30 we had a compulsory church parade out on deck but the wind was blowing so hard we could not hear anything that was said. This afternoon the Y.M.C.A. stall on board opened and gave out writing paper, cards and games of all sorts. It does a lot for the men. Our two officers Mr. Doyle and Mr. Binns are both very nice Ė Mr. Doyle especially Ė He comes round and talks to the men and sees if they want anything and how they are getting on. I have a good lot of men at my mess table, rough and ready but not too bad at heart when you get to know them. Ken is still pretty sick on it so is several others, but most of the men are all right now although the old boat is rocking too and fro. There is a gramophone and piano just bye here supplied by the Y.M.C.A. Just next to my table is a table of men that came on board straight from Darlinghurst, there are some pretty rough ones amongst them but they will make good fighters if they once get at it Ė 19th Ė I ommitted to write anything yesterday but as everything is practically the same every day it does not matter. It is still very rough, in fact rougher than ever today. There has been no parade today as the sea breaks over the deck every now and again. I think we are making straight for Durban so you will understand why you do not hear from me for such a long time. The food we get on board here is medium, sometimes it is good and sometimes it is bad. This morning we had a stew of greasy water and nasty potatoes with about enough meat for three men in a dish for twelve. For dinner we had stewed rabbit and beans which was very good. After finishing this and when I thought I had had enough Corp Hosier came along with a tin of pears so I had to set too and help him eat those, which I did with great relish. We have plenty of butter and cheese issued to us so that we donít do too bad so long as the stuff is cooked well, which isnít always the case. Today the sea has been catching us side on, we have been pitching and rolling so much at times that the things come tumbling down from the shelves and racks all over the place and every one is catching hold of a post table or anything that he can to save him from falling. Once in a way some poor chap gets caught in a wave and gets a thorough ducking to the amusement of every one else and at meal times it is great fun when some one has to do a run for the deck. This morning at breakfast I saw several making out as fast as they could go. Of course it is not much fun for the poor chaps themselves. Ken is not exactly right yet although he is getting round much better now. Yesterday afternoon I had a go with the gloves for three good rounds but although I could hold my own I am very much out of trim for boxing but will be able to have some good boxing here. We have a good supply of water laid on for washing in both salt and fresh, we can have a hot salt water bath whenever we like and fresh water showers with plenty of fresh water basins. Hosier has promised to take me with him to his friends Ė when we get to London so I am looking forward to having a good time. I believe we have a nice long furlough when we get there, we will be able to do with it anyway after being cooped up in a smelly ship for so long. We have had plenty of magazines issued to us from the Red cross, so we wonít want for reading matter. There is a canteen on board but it is very expensive with everything except tobacco which is much cheaper than it is in Australia. I donít know how we are going to get on for washing as we would get anything stolen if we hung it out to dry. The other night when I was sick I left a pair of puttees out for a while and never saw them again. It is time for me to be
turning in now so Good night. I have just written you a short letter which I intend to post on board. This one I am going to hang on to till I get to some port and can post it myself. It is still as rough as ever, this afternoon we could not stay on deck as there were too many seas breaking overboard. This morning we had our usual parade which really only amounts to keeping the men amused in healthy exercise, we give them a bit of physical exercise and keep them busy with games such as bull in the ring, tug-of-war etc. I generally have charge of a section as there is always some one sick and I take their place, of course we N.C.O.s join in with them as much as possible and have some real good fun sometimes. There is one good thing about the men on board, they are always themselves, that is they donít come out in the morning suffering from the effects of drinks etc., and I can tell you it makes a lot of difference in them.
I have not written anything for a couple of days now but as things are of the same pretty well every day. We are still having rough weather and although it was not too bad yesterday this morning we started drill but it came up wet and we had to knock off. Today is our 10th day out and I think it will be a month before we strike a port so you will it is a bit monotonous but we have to make the most of it. Corp Hosier has been very unwell the last day or two, he has developed a bad back like you used to have Ė lumbago. By the way I suppose you will post my letters to Aunt Grettaís and get any one else you know to do the same as I think I will get them sooner through her. Ken is quite all right again now and is back on duty, he is going to get a Corporalís pay for the voyage and is lucky to get it as Corp Hosier and a number of others who got passes from Duntroon are only going as Act. Corp. without any pay. I am still doing a Corpís job myself and am going to keep on at it as long as I can as it is all good experience and I will have a good show if we get into a school the other side. I donít know whether I told you before we only get 1/- per day pay on the boat the rest is paid to me in England. We put in all our spare time playing cards or draughts. I have learnt to play Bridge but of course we donít play for money like most of them do.
Sunday afternoon Ė It has turned up a warm sunny day at last although there is still a good swell running. The deck is covered with men lying around enjoying a good sun bake. This morning we had the usual Sunday morning church parade at which all the troops on board assembled, it is held on deck and is conducted by two Chaplains. I do not know their names yet but I suppose I will find out later, the sermon was on "Strength" of man or something like that. I am writing here to the music of a piano which we have on deck, that is on the lower deck where we sleep and eat.
Still in bad weather, we had no parade this morning and this afternoon we drilled in a rain of salt spray. Soon after dinner the ship blew the alarm, which is six short whistles blasts. On the alarm being blown everyone has to grab a life-belt, put it on and fall in on their parade deck as quickly as possible while a number, about 12, go to each boat. This is practice in case we get torpedoed but I hope it will never come in earnest and I donít think it will as we are sure to have an escort through the danger zone. For a while this morning I had charge of 10 men working down in the hold packing away kit bags etc. The changing weather has given me a bit of a cold but nothing to speak of. Yesterday we came on a school of whales about 6 of them and we saw them spouting, one that came out of the water was very large. Tonight I have just had a few games of draughts which I was lucky enough to win, before that I was playing quoits with a couple of black boys, Harris and Archie, there are quite a number on board and very good sorts they seem to be, we have two in our reinforcements. We seem quite out of the world here, never getting any news of how the war is going or anything.
Tuesday night Ė about 3rd July
We have just had an alarm and everyone grabbed a lifebelt and rushed up on deck and in a few seconds everyone was in line on deck, boats crews at boats had silence everywhere, this is only practice but they might happen at any minute
of the night or day so we always have to be prepared as some day it might be in earnest. I have not written any thing in this letter for a few days as I have put in all my spare time writing cards etc. to other people to catch the mail on board which closed on Monday. I expect we will strike Durban by Saturday or Sunday. Have I told you about seeing whales? We saw our first about a week ago, a school spouting quite close to our vessel and some of them monsters now we see some spouting nearly every day. We have had two deaths on board in the last few days, the first died on Saturday afternoon and was buried at 5 p.m. the same afternoon. The bodies are sewn in canvas with a few bars of iron and are put over the side. Of course we have a parade and funeral service when burying them. The other man died last night and was buried this morning at 10 a.m. The services are touching scenes but I suppose we will get callous to death. Since Saturday the weather has taken a turn for the good and I think it will keep up as we are getting into a warmer climate every day. I think this trip took us a long way south. I have set too and been doing my own washing lately as the sailors who do it for us are very expensive and we have not too much money to throw around. I have joined in a plan with a lot of others to let you know fortnightly how I am getting on. About 25 of us pay about a shilling a fortnight and send a fortnightly cable to a certain man in Sydney who will immediately write to every one of our homes and say how we are. It is a good idea and in good hands but of course it wonít come into operation till we get to England. When you are writing to me next will you send those Woodville photos of mine but keep the negatives. I believe Ella wants to have some prints from them, if so lend them to her. On Sunday we had our blankets out for an airing the first since we got them and on the blankets of some Tasmanians near by, the unwelcome discovery of animals in large numbers was made, but I donít think they have got in amongst our lot yet, if they do I am going to get some silk underclothing at Durban and Capetown if we stop there. We had our first concert on board yesterday afternoon, it was not too bad although not as good as we used to get at Liverpool.
Sunday night Ė We have not sighted land yet but hope to reach Durban any day now. It is very hot tonight the warmest we have had yet. I am sleeping on deck now when weather permits, it is ever so much cooler and nicer, the only thing about it is we have to get up before 5 oíclock and come down below as they hose the decks down at that time. We have to always wear our lifebelts now for the rest of the voyage and it is a bit of a nuisance but I suppose having everyone ready would save time and lives in case of accident although about here I donít think there is much fear. I was on guard last week Ė there is always a guard on, watching different portions of the boat. I was on as a private and in my 12.30 a.m. to 2.30 a.m. I saw a total eclipse of the moon which is a very rare thing. It is the earth coming between the sun and moon, throwing its shadow on the moon. The moon could be seen like a dull yellow globe without throwing any light as it was quite dark while it lasted, which was about 3 hours from beginning to end. The same night as I was on board we had another death, making 3 all told. I have now been appointed Lance Corp. for the voyage, which will help me get into a school the other side. This afternoon I saw another whale, he came to the surface quite close to the boat, so we could see him quite plainly. We had our usual church parade this morning. Yesterday we got paid £1 which has got to do us till we get to England with another £1 we will get somewhere on the sea.
As you see we have reached Durban after being nearly a month on the trip. We came in on the 9th but I donít think we will be staying more than about 3 days. We had leave from 2 oíclock yesterday till 9.30 and have the same again today. Durban is a nice city but not very large and of course it is over-run with the black population. Today we had our dinner supplied to us by different societies. At the place we are writing this we can get a good meal for about 4d. a plate of fruit salad costs 1d. tea 1d. plate of
sandwiches 1d. salad 1d. sandwiches 1d. These are the prices they charge. There are also a number of free houses where soldiers and sailors donít have to pay anything so you can see we are very well treated at Durban. Trains are free to all soldiers. We had a ride in a rickshaw yesterday. This afternoon we are going to the Zoo. There are a great number of Tommies here. They wear a uniform with short trousers and seem a very nice lot of fellows. The Australians are behaving themselves splendidly which is due to the fact that drink is not allowed them and they are therefore sober. The niggers here are very funny, the way they do themselves up with great head dresses with horns sticking out each side of their heads. These are the fellows that pull the rickshaws. I have written a good deal of my long letter in lead pencil so hope it will not rub out. The weather here is splendid, quite warm, though it is the middle of winter. There are some very nice buildings here but for size they donít anywhere near come up to Sydney. This is only a scratch letter but we want to get out and see as much of the place as possible.
Love and kisses to all and plenty for yourself.
Your loving son
Letter No. 3
We are at sea again now, we left Durban on Thursday after spending 3 days there and were disappointed at not staying longer as we expected to be there about 10 days. Durban has a nice harbour but not very large and it was choked full of shipping. A hospital ship came in the same day as we did. I think it was bound for Australia with returned men. We expect to reach Capetown today or tomorrow but donít think we will get leave or at any rate we have been told not to expect it. At Durban we had free meals and free trains and were told we were welcome to Durban but the people wonít have anything to do with the Australian soldier and shunned him altogether. I think it is the fault of those that have gone before, they must have played up terribly as the people as a whole looked on us as criminals and donít mind showing their dislike in a great many cases. I had intended buying a lot of little knick-knacks there and sending them to you but we were hurried off so soon I did not have time. Everything is very expensive there except tobacco which is cheap, other things seem dearer than Sydney. It is raining on board today so we all have to keep below and the church parade is cancelled. If we do not stay long in Capetown we will make a pretty quick trip to England. We have had meningitis on board and had about 4 deaths from it but I think it is well in hand now as there have been no more cases for several days. We have not had any cases in our company at all for which we are jolly thankful as they donít often save them. To combat it every man has his throat sprayed once or twice daily and particular attention is paid to men with sore throats. In Durban there were a great
number of British Tommies who are just from England, they say things are pretty tight in England and every thing is very expensive. Durban is about the size of Newcastle but it is much prettier, seeing it from the sea it looks like a lot of white houses nestled amongst green trees. The streets are fairly wide and they have double-decker electric trams which look
like very funny.
Sunday night Ė We arrived off Capetown this afternoon and are at present anchored off Table bay. The city is situated round the water surrounded by steep rocky mountains which rise straight up. We have not been able to see the top of Table mountain as it has been surrounded by mist. We hope to get on shore tomorrow even if it is only for a route march. This bay is swarming with different kinds of sea birds and they swim and fly round the ship in thousands. They are having a bit of a sing song at the piano tonight and if I could sing Iíd go and join in.
17th Ė In a writing room in Capetown.
We were let off at 1 p.m. today till 10.30 p.m. So that we could behave ourselves the troops were detailed into parties of 10 and 12 with one N.C.O. in charge of each party and were supposed to keep together the whole time. I had one party but as soon as we got away from the ship we all split up into parties of twos and threes and arranged to meet again at a certain spot to return to the ship, this is the way Australians treat a foolish order, especially as it shows they are not trusted in a town. We havenít any idea how long we will stay here. Capetown is a nice town larger and much busier than Durban, the trams are similar to those of that place, trains run all round the water amongst the shipping of which there seems to be a great deal. This afternoon all the shops and hotels are closed. I suppose they are frightened the troops will get unruly. I have just found out they open at 2 p.m. today having been closed this morning for some recruiting function. Ken and Corp Hosier went in this morning so I have missed them for today. My mate is a boy named Smith, he comes from North Sydney and went to the same school as Ken. The 3 of us spent our time in Durban together the first day, Smith having the bad luck to strike guard the 2nd day there so Ken and I were on our own. I am sending you some
new views from here, they are not very good but will give you an idea of the place. I hope you get these things as I sent another lot from Durban. There is a very small black population here compared with the other place but there seems to be a great number of Boers. I will have to write more about this place later as I have seen very little yet but will post this now as I may not get another chance. Give my best love to all including Miss Reid and much to yourself and Father.
Your loving son
Letter No. 4
Today we took on our gun at a certain naval base near Capetown, having left the latter place yesterday afternoon arriving here this morning and leaving again tomorrow morning I expect. We are hoping to reach Capetown again before going for good. We spent a splendid time there although we may have had a little more leave than we did. One day we went for a route march about 10 miles, we went out to a place called Camp Bay, a seaside suburb where we had dinner and a good afternoon tea supplied to us. The road of the march was cut in the side of a hill rising up from the sea and was a very pretty walk. On getting back about 7.30 p.m. we were dismissed and had leave till 10 so I went and had a good tea and went to the pictures on my own as I missed all my mates in the crush getting off. The next day we had leave from 1.30 p.m. so after having a good dinner 6 of us took the train for about 7 miles to a place with a big name and from there went to the Zoo, which is only a few lions and monkeys and birds and costs nothing to see. From there we went to see Rhodes monument about 2 miles further on, all up hill; from this place we had a splendid view of the surrounding country. The monument of Rhodes is covered with a high raugh (?) supported by large pillars with a great number of large steps with carved lions on each side leading up to the pillars. After
having a look at this we made on up the mountain, the monument being very high up we got a good deal higher into the bush and got a lot of silver leaves, some of which I am enclosing here as emblems of South Africa. Coming down we set too and ran or tore down the steep hill for about half a mile having a race to see who would be last down and by jove it shook us up, when I reached the bottom my legs felt as though they were up in my body, next day we were so stiff that we could hardly walk. On reaching Capetown we went and had a big feed and spent the rest of the evening walking about the street. Every day we had leave I had a squad to take out with me but they have never yet all turned up at the place set down to meet as they get too drunk to get there and come in some time during the night, the last two times I was out I had a different lot of men, they were men belonging to my own table and were better at turning up than the other lot that I had. The first time I had my own men 2 didnít turn up but came in dead drunk afterwards and about 3 of those that did turn up were drunk. The next night I had about 6 drunk but having my own men I had trouble in managing them, in fact I had them telling me I was the best Corp. on the ship. The sale of grog to Australians is prohibited but they get plenty all the same and often get bad stuff too which sends them right out or as mad as anything. On Sunday we walked about 2 miles to church where I went to sleep as soon as I sat down I was so tired and stiff from late nights and the previous dayís exertions Ė mountain climbing. After dinner we went for a short route march, came on board and put out to sea for this place. One day we went to the museum which is very interesting but not near as
interesting as big as the Sydney museum. Two more boat loads of Australians came to Capetown a few days ago and the chances are they will accompany us to England with the mail boat that is in there too. I donít know whether I mentioned it in my previous letters but Corp Hosier wishes to be remembered to you all. At Durban we tried to cable to you but all cabling is stopped for the troops. The day we left Capetown a boat load of Portugese soldiers put in at the same wharf as us, they are a funny looking lot, dressed in blue grey uniforms with great big helmets of the same color. When we were leaving their band came out and played Tipperary, God save the King and several other tunes. They cheered us and we cheered them. The gun we took on is a 6 incher I think so if we see any submarines we will give them a warm reception. I had a nasty touch of influenza about the time we put into Capetown Ė the first day we had leave I was too crook to do anything but sit in a writing room and write but I am all right now except for a bit of a cough. Back off going for a route march this afternoon with full equipment on, we donít expect to get any more leave here. I am going to give this letter to someone in the street on the march so let me know if you get it all right.
Love and kisses to all
Your loving son
Ken sends his love to all, he says next time you write he will be a private again and I will be the same. We have just got leave for tonight, which was not expected so we are all excited and intend to have a good time.
Y.M..A. with the Australian Imperial Force
Ken & Corp Hosier both send love & regards. Doug
Wednesday 29 Aug. 1917
We have now arrived at Salisbury after being 10Ĺ week on the water. We arrived at Liverpool on Sunday morning disembarked and boarded a train for here in the afternoon and came through Birmingham & Oxford arriving here at 2 a.m. & marched about two miles to our camp which were tents at about 4 a.m. we turned in for a few hours sleep. The trip in the train was very pretty as we passed through green fields and crops which are just being cut, use is made of every little bit of ground for
for something generally vegetables which are grown all along the line wherever
there is a bit of spare ground.
is there is the sigh sign of economy & war restrictions especially in the food line which is cut very fine. We are allowed one slice of bread for breakfast, Ĺ a slice for dinner & 3 slices for tea with dripping or margarine & jam or treacle, for dinner we generally have a stew, with every meal we have a weak kind of tea, in everything there is a scarcity of sugar, although there is enough food there is never any left over. Our reinforcements have been put in contact where we will have to stay for three weeks or a month when we will be given 6 days leave which I believe is about the only leave we get. The discipline is very rigid here & the drill very hard but we have not had any yet but are starting tomorrow morning. It has been raining & windy ever since we arrived here & I donít think it
is likely to stop. The tents we were put in were not very rain proof so that
we everything was in a very miserable state of affairs, slop & mud everywhere & about half the tents were sopping wet inside so yesterday we were shifted into huts & are very comfortable now. On Monday we were inoculated & I have had a very painful arm since. Yesterday I was pretty crook on it but am alright again today. I have had the mumps I gather on board about 12 days before we landed but such crowds had them that little care was taken of us but I got alright again without getting any reaction like some of the chaps got, it is because of mumps that we are quarantined P.T.O.
About 20 or 30 of our men have got them but this was only a minor thing compared with the meningitis through which we lost about 6 men during the voyage, three in our company caught it, one died at Cape Town & another, Smith, one of our mates was put off there the morning we left so we donít know how he got on, another we put off at Durban & did not hear how he got on. Here we are under very strict isolation and cannot go out of our boundary limits which allows us very little freedom. Every night at 9 oíclock we are marched up to the canteen for Ĺ an hour which is the only time we are allowed there, so you see we will be jolly glad to get out of contact. We made a fairly good voyage from Cape Town to England spending about 2 days at Sierra Leone but of course we could not get off there.
From Cape Town we went with a convoy consisting of the Hororata which was the flagship, Suevic troopship, "Beltana" troopship, "Boarderer" troopship, Balmoral Castle, large two funnel mailship with two smaller steamers and a large auxiliary cruiser and a battle cruiser. At Sierra Leone the battle cruiser left us and another cruiser took her place. When we reached the danger zone about 16 torpedo boats, destroyers met us & conveyed us to port, the biggest part of the convoy went to Plymouth while we and the "Suevic" with the two small steamers came on to Liverpool. We saw very little of Liverpool as we went straight on to the train off the boat but it is a
very large & fine city, Birmingham is also a very large city but one canít judge these places passing them in the train, but we could see the fields & hedges which enclose the fields & I dont think I have ever seen the likes before. On Monday morning we had fairly fine weather so I think the aeroplanes took advantage of it as there were numbers flying about all the while, at one time I counted no less than eight in the air at once, occasionally one would fly low down over us and they do go at a pace, they are mostly biplanes, also there was a large dirigible balloon up all day. I suppose it was for observation. From our hut looking out across green fields we can see the old Roman Stone Henge that you read about in history. It is about 2 miles away and looks very large even
at that distance, how ever those huge stones were stood on their end in those days no one knows. This afternoon the weather is a bit finer & the sun is out on a whole at the present time the climate is like what I struck at Crookwell last winter. All our N.C.Oís had to take there stripes down on Monday but were told to put them up again on Tuesday as an acting rank without pay while we are in contact, the corporals did not like it a bit and refused to take them back without pay, but were made do so of course it dident effect me as my stripe never did bring any pay. From what
I hear I donít think there will be much chance of us getting transferred & if Hosier and a few others remain in the company I donít think we will try. I believe they donít send any boys under 19 to the front but keep them here for guards and other such purposes. I expect it will be 6 months before we get to France unless they want the reinforcements very bad. I believe when we get out of the contact camp we have to put up our colors so when you get this we will be wearing purple/green so you can all put up our colors. I have written to Aunt Gretta so if she has any letters for me I ought to get them tomorrow. An Australian mail came in today but has not all been sorted yet. I am hoping to get a letter by it or else from Aunt Gretta in a few days. My ordinary address is still the same as when
I left. We sent a cable yesterday to Aunt Nancies Cremorne address, the next one I will send to you and you can always let each other know when you receive it immediately that is the individual cables. When things are fixed up with the man in Sydney we will be cabling to him about once a fortnight and he will let you know how I am & it wont apply to Ken. From what I hear it is very hard to buy a good feed anywhere in England, meat being scarcest of all food. On our voyage there was a great deal of sickness during the trip caused I think a great deal by there being such a great number of old
men & boys on board and others that should never have been passed in the Army of course the mumps caused a good deal which was only natural, 800 bed cases were recorded during the voyage which was good going with only 1700 men. The following is the time table of our parades here. Reveile 6 a.m., parade 6.45 till 7.15, Breakfast 8 till 9, parade 9 till 12.15, dinner 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., parade 2 p.m. to 5.15 p.m. Oh well I will have to close now & try to write to someone else. I hope everyone is well & you have settled down comfortably a Ingledene by now. This letter is to wish you a Happy birthday as my next letter may be too late. I wont be able to send you anything but when we get leave I will try & send some things from London.
Best love & kisses to everyone
From your loving son
15 Sept. 1917
I will try & write a few lines before this place closes tonight. An Australian mail arrived today & I got 3 letters, one nice big one from you, No. one from Aunt Cissie & one from Rene & Joan, but yours are always the best. I met Arthur this week & spent a couple of evenings with him and am going with him tomorrow Sunday afternoon for a walk over to Stone Henge. I posted you a booklet to day with views of Salisbury & neighbourhood with a good picture of Stonehenge in it. The town of Salisbury is about 10 miles from here & we have to get a special pass to go there but we will pay it a trip when we get out of isolation. Our latest stunt here is trench digging which is jolly hard work
shovelling & picking all day long, we will have about 4 days of it & I have got some good blisters already but it gives one muscles all over, itís wonderful what a lot of earth a number of men can shift all working together. I got payed yesterday 30/- the first for about a month so I can assure you we were glad of it. We are wearing our colors now, put them up today & they look alright. I donít know whether I have told you but I weigh 11 stone now & hope to put some more on before long. When we get leave & go to London we will be able to send you Christmas presents, nic-nacs, etc. but it does not pay to buy too much here as things are so expensive. Ken is still away quarantined but is having a good time of it with nothing to do all day long. I forget whether I told you last letter but he is a meningitis carrier, that is he has the germs in his throat & can give them to others but does not develop it himself, there were six of them in our Company so it is lucky nobody has caught it since we arrived here.
Mrs R.H. Caldwell
Y.M.C.A. with the Australian Imperial Force.
25 Sept. 1917
I will try & write a bit although there is not much to say. I am enclosing a photo of our N.C.O.s & officers, it is not too bad for a post card. I will send you another by next mail in case this one goes down. Ken is not in it as he was away in quarantine at the time. Today we have been at the range marking on the targets for another lot who were shooting. On Saturday we went for a route march of about 8 miles & in the afternoon
I had to get ready & take charge of the week end picquet so I did not get off
for at all last week end. We are expecting a mail in tomorrow & I am hoping to get some thing letters & a parcel too that Aunt Eva has sent me. We are still in the tents & have no idea when we will get out of them but as the weather is keeping pretty good we donít mind. In a few weeks we are expecting to move to a camp about 23 miles from here where it is not so cold for the winter as this spot. I see in tonightís paper where there has
been an air raid in London & about 50 killed & 70 wounded, there have been several raids lately & we are always hearing reports of Australian mail steamers being sunk which I think are more or less true. I will try & write you a more interesting letter next time. Give my love & kisses to every one & much to yourself.
I have just received a big mail from you all to day so will answer now while I have my mind on it. I have just read your letter 5 & 6 which I got today with one from Jean, Colin, Bruce & Aunt Eva, who writes to me regularly. I got your letter No. 8 the mail before this & 7 is not to hand at all yet, this shows how uncertain our mail is. Yesterday I got a nice parcel form Aunt Eva with a bonza rich cake, some good cigarettes & soap in it, she is very good to me. A few days ago I got your parcel for which I thank you very much & send a kiss for it. A few days before that I got a splendid parcel from St. James Red Cross which had silk underwear, socks, soap, toffee, cigarettes & several other things in it, so I have done very well so far. We are out of isolation now after doing 5 weeks of it & are in the huts at last & very comfortable off. The tucker is still very
good so that in all we are doing very well putting on condition & getting in good nick & would quite enjoy it if we were only near home. Our leave has not come off yet, I donít think it will for a couple of weeks as next week we are shifting to another camp about 20 miles away to a place called Ė where the winter is felt less severely. All the Australians are shifting & the Americans I believe are taking our places. The weather has been beautiful here lately plenty of warm sunny days but today we have had a change & it is cold & windy. I hope it does not last although I expect in another month the cold will begin to set in properly. On Sunday afternoon we went for a walk with Arthur over to the old villages where the village blacksmith under the chestnut tree & the old church where the "Village Blacksmith" went, all stands today as it stood then, the whole village is quaint & old
& was very interesting to see. It is the last walk we will have with Arthur for a good while as he was to leave for France the next day, so is over there by now I expect. The villages about here are all very quaint & old with their old church generally some hundreds of years old & the houses are thatched with a very steep slope on so that the snow will slide off I suppose. All about the country are mounds in the ground which are the burrial grounds of the old Briton chieftains which were made before the Romans came to this country, in those days when a chief died they used to bury his wives, dogs & personal belongings with him & the mounds are there old graves, it is wonderful the way age hardly effects things in this country. I had a short note from Aunt Gretta today asking us to come & stay with them when we get leave & also asking if we minded bunking in the same room in a double bed, if
she had seen us in the tents 10 all together or crowded on the old "Hororato" she would not need ask such questions would she? Ken & I with the rest of the chaps that went to Duntroon & all the returned soldiers in our company have been put in an advance squad that will jump from the 3rd week of training which the rest of the company is in to the 9th week, & we are getting special attention paid us so as to get us ready for tests in musketry, bombing, bayonet fighting, Lewis machine gun & gas all of which men have to know before going to France, this work is very interesting. In a day or two we will be throwing out live bombs two of which every man throws while here for the gas test we have to go into a chamber of real gas with our helmets on. One good thing gas is in no way to be feared at the front now as they have such splendid helmets which men always have to carry in a helmet
B. Caldwell, Esq.
at their side in France with these helmets on one could stay in gas for hours & it would have no effect on him. Donít go worrying about me going over too soon as nothing is certain here & anyway a month or so wonít make any difference. I am very glad to hear that Ingledene is looking so well & that you are so comfortable in it & only hope that you will get strong & well. I am sorry to hear Bruce is so unwell. I think he should knock off office work altogether as it is the worst thing out to pull a chap to pieces who is not too strong. A couple of years in the country is what he wants. It is just on time, this Y.M.C.A. closes so I will have to finish now. This letter will have to do for all at home in case I canít get time to write to them individually.
Love & kisses to all
Your loving son
Mrs. R.H. Caldwell
I have got a little heavier since I left home & hope soon to go 11 stone. I sent you a booklet of cards. I hope you get them alright. Best love to all & very much to yourself.
We are on the water once again & seem to be going straight into bad weather. I am keeping very well on it. I think we are going to make a pretty quick voyage to England. We expect to reach another port in about four days. I cannot write more than a card to you this time as we are restricted to 50 words. This is my third letter home & I hope you get them all. I hope you are all keeping well. We passed several vessels this morning which is more than we saw on the whole of the first trip.
11 Oct. 1917
I received a nice large mail today amongst which I got a nice long letter from you, also one from Father, up to date I have received nearly all your letters up to No. 10. I think there are two I did not get. You must have been wondering what happened to us not hearing for so long after we left but we tried to cable on reaching Durban but were not allowed & the Durban letters have evidently taken a long
while to reach you, as up to your last letter you had not heard from us. As you see by the above address we have changed our camp. This place is about 18 miles from the other place & we had to march it fully equipped with very heavy packs & rifle, it was as stiffer I can tell you especially as up to that time we had had no route marching or drill with the packs on. We left the other camp at 8.30 a.m. & arrived here about 4 p.m., it was a splendid march as nobody dropped out till the last mile but they came up a few
minutes after we arrived here, two of our company collapsed on arriving here & everybodieís feet were sore & lined so that after we cooled down, men were limping about all over the place. The country we passed through was most interesting & very pretty, there were several quaint old villages with their old church & thatched cottages, it is prettier than one can describe. This place is only 2 miles from Westminster so that will give you
an idea where we are. Ken & Corp. Hosier have gone into Westminster temple & I would have been with them only I have just had 24 hours in charge of a stable picquet & did not get off till they were going. We three are in a hut together with a lot of strangers but they seem a descent lot on a whole so we are satisfied. Tucker in this camp is very scarce, we donít get as much as we used to in the other place but there are a couple of canteens close handy where we can get a cheap feed when we feel inclined.
Last Sunday we were on a special guard of honor for the unveiling of a memorial for Australians of the first Tng. Batt. who died last year, you will get the information of it from the programme that I will enclose. The day was very uncertain but kept fine till in the most important part of the service when it came down to rain hard & there we were standing at the present Arms while Last Post was being played with
the rain pouring down on us when we got dismissed in a hurry & got our capes on the rain stopped so we spent the rest of the afternoon while about Durrington village. There was a little old church we visited that was very interesting, it had massive old oak doors that must have been hundreds of years old, every different part of it denoted different ages, the vicar came along so we asked him how old it was, he did not know exactly but said he had records of the vicars for 700 years back
so it was at least that age. After having some tea in the village we went to the Durrington Church which was not so old, only about 100 years old. You canít imagine what an old place England is untill you see it. We expect to go on leave next week, our long looked for leave & then what a time we will have for 6 whole days. The weather is beginning to get cold now although not uncomfortable so we miss the winds
here that we used to get in the other place & I am not sorry either. I am sending you another photo of the officers & N.C.O. of reinfor. in case the other does not reach you. I expect it wonít be long before Bob has his 3 stars, there are officers here, with three that arnít as smart as he is. Ken fears getting into the Juveniles here & if he does he will not get to France for a good while yet. I believe reinforcements are wanted pretty badly from this Batt. Give my love & kisses to all & much to yourself.
Your loving son
Australian Commonwealth Military Forces
Unveiling of Memorial
NonóCommissioned Officers & Men
First Training Battalion, A.I.F.,
who died on active service
Sunday, October 7th, 1917
For ever with the Lord
"For ever with the Lord!"
Amen; so let it be;
Life from the dead is in that word,
Here in the body pent,
Absent from Him I roam,
Yet nightly pitch my moving tent
A dayís march nearer home.
"For ever with the Lord!"
Father, if Ďtis Thy Will,
The promise of that faithful word
Even here to me fulfil.
Be thou at my right hand,
Then can I never fail;
Uphold Thou me, and I shall stand,
Fight, and I must prevail.
So when my latest breath
Shall rend the veil in twain,
By death I shall escape from death
And life eternal gain.
Knowing as I am known,
How shall I love that word
And oft repeat before the throne,
"For ever with the Lordo"
Abide with Me.
Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide;
When other helpers fail, and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.
Swift to its close ebbs out lifeís little day;
Earthís joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see:
O Thou, Who changest not, abide with me.
I fear no foe with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness;
Where is deathís sting? Where, Grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.
Hold Thou Thy Cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom, and point me to the skies;
Heavenís morning breaks, and earthís vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.
Hymn Ė "For ever with the Lord."
Address by the Right Rev. The Lord Bishop of Salisbury.
Hymn Ė "Abide with Me."
Unveiling of Memorial by Brigadier-General Gellibrand, C.B., D.S.O.
General Salute by Troops
"God Save the King"
17 Oct. 1917
We are still jigging along here alright but have not had our leave yet, the company go tomorrow morning but Ken, Corp. Hosier & myself are in this advanced squad & are on the range this week doing our musketry course but with a bit of luck we ought to get on leave next week. Yesterday we started at the range & it was a rotten day, wet & windy, today was not much better but less windy. I have been scoring pretty fair but the rifle I have is not too good which is a drawback but with a bit of luck I might score something like a marksman although I donít expect any such luck. The range is about Ĺ mile away & we have to come back for dinner so it amounts to a bit of a route march we do every day going & coming. We had a change in our daily routine today & a very acceptable one too, reveille does not go till 7 a.m. now so we have an extra hour in bed of a morning.
Last Saturday afternoon we got leave to go to Bath but when we got up to Warminster we found that they would not let us proceed by train & as car was too expensive we had to spend the afternoon there but had a good time of it, went in to a side show place & had some shooting & other sport, after tea we went to a play, had supper, came back, had another supper & went to bed well satisfied. A couple of days ago we had a bosca white frost here so it shows you it is beginning to get a bit cold. The tucker here is being cut pretty fine so that although we get enough to keep us going we generally have to have a fill at the canteen every evening. When you send a parcel next time a little sugar would be very acceptable as sugar is pretty well a minus quantity here. We have decided to go to Scotland for a day or two during our leave so as to see as much as we can but I expect we will spend most of our time in London. I am going to get a few
little presents when we go on leave so when you get them after Christmas you will understand why they were late getting there. We had a photo taken on Sunday evening in front of our hut but have not seen the results yet, will let you have a couple as soon as we do. Since we have come to this camp we have had a pretty easy time of it, no strenuous work & very little other so we have been enjoying ourselves. On Monday we had some practice at Platoon in attack, did some charging at trenches just as it is supposed to be done at the active thing. I believe the 1st, 2nd, 3rd & 4th Battalions have been getting hit pretty hard in France lately but we hear nothing certain. I have just had a good soup supper which is served out at 8 p.m. every night & I can assure you we enjoy it, it makes one sleep well. I wonder what you will be doing this Christmas at any rate I hope you have as good a one as usual, the chances are we will get a few days leave if we are still in England
but I am afraid we will be in France by then. N.C.Oís schools seem to be off for anyone that hasent already been to France. I have just sent away a whole heap of Christmas cards to all our friends & relations which will do instead of letters which would take such a long time to write & we find it hard to write regularly to everyone. The strikes seems to be a pretty rotten affair the way they are going in Australia. I would not be surprised to get back from this war in time to see civil war and I would just like to see half those striking laborites shot down. It is getting on to bed time now so will close this letter, best love & kisses to all, hoping you all have a Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year. I remain,
Your loving son
[List of names, some crossed through, not transcribed.
13 Nov. 1917
I have just received a large & interesting mail from Australia, seven altogether & a bosca big parcel from Mrs West or St. James Red Cross. The letters were No. 15 & two (No. 16) sixteens from you, a very nice one from Dora and from Bob Ingram, Aunt Jean & Jean. We may get some more yet. Last week I got one from Woody which came through Aunt Greta & therefore got here a few days earlier. With it came a parcel of a muffler, pair of socks & mittens from Rene. This is the biggest wait for mail we have had yet, three weeks since the last & only a couple came then so there it is quite 6 weeks since the last good mail. I suppose the delay was caused by the strike but one does not mind waiting so long as they turn up in the end.
I have been lucky so far with parcels, have received 5 all told since arriving in England. St. James, Burwood is very good in sending them & such good ones too. I do hope you received my last letter as it was such a big one, all about my leave in London, we are hoping to get another leave before we go to France but are not sure of it yet. We are not trying to get into a school here as it is impossible to get stripes until we have been to the front & schools wonít make much difference to one there. I expect by Christmas we will be there but donít worry about us because if others have stood it we can do the same. You were asking what were the best things to send us. Well at present we have plenty but as soon as we move to France we will leave our kit behind & only take what we wear & carry our packs so you wonít be able to send too many socks, mittens
& shirts, although I think the latter is pretty well supplied to us. I think this will be the last winter of the war as Germany canít last for ever & by next year America will be very strong in the field.
I have received five more letters so you see I will have a lot of writing to do to answer them all. My word you seem to have been having gay times at Ingledene lately with all the relations visiting you. I was sorry to hear fatherís leg had not got on as well as it might have. I hope it is quite alright by now. We have been thinking of trying to get into a school & will most likely make application tomorrow, at first we had decided not to but as all our mates have done so we will follow suit of course it is hard to say whether we will get in or not. We have been doing some very interesting work this week, bayonet fighting in the morning & Lewis Gun in the afternoon.
There has been a bit of excitement about here lately at night time, there are a gang of (robbers), we call them sandbagers at work by get men in lonely lanes & parts of roads where it is pretty dark & give them a tap on the head & take their money, every day we here of someone being nocked the previous night & they are not at all particular who they get. One night they got a paper boy, the next night they got a Colonel & they have got plenty of Officers, N.C.Oís & privates so you see one has to keep his eyes skinned when out at night.
I will try & finish this tonight before I go out to see Bob who is in camp about 15 minutes from here. We have had a pretty easy time of it today, this morning we went through gas, the same gas as they use at the front only as good and stronger than they ever get it there but the box respirators that we use & which is universally used by the British is absolute protection against any gas known.
There are a number of us going in for a bayonet fighting competition next week & if we have the necessary practice every day we have a chance of pulling it off. Bayonet fighting is very interesting & exciting especially in the advanced stages where we go over the bayonet course in a charge imagining every bag we stick is a real German. I can quite understand men loosing their head in a real charge, as when we go over the course we go so hard & with such force a grunt or a hiss everytime we bury the bayonet in a bag that our hands are always covered in blood from the skin we nock off with using the rifle so we never notice any hurt until we finish & see the blood. The Lewis gun is the chief machine gun used at the front now & every infantry man is taught to use it as there is one of these to every platoon at the front & anyone may be put on to it.
The respirator is carried in a haversack at the side & troops at the front are never without it. When in use it is slung round the neck in front of the body, it consists of a mask that fits over the face in an airtight manner with a mouth piece & nose clip inside; we breathe in & out through the mouth piece & the air coming in has to come through a tin of different chemicals which purifies it. The air that is breathed out gets away through another channel by way of a rubber safety valve which will not let any air come in. One other thing used for gas is what is known as the P.H. helmet which is rearly only a flannel bag with eye pieces in & a mouth piece through which you breathe out & the air that is breathed in has to come through the flannel which is chemicalised, this helmet is also absolute proof against all gases
except tear gas which only effects the eyes & makes them water so much that it blinds you for the time but does no real damage. Our tucker has not been too good lately, not enough of it & what there is is not too well cooked. Did I tell you I got 12 letters altogether this mail & two parcels, one from St. James, Burwood, the other from Irene. Bob has to go & see the King sometime soon to get his M.C. presented to him. I donít think he will be going back to the front again until after the winter is over, very sensible of him to keep out of it too. I am enclosing in this another photo of ourselves in case the first one I sent goes astry, also a photo of the monument errected in remembrance of the Australians that died at Lark Hill last year. I think I mentioned my being on a guard of honor for the unveiling of the same in some previous letter. As I must go over & see Bob tonight I will have
close now. Give everyone my best love & kisses to all with much to yourself & father.
Your loving son
Mrs R.H. Caldwell
22 Nov. 1917
Thanks very much for the tin with a cake & some sweets in, I received it today & found it in excellent order, this is the seventh parcel I have received altogether, not too bad is it. You just should have seen us opening it, there was Ken & a couple of others round me at the time all waiting expectantly to see what was inside & I can assure you we enjoyed it properly. Our tucker the last few weeks has not been too good at all, we have had very little meat & two days this week we only had fish & pretty rotten sort too & very badly cooked, bread also seems very short as for a good many meals lately we
have had biscuits which are a good deal harder than dry biscuits. Ken has been dining in the Corporals mess so has had pretty good grub lately, he still has his stripes but I pulled mine down a couple of weeks ago as it was not benefiting me much at the time & I was getting tired of carring [carrying ?] one & drilling & training as a private, the next I get will be dinkum ones which you get at the front. No pay is given at all for stripes here unless they get the permenant rank at the front & if we succeed in getting into the 17th Batt. which we are trying hard to do we aught to soon get some. Bob who has been stationed here for a while has been moved again to another place about 20 miles away. We had a bit of hard luck as we only saw him once for a
short time, although we went to see him
twice three times. We are have still been having some warm weather here but I donít suppose it will be long before we get it properly cold. For the last couple of weeks we have been learning the Lewis machine gun & I think we will go on the range with it tomorrow, it is a great little gun & fires 15 shorts per second, it is the chief machine gun used & is worked by the ordinary infantry, there being 4 to every company, the best of them is they are so simple. Have you decided yet as too buying Ingledene as you all seem so pleased with it, I suppose you have. It must have been a great gale you had to blow down the wattle trees just as well it did nothing worse. I hope you have good luck with the fowls, tell Colin
to give them plenty of shell grit & green stuff as both are very important for their health & to make them lay. I suppose by the time we get back it will be a great home. I do hope they all get strong & big & donít let them eat too much as I am sure by so doing is the route of a lot of unhealthiness, with myself anyway. I have never felt better in my life than I am now & I donít think I have ever eaten less than what we get or any so plain, in fact I often think we donít get enough nourishment but I does not seem to do us any harm. On Saturday morning we often feel the pinch, having too little breakfast that is because we always have such a strenous march. I can tell you a little bit of porridge & a tiny bit of meat & 1 slice of bread is not a great
deal to do 12 miles with full pack & rifle on but it is easy enough to do when one gets a bit fit. When doing a big march the chief strain comes on the feet & sometimes on the muscles of the legs, one good thing the roads are all very good about here. I have just nocks off this letter to have a feed of steak & onions which we get at the canteen & we enjoy it properly too as we get so little meat during the day. I have been stony broke this week on account of having to send some money away for photos but as Ken has a few bob I have been able to get my nightly supper. I have about £8 due to me in my pay book but canít get it as they wont pay us more than 30/- per fortnight but if we get any more leave we will have something to fall back on. You had better
not cable any money to us unless we ask for it as we really have enough to carry on with & can always draw more from our pay books in London, if we get any extra leave. There are a number of us going in for a bayonet fighting competition next week & if we win it means 4 days leave for us & I think we have a good chance of winning if I can get all our good men in it & have the necessary practice. Do you remember Les Read whom I knew at Duntroon, well he is in this training Batt. now & I often see him, he passed for an officer at Duntroon but was too eager to get away so would not wait for his star & came away as a Sergeant. Oh well I will have to end now as my news has run dry. Best love & kisses to all from your loving son,
28 Nov. 1917
We received a mail from Australia today & I got 4 letters & a Christmas card out of it, one letter from you dated about 8th Oct., two from Mother, one dated about the same as yours & one a week previous, the fourth was from Aunt Eva, the card from Auntie Bee. I am still hoping to get some more out of it as Ken got 12 & I generally beat him in mail. I hear a lot of mail has gone down lately so I wouldent be a bit surprised if I do get a short mail as I well know the rest have met their fate. We are still stuck here but are waiting anxiously for an answer to an application we put in for a transfer to the 17 Batt.,
it will be a bit of hard luck if we donít get it as we have had a good chance of getting to a school but had to let it drop on that account, if we do get into the 17 Batt. with Bob we will have a good chance of getting on whereas if we stayed in this Batt. & went to a school we would be here for a good six months as acting corporals without extra pay for it & then go over the other side as privates, now we are so near we are eager to get over & at it properly, the sooner the better as we will have to go some time or other. Our work here lately has been pretty easy for the last fortnight we have been having Lewis gun work every afternoon & on Saturday & Monday we did some shooting out of it, this is a
very interesting little machine gun, it fires at the rate of about 15 shots per second & is very simple to operate. The gas from the explosion of each bullet operates it so that she fires as fast as she can through the empty shell out and another into the break & this is done quicker than the eye can see. The magazines hold 45 but it only takes a quick man a couple of seconds to change a magazine & they have about 10 of these to each gun, one man generally aims & presses the trigger while the second changes the magazine, to stop the gun firing we only have to release the trigger so you can see any number of shots can be fired from 3 or 4 upward to 45 without a break, it takes a good man
to fire one shot as any ordinary quick pull will fire at least 2 shots, every company at the front has four of these guns, one to every platoon. A platoon now a days is a complete fighting unit by itself, it consists of 4 sections, No. 1 section consist of riflemen, No. 2 section bombers, No. 3 section rifle grenadiers, No. 4 section Lewis gunners. Although these men belong to these sections & have the special equipment & amunition for such they all carry their rifle as well but the riflemen do the chief part of charging bayonet work, etc. & striking. We are going to get into this section if we can but every infantry man is trained here to take his place in what ever section required.
So far the weather we have had has has been fairly good, no real cold weather at all to speak of although we had a couple of days pretty chilly last week end but it has got warm again & the longer it keeps like this the better as the winter will be quite long enough for us even if it does not start till late. According to your last letter & motherís Ingledene seems to be looking very fresh & pretty with all the spring flowers coming out. I can just about imagine what it would be like everything green & flowers all in bloom. Ken is still an Act/Corp. here but I took mine down the other day as it was of no use to me at all at the time as we had to carry on our training the same with or without it & we were treated pretty well as privates & in any case all acting rank comes down
when leaving for France. I believe Bob Clifton is stationed about 12 miles from here so we are going to hire bikes on Saturday & look him up. You had real hard luck being laid up so long with your leg but I suppose you are getting round on it properly again by now. My word the firm seems to have been doing well lately according to Uncle Frankís letters to Ken. I forget whether I mentioned in my last letter about receiving a cake & a few chocolates & toffee in a round tin from Mother last mail & we are looking forward to getting more parcels this mail as Mother mentions having sent more. Give everyone my love & much for Mother & yourself from
Your loving son
Mrs. R.H. Caldwell
Nov. Dec. 1917
Just a short letter to you on the eve of our departure for France although before you get this letter you will know we are there as we will cable to you in the meantime. I told you in some previous letter of our putting in for a transfer to the 17 Batt. well the transfer has gone through & we are going to form the seventeenth in France. We were hoping to get sent to the 17 Batt. training depot in England if our transfer had come through in time then we would most likely have spent Christmas in England, but such was not our luck as we were on draft to join the 2nd when it came through so we have been left on draft but will form up the 17th instead of the 2nd. Yesterday afternoon
Four letters, 22, 28 Nov., 2, 6th Dec.
Please read quickly & return as I want to send to my side of the family.
we rode over to Herdcote [Hurdcott] 20 miles from here where Bob is at present stationed & saw him for a while but could not stay long as we had a 20 miles ride home. He expects to join up with his Batt. again in a couple of months or so then it will be A1 being with him in his own platoon & everything. We may not move off tomorrow but will be sure to a day or two after. You can send plenty of socks & mittens but wait till you get our correct address which I will let you have directly we form up. Last mail I got two letters from you, one from father & one from Aunt Eva & no parcels at all but there must be a lot on the way. At present I have as many warm clothes as I can carry, you should just see me with my pack on, it makes one a regular camel the articles I have packed in mine are a great coat, shirt, underpants,
muffler, balaclava, cap, 2 abdominal belts & about 8 pairs socks, towele & toilet gear & sheep skin vest & a rolled blanket straped round the outside as well as a mess tin which is also attached to the outside, so you can quite understand we have a fair weight to carry but one does not feel it if it is properly put on. Of course it wonít be any fun doing a big route march with it on but I donít expect we will have any long ones. I am getting the photos we had taken sent to Aunt Gretaís, she will send them on to you so I hope they arrive safely. Excuse this short note but I have a lot to do tonight & not a great deal of time. Give my best love & kisses to all.
Your loving son
Trip to France. 6.12.17
Mrs R.H. Caldwell
The Salvation Army
6 Dec. 1917
We are in France at last, left England about two days ago & will most likely be going to the 2 Batt. in a day or two, they are not in the line at present. I am afraid our going to the 17 Batt. has fallen through as by some carelessness or other our transfer papers which came through a day or two before we left, we left behind, there is still a chance they may send them on but we canít lay much hope on it. Our trip across from England was a very rough sort of affair as far as the accomodation went. Although the sea was quite calm the boat was a dirty smelly
old horse ship & there was such a crowd on her that we couldnít find room to lay down. Of course we came over during the night. I had to sleep on a form about 8 inches wide. We were on her about 20 hours altogether. One funny thing about the new country is the new sort of money we have to deal in, Francs, Centimes, etc. but one soon gets used to them. Today we have spent going through several gas chambers & testing our P.H. helmets & Box resperators. We also got issued with our rifle, tin hat & waterproof which is a sheet & cape combined. My word when we march away
from here we will be fully equipped & have a Hóof a load to carry. The weather is pretty cold here now the ground was frozen all day, the ice on the water this morning was that thick that we could not break it, but the air has been very clear & no wind so that as long as we kept on the move we kept quite warm, tonight has turned out much warmer. One good thing we have plenty of warm clothes. In future you will have to be satisfied with small letters, you know the reason why also for the absence of names. Donít worry about us spending the winter here we can do for ourselves as good as anyone. Give my best love & kisses to all & whips for yourself.
Your loving son
On Active Service
Mrs R.H. Caldwell
"Ingledene" York St. Epping
Billets in France
10 Dec. 1917
Just a line to let you know we have joined the 2nd Batt. Except for bits of colds we are both very well & not feeling the effects of the winter at all yet. In a few days we will be on the move so will be having a pretty rough time from then onwards. So far the ground has not frozen about here but we may expect it to do so any time now. By Christmas
we will be up about the front line somewhere. I believe we are going to a quiet part. We have been allotted to "C" Coy which at present is very much under strength as it got cut up a good deal last time they were in. I am going to write to Aunt Greta & get her to cable to let you know we are over here so you will hear long before you get this letter. We missed getting into the 17th which we were trying to do & which we should have been in
only for some carelessness or other with our transfer papers. I suppose long before this reaches you you will have had a Happy Christmas. I hope you get the present I sent & Father also. In a couple of weeks we ought to be getting a big Christmas mail & parcels, it will be great when we do as we havenít had any for a good time & coming over generaly causes a bit of a delay.
We are billetted in a French village at present in fairly good quarters, good for billets anyway. This country is something like England only that it is very much more delapidated in fact all the villages seem to be more or less falling to pieces for want of repair & the only industry is a bit of farming done by woman, old men & men unfit for war. From the time we left the T.B. [Training Battalion] in England it took us 6 days to reach the Batt., we spent two
days at the base the rest of the time we spent travelling in in the old horse boat first of all across the channel which took a day & a night. Two nights we spent on the train in dirty of cattle truck packed two tight to get anything like a lay down we had 26 in the first night & not many less the second. One day we spent at a rest camp at -- &
spent several hours looking over the
town city the the chief feature of this place was its cathedrals of which there were about 4 beauties, the river running through the place was great too. I think it was the Seine. All the time we were travelling we were living on the good old bully beef & biscuits which we got pretty tired of. The tucker with the Batt. is not too bad at all except that it is a bit light. So far I have felt no effects from the chats
or lice which are supposed to be so plentiful about here but I suppose I will get them soon enough. This afternoon I have got off parade to get my hair cut & am writing this waiting for my turn to come in the chair. You will have to tell the relations if they donít get too many letters from me now that it is not because I have forgotten but it is not too easy to get a lot of writing done now & it will be less easy in future so that
it may take me all my time to keep you posted up in news. I hope Fatherís leg is better by now & does not give him any more trouble also hope you are keeping well and not worrying over me too much as I am quite alright & will take every care of my skin. Give all my best love & kisses with whips to yourself.
Your loving son
Mrs R. Caldwell
Franked by R.D. Horsley
19 Dec. 1917
We are at last soldiering properly & have had some very strenous marching lately. While I am writing this I can here the constant banging & thundering of the guns, it goes on day & night but none have lobbed about this district. To get here from the billets well back where we joined the Batt. we had four days marching
with a short train trip at the end, the first two days we only marched in the morning doing about 13 miles, the third day we marched all day, i.e., from 9 a.m. till about 3 p.m. & did 13 miles which was a bit of a strain & can assure you as there were some good hills & our harness
packs only weighs from 90 lbs to 100 lbs my goes a good 100 I am sure, the fourth day we had to get
up at 3 a.m., left at 4 & marched 7Ĺ miles with snow beating into our faces the whole way then we came on by train & reached these billets in the afternoon. These billets are very poor, consist of a big shell battered building which lets the wind in all round but still we generally manage to sleep warmly at night which is a great thing. So far
we have we have had very good weather of course it is very cold but it is dry as everything is frozen & the frost seems to be intensifying but this makes it good as there
as the is no mud while the frost is on. Last night I was on guard but wore that balaclava cap you gave me so did not feel the cold at all.
One thing we miss here is not having
not good good vacilities for washing, there is no chance of having a bath at all so you can understand we get pretty dirty. Our tucker has been very short lately but to-day it seems to be improving so we may expect it good in future. All over the place here one sees the devastations of war, shell holes, old dug-outs & smashed up villages
everywhere. We joined the Batt. on the 10th Dec. so are not quite old soldiers yet. It is now sometime since we had our last mail so we are waiting expectantly for news & parcels which seem to be
forwarded reach the boys here pretty frequently. I am writing this in a Y.M.C.A., these are a great stand by to the troops over here & follow them right
up to the front line almost. Ken has written to Aunt Greta to get her to cable to you & Uncle Frank to let you both know we are here. I hope you donít receive it before Christmas as it may spoil Christmas day for you & I hope you have as merry a one as usual. Give my best love & kisses to all with whips to yourself.
Your loving son
C Coy, 2 Batt.
10 Jan. 1918
Just a few lines while I am lying in my bunk in a pilbox. We have a great deal of night work so that we sleep all day. I am afraid I have not written to you lately but I have rearly not had the chance. You will understand why but I canít
say too much except that we are seeing the real thing, trenches in middle of winter but we are both doing well. So far we have not been worried with mud as the snow has been pretty constantly on the ground & frozen so that it is like walking on ice & it is very funny walking
along through the snow, someone is constantly falling down with a curse, it is very easy to do one only has to step on to a hidden shell hole which which are all covered with ice & away go the feet & one lobs on his back. I have just had my rum issue, my word it warms
one up, you neednít be frightened of us becoming drunkards as we donít drink it because it is nice but as a medicine. In future when you get a number of Whiz Bangs!, otherwise field cards from me, you will know I am in the line or there abouts. I have received a number of letters
lately two from you dated about the middle of October, one from Bruce & one from Jean & quite a number of friends & relations which I wont be able to answer for a couple of weeks yet. My word! hastent this Christmas time been different too last, this amongst snow
& ice last amongst warm sun, sand & water by the sea-side. I hope by this time next year we will be well out of it. In a way I am rather glad conscription did not pass in Australia as if constant reinforcements would mean us being constantly in the line which does not give
the lads a chance to pull through. My word the second
parade Batt. have a great record in the field. I really believe it has the best record of all Australian Battalions. My word France is a terrible reck anywhere within miles of the front, one canít describe it nothing but one
mass of broken trees & the ground nothing but one mass of huge holes everything is ruin! One thing I think the Americans coming in will hasten the end of the war, a few million men must make a big difference with the money the back them up, they only have to brave themselves as
good fighters & things will be set. I have not received any parcels for quite a long time. I suppose coming over here has delayed them a bit but so long as they ultimately get here I will be satisfied. It is a month today since we found the Batt. but it seems ages. You mentioned
in a letter some time ago of having met a lady at Epping who has a son in this Batt. but I have forgotten the name you gave, let me know it in the next letter you write & I will look him up. When sending parcels do not put cigarettes in as we get whips issued
to us. I am attached to the Lewis gunners in this company & it is not altogether the best job as we have a lot of extra stuff to carry when we go in but one cant pick & choose, if I could I would get into the riflemens section. Ken is in a bombers section in No. 9 platoon, I am
in No. 10. I think it is best that we arenít too close together.
so we got in As we were put in different platoons we let it stay so. Whenever you send me a parcel always put a handkerchief or two in it. They are waiting for this so good bye, love to all from loving son, Douglas.
Mrs R.H. Caldwell
"Ingledene" York St. Epping
C/- Mrs Davidson
Somewhere in Belgium
I will start your weekly letters & will try & write a little more frequently than I have been the last month or so but you will understand that it is very hard to keep up correspondence when the Battalion is in the line & we have just done 24 days out of which I did 8 days in the front outposts the
rest of the time in supports & reserves but the whole time we are going very strenously with very little night sleep so that have to get what we can during the day. We have had our taste of the trenches & stood it very well, the first time we were in for 3 days then twice we were in for 2 days & last for 1 day making the 8 days.
The first time in the ground was frozen so that although it was very cold we we [were] dry, the 2nd go in the weather was good eccept for the mud which is alwas [always] the same eccept when frozen up, the 3rd time in it rained all the time & our trench had a foot of water in it so you can imagine things werenít too pleasant.
We came out covered in mud & wet up to the knees, our blanket and all our gear sopping wet, the last time in it rained a bit but as we were only in for a 24 hours we dident mind. In supports is nearly as bad as the line as we have to take rations up to the line twice every night which takes
up best part of the night, the only good thing is we have a good dry dug-out to sleep in during the day. In reserve we had what you might call a rest, we would have a heavy fatigue up in the line from 5 p.m. till 8 or 9 p.m. then we would come back to our pill boxes which we
were in & sleep the rest of the night & all the next day or as much as different duties that are always cropping up would let us. One good thing we have had our first time in on a very quite front, the company only had about two or three casualties the whole time we were in. You will wonder at this writing being
so rotten but I am writing lay on my stomach in my bunk which is very narrow & very low. We are living in one of Fritzs huge underground houses a place large enough to hold hundreds of men & it is deep down under the ground, the dugouts & pill boxes he makes are wonderful, no end of work & trouble
must have been put into the making of them & some of the large pill boxes are like palaces almost all lined & papered inside & made of the strongest concrete reinforced with iron all thought & there are hundreds of them, of course they are not all done up inside like palaces but every here & there they are like that.
I have received several letters from you lately & a good many from other people, your 18, 19, 20 & 21 are to hand but have received no parcels since we came over here eccepting a couple of parcels of socks, one with two pair in from Aunt Cissie. I have also had word of £10 being cabled to me, I suppose it is from you, £5 for me & £5 for Ken, the
Commonwealth Bank have written to me about it & are sending it to me through our pay master. I have not heard about it from you but soon will. I believe it is pretty easy to get Paris leave from here so will try for it soon, if we get it this money will come in very handy. There is romour going round
here now the the Australians are going back to Egypt or Palestine. I wish it would come true, we would see a bit more of the world then & the war is much quieter over in that part. When you send me parcels & want to know what to put in, a little pepper, sugar & small tin of cocoa would always come in handy.
My word soldiering in France is a very rough life for heavens sake, dont let Bruce get running away to it or any other young chaps you know for it is no picnic, even what I have had & which has been as light as they ever get it as far as fighting goes, all we have had to do is dodge a few stray shells, get down pretty quick when the machine guns start playing about & keep
low when Fritz sends his pineapple bombs over, all these things we have got quite use of & donít mind at all but by jove I am not looking forward to getting under an artillary barage. I donít think the war will last much longer as I really believe both England & Germany are running to the end of their tether but America coming in on our side will turn the tables so with a bit of luck
you can expect us home by next Christmas & what a time we will have, say at Shellharbour again. I donít know whether I have told you how much pay we draw over here, it is 40 Francs a pay which
has is supposed to be once a fortnight but of course we donít always get it regularly to the day. 1 Franc equals 100 centimes, 10 centimes equals 1 penny.
We spend all our money on tucker tinned fruit, fish, biscuits & all sorts of other stuff all of which is pretty expensive so we have to go steady to make it pan out. You have no doubt heard a bit about the animals the soldiers get on them so plentifully at times, well we have had our wack of them lately but am pretty free now
as we had a bath & complete change of under clothing a few days ago. I think I have run myself dry for news now so will have to close, give my best love & kisses to all with whips to yourself.
Your loving son
On Active Service
Mrs R.H. Caldwell
3 Mch. 18
I am writing this in a large underground tunnel where I cant say. We have left our comfortable billets where we have just had a good months spell, if we get another spell like it again soon it will do us. We are both keeping well & feeling none the worse for the winter although it has been pretty cold, the last couple of days a cold
wind blowing over the snow covered ground but I donít think it will be long before the warm weather sets in. Thanks for the tin of biscuits you sent me. I received them in good order yesterday & there arnt many left today. I have received all your letters pretty well up to about 10 Dec. & are expecting another large Australian mail any day. I am afraid I am falling back a
bit in my correspondence but I canít find time to answer all the letters I get so you can tell any of the Aunts or friends that may wonder at my slackness in writing that I just have to answer them now & again as it is impossible to regularly although we would like too, as we so like getting from them. I had a letter from Bertie a few days ago asking why we hadent looked
him up in Blighty & asking us if wanted anything any time from there that he or his wife to be would be only too glad to do anything for us, he also promised to take us up if ever we get the chance to go along to his school while we are in Blighty. Aunt Greta sent us 10/- each from Aunt Connie & Aunt Jean & it has come along at a handy time.
At present we are doing a lot of night work so that we sleep nearly all day, day & nigh, [night] week days & Sundays all are the same to us & we rarely know the day. I am writing this under difficulties, a mob of men shaving & writing, yapping all round me. I think I have just about run myself dry as we are not allowed to say too much
from here. I suppose you are having fine weather out there now. How is Bruce getting on at Woodville. I wish I was in his place but I am jolly glad to hear he has go out of the City, it will do him the world of good. It is foolish of him wanting to go to the war at 18 when one gets over here & sees the thing properly it is easy to see 20 is quite young
enough to enlist. Give my love & kisses to all & whips to yourself.
Your loving son
Mrs R.H. Caldwell
You will wonder what is coming over me lately doing so little writing but I expect you will understand what we are doing when we cant write regularly. We are both keeping pretty well on it except for me having a bit of a cold & hardly any voice caused through a slight touch of gas which we got the other day. Things have been a bit lively
for us lately but so far on a whole our company has been very fortunate. I had the bad luck to loose my mate the other day, he got a nice Blighty right on the knee but he is better off than us & is sure to get to England with it. I wouldent mind being in his place anyway his name is Frank Bailey, comes from Armidale & was one of our Corporals coming over on board
the old Hororata, my word we thought the trip over on the old boat pretty rough & said we we never travel on her again if we could help it but by jove she would do me to be going back on. All the the 25th rein. are over here now & quite a few, about 5 or 6, have been wounded. Mr. Binns the officer we came over with is proving himself a good man & as game as any.
I believe the Germans have been doing some pushing on the Somme & have taken some ground but I believe our side has got the best end of the stick having cut him up terribly but the news we get is very vague. I have been getting plenty of letters from you the last two were written, one a Austinmere & the other just after you had got back. About that money
for Bathers watch, take it by all means. I dont think I will be likely too need you to send me any more money as I have a credit of over £20 in my book. We have been having beautiful weather here lately, warm sunny days. I think the the winter is quite over now, I hope it is anyway as the cold is no bon. I am glad you had a good time at Austinmere. We hope by next Christmas you
can get back to Shellharbour & the war over or the end in view any rate I think this spring will bring things to a close. England & Germany cant last for ever. I am writing this sitting on my bunk in a large tunnel, we are always living in tunnels lately just like rabbits, they make good billets as we can sleep without fear of a blooming shell coming through on us.
Our tucker has not been too good lately, the infantry seems to get the worst tucker of any part of the Army, but we will be able to buy good feeds again soon & get in good form again. I have seen John Hosier frequently of late, he is in B Coy & seems pretty fed up of the game but he is a good soldier. It is just about time for me to nock off & turn in & make the most of a nightís rest as I may not get
another for some time. We got our 40 frcs pay today so have been able to indulge in some tin fruit etc. Dont let Bruce come to the war in too much of a hurry, its all right soldiering from Sydney and England but things change over here. Excuse me to any relations that havenetreceived expected letters from me as writing is difficult. Give my love & kisses to all & whips to yourself.
P.S. Remember me to old Tom Nolan, Doug.
31 Mch. Ď18
I have been intending to write to you for some time in answer to two nice long letters I have received from you lately but I am sure Motherís letters do for you all when I donít get time to write to you seperately. Ken & I are both keeping well, a bit tired after over a month hard going but we have just had a few days
spell which has pulled us together again & at present are waiting to move when we do it will be stoush thick & plenty. By the way you said something about enlisting when you are 18 but I hope the war will be over then. If it isent whatever you do dont come before you are over 19, one is plenty from our family and this
game is no fun.
still A few boys from Australia wont make any difference to the war now America is in & you will all be needed in Australia in the near future, so whatever happens dont come till after you are 19. The weather here is getting quite warm now, the winter left well behind thank goodness, we had our share of it during January up to our knees in mud or else slipping all over the frozen ground
& shell holes. I had a letter from Bertie Lamrock the other day, he is a flying instructor in England & has promised to take us up when we go over on leave which we will be getting in a couple of months if we dont get there on a stretcher in the meantime. How do you like your new job at Woodville. I suppose you have
got right into the swing of things by now, write & tell me all about what you do there & how you like it. I am jolly glad you have got out of the blooming office for a while, they are no good to a young chap. I wish I was up there with you, perhaps I will be some day. I am writing this in the Y.M.C.A. hut, it is great these huts for the troops, they are all over the place right up to
within a few yards of the line & even in the line, the Y.M.C.A. has its free coffee stall where troops can always get a cup of tea or cocoa, they are great.
I can I am afraid this letter is not very newsy but now we cant say anything about our own doings. It is hard to write a good letter. Give my love to Aunt & Uncle.
From your loving brother
Mrs R.H. Caldwell
25 April 18
I am afraid you will wonder whatís coming over me not writing the last couple of weeks but we have been very busy & have not had a chance to do any writing at all for some time. You will understand us being busy at this time of the year when there is so much doing. In the last three weeks we have been here there & everywhere, but are both keeping well.
A couple of weeks ago I received a batch of 15 letters dated up to 17 Feb., three from & one from Father, Bruce & Jean & crowd of others but I am afraid I wont get the chance to acknowledge them. We are having some nice warm weather here lately although about a week ago there was a cold snap & we had a little snow & frost. I received a parcel from you a few
days ago with a pair of socks & mittens & 2 handkerchiefs in. Ken also received one from you. I had a letter from Arthur the other day, he has seen a good deal of fighting but has pulled through alright, he has had his Blighty leave, in another couple of months we ought to get ours. We have been over here just on 5 months now, it seems much longer, we have been in the line three times but havenít had a hop over so far. You have
doubtless been reading the papers & seeing how far Fritz has pushed etc. & think he has the best end of the stick but he hasent by any means, although he has got a little ground, he has been badly beaten every where & has got a bigger thrashing than ever he has got in the whole war. I think he has given his last desperate kick & we will see
peace by Christmas. Quite a number of the boys of the 25 Reinf. have been wounded lately, quite nice Blighties some of them have got. That cobber of mine Frank Bailey is getting along alright. I had a letter from him at the Base hospital (France) & he expected to get to Blighty any day, his knee was pretty bad as he nearly lost it but it is safe now, although they told him he will not get back to France, which is a good
thing. The last few days we have been having a spell & spend our time cooking chips, etc., if we stay here much longer we will be getting quite fat, my word the Australians no how to do for them selves if they get the chance, everyone is cooking something or other. I am writing this to the song of the shell but are not being worried
ourselves. Today Anzac Day I suppose you are having big celebrations in Sydney, my word I wish I was there to join in them but still we are not doing too bad here. I dont think it will be long before we are back again so buck up & dont get letting your self get run down as you seem to have been doing, take plenty of holidays. I got those photos of Ingledene, they are not bad of the house but I was sorry they werent
good of the rest of you. I would like to get some photoes of you all about the house. Marie also sent me some nice snaps but she spoilt one by putting a blot over her own face. I hope you had a good time at Crookwell & hope you got out to Woodville for a while as it would be great for you there with Bruce & Auntie Eva is always so good. Oh well I think I will have to say au revoir. Love & kisses to all, whips to your self.
Mrs R.H. Caldwell
[Reverse side of envelope.]
I expect you will be wondering why I have not written lately but you will quite understand we have been too busy of late. I suppose you have heard Ken has gone to England to an officers school, a great bit of luck wasent it. I dont know how it happened as we
have been over such a short time, itís a big jump from a private to an officer but I think he is good enough for it & will make a better officer than a lot we already have. I wouldnít mind being with him, but might get my chances yet. We have been having a pretty tiring time lately but the conditions have not
been too bad & we might have struck it a good deal worse. At present we are out for a spell for a few days, how long
we no one knows. We have been having some good weather lately, a bet wet at times but not cold as it used to be. I am writing this in our guards tent doing a 24 hours guard which
I dont like. I dont mind looking over the parapet in the front line all night, there is always a certain amount of excitement there, the expectancy of seeing a Fritz or some thing, but to stand guarding prisoners, it is altogether too monotonous for me although it is only 2 hours at a time. One of our shifts last night
was a bit exciting, as Fritz came over in droves in his aroeplanes dropping bombs all over the district. Five aerial torpedoes fell a couple of hundred yds distance from us as we were on post & made two holes large enough to burry a cart & horse in. We heard the planes overhead & then the swish
through the air of the bombs dropping & thought they were coming on us at first. Some of the 16th reinforcements have joined the Batt. now but still we are very weak. I have received a lot of mail lately, going on for about 30 letters I think & have only been able to write about 3. I received a lot of
snaps in your letters & several from Ella but was sorry the faces were so blurred. I would like some good snaps from you all if you could get them at any time. All leave has been stopped since the big offensive has been on & has not opened again yet. I am due for Paris leave as soon as it does & with any luck I ought
to get Blighty leave in a couple of months as I have been here over 5 months now & in the line 4 times. A good many of our 25 reinf. are back in Blighty again now with wounds. I wouldnt mind a nice little Blighty myself as Australians are having such a good time there.
I suppose you have heard a good deal of the doings of the Australians troops in France lately & the honour they have been winning. Arthurís Batt. has been in the thick of it but I had a card from him today saying he is quite well. A short time ago we met a Capt. Plunkett of 3rd Batt.
Bertie Lamrock gave us a letter of introduction to him, he comes from about Wagga & said he knew our Fathers, do you remember him. He was very nice to us & offered to help us in any way what ever & told us to be sure & come & see him again but we inquired a few days ago, I heard he has
been wounded. Did I tell you I have another friend in the Batt. now a boy named Huxley, he was a great friend of Kenís & went to school with him. John Hosier is still going strong, I often see him & may be going for a walk with him this afternoon. I gave Ken a couple of souvenirs
to send to you when he gets to Blighty, a French hand bomb & a Brittish egg bomb & a French bullet, if I had only known he was going in time I would have got some other things. France is a very pretty country now everything is green & fresh but it is a terrible thing this war. All
the nice farms & villages & towns, hundreds & thousands of them as flourishing homes a few weeks ago & now they are nothing but looted ruins, everything in the range of guns is knocked to pieces. The troops I must say have had a good time living on fowl & pigs, fried spuds & pan cakes, all stuff in
these ruined farms & villages. You see in the paper where Fritz have Metern [Meteren] & Ballieul where we had a months spell some time ago. I still think the war will end this year. Germany has failed in both her objectives so far & England has had more than enough so only one thing can come.
I hope you get this letter as you will think I never write, if you miss a few Ken is cabling to say we are both well as soon as he gets to Blighty. Oh well I will have to say au revoir. Give my love to all & whips to yourself.
Mrs R.H. Caldwell
30 May 18
Itís just about time for another epistle to you, I am still keeping fit & jogging on in the same old way. We have been up to our neck in it for the last several months so that it is high time we had a spell right back. Eccepting for the month we had in February we have been hard at it ever since we formed up, constantly in & out & nearly all my mates seem to get away sick or wounded & now Ken has gone to England I am pretty well on my own
eccept for a my little pal in Davy Huxley & I donít know yet whether he is still running, he was when we went in but I have not had a chance to look him up yet. Hosier went away sick but ought to be back any day now. I have not heard from Ken yet but expect to any day, in fact I am sweating on a big mail from Australia, a lot of the boys have already got theirs but it generally takes a few days to get out. I will have to finish this later as we have just been warned for parade.
Have just done a 24 hours picquet in a large evacuated town & have also had our much appreciated bath & are now dwelling on a pay then we will be set. I had a very nice letter from Daisy a few days ago, I am enclosing it for you to see. I also heard from Arthur a few days ago, he is still well, has been transferred to the 35 Batt., reasons I dont know. I have not heard from Bertie lately, I expect Ken is visiting them all by now & having the time of his life, lucky dorg. There is no leave to Blighty these days
worst luck, if there was I would be very soon due, it is just on 6 months now since I came over. There is one satisfaction now & that is the fact that there is something doing, the Germans trying there hardest to break through in fact I think we are at deaths grips now & it cant last too much longer & America coming in makes it a cert that we cant loose but she seems a long time coming & giving the present fighting Army a long needed rest. We have been having beautiful weather lately
all like our spring weather, the fields are covered with butter cups & everything is some hue of green just like England was when we arrived there only prettier I think. I am writing this sitting out in a pretty green paddock behind our billets. I just nocked off to steal some milk from a cow that came marching by, a drink of milk does one good occassionally. I have just received two parcels, one from you your usual nice little dainty one which I always so like getting & one from Auntie Cissie & girls,
doubtless the one you posted it was very nice too but I am sorry they are still sending mufflers etc. which at this time of the year are useless to us, socks of course come in at any time but it is a shame with the other stuff as we really cant carry them & cant give them away. Oh well I will have to say Au Revoir as I am due to go out & get a feed. Give my love & kisses to all & whips for yourself.
Your loving son
9 June 18
As I have time on my hands at present I will drop you a line. You will be surprised to hear I am away from the Batt. at last but I donít think it will be for long, a week or so most likely. I developed very sore eyes after coming out of the line last time & as they seemed to be getting worse after a week or so I went & saw the doctor & was sent away immediately to the Casualty Clearing Station where I have anchored. Here I have nothing to do & plenty of
good tucker so I dont mind how long I stay here as one can do with all the spells we can get & the only way to get them is to get sick or wounded. I only wish I could have got as far as the base at Le Havre then I may have got a chance of seeing May, but I am afraid I am not bad enough a case to get there unless my eyes get worse. Leaving the Batt. when I did I will just about miss a turn in the line which wont do me any harm as I have done the last five times in. I suppose you all are pretty anxious over the big German offensive for Paris but
I dont think there is any need to worry, it does not trouble us anyway for he will never reach Paris. These big attacks were inevitable with such an enormous number of troops released from the Russian front but the more he comes the weaker he gets & with Americaís millions coming in there can be only one issue. I have just had dinner & a jolly good one at that compared with what we get with the Batt. We are still having beautiful weather, warm & sunshiny like Australians spring weather. I suppose you are
getting it cold now but I am sure I wont call Australia cold ever again after experiencing a winter over here in the trenches. You have been asking me in your last letters what it is like in the line & what I felt like first time in. Well the first time in during Jan. we were on a very quite front with only machine guns to worry us. These never got anyone the whole time in but at first they used to get the wind up us as the saying over here is. When anyone gets frightened & if a shell came within
a couple of hundred yards we would duck but we got over our windyness pretty soon, my word its wonderful with what speed one can get down when the bullets start whistling round. The next place where we went in after having a months spell was at the renowned hill that there has been so much deadly fighting over since the war began, here we struck plenty of every kind of everything used in the war & for the length of time we were there we had a pretty hot spin being in for a month, on coming out of there
we went down to the Somme which Fritz was pushing, we no sooner got there Fritz pushed in the north so after spending a few days in the Somme we were rushed back north again & have been going in & out here ever since fighting round the place where we spent February in rest, which place is occupied by Fritz as you doubtless have seen by the papers. Of late in the line I have been doing a good deal of patrolling in no mans land but so far we have not met with any
particularly adventure to speak of. This game supplies a rather fascinating sort of excitement crawling around with a mills bomb in one hand & a revolver in the other. One night we got rather close to Fritz & were spotted. They started sniping at us & threw a bomb but we all managed to get back without a casualty, thanks to the crops we were in which afforded us just sufficient cover from sight when wriggling on our tummies. As yet we have not had a hop over but never know the day when we
will, then there will be some real fun & plenty of souvenirs. I hope you got the two bombs I gave Ken to send over to you. I havenít heard from him since he left & dont know where he could have got to or how he is getting on. I am glad you are taking a good holiday & hope you do not finish it before you get properly well & strong. I am sure you will have a good time at Woodville. I am expecting to hear from you there next mail. Dont let Bruce enlist before he is 20 but I dont think there will be any war by then as the war will be over by then. Give my love & kisses to all.
27 June 18
I have just received a nice big long letter from you amongst a batch of 5, two of which were from Mother. I am still with the Batt. & keeping well & fit. I have just had a spell of 11 days at a Casualty Clearing Station with sore eyes caused I think through dust & sweat, they started with a touch of gas at the C.C.S. I had nothing to do all day so that I very pleasantly filled in my time writing or reading. Every evening I used to go down the village near by & have a feed of eggs or chips
our favourite dish.
I met a South African chap there rather a decent sort of chap, we used to always go out together, he is in the South African infantry. I have taken to drinking beer over here but dont have any fear of me taking too much & getting drunk as I detest drunkenness as much as any sensible man & I always take good care to stear clear of spirits of any kind except for our issue of rum in the front line, wine is greatly drunk in this country, but mostly stuff of very inferior quality
that so much so that I rarely touch it, the chief wines are
vin rouge a sort of a claret & vin blanc a species of hock. French beer is very weak in fact I donít think one could get drunk on it. You will be sorry to hear Hosier got wounded a few days ago, he got it in the neck but I think not dangerous, quite a large number of the 25 ref. have been wounded & a fair number gone west. One Sergt. Sharpe who was our Sergt.-Major coming over was killed a few nights ago but still you must not get worried about me, one has to be terribly unlucky to get killed although wounds are quite common & the man who gets a Blighty
is lucky as they have the time of their lives in Blighty. You seem to think the war is going to last a good while yet but I dont agree with you although Germany has pushed our Armies back so much on the different fronts the pushes have cost her a terrible price & in not one case did she gain her objective & whatís more she wont. She has failed miserably against the Italians. I think she has made her last great effort & failed & now Americaís millions are coming in the flower of America fresh & eager. Germany with her broken
Armies has no chance whatever of even holding her own therefore I think she will sue for peace & most likely get it as England has had more than enough war to last her for a long time, it seems as if it was going to be a repetition of Waterloo when our Armies fought to a finish & the Prussians came in & turned the tables. You have no doubt read of our air supremacy which is more than true, our aeroplanes are marvellous & in innumerable numbers. I have counted as many as 36 in the air at once & they are always up, they watch Fritz as a cat watches a mouse
& if he dares to put in an appearance they are on to him in a flash. I saw two sneak up over a few days ago at day break, only one
got went back, seven of us spotted the one & brought him down in flames, the other had the luck to sneak back among the clouds unseen, our planes seem to be ever so much faster than his. We have been having beautiful weather here the last few months so that it is hard to imagine this is the same cold desolate country we came to last December, everything is so nice & green & crops are in full growth every where this is
a great agricultural country & must be a great place to visit in peace time. I am glad the N.S. Wales Government is doing so much for the soldiers, it seems a great start & only wish I knew a bit more about farming than I do as I would then be able to hop straight in for a block but without more experience I would not do it on my own, but doubtless they will let any one take it up a couple of years later instead of immediately we get back. I am glad the firm have been doing such a great business of late & hope it continues, it is a pity you have not
a few more shares in the business. I am also glad to hear you have been at home so much of late. Mother says she is getting quite fat which I am very glad to hear. I have not heard from Ken yet since he went to Blighty a great bit of luck he had especially as promotion is hard to get with such short service unless one has someone behind him but he will make a good officer & is very popular amongst the lads. I have just about exceeded my writing limit so will close. Give my love to all.
Your affectionate Son
P.S. Please excuse any mistakes as I never read my letters over. Doug.
10 July 18
I suppose it is up to me to write you another letter after getting 3 from you a few days ago amongst a bundle of 13. I was jolly glad to hear how well & fat you had got during your holiday & only hope you keep so, if you dont be sure & take another such holiday. You must have had a glorious time at Crookwell & Woodville & all the different picnics you were telling me of must have been great. They make my mouth water but still they wont compare
with what we are going to have when we all get back. My word it must have been exciting Bob coming home. I had thought he was taking his wife with him. Is she following at the first opportunity or staying in England for a while longer. The photo of Peg & Helen was in one of your letters I got the other day, it is jolly good of them & I was more than pleased to get it. I am still keeping fit & boxing on the same as ever. Our division is going to be relieved some time in 1920 I think if we are lucky. One good thing the weather
over last May I think he said. At the C.C.S. the other day I met an old school fellow there, Morgan his name & he comes from Epping, he is in the 1st Batt. Crane was telling me Harz of Burwood St. James, you doubtless know of them, is in his Battery. I did not see him but will look them up sometime when we get out. I think I told you Hosier was wounded last time in & Huxley took ill suddenly while we were out & was taken away to hospital. I have heard from neither since.
We have been having splendid tucker here the last few days, plenty of young potatoes & peas which we pick from the deserted fields about, there are no end of them. I had a letter from Ken about a week ago, he seems to be doing well & enjoying himself although he says nothing of where he has been or what he has been doing. Dorothy writes to me fairly frequently now, her husband is still in England but expects to be sent to France any day. I also had a letter from Arthur saying
he was in hospital in England & doing well, he was wounded by a Machine gun bullet in the thigh, lucky beggar. You were saying you were sorry I was on a Lewis gun. Well I am not now & have not been for a long time but as for it being a risky job it is no more so than anything else, bombers, riflemen & all are much of a muchness there being no difference as far as risk goes, a soldier now is one & all combined or whatever the emergency requires.
I am writing this sitting
in my little dug-out in a trench but no more about it, I must not say. Father was saying in his letter that I received the other day that he presumed the night work I have spoken of in my letters consists of raids, etc., well I did not mean that, the work I meant was trench digging, putting out barb wire, etc. up near & in the front line & which all has to be done at night. So far I have not hopped the bags yet or done a dinkum raid although I have done a good deal of patrol work in no manfor ages s land & often
been up under Fritzís very nose, this sort of work has rather a fascinating sort of excitement & is not so risky as one might suppose or as it is often made out to be. You have doubtless been reading of the great work of the Australians on the Somme in which our lot have taken no part, but still they have been doing just as good & successful work on a smaller scale up in this part of the front. Oh well I have just about run myself dry so will say Au revoir with love & kisses to all & whips to yourself.
Your loving Son
A Gift from The Australian Comforts Funds.
18 July 18
I must try & write you a few lines so that you will know that I am still going strong & keeping well. I sent you a cable 3 weeks or so ago I hope you got it, let me know if you did, also I never heard whether you got our cable sent
about the end of March or beginning of April. We have been working very hard the last few days digging, we are always doing something of late & we havent been amongst [indecipherable] for ages consequently there is very little news to tell. I am hoping to get some Paris leave before long. I will try & take a trip down to Havre & see May at the same time. At present we are living in little dugouts
fairly comfortably off but we will be jolly glad when we get back where we can buy a few things & a good feed & get away from the roar of the guns & forget about the war for a while. I suppose by the time you get this letter everything will be pretty & green & at its best with spring breaking out.
I think I told you I received the photo of Peg & Helen & thought they look splendid. I want one of Bruce, Jean & Colin now to have the family. Oh! & Violet. I have a few souvenirs here that I will send you if I get any leave soon, a German bayonet, bottle & cap but unless I get leave soon the chances are I will have to dump them as one cant carry any extras on the move, it is more than enough carrying the bare necessity.
I received two nice little parcels from Woody the last few days with tobacco & cigarettes etc. in them, they were fully welcome. I am expecting some of yours
every any day. We have been having great fun the last couple of days swimming in a little water hole just by as its quite a treat to have a swim again after being so
long away from it. I had a letter from Ken a few days ago, he seems to be doing well, he will make a good officer, you will think I have slipped some him beating me but I havent, you know everyone hasent the same luck. They are just waiting for this letter so I will have to say au revoir, best love & kisses to all
From your loving son
P.S. Did I tell you Watches that you spoke of has come to the Bat. & is in my platoon. Doug.
26 July 18
It is just about up to me to write you another few lines, you will wonder at me writing in ink, I have lost my pencil so had to borrow a pen. Thanks very much for the parcels you sent me. I got the one with that nice cake in and another with socks, etc. in. I have received 5 altogether from you & others the last couple of weeks & a number of mails & bulletins. I am writing this in my tent which consists of a bit of canvas square shape tied down
at each side & up in the middle.
[drawing of tent.]
It is raining like anything so that if we so much as touch the tent with our head or anything the water starts dripping in. What do you think we are going out for a few days spell at last so will soon be having a good time again amongst civilisation & if I get Paris leave as I am hoping too I will have some real fun. I will take a trip down to Harve [Havre] & see May, it would be great if we could get a few days leave
together. I had a letter from Ken yesterday, he seems to be having a good time & is becoming some tennis player, he is expecting to get 8 days leave again soon & is going to Scotland to some people he knows there, he does not say who. I have been having some very strenous days of late digging etc., the day before yesterday I played a very stiff game of football in the afternoon & were digging trenches as hard as we could go all night with a good ten mile walk there & back
to our scene of work so you wont be supprised when I say I was that stiff I could hardly walk, thank goodness I am not so stiff today. I have taken a liking to football of late & by jove we do play some rough games, plenty of blood flying round & sprained toes, etc. but still its good fun & gets one in good nick. By jove its raining some & the water is coming into our "bivie" a million but still we cant complain for not far away there are some poor fellows in the front line with
nothing over them & perhaps up to their knees in mud. We have just been out on parade in teaming rain, if they cant get us wet digging or on some other fatigue they do so on parade. I suppose things are beginning to look up at home now with the spring coming on. I suppose everything will be changed when we get home, wattle trees down, etc. There goes the cook house so I will have to finish this after I have my stew. Tomorrow
the we are being visited by General Birdwood & a number of other big hats who are going
to give a lot lot of medals to different men & officers who have
one won them of late. I have heard no word of Hosier since he left so hope he is doing all right. My friend Huxley who has been away sick is expected back again in a few weeks.
I am afraid I have very little news to tell so will have to let this go rather short. One good thing we have plenty of amusements here, a fairly good concert every evening given by different Battalion concert parties. Give my love & kisses to all & whips for yourself.
Your loving Son
P.S. You were saying on one of your letters that you were getting too fat for your close, is that what you meant, Ah!
but I suppose those living in glass houses should not through stones.
On Active Services
Mrs R.H. Caldwell
14 Aug. 18
I am afraid you will be wondering what has happened to me of late but as you can guess we have been going like wild fire ever since the big push started. I received a letter from you today written just before Kings Bíday. It is a good while since we have had a mail but there is one in now so I am expecting a big batch of letters any day. I was sorry to hear you misunderstood Kenís cable, he got to Blighty on his own,
how, I donít know but I may have the same luck myself yet, one never knows but all the same I am sorry you had your hopes raised for nothing. My word you must have had a splendid picnic out in the bush, you seem to be doing a lot of entertaining of late, donít go & over do it & knock yourself up again. What do you think of the war news now, do you think our side are winning. My word the Americans are great fighters. I think Fritz will be chucking the sponge in before long
at the rate we are going now. My word it was alright Arthur Allen getting the M.M. wasent it? Ella must be proud & the best of it is he is safe & sound in Blighty while all this stoush is going on, if he had been with his Batt. I would have had a chance of seeing him a few days ago. We have been having beautiful weather here lately, it could not be better for the fighting that is going on. I have been keeping in the best of nick in spite of pretty hard going. My word it must
be great having Bob back. Auntie Lil must be overjoyed. When is his wife going back to Australia. I will go & see them as soon as I get to Blighty. When things settle down a bit here again I ought to be striking some leave or other to Paris or Blighty, both if I am lucky as it is going on for 9 months since I left England. I am sorry to hear Bruce is suffering so much with chilblains, they never worried me here as we never had any fires to roast over which is the cause of
chilblains mostly. My word I will never [indecipherable] Australia cold
after again after having spent a winter in the trenches here. We have had one thing to be thankful of lately is the way they have kept the tucker up to us through thick & thin. We pretty well always get our three meals in the 24 hours, sometimes we eat at night & sometimes in the day as circumstances permit. It is a few days since I started this letter so I will finish it now. While I was writing it before some big zonk started flying round
so we beat it out of the road & I have not had another chance since. At present we are in a pretty good possy in a safe area but how long we are going to stay he we cant say. Yesterday we had a very strenuous march but had a good sleep last night
but the first for over a week as we have been taring about from one place to another snatching a few hours sleep every now & again when circumstances would permit but never getting more than 3 or 4 hours out of the 24 but now we have had fine weather which we can be very thankful for.
Today we are having a complete rest nothing to do at all so I am sitting in my little possy writing. My possy consists of a shell hole with the sides scraped in so as to make it flat a the the bottom, this with a good coating of grass and a couple of German waterproof sheets suspended by a pole tent fashion over the top of us & a jolly comfortable possy it makes to being in a shell hole. We are below the surface which gives us protection from bombs, us consists of another chap Lce./Corp. Riley [?] is his name & myself.
Not far away is a bosca deep canal where we have a good swim whenever we feel inclined. You were asking how I got on for socks, well I always seem to have enough, sometimes more than I want, then I give some away, there is always someone who is glad of them. I always wash every chance I get thus I always have a clean pair to put on every few days. One day we took up a possition in a German dugout which had been a Q.M. Store & was full of shirts, singlets, socks, underpants & boots so that we all
got a clean change of new German underclothing & my word we were glad of it too as our own were very much alive. My word its hard to imagine the imensity of the push, the hundreds of tanks, aeroplanes that were used, the tanks are splendid they safe thousands of mens lives & get the wind up Fritz a treat as soon as he sees them coming he goes for the lick of his life as it is certain death for him to try & fight & the old tank will go almost anywhere. The aeroplanes are like
birds in the air. I have seen as many as 40 up at once & we can only see one little part of the front. One one day I saw 6 planes brought down, mostly Germans, two German planes were brought down just by us within about a ľ of hour came down in flames, they would be sailing along having a good look at the country when all of a sudden one of our planes would come along, make a dive at him & put a burst of machine gun bullets into him, a little smoke would come from Fritz then
a burst of flame & he would topple over & fall to the ground one mass of flame while our plane would fly away the proud conqueror, & look for another German. Of course Fritz gets a good many of our planes too but still not as many as we get of his & we can better afford to loose them than he can. These air fights are always of great interest to us & whenever Fritz is sent to bring down you should hear the troops cheer. My word the Americans are great
great big strong fellows, great fighters & there is an ever running stream of them coming over [?] & plenty of money to run the show with men with brains running the show. Germany can never stand against them. I think I have just about run myself dry so will say au revoir. Love & kisses to all & whips to yourself.
Your loving son
Please Min post on at once to Cissie & Ciss will you post to Bruce when
you have [page torn] has read it, [page torn[ to me. [indecipherable]
Mrs R.H. Caldwell
[Reverse side of envelope.]
27 Aug. 18
It is just about time for another letter to you so as I have a bit of time on my hands I will at least get a start on. One of the boys is expecting to go on Blighty leave soon so I will most likely give it to him to post over there. We have just had
a pretty another pretty stiff week in the line. I say another as we have had a good many of late down
hear on the Somme. We came down from up north near Hazebrook [Hazebrouck] about three weeks ago. So far our Batt. have not been in the front of the hop overs but have been following up as reserves & have been rushing from one part to another taking up positions in the line & have a pretty rough spin from Fritzís shells. The German infantry hardly ever stand up against our pushes now they seem well fed up with the war & the tanks seem to have been demobilised. My word they are great, they save
thousands of lives as they make the German machine gun useless if a m.g. does get in the road & tries to fight the old tank bunts in & runs over them or else blows it out with his little 6 lb gun. Of course Fritz does hold us up occasionally when he gets a strong point where the tanks cant possibly get at, such as a perpendicular bank of great height but they always get round
such places in the end, his artillery puts up a good fight but still without staunch infantry support it wont hold us, from what I can see they just about have him on the run here. At present we are in possies a few miles behind the lines just far enough back to be out of danger of the zonks! How long we will stay here I cant say or where we go next, its just about time all the Australians in France had a good spell as they have been on the go since before Christmas wherever the fighting has been most critical.
in the north the first division stopped the German advance & saved Hazebrook in the south the other divisions saved Anmeins [Amiens] & stopped his push there on both these fronts he was walking through with practically no resistance but in no instance did he gain an inch of ground after meeting our divisions & now the greater part of this big push which
has set him on the about turn was done by the Australians & Canadians with the help of the Americans & a few Tommies but from what I can see the Tommies have nothing but a broken Army left whose ranks greatly filled by boys of 18 & 19 years of age, its cruel to think that all these
chaps young lives have & are being sacrificed in such numbers, the British Army has been a bungle from the finish start to finish & has been practically murdered in making little stunts such as
they always have done up till now, its always been too much "Red Tape" which has caused the ruin of the British nation in this war, thank goodness America is running his own show. I dont think they will make a mess of things & the one man over the whole affair now is the right man. I dont think the war will last too much longer now, it may go into next year some time but no further unless something altogether
I had a letter from Frank Bailey, my old cobber that was wounded at Hill 60, he is at Weymouth waiting for a boat back home, said he will always have a stiff leg, still he is lucky to be clear of the whole game. I am going to write to him & tell him to go & see you when he gets back if he has time, he will be able to tell you what things are like over here & he is a good straight chap so make him welcome if he does come along.
We have still been having good weather although the last four days it has turned a bit showery
but nothing to speak of. This afternoon we had a bosca swim in the Canal or Somme River as it really is, we have had quite a lot of swimming of late about here, where we were in this afternoon was at a spot where we were in the front line a couple of weeks back but now it is well back out of gun range. I had a letter from Ken a few days ago asking what I thought of him joining
the flying Corps, its not a bad scheme as it will keep him in Blighty for another 5 or 6 months & it is really not much more dangerous than any other service. I have several
other little souvenirs here that I have collected of late such as Fritz caps, badges & a wallet. I will do my best to get them home to you but donít be dissappointed if I donít succeed. You will be sorry to hear Mr. Binns the officer who came over with us was killed a short time ago, he was too game, tried to rush a German post with
three men & was shot dead, the men got back safely but they never got his body, a party of us then went out to try & get his body, we shot his two sentries dead & bombed the dickens out of him with rifle grenades but he was too strong to risk rushing him so we came back after having thus tickled him up. Where we were in when we did this was in the old 1915 line. There doesent seem to be much chance of me getting Paris leave yet a while as they are not sending any at present but still they
may open it up any time & I will stand a good chance. I had a letter from May a few days ago, she did not seem to happy at the time as she was doing night duty in a German ward, she is expecting to get Blighty leave in a few months, it would be great if I could get mine at the same time but I donít think there would be any such luck although by that time I will be due for mine. My word you all seem to having great times lately with parties, etc., it must be great having Bob home again. Be sure & let me know what
Batt. Willie comes away to, its just what Bill would do enlist when once Bob got safe back, he has been wanting to come all along but stayed for his Motherís sake. I am glad recruiting is doing so well but hope they wont be needed to do much fighting, I am jolly glad you are not allowing Bruce to enlist before he is 19. That reminds me it is his birthday in a couple of days, wish him many Happy returns of the day for me.
I suppose Ingledene is looking up again now with Spring coming on.
I wished you could get some good photos of the place taken & send me, get someone with a camera on the go.
It is I think I have just about run dry now so will have to say au revoir. with the I may put some more on later. Give my love & kisses to all & whips to yourself from your loving Son,
26 Sept. 18
I have at last got a chance of posting this. I am in hospital in Blighty just near Birmingham. The greatest bit of luck out as I got over with nothing worse than a ceptic finger as they were clearing all the hospitals over in France getting ready for a big stunt later.
Mrs R.H. Caldwell
27 Sept. 18
I suppose you will be glad to hear that I am safe & sound in hospital in Blighty. Its the greatest bit of luck out as I have nothing worse than a septic finger. At the time I was sent away from the Batt. they happened to be clearing out all the hospitals etc. in France for a big stunt that was to come off any day so I came sailing through here. Stourbridge is the name of the place near Birmingham. We have been having a very rough time over there
constantly in & out of the line. It was in a big hop over when I hurt my finger & in the three following days there we were in the line it turned septic, so as soon as we came out I went & saw the doctor & was sent away with it. It was a great hop over we were in, we had 4000 yds to go our objective was the Hindenburg line on the left of St. Quentin. Our Company was supposed to be mopping up but we all got lost, one couldnít see 5 yds in the smoke & fog & we soon found we were in the front wave
of attack. For the first couple of thousand yards we didnít see a Fritz, then all of a sudden we discovered about 20 behind us so we bailed them up without any trouble they came out with their hands up squealing like a lot of pigs for mercy. Kamarad & Mercy Kamarad is all they can say. I just had time to pinch a couple of watches from them & I had to chase on after the other chaps who had gone on. The next time we struck them they opened on us with a couple of machine guns
less than a hundred yards away but we soon got these on the run. Then the fun began, there were Fritzs every where running all over the place, they seemed too scared to fight although they were 5 or 6 times our number. We soon had a big bunch of them collected in a sunken road when we noticed another big swarm of them behind us on our left running away so we ran round them firing as we went & some of the chaps opened on them with the Lewis then they
all put up their hands. Just as we bunched these together, up came the first wave of the Tommies. We found we were on their sector & had taken there first objective for them & several hundred prisoners in the bargain. What with souveniring & chasing Fritzs I found I had lost all our chaps so had to set & find them which I soon did. Found a couple anyway, then started looking for the Company which we found about a mile away on the right, we had got properly lost
but still it dident matter as our objective was taken without any trouble by the other Companies. We finished up wet to the skin & covered in mud as before we started we had to lie down on the hop off tape [?] for two hours till the barrage opened at about 5 a.m. That day we took up a position in close support to the 3rd Batt. & for three days we had a terrible time. They shelled us continually, buried me twice but then I got out without a scratch although my
rifle & all my gear were blown to pieces. One thing we had plenty of tucker, a hot stew every night, bacon for breakfast & hot tea three times a day with more bread than we could eat. I was never more glad in all my life to get away from a place as I was from that place. Three days before this hop we were in the line for five days & did a little hop then, advanced about 700 yds, 2 platoons of us knocked Fritz out & held it. Before that we had 10 days spell, the best rest we have
had since Balleul [Bailleul] in February. I think the division is out now for a good long spell, in fact they say all the Australians are going to have a ninety days spell & quite time too as there would soon be no Australians left if they kept them going like they have been. The Batts. have all been cut down to three Companies & the Companies to 3 platoons & even now the platoons are very weak.
I have a good collection of souvenirs here to send you at the first opportunity.
I have 4 watches, a N.C.Oís dagger & little revolver & a broken pair of field glasses, the latter were a beautiful pair but a bit of shell hit them up the line. I am sending you a cable today, I hope you get it alright. I sent several from France, I hope you got some of them, also the parcel of souvenirs I sent from there.
How much money have I in the bank. I wont have to send for any for leave as I have nearly £30 in my pay book. Tucker is very short here like all
hospitals but I will be able to go out in the afternoons & buy stuff so I wont do too bad then. I will have to finish now as my old fingers are getting stiff. I have to write with my forefinger & thumb which is pretty awkward.
Give my love & kisses to all & whips for your self.
Your loving Son
Mrs R.H. Caldwell
13 Oct. 18
I have just received a large batch of mail, twelve altogether, three from you, one from Father, Bruce & Jean, the rest from different of my regular correspondants. As you see by the above address I have shifted from the other hospital, this is a tip top place, they feed us up on plenty of the best tucker excellently cooked so if I donít get fat I never will. We are allowed out morning & evening & although there is nothing to see in the quite little town we can always enjoy a
walk into the country side where there are plenty of blackberries & wild apples. Nearly every night we have some amusements on, small concert parties, etc., & wist drives. There are about 40 odd men here altogether mostly Australians, they are all convalescent patients. My finger is nearly better now but I expect to be here for a fortnight or so yet, I had lost my nail but nothing worse, I wouldent have minded if they had taken my finger off, it would have taken longer to heal up. On leaving here I will be going on my 14 days leave
& intend to have a real good fly round. I intend going to Scotland as Ken says, it is grand up there, after leave I go back to camp for a few weeks before getting sent back to France but I donít expect there will be much more fighting to do, I hope not anyway, they seemed to have the Germans well licked now & there is such a great deal of peace talk going on now that one never knows what the next turn of things will be. Did you get the cable I sent you from the other hospital. Last Friday Ken came up
to see me & stayed till Saturday, we had a great old time together & some good old yarns. In the evening he came here to a whist drive we have on & had a jolly pleasant time, I am going to spend a week end with him at Oxford when I get my leave, he will be there till after Christmas & wont get back to France before next year & I think by then there wont be any more fighting. I have a fine parcel of souvenirs made up waiting to be posted as soon as I get the cash. Ken is sending me some to go on with as soon as he gets his
next draft from home, they only pay us 3/6 a week while in hospital. I sent you a photo of the hospital and a view of the town a few days ago. I am glad to hear the children are all getting well & strong & that Bruce is looking much better. I would like to see him take on the land. Altogether there is more money in it than in the city. He seems to be having stiff luck with the foxes, but doubtless when once he starts he will get a few in quick succession. I am glad your furs are a comfort to you.
Alcester is about 5 miles from Stratford on Avon, the country about is very pretty, we were trying to get leave to go to Stratford but couldent, you have to be in every evening a 6 p.m. & they are very strict about us being in to time. I was up before the head at the other hospital on being in 8 minutes late but of course nothing was done to us. I think I have just about given you all the news so will say au revoir with best love & kisses to all.
Your loving Son
P.S. will be writing to father soon.
Mrs R.H. Caldwell
Australian Red Cross
27 Oct. 18
I think it is time I dropped you another note. I have been here nearly four weeks now but will be going on leave Tuesday 5 Nov. provided if I donít get the flu in the meantime, it is raging all over the country just at present so one never knows whether he is going to escape or not. I am not particular myself if I get it as it means staying here
longer but still I would sooner not get it. I received a nice large parcel from you yesterday with a good big cake in it, some chocolate ginger & home made sweets from Miss R., thank them all very much, it only arrived two days after so that was good going wastent it. I am afraid my Christmas mail will be late this year as I should have it posted by this but havenít had the necessary cash as we only get 3/6 a week here which is insufficient to keep one supplied with
My finger is quite well now but minus a nail therefore looks very ugly. I have not posted my parcel of souvenirs yet but hope to this week as I am expecting some money from Ken. I had a nice little outing here yesterday with a cobber at the hospital here, we went to Redditch about 8 miles from here & spent the afternoon at the pictures with a couple of nice & very pretty girls that I have met since being here. One soon makes nice friends in a place like
this. After I finish leave I expect I will do a month or so in camp before going back to France. I am hoping there wont be much fighting left to do by the time I do get back but one cant tell. I wouldent be the least supprised to see Germany coming to terms any day, yet still it may linger on well into next year. I am afraid there is very little to say here but hope to have something of interest to tell next time if I go on leave.
Love & kisses to all.
Your loving Son
Day of Armistice
Nov. 28th 1917
Mr R.H. Caldwell
11 Nov. 18
I think it is time I dropped you another letter but as there is very little to tell in this quiet place you wont mind it being short. I have been expecting to leave hear for the last fortnight but havent gone yet although I dont think I will last another week out. Our docter has been so busy with influenza patients round here that he hasent had time to come here & see us & mark us out. I dont much mind how long they keep me but wont be sorry to leave as this is such a quite little town & we always have to be in at 5 p.m. sharp & on no account can we get a pass after that time which is pretty rotten as
we could often go to peoplesí places to tea & spend the evening. Well, by the time you get this letter the war will be over so you wont have to worry any more about me getting killed. I think it will take a good while to get us back to Australia. I donít expect to reach there before June or July but still one cant tell. Ken is on leave I fancy in Scotland & May is expecting to come over any day. I am hoping to meet her in London, it would be great if we could. I am sorry you were so sick with the influenza & on the night of the party, the influenza has been going round the world, they have had it terribly bad here. They have been dieing in swarms. The evening seems to have been a great success but wait
but till we
come home then we will have some evenings. My word you are getting some brave arnt you in your old age killing a snake, how big was it 12 inches long. I got a good big mail yesterday, 11 letters altogether, 4 big long ones from you. I seem to get all your letters so that ought to give you some satisfaction. Well what do you think of the war now. I did not have time to finish this yesterday as news came through about the armistice being signed. The bells started ringing & every building in the village sprouted flags from every window, the people just about went mad with excitement & we joined in within an hour after the news came through nearly every one was a bit merry. Myself & a friend were about the first
to drink a toast tho for a quick return to Australia, dont think I got drunk because I dont every do that. News came through here at about 11 oclock on Monday morning 11th. At 2 oclock there was a speech at the town Hall & every one joined in a procession round the streets finishing up with a short thanksgiving service after which the boys all went out with there best girls, they were coming home at all hours of the night. I believe they are still keeping up rejoicings today, all shops shut etc. I suppose they had great doings in Sydney too but the excitement there will come when the boys come home. Give my love to all & whips for yourself & dad.
From your loving son,
Mann & Marsh St.
Dear Mrs. Caldwell,
You will no doubt wonder where this letter is from, but I shall explain. I am a member of the 2nd Battalion (A.I.F.) and have just returned home. At present I am on Furlough, but am to be admitted to No. 21 Aust. Aux. Hospital, Georgeís Heights, Mosman, on expiration of my Convalescent leave. Your son Bob and I were "Cobbers" in France & Belgium and one thing that I heartly appreciate above all is the fact of your Son having carried me out when I was wounded. There was a heavy bombardment on at the time, our side were attacking and the Hun was retaliating. The Regimental Stretchers were sent for, but we were so isolated they were not forthcoming, and to make matters worse no one knew the way back. So your Son volunteered to carry me out with 3 others. They had a most difficult task over shell holes, barb wire entanglements, and all sorts of obstacles, they occasionally fell over whilst carrying me, I was in absolute pain part of my left knee joint having been blown away, but I realized
the difficult task of the boys & bore it all.
I bid your Son adieu, all the time I was in Hospital I was thinking of him, I wrote him several times & before I left I heard from him.
I have been anxious about him since as I heard he was badly wounded (I sincerely hope this is not the case) would you kindly let me know as I would like to meet Bob on his return. My one ambition when in Hospital was to get back to make some return to those boys especially your Son for whom I thought the job was so strenuous.
Until I have the pleasure of meeting him, would you kindly accept my sincere wishes for his safe return to you, & you may well feel proud of a Son who has not only rendered valuable services to his country, but to a comrade when in distress.
With kind Regards,
I remain, Yours Sincerely
F. Bailey, Pte.
Mrs R.H. Caldwell
"Ingledene" York Street Epping N.S. Wales Australia
St. Bernard Hospital
22 Dec. 1918
I am writing just a few lines but the chances are I will be home as soon as this myself. I hope to be on the water by the end of the month, the name of the boat I am coming on I have forgotten but that doesnít matter as I will soon let you know when I do arrive. I have just had three days leave in London to visit Bertís wedding which came off very successfully.
Ken came down for it too and we went to the theatre together afterwards, "You never know you know", one of the most popular London theatres it was very good. The next day we pottered about together & visited a German submarine which was very interesting although they dident let us see half we would have liked. Too, I bought myself a pocket Kodak camera 35/- to take photos with on the journey home. Ken I am afraid wont be able to get home for
some months yet for which I am very sorry, he is at present in Scotland on another 17 days leave, he is getting his commission early next year. I believe his pay has already started which I am very glad as it costs him a lot more than his privateís pay. I had my photo taken in Oxford when on my 14 days leave, they were not too bad but I wont send you one but will bring myself home
instead. The night before Bert got married I went out with him on a farewell batchelors binge or bust up & had a very merry time with a couple of other officers & had a very merry time & came home pretty well sober. Bert had a beautiful & expensive lot of presents. He has got a real good job over here with some big aeroplane people & is not likely to go back to Australia for some years yet. Mrs. Germaine, his mother in law, is a very nice lady. I must say I was always at home there,
in fact I am quite sorry to leave England now I have made some nice friends here but it wouldent do for me to stay here to long as I would be sure to follow Bertís example & you wouldent like that would you. I hope I am not going to be dissappointed in all these pretty Epping girls that you are always telling me about. I have not received any of my Christmas parcels yet. I am afraid I
will be on my way home before they arrive. I got one from Woody yesterday dated in August sometime. I am looking forward to having a good time at the Sydney Show again this year. Give my love to all the family with tons for yourself & dad.
Mrs R.H. Caldwell
At Sea on return.
6th Feb. 19
I am writing this to catch the mail in Fremantle where we expect to arrive in a couple of days time. I expect this letter will reach Sydney about 3 days before we do. So far we have had a pretty good voyage but rather tiring not having been off the boat since leaving England except for a swim. A few days ago I got a slight feverish attack & was sent into hospital where I am still residing although my temperature was back to normal the day after I came in but I intend stay as long as they keep me as we get chicken, jellies, custard, fruit galore, just a little breaking in for whats in store Ah! I am wondering if you have received any of my previous letters from England saying I was coming
on this boat. I have just heard we are 480 miles from Fremantle so we will reach there Saturday morning. I tell any more news now or else I wont have anything to say when I reach you myself.
Love to all & whips for yourself.
[Transcribed by Judy Gimbert for the State Library of New South Wales]