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William Todhunter- Wartime letters

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Introduction

September 14th Dearest Mamma, I know this letter will upset you, but you must understand that I am resolved to do my duty and serve my country, Although I am not yet eighteen, I am able-bodied, willing and eager to put my all into the task that lies ahead. I would be the only fellow left in Cumberland if I did not go to fight in this great war. Have no fear, as I may not even get to the front before the end of the war. It will be a great adventure and I shall return before Christmas with many tales from France. Tell Grandmamma not to fret - and will you look after my rabbits while I am gone? Your affectionate son, William September 16th At last I feel as if I am doing something that really counts- something for my country! Leaving with Corporal Bridey Saturday last will be the most wonderful thing I have ever done- I am sure of it. Mother will be awfully upset that I have gone against her wishes, but I cannot ignore my own country's call. I have had butterflies in my stomach all week, but I am not affraid. My head is in ecstasy at present and I can feel my heart pounding even at the mere thought of returning victorious. ...read more.

Middle

I watched as a battalion of cavalry galloped past into the mist. Met by a storm of rifle and machine-gun fire. The whimpers of horses continued long after the firing had stopped. Those poor creatures- sent by fat old men to do their bidding. This great war. This perfect waste. Wipers November 8th Dearest Mamma, Your letter arrived on Thursday, but already that seems an age ago. Day and night seem to fall into one and at the moment we are under almost constant bombardment. The shells tend to fall behind us but you are never sure whether one might not have your number on it. It is difficult to get used to, but we are so tired that we fall into our dugouts as soon as we come off duty, snatch a mug of tea, and sleep in our damp clothes. I have been over the top several times now, but every time we have only got so far as the wire, and had to fall back under heavy German fire. It is simply ghastly out there in no-mans land, and the gung-ho patriotism we once felt has dissipated among the smoke and the stench of corpses. I feel particularly sorry for the poor horses, it is not their war. ...read more.

Conclusion

against the Germans! I couldn't believe it, but climbed out and joined in. We lost, but it was good fun, and well played by the Huns! It was the queerest thing! Our dinner party was well enjoyed. It started with fried bacon and dip-bread; followed by Christmas pudding. But you can guess that we all were thinking of home. I think that it has been the most memorable Christmas I have ever spent, or likely to spend. I never expected to be shaking hands with Germans in enemy trenches on Christmas day, and I do not suppose you thought of us doing so either. So after a fashion I have enjoyed my Christmas. But who knows what the New Year will bring. Looking forward to hearing from you. Kind regards to all. Your loving son, William P.S. Don't forget to feed the rabbits! December 29th Dear Mrs. Todhunter, I regret to inform you of the death in action of your son, William. He was killed yesterday by sniper fire. The mood in the camp last night was solemn. I cannot stress how well the men regarded William. Always cheerful, always ready to lend a hand, always ready to share his rations. He will be much missed. His personal effects will be returned through the usual channels. Yours sincerely, Hugh Lonsdale (Lieut.) ...read more.

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