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18th April 1917: WW1 Letter: Stretcherbearers, ships and shellshock

Updated on January 19, 2012
Reginald Trevor - my great grandfather
Reginald Trevor - my great grandfather
The HMAT Clan MacGillivray (A46) departing and being assisted by a tug. This was the ship that took my great grandfather to war.
The HMAT Clan MacGillivray (A46) departing and being assisted by a tug. This was the ship that took my great grandfather to war. | Source
Empress of Britain, the ship my great grandfather sailed on between Alexandria to Marseilles.
Empress of Britain, the ship my great grandfather sailed on between Alexandria to Marseilles. | Source

Transcribed letter:

18 April 1917

Perham Downs, Salisbury Plains, England

My Dear Mother,

I hope you will forgive me for not writing to you before, I know it is a long time since you last heard from me.

I have been here in England for a long time now, I have not been too good in health, I think my constitution is ruined, I never feel well now, the result of too much bully beef and biscuits I suppose. I think I told you before about my legs being paralysed, they are a bit dicky yet, sometimes when I get a bit excited they get quite weak and nearly give way, I got that lot at Pozieres as I suppose you know.

I got Mary’s photo and Harold’s letter. I am glad they got their watches all right, and like them. My word Mary has grown up to be a fine girl. I am quite proud of my sister.

I am in camp on Salisbury Plains rather a dreary hole, a long way from any city. It was very bleak here in the winter, I am glad in a way that I was not in France. I think the cold and snow in the trenches would have just about settled me. I am glad I missed that. Someday I suppose they will send me back, as all men are wanted nowadays, when we are pushing them back so well.

The other day the Australians had a go at the Prussian Guard and gave them what was the first serious defeat the Prussian Guard have ever had I believe.

It was funny in a way on the Somme, anyone that did not know what was on, would have thought that they boys were out hunting rabbits, the way they were going about looking for snipers. The bravest of the lot were the stretcher bearers, every one of them deserved a V.C. not only in my estimation but in everybody else’s.

I cannot tell you much about the war as I know it or the conditions here in England, things are very dear now, but I suppose that is the same all over the world. In this camp we get fed very well indeed, better food in fact that we got at Broadmeadows.

I very seldom get any letters here, the mail seems to go astray, don’t send me any parcels, I can get any amount of nice things here if I want them. I seldom do though my sweet tooth seems to be gone completely. I very rarely eat jam even.

I have not seen Uncle Mayhew, or anybody I know yet, of course it is very hard to find anybody in the army, the units are scattered so much. I went to Lark Hill camp one day and enquired about him but could not find him, some said he had gone to France, he is a sergeant now I believe.

I have seen a little bit of England by this time. I am supposed to be permanent Guard here, the duties are not hard for me as I do not do any sentry go, when we are not on guard we do escort duty to different parts of the country. I have not been to many large cities up to date. I have been to Liverpool, Birmingham, Cheltenham, and of course Salisbury, Southampton, Isle of Wight (Cowes and Newport) and lots of other little towns that I suppose you have never heard of. I have been to Gravesend too, W.W. Jacob’s port.

I must say I know London pretty well by now, but of course I can still get lost in it. I think Melbourne or Sydney are far more up to date in some ways than London. The best thing about London are the policemen – they can and will always direct anybody that is lost, and never seem to get tired of answering silly questions, they are always civil.

Several times you have asked me about the boat I came over in. It was the “Clan McGillivray” (pictured) one of the xxxx Line a xxxx steamer, and very crowded, and uncomfortable, the tucker was bad too, but not the worst troopship I have been in. The worst one I have been in was the “Abbyssia”, an Egyptian boat, filthy, crowded, and bully beef and biscuits. The best one was the “Empress Britain” (pictured) from Alexandria to Marseilles. I don’t suppose there is any harm in me telling you these things now, as it all happened a long while ago.

Well I suppose I must close now, I am ashamed of myself for not writing to you before. You know I don’t like writing, although I can go alright once I start, but I take a lot of starting, but I will try to write more often in future.

Address me the same as usual but put 5th Battalion A.I.F. No 1 Command Depot, Perham Downs, Andover, Hamps.

With best love to all at home and yourself. I remain your loving son,


P.S. I got my kit bag that I left in Egypt. Everything of any value was taken out, I had some curios for the children in it, but they are gone too. I was not in a condition to collect anything when I left the Somme.


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    • Rufus rambles profile image

      Rufus rambles 5 years ago from Australia

      Thanks Vespawoolf. I'm glad you found it interesting!

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

      Thank you for sharing your great grandfather's letters. This kind of reading makes history fascinating!

    • Rufus rambles profile image

      Rufus rambles 5 years ago from Australia

      @Kallini2010: Thanks for your comment. Yes it is interesting to read things from a time where so much pivotal historical events occurred. I'm glad you enjoyed reading my great grandfather's letters.

    • kallini2010 profile image

      kallini2010 5 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      I found it interesting to read a letter of a soldier - written almost hundred years ago...

      Sentimental ... and I loved photographs, they make it look so authentic.

      Strange reason that drew me in - April 18th is a day my mother was born (in 1942, though, during another war)

      and 1917 - was a pivotal year for Russia - the year when the Revolution took place...


      Good idea to publish old letters.