We were still wearing tropical kit

Funny thing is, we weren’t here to start with. No we was first posted to Egypt. Imagine that, all these lads from Yorkshire mines out there with the sand and the pyramids and all that. We was there to look after the Suez Canal because the Generals was expecting Johnny Turk to attack it any day. Only no one seems to have told Johnny Turk about it because he never turned up. So we were shifted back here to France in Spring of last year, 1916, to take part in big push. In fact when they put us into trenches for first time in April, we were still wearing tropical kit. Even with pith helmets.

Soon we exchanged it all for one of these, this is your steel helmet, your tin hat, very useful for stopping shrapnel. When a shell explodes metal fragments go flying everywhere and do terrible things to a fellas body, so you protect your head by always wearing your tin hat. But it does have other uses as well. Uses perhaps that er, the government haven’t thought about. Cos look here at this tin hat here. You might say to yourself, you could use it as a bowl, or you could use it to drink out of, eat out of, or maybe you wouldn’t want to if you know what we sometimes do eat. Because er, suppose you might say that this is bit of a mobile toilet. Cos we do have toilets here or the army word for them is latrines. Now we have latrines here in the trenches, erm and depending on the state of the trench depends on the state of your latrines to be honest.

The problem is with your latrines, is from the air they look a bit like mortar emplacements. So when Fritz over there wants to find a target to shell, he might send a mate of his over in an aeroplane. He flies over your trench, looks down at your latrines and says goodness me, that’s a mortar emplacement, I must tell my friend in artillery. He tells his mate and they shell your toilets. Now let’s face it, none of us want to be caught with our trousers down now do we. So if we’re getting a heavy pasting, as we can do, which is frightening, terrifying, you really don’t want to be going and sitting on the toilet. So in that case, if it comes out of the front end you do it in the trench, if it comes out back end, you do it in your helmet. Now when you’re done, you chuck it into no man’s land and then wipe off using, er, oh I don’t know whatever might come to hand, a shirt tail, bit of grass, something like that. If you don’t mind I’m going to put this back on my head right now cos I feel a bit nervous having my helmet off.

Because even on a quiet day like today, you never know when it might get you. They say that you never know your bullet or shell with your name on it, you know and it can happen at any time. You can get shelled, hit by a canister bomb, mortar, grenade, you can be hit by a snipers bullet, you can be machine gunned, you could be gassed, you could even be blown up from underneath, cos Germans they tunnel underneath no man’s Land , underneath our trenches and then blow them up and we do the same to them. So even that might happen to you. Just while you’re sitting here. It’s happened to me many times when I’ve been sitting next to a mate or something, having a bit of natter with him, zip and he’s hit and he’s dead.