Greece: ‘not picked up the lingo’

This is one of many letters sent by staff of the Great Western Railway Audit office at Paddington who had enlisted to fight in the First World War. (RAIL 253/516)

Francis Witt, 28 May 1916, Salonika, Greece. Born: 8 February 1893, Regiment: Royal Engineers, Mediterranean Expeditionary Force; transferred to Office of Superintendent of Line on 15 June 1914, Regiment number: 138069; WR296343, Rank: Sapper, Died: 1970


Dear G. [Mr Burgoyne],

I guess you wonder what has become of me after this long silence, but you will see I am a good distance away from the homeland now. I arrived here early in April and since the start have been getting on quite well. You may be interested to know that Gray from your department is also here. It is rather strange that I should rub against him.

The weather is brilliant, cloudless skies day after day, but it is very hot. There are plenty of mosquitoes about. They are very tantalising. A net is practically a necessity for sleeping purposes. I am billeted in a warehouse, it is a very old place, and has stood hundreds of years. I should think, according to its general appearance.

I have not picked up the lingo yet, but French is chiefly spoken, and I much regret not having studied it more when I had the opportunity at home. This town is a queer sort of place as compared with some of the French towns we know, and am sure I shall not wish to see it again when once I leave. The cafés are not so gay as the French, but I manage to have fun occasionally. We have got a piano and gramophone to amuse ourselves with. I hope we shall be able to have another trip to Paris, when the war has cleared up, but of course when is a question nobody can answer yet awhile. Shall be very pleased to hear some news of you, and conclude now with all the best.

Yours sincerely, Frank.

Return to Letters from the First World War, part two