Training: ‘the grub is alright’

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

Sydney Charles Douce, January 1916, Fovant Camp, WiltshireBorn: 17 November 1882, Joined GWR: 28 November 1898, Regiment: 1/5 London Regiment; 3rd Battalion London Rifle Brigade; Royal Army Medical Corps, Regiment number: 3701; 202204; 536657, Rank: Private, Died: 1933


Dear Mr. Riches

The worst has happened. The War Office has sent us down to this place which is miles from nowhere. The camp however is made up of hundreds of huts is according to the ‘old uns’ at the game the finest they have ever been in, certainly everything is alright but the place is so muddy and my time is split up. One half getting frightfully dirty and the other getting myself clean again. However it’s all in the game and can’t be helped. There are twenty to a hut. The beds are three long boards on two trestles about eight or nine inches off the floor, a straw mattress and a straw pillow, and four blankets. Not a bit what I have been used to. However I am now quite comfortable in it and sleep like a top. Marvellous how you think we settle down to it. Don’t you think? We rise at 6.30am. Breakfast (porridge and bacon) at 7.30. Parade at 8.20. Drill till 10.30. Then half an hour’s rest. Then more drill up to 12.30. Dinner at 1 o’clock (meat and two vegetables and sweets). Parade again at 2.20. Then more drill which brings us up to 4pm. We are then dismissed for the day. Tea at 5pm (bread, butter and jam). After which we can do what we like until 9.15. By this time we have to be in our huts for the final day’s roll call and at 10pm. All lights have to be out. That’s what my day consists of at present. It may not seem much, and really it isn’t, but I am half the day cleaning up. The grub is alright but there is not quite enough of it at present. I think however this will be right as soon as they have made all necessary arrangements. For the time being the Non-Commissioned Officers seem to be a little overworked. This is the same every day, varied on two mornings a week with a long route march in the morning. Of course we only have half a day on Saturday and only a Church parade on Sunday. So altogether things are not so bad. The only thing is I can’t get away for weekends, as it would take up most of the time to travel to London and back. I shall try however and run up to town in a few weeks’ time if possible. Kind regards to all at ‘Omega’, and everybody at 164, W.1, including, yourself.

Yours, S.C.D.

Return to Letters from the First World War, part two