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. W.C. Davies gives his personal insight on trench warfare and it is clear that hospitals behind the line were not always places of safety. (Catalogue ref: RAIL 253/516)
William Charles Davis, 15 March 1916, France. Born: 12 November 1884, Joined GWR: 12 January 1900, Regiment: Royal Army Medical Corps, Regiment number: 31223, Rank: Lance Corporal; Sergeant, Retired: 1944. Please note that this soldier’s surname is spelled incorrectly as ‘Davies’ in the original document.
How are things going with you now? I expect like the rest of us will be glad when the better weather sets in for there is no doubt about it, it has been rough lately.
Since I last wrote to you we have shifted to another part of the line and it is a warm shop, for both sides must have all guns they can find and it is nothing but one long duel all day and every day but thank goodness it gives over a bit a night so that one can get on with their work. You see of a night the flashes of the guns can be seen so plainly that is why they do not fire a lot then.
Just on our right our people retook some trenches we had lost, oh what a rough time the poor devils had, snow and mud as much as you like and they had to lay in it for two days and grub could not be got to them. I expect there have been a few more from Paddington called up by now, it seems if the authorities mean to have all the men they want and if they can’t get them one way they will another, and it certainly looks as if they will be wanted for out here. One cannot see any signs of an early settlement. I see by the papers that the air raids have been busy in England again. I suppose you have not seen anything of them yet, has Rory Moore had any more frights? We have the taubes [German aircraft] over our hospital nearly every day or night and I can tell you we got some starts at times. The nearest we have to them since I have been here is just one yard from the main door, at 12.30 it blew in two pairs of double doors and shattered on end of the building to bits but not a great deal of damage to life which after all is the main thing. The arrangements we in work is five or six days up the line and four or five down if you are lucky. Of course at times these arrangements go to pot when there is an attack and we get a warm time and I should like to enlarge on these things but of course you understand I cannot.
Give my kind regards to all and trusting you are well.
Yours Will (Davies)