Friday, 14 December 2012

'Mud, booze and a bawling-out at Christmas'

Christmas was a testing time for soldiers and nurses during the First World War, especially if they had never been away from home before, and particularly if 'home' was thousands of miles away.

This week's post features a letter written by a Canadian soldier, 21-year-old George Lamb, at Christmas 1916 when he was in Kent, England, waiting to be posted to the front. Although he was missing home, he certainly wasn't feeling sorry for himself and his letter gives a peep at what Christmas was like in a camp full of men. 
Lamb was a larger-than-life character and his letters were always colourful and interesting. You'll be able to read more in my book.

Next week I'll post a letter Lamb sent to his mother a year later, Christmas 1917, when he'd been at the front for eight months.

December 27, 1916

My Dear Father,
Xmas has just passed and a very poor one it was for me, although under the circumstances as good as could be expected. Things were not realistic, the weather conditions were not as usual, the environment and surroundings were entirely different from my previous Xmas. Where I was always looking for a nice skate in the afternoon at home here we were trailing around in the mud.

I was on duty as Cpl of the Guards the day before, and was glad my turn had come that day instead of yesterday, when about 90% were extremely happy, in fact they were too saturated with booze to be anything else, it flowed around like water and officers and all were in the swim making it one jolly glorification of their first and perhaps last Xmas in khaki.

I got into a jackpot the day before, a sergeant bawled me out without reason in a rough shod manner and I told him in exchange that he wasn’t dealing with convicts now, as he was previous to enlisting employed as jail warden. This made him mad and he told a man off to put me under arrest, but as I studied what crime I was up against I prepared my defense and he knew I was right and he was wrong, so at the last minute before I was to come up before the OC [officer in charge] he withdrew the charge.
I have not got to France as yet, am earnestly waiting my chance. Fifty more of our boys went across the day before Xmas. I am beginning to think the war is very nearly over, as Germany is getting quite strong for peace, and by this morning’s paper, I see where neutrals have also butted in proclaiming that it should come soon.

I had a lovely parcel from Doris yesterday full of all nice things which are impossible to get over here. I have had seven in all, and they were all full of eatables and useful soldiers articles, its so nice to have friends and I will sure repay them if I get back to the old sod.
We are still getting lots of physical drill to keep us in trim, its great dope and I like it the best of any work we have. I still hear from Uncle Will and Flora and twice a week from Cassie & mother & sister, so I am pretty well informed.  I wrote a letter to the Plumas Standard [Canadian newspaper] a while ago. I don’t know whether he would publish it or not. I struck the slackers [Canadians who hadn't joined up] pretty hard. 
Wishing you a Happy and Prosperous New Year.

Canadian winters were a thing of the past for George Lamb
'In England we are trailing around in the mud,' he wrote


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