Friday, 13 December 2013

'A pretty sight, all the trees glistening white'

An embroidered card sent from France

A letter-writer who pops up frequently in my book is an unassuming soldier from Bristol called Tom Fake. He served on the Western Front (and survived) for two years and wrote regularly to his wife in a style that was plain and simple - he told it as it was. His letters have been beautifully kept by his family and below is a rather poignant one to his wife and young son written at Christmas 1917. It begins with some disappointing news...

Friday, 21st December 1917

'Well my dear I am not in the running for a leave this Christmas, just missed it, but I shall be in the next lot and that will probably be next week, so when you answer this letter, you need not write again till after I have been home.

'Well my dear, it won't be so bad if I am home for the new year will it? All the same I should liked to have been home for Christmas. I hope you will have a pleasant time, but I know it is no good to wish you a merry Christmas, make the best of it won't you, and all being well I shall be home to cheer you up for the new year.'

He goes on to describe the crisp weather they've been having in France, and explains plans for some early festive celebrations because his unit will be back in the trenches on Christmas Day.

'We have had some very hard weather ever since I wrote you last, it must be cruel for the men up the line, but where we are to it's is a pretty sight, all the trees are glistening white or at least it has been up to this evening, but since dark it has started thawing. We are keeping up Christmas Day on Sunday (as we are going up the line again) and I think we shall have a fine time by what I can hear.

'I had a small parcel from the Dowsetts a few days ago, it consisted of a handkerchief khaki colour, and an ounce of tobacco, very good of them wasn't it.'


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