October 11th 1916
I promised Mother that I would write in here every day. I have been here a week now, and have not written once.
We have just moved from our old trenches, and our now in Etaples. Our last trench was a lot better than here. They were dug deep, and the weather was not all that bad. I guess first impressions don’t always count, eh? I remember, Jim and I were on look out duty. We gazed across no-mans-land, shivering slightly in the cool breeze; it felt as though we were the only people in the world. Jim said something to me along the lines of this, “Tom. Look around. At that lone bird circling above. The last tufts of grass, wilting mournfully, in no-mans land. This is no place for me. I want to leave, but I can’t. I need freedom, but it is just out of my grasp. I hate it here.”
Those words were powerful. It made me think. He looked so frightened, in a way I have never seen before. He is like the wild rabbits at home, caught in a snare, unable to bound free. We did not speak for the next two hours.
Mud. That is the only way to describe this place. All the flowers have been trampled, all wild life has vanished. We had flowers at home. They used to spring up in all the wrong places, never in the flowerbeds. On the lawn, and once even in the house. Jim and I used to pick them, and deliver them in eggcups to our Mothers. I hope that when this horror ends, flowers will grow. A poppy perhaps, for that is mother’s name.
I have to go. Sergeant Hutch is hollering for Jack and I. He is an ogre, I swear! Well, he is a beefy man, and that is least I can say for him!
October 12th 1916
It is Hell. I fell so lost without him. Every one does, and it is my fault.
We were rudely awakened by Hutch, yelling, “Get up you lazy fiends! Our foe is upon us!” By the ‘foe’ he means the Germans. I don’t see what is so wrong with them, I mean, I saw one once, and he was jut like us, but in grey. We got up, and as soon as we were dressed, were ushered over the wire, and into the land of no-men.
The firing hit me like a shell itself. Rain of black, reddened mud, men just likes me sent sprawling, finding their own way to their own graves. Like a lost child Jim turned towards me.
“Stay with me Tom. I have been with you for sixteen years, and I’m not about to let that change.” I tried, I really did, for a while, but in the mist of people, a forest of khaki and grey, sounds like a gramophone turned up too loud, so all you can hear is buzzing and crackles, I lost him. It’s not my fault. Yes it is. No, it’s not. Not really. I called for him, I did, “Jim! Jim! We’ve got to turn back! It’s no use; half our men are down, if we go forwards, we’ll be swatted like flies.” Bu he was gone, like a dead leaf, picked up by the wind.
And now we’re back. We have far fewer men then how we started. But the one big difference for me is Jim. The guilt chokes up in my throat, but I am too wretched to cry.
I have stuck in my most recent letter from Mother and Lucie. They don’t know a thing.
Oh how we miss you! Lucinda constantly tells all her little friends about her ‘brave big brother Tom’! And I know little Martha is proud of Jim too-poor Martha. Little does she know that her brave brother Jim most likely won’t come home-! Yesterday Barney Richards left our little Fordstone, and moved all the way down to Plymouth! Lucinda insists on writing as well, so here you go.
tOday At school we learnt about Capital lEtters. So i am using Them. I aM trying to Use tHeM in the Right places.aLSo at school we wrote a story. i did mine About a Brave boy calleD Tommy. Miss said iT waS very Very good and dRew a Smiley face On it. I love you TomMy, from Lucie.
Isn’t she so sweet! Well, I love you as well, Mother xxx
PS. Give my best wishes to Jim.
I am too wretched to cry, and am now too wretched to write. I am going to moan my wretched self to sleep.
October 13th 1916
Oh joyous news! Well, life could improve, but am I complaining? Last night was a horrid night, just to match my horrid mood. The rain lashed down soaking us all, and I pity Jacob and Max, for they were on look-out through all the worst weather. Thunder clashed all night, and lightening split the darkened sky in two. But through the darkness came light and a sodden, bleeding Jim appeared. However wet and muddy, however pained and tired, Jim looked just about the best I’d ever seen him. Apparently, according to Max, he stumbled through the wire and they almost shot him. Max said that Jim had cried out “Aren’t you going to welcome me back? Just because I’m injured is no excuse to shoot me!” Jim hobbled into our trench, and greeted us all.
The joy I felt then was the type I felt every spring, when I used to help Jim and his Father deliver a new lamb, or calf. Those really were the days. I went to a town once, for my cousin’s wedding. It made up my mind that I would never live in a town. But the happiness I felt when Hutch informed us that Jim would be rushed to the town hospital was great. I have never been so glad to be near a town. So, Jim came home, and was then sent to a wonderful, wonderful hospital, Mother and Lucie are fine I am still alive! Oh, happy, happy times! It looks like things are going well for us all! It is so peculiar how the sun can shine even in the most barren places. Maybe a happy ending would be quite appropriate…
And, as far as Tom’s story goes, they lived happily ever after.
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