1st World War, Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, commemoration, David Jones, death, family history, In Parentheseis, London, Mabinogion, memorial, Royal Army Medical Corps, the Welch Regiment, Tower of London, Wales
This is my grandfather, Frederick Hall, who was in the army for the whole duration of the 1st World War but was lucky enough to survive, despite being wounded twice, in France and in Salonika. He signed up to the South Wales Borderers, was then in the Welch Regiment and finally the Royal Army Medical Corps.
He died at a relatively young age though, but I do just remember him, a gentle, quiet man. According to my mother and her sister he did not talk about the war, as was so often the case. All I have to go on now to know his feelings is one letter written to his family.
Pvte F Hall
11 Batt Welch Reg
- E. F
Dear mother and all at home,
We have just returned from the trenches after being in them for 4 days and nights. Well mother being under fire is not half so bad as you think in fact as long as we keep our heads down we are as safe as houses. I’ll just give you a little idea of how we got into the trenches. We fell in at about six o clock one evening – marched about 3 miles when we came to a village that was absolutely knocked to pieces not a house left hole. Well after going along a short lane we were in the communication trenches (that is the trenches leading to the firing line) and then on for about 2 miles right up to the firing line. We took up our position and were one hour on sentry & 2 off. After our platoon had been on for about 4 hours we were told to get out of the trench & fetch up the rations for the battalion & then we were on that job for the whole of the four days we were there. The only thing we have to look out for is snipers & as they are crack shots we have to be careful how we get about. All we had to sleep in was a place with a roof & no sides but everybody was cheerful although we were all huddled up in this place.The usual run out here is 4 days in the trenches & 5 days resting in billets & I have been speaking to some of the old soldiers here and they say that if you are careful you will never get hit so that’s a good thing anyhow. All the time we were in the trenches no one was hit things here are very quiet indeed. I hear we are shifting from hear tonight but when I don’t know they spring these surprises on us like that. While we were in the village near the trenches I walked through a house there & everything was just as the people had left it in fact it looked as if they had cleaned out in a hurry when they started shelling the place. There was a big safe there bursted open by the Germans & every draw & cupboard was ransacked right through the house and by the look of the furniture the people were very well to do. Of course we had to be careful how we got about as bullets were wissing about everywhere. The general idea here is that the war will be over in about a month or so but by what I can see of things here I don’t think so as the Germans cant get to us & we cant get to them as there is a deep bog right across the front of the trenches between the two lines. The French had these trenches before we took them over & they had a sort of a compact that if the Germans did not attack the French wouldn’t not a bad wheeze was it. By all accounts the Germans that are here are the Saxons & they are not very keen on fighting. When the British came they altered the run of things & bombarded their trenches for five days. Well must finish up as that is all the news I can think of at present
From loving son Fred
I thought I should go to see the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red at the Tower of London, although I do have mixed feelings about it as a spectacle. I did find it moving but I like the idea of it being a memorial at an individual level as well as an anonymous mass.
“Evil betide me if I do not open the door to know if that is true which is said concerning it. So he opened the door… and when they had looked, they were conscious of all the evils they had ever sustained, and of all the friends and companions they had lost and of all the misery that had befallen them, as if all had happened in that very spot;… and because of their perturbation they could not rest.“
The Prologue to ‘In Parenthesis’ by David Jones, his epic of the 1st World War. It is taken from the Mabinogion, the tales of Welsh legends.