May 10, 1915
My Dearest Mamma
Here’s my letter block so why shan’t I write to you. This is a rummy place up here where I am waiting with nothing particular to do for the time – desolation – a street with a few farm cottages old bricks strewn everywhere and tiles and a few odds and ends of equipment a scratch cradle tangle of old telephone lines repaired in every direction hung up against odd poles & festooned against houses – a great pile of trench work, some pollards cut about by shrapnel a group of soldiers graves. Behind my chair an estaminet (pub.) and behind them orchards, trenches, noman’s land – and the Germans. A lovely day for it all & I swear the only vile thing is the Bosch – I have been down here since 3 A.M. My nicest subaltern will be here to join me or relieve me shortly – If he doesn’t come soon I shall be asleep. What a glorious time of the year you must have been having at home & how much I wish I were back with [you]. I cant believe that I was there 10 days ago or a fortnight. Do send me news of John when next you write. I am looking forward to hearing of him. He must have had some experience lately. We had a most unpleasant day yesterday. I hope it won’t be repeated. Gs dont seem to have much artillery opposite however. I hope you are having a pleasant time at Littlehampton.
Henry Bartle Compton Arthur—my wife’s Great Uncle Harry—was an artillery major during the Great War. We have fifty of the letters he sent to his mother and sister while serving on the Western Front. This one was written from his observation post in the ruins of a village, probably Neuve Chapelle, the day after the Battle of Aubers Ridge. About 12,000 British soldiers were killed, wounded, or missing; it had been, as he said, “a most unpleasant day.”
In November we followed Harry through Flanders and Picardy. We’ll write about that, and then add a few notes on hotels and restaurants in Belgium and northern France. For those uninterested in war history, come back in a while and we’ll post about a new apartment we rented in Paris, plus a couple more restaurants reviews. Somewhere along the way we’ll put in a link to our pictures and finish with a bit of advice on maps, guides, and research.
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A Duty Nobly Done — Anselm and Margriet in Flanders and Picardy
May 10, 1915