12 Charleville Circus
Oct 10th 1915
My dear Mother
I am enclosing a copy of part of a letter from Private Tucker of the Civil Service Rifles giving some account of the action of his battalion during the recent fighting, and of their doings from about the Thursday before the great battle until the Friday after. I thought it quite an interesting account and that you might like to see it. The letter finished by describing how fatigued they were on their return to billets, just able to drag one foot after the other, but quite unable to march in step. I was glad to get your letter yesterday evening with the enclosure from George. I will forward it to Juliet and ask her to send it home. You must have been very pleased to get some first-hand information from Cecil Jefferies about the 9th Worcesters. I wonder whether Cyril is now back in Gallipoli. I should not wonder if some of the troops there have been sent to Serbia, though I expect they could not safely send many away from Gallipoli. The whole situation in the Balkans is about as bad as it can be, and I fear will not be likely to improve until the Allies meet with some big success either on the western or the Russian fronts – or get through the Dardanelles which seems rather hopeless at present. I am glad you have lost your cold and hope you will manage to keep free of colds for some time now.
The Blenheims are a magnificent crop. I hope Father will be able to get a reasonable price for them. Fruit is about the only article of food which is cheap to buy now. I bought some strawberry pears off a barrow in the Strand the other day at 2d a lb. I thought I recognised them and was sure on tasting them. They were not labelled. The only pear known by name to the coster is the “Williams”, and all sorts of wretched pears get sold under that name. As this particular coster had got “Williams” stuck up on some rather large but unattractive looking pear, the strawberries had to be sold without a name. Otherwise they would doubtless have borne the legend “Williams”.
With love to all.
Your affectionate son
J D Sladden
Extract from letter by Private Tucker
Our last visit to the trenches was exciting. Unfortunately the rain was wicked. Every day during the seven days we were in, it poured torrents, till our groundsheets, overcoats and everything were wet through – till our boots and socks were bunged up with mud and water, feet being continually wet for the whole of our week’s visit. A feint attack was made the day before the assault, for the purpose of drawing the enemy’s fire and making him reveal the positions of batteries and machine guns. A stream of shrapnel soon came over from the other side, but their aiming was bade, and none fell in the trenches. The German official described this as an enemy attack repulsed. Saturday morning two battalions in this brigade were over and walking towards the German trenches in a flash. The two front lines were captured almost without trouble and thus our battalion was not needed to reinforce. The brigade achieved all its objects and moreover stuck to them. The German lines were extremely strong, a big fort being opposite us. Their dug-outs were some 20 feet underground, some consisting of 4 or 5 rooms together, and a few one or two storeys high (or low). The prisoners indeed considered their lines impregnable, but they had been badly shaken up by the intermittent bombardment they had suffered for the past month, and a final bombardment caught them napping, to put it in a nutshell. A counter-attack was expected the next two nights on our front trench, the position being thus: [diagram] so we could not relieve the attacking battalions until Tuesday night. We spent two days and two nights in the new front line. They did not counter-attack our line though they did so very near us. There was not much shelling of our line, as it was impossible to advance there while the line remained the same on the left. We were relieved on Thursday night by the [dash], and returned overland (in pouring rain as usual) to our own trenches, passing en route many bodies (yet unburied) caught in the wire or by shrapnel. Then we marched to another part of the line, and till 6 am shivered in supports, as the Brigade in front was expecting a counter-attack that morning. Nothing happened and we returned to some houses just behind till midday. At 1 pm we moved off by the usual circuitous route village and reached here 9 pm on Friday.