'Send chocolates and Oxo cubes'


An interesting letter has been received by Mr and Mrs Harry Chapman, of 31 Ashburnham Road, Luton, from their son Horace, who is in the firing line with the 1/24th London Regiment (Queen's).

Writing from the trenches, he says: "We came in again on Wednesday, and I think we are coming out tomorrow night. Then we shall have a good rest, though we have not been in the trenches all the time. The time we were out of them we had to go out at nights and do trench digging, which, of course, is much more dangerous than being in the trenches, as it is going in and out that casualties occur.

Oxo advert"I must not forget to tell you of the 'ducking' I had while we were digging a communication trench about a week ago. It was a very dark night and there is a stream running across. I was throwing the earth and overbalanced and went backwards in three feet of dirty water. It was a lark, I can tell you, having to go back one and a half miles in wet clothes, but I soon got them dry next day, as we did not do anything in the daytime, only look out to see that we did not get shelled out. We get used to hearing them come over and we do not take any notice of them.

"Our platoon has been in the reserve trenches, though that is right up to the firing line. It is really a communication trench, and we get their fire the same as the first line, and it has been very hot.

"On Friday night I was told with seven others to fetch the food and the mails for a platoon. It was a very hot time as the Germans had the road marks, for they had been in the position and lost it, so they knew just when to set their machine guns on us. You should have seen me and Ted Cannon carrying the postbag and the bullets whizzing about us. We were glad when we got back to the trench as they were firing at us all the time."

Pte Chapman went on: "The trenches we are in are more like barricades, and are built fairly high, so we are pretty safe in them except when we fire.

"We have been getting plenty of food - bacon and biscuits for breakfast; bully beef, biscuits and a few vegetables for dinner; jam and biscuits for tea. One day we had some bread, and we get cheese as well.

"I have had plenty of fags, thanks to Mr Hobbs, and with the parcel you sent me I have got on fine. The Oxo cubes made me and Fred some good soup, mixed with our bully beef, and the tinned fish was grand, just what I like. Fred had a parcel sent him with a cake in, so we have been living like lords this last three days.

"It's been grand weather, too hot for anything, and we get the daytime to rest. It is at dusk the trouble begins. Then everyone has to stand to arms till daybreak. It cools down about eight o'clock, and there is not nearly so much fighting in the daytime as at night.

"Out platoon is going in the firing line tonight, so we shall only have one night in the front line."

Asking for chocolate and more Oxo cubes, Pte Chapman said: "I have had my head shaved and we have to grow moustaches. You should see me; you would laugh. It's getting quite thick on my lip, and I look as if I have just come out of prison."

[Beds & Herts Saturday Telegraph, May 8th, 1915]