Letter from Arthur Powell

Scope and Content

This long letter is general in detail, it is heading towards Christmas and Arthur discusses the sending of gifts and cards, this letter is split into two sections, the second half dated the 29th of December. Arthur begins by thanking his parents in the usual way and for their letter to him of the 15th of December he is still waiting for their parcel sent the 9th December. He asks if they have received their regimental Christmas card, they were difficult to obtain and very expensive. Arthur then gives a lists of relatives and friends to whom he has sent these special cards. He has sent his mother a special souvenir, it has been purchased from a French café 1 mile from the German Front Line; it was expensive, as in Arthur's own words 'the poor inhabitants have to make their living as best they can out of troops'. The village where Arthur purchased the gift was heavily bombed, he wonders how the women have managed to 'stick it so long', it blew to smithereens the last few remaining houses leaving six casualties. He makes quips about the bombardment the Germans will receive the following day, 'However I expect our artillery will give him cause to regret tomorrow or the day after'. Arthur hopes that his mother will like the souvenir he has sent, but pointedly remarks; 'personally I do not want any souvenirs to remind me of France or Christmas in the Trenches. There is no danger of me forgetting about it'. Arthur's humorous side shines through in this laconic remark, 'the best souvenir I shall bring home will be myself, Yours Truly Esq and that will do'. Arthur has sent his brother Norman a card which cost him a day's pay, he apologise for not sending his father anything. Arthur is expecting to be sent 'Down the Line' after the New Year which is expected to last 4 to 5 weeks, the unit is being made up to full strength and put through reorganisation and training. Arthur is relieved about this as he confesses, 'It is jolly hard work, working the Battalion so shorthanded'. Sometimes they are performing duties of 4 men, and often work without a sentry, which he says is 'very risky'. Arthur makes a request for a particular favourite brand of cigarette, 'Wild Rose.' All of Arthur's requests for food stuffs and non-perishables, carry an air of urgency and great need, they are a source of comfort and solace to him and underpin the importance of correspondence from home. He has heard from his friend Harry, who has now had his operation, Arthur says he should try to stay in hospital and keep out of the fighting till next summer, unless peace of course, has become before then Arthur optimistically remarks. Harrison's powder, although useful in keeping away the dreaded louse; has not been needed, keeping clean was an important criteria for the soldiers, although how this was achieved on the Front Line goodness only knows. Arthur's letter may have possibly been returned to his parents on the account that he was away from his Battalion, who at the time, were moving further North. 29th 1916 Arthur wishes his parents well for the New Year, and congratulates them on their wedding anniversary. He apologises for not finishing his previous letter, but he has just spent another 6 days in the trenches, it has been very wet and foggy. We can assume then that Arthur spent Christmas Day in the trenches, as he mentions they have been relieved to have their 'supposed 'Xmas Do'. Arthur thanks them for his Christmas parcel which contained numerous gifts from family and friends. Arthur has received an excellent parcel from Church, 'cigs, chocolates and butterscotch'. The battalion is to be relieved for 6 days and then they may be sent back, he is hoping that the unit is being relieved after that. Arthur closes his letter by saying it will be hand delivered by a friend who has (fortunately) received a commission and is to return to England. A 'p.s' concludes that the cap badge which he has sent his parents will polish up and they are to let him know when they receive it.

Dated at: France.