Letter from Arthur Powell

Scope and Content

Arthur's 11th parcel has come 'safely to hand' and everything as usual was 'A1'. Arthur is reminiscing in quite romantic tones about home life, 'In fact I even began to wonder if Father had gone down stairs to light the fire and brought Mother tea up'. This gentle reflection of home life has been brought on by hearing the church bells ringing for Sunday service, he is thinking about his own church back at home, St James's. The weather is particularly fine on this Sunday morning and Arthur imagines himself in Alex Park, 'with the band playing and all my old chums about me'. Arthur is currently stationed in a place of safety where he feels able to reflect on a better life, 'there is a little civilization where we are at present and it is apt to stir ones memory up a bit'. Arthur's unit has been brought up to his current location during the early hours of the morning, directly from the 'great battle' (the space next to this is left blank, indicated by a pencil line) it is assumed, probably from the fighting at Arras. He was recalled to, 'go up in reserve for another attack', but unfortunately, 'had the gruesome job of burying the dead on the battle field' for which they came under constant fire and 'had to withdraw several times'. The most difficult task Arthur has found so far was while 'assisting the Chaplin to identify the bodies'. This gives a unique and deeply personal account of one of Arthur's most painful tasks of the war, highlighted particularly when the Chaplin offers Arthur a drink from his whiskey flask, 'which (he) did most thankfully'. Arthur is grateful also for the addition of their 'rum ration' which he believes 'is the salvation of the troops that "fight"'. Arthur says it is a necessity on which all fighting soldiers depend and challenges anyone to 'come out here' and listen to the bombs dropping before they consider stopping, 'Tommy's Rum Ration'. Arthur is concerned that perhaps war is all he talks about in his letters, but 'that's all the news I have to talk about'. Arthur says he tells 'nothing but the truth'; Juxtaposed to the seriousness of the tone of this information, Arthur's light-heartedness shines through still, 'I am at present absolutely in the pink, the weather is glorious and I feel like a game of tennis'. Arthur closes his letter by asking to be remembered to a 'Mr Gaytor' and all his friends. Signed with the usual love.

Dated at: France.