Letter from Arthur Powell

Scope and Content

This letter from Arthur to his parents is detailed and long, containing military news and information, both from his parents and from the Front, it opens with his thanks at receiving parcel number 3, which he now has safely 'to hand'. Arthur has heard from Harry who has not had his operation because he had contracted Trench Fever. Otherwise Harry has enjoyed the relative comforts of being in hospital resting, with regular visits from a Mr Parry, and his wife, on the request of a Mr Harry Longridge the Managing Director of the British Engineering Company. Mr Longridge asked them to purchase Harry, 'just what he wants at [his] Mr Longridges expense'. Arthur has managed to procure a cap badge for his parents, but it will be sometime before he can send it to them. He has received a letter and parcel from his Aunt Lizzie, but the post has currently been badly disrupted by the fighting. Much of the 'outgoing' mail has been lost, sadly a short while previous, the mail dispatch riders were 'blown to ---.' Arthur leaves this part blank, accept for dashes; he leaves it to his parents imagination to fill in the gaps, Arthur and his parents conclude that the lack of regular mail is also caused by the 'Channel business'. Arthur remarks on the conversation he has previously had with his parents about the government's need to change, and swapping Admiralty commands. He feels that the government is not making the right military decisions, England he says, has 'resources' enough and plenty of men, but the 'majority of them are in the wrong place'. Arthur estimates that there are 3 and a half million to 4 million men available, half of which do not, he thinks, see the front line trenches. Arthur is a little cynical in his remarks as only photographs of smiling happy soldiers are published and not those of battle worn soldiers; perhaps the success of the recruitment campaign might be different he feels? This is both the same for the Navy and Air Force tactical organisation , he feels that military commands could be 'more offensive'; although Arthur is very impressed with the British Air Force as he believes they have tactical superiority and skill as witnessed in the skies above him, which 'practical demonstrations to convince me of this'. Arthur writes about his dissatisfaction with government spending and the in-house 'squabbling' with the 'click' while thousands of troops are separated from their families waiting to come home. Arthur perceives that while the 'squabbling' goes on there can be no end to the war and peace seems, 'as far off as ever'. He mentions the involvement of the Romanians at the Front, which is 'bad, very bad' and the Allies are currently passing through 'the dark hour before the dawn'. Arthur is grateful for the food he has received, which he acknowledges in his parents letter dated the 2nd of December; cocoa, bread, sausages (although he doesn't like the parkin which they sent). He asks for cigarettes to be packed in tins of 50, rather than loose. The butter is useful, but no longer the jam, he requests instead, lemon cheese, apparently 'soup tablets' are most useful, but not OXO cubes. Candles are most needful, but not always easily obtained and he asks for these to be sent on. Arthur concludes his letter by sending his usual love as the 'devoted Son' and says he will be writing to his Grandmother the following day.

Dated at: France.