Letter from Arthur Powell

Scope and Content

Arthur begins his letter by apologising to his parents for not writing for some time, but unfortunately two fingers on his right hand had become infected by scratches caught on German barbed wire. He talks of the German retreat which hastened their advance towards the enemy trenches. Arthur and his unit advanced over several days during a heavy rainfall, digging in to take cover from enemy fire then bivouacking for three nights before moving on. This retreat, and advancement of the British troops, is believed to be part of what was the German withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line which began on the 23rd February. Arthur mentions that the Germans tactical chose the appointed date of their retreat, as they had relied on weather forecasts, and knew conditions would be poor for the advancing British Army across open land. His unit came under heavy fire from field guns and 5.9s, enemy aircraft also gave them great difficulty while advancing, but miraculously they suffered very few casualties. The Germans, or 'Fritz' as Arthur refers to them, had been burning all the villages behind their lines a week previous to the retreat. They had blown up their 'magnificent dugouts and trenches' which Arthur says, 'were in a terrible state' leaving nothing behind. The crossing was made doubly difficult as hand grenades with 'instantaneous fuses' and 'clock bombs and explosives' had been left in the wire. However Arthur's unit was 'pretty wide of his tricks' and suffered only one casualty. After a week of fighting and advancing Arthur's unit was thankfully relieved and in his usual cheery tone he is 'still smiling and wishing everybody luck (except Fritz).' He asks concernedly after his parent's health and makes apologies as he knows his parents will have fretted about him and he does not wish to keep them in suspense. Arthur thanks his parents for parcel No.9, which arrived safely in to his hands after returning from the front-line advancement. There was enough food to share amongst his comrades, for which they were very grateful, although he asks his parents not to send any more 'soup squares' as they take too long to prepare. Arthur is very grateful for the cigarettes that they have sent, these are very difficult to purchase and are a 'Godsend' to the soldiers when they arrive with parcels sent from home. He asks his parents to thank a 'Mrs James' and concludes the letter with his usual love.

Dated at: France.