Letter from Arthur Powell

Scope and Content

This letter of Arthur's is written without the restriction of censorship. It is being hand delivered, by a 'chum,' from the Liverpool Pals who is about to go on leave for the first time since arriving at the Front in September of 1915. His friend has been wounded twice and not made it past the base until now. Arthur feels comfortable writing openly about the three main battles he has been involved in; Arras, Ypres and The Somme. Arthur observes the army has become more organised with its regard to 'leave' for soldiers, staff and transport workers; of whom have been in France since November 1915. Of these many of them are from the old regiment of the Liverpool Pals. Arthur himself is hoping to be given leave on or around his 21st birthday. Arthur feels he stands a better chance of been given leave as an NCO (non-commissioned officer) within his draft, more than others who came out to The Front at the same time as he did. He is also hoping, 'for some kind of settlement', a monetary gift from the army as he reaches his 21st birthday. Arthur discusses briefly the emotional impact of coming home, 'I am not breaking my heart over leave, because once you go home and then come out here again you are [not] able to soldier properly for months afterwards'. As much as it would hearten Arthur to be home again, and for the joy and pleasure it would give them all, Arthur recognises that leaving them would be difficult, 'It takes the chaps a long while to get over it and it does not do to lose heart on this job'. Arthur however is prepared to take the risk of heartbreak to be back with them for a short while. His cheerfulness, he remarks, 'knows no bounds' and he is, 'as well as ever'. Arthur is pleased to learn that his mother enjoyed her holiday in London, a 'well earned' rest for which he thanks the 'Drape Family' (presumably with whom she stayed). Arthur muses on the idea of them all being able to go away on holiday in the near future, possibly to the Isle of Man. He mentions that he is currently stationed at small quiet country village, in a large barn a hundred or yards so outside of the village. Arthur then draws contrasts between where he is now and were he was some months ago at Zellebeke Lake, a small village one and half miles SE of Ypres; it was Arthur remarks, 'a hell of a place'. During the spring offence of Arras in 1917, Arthur was in hospital (possibly with Trench Fever) he tells his parents however that his unit was fighting to the left of Hill 60 and at the Messine Ridge. It was here the British and ANZAC units dug, and heavily mined the tunnels around Arras. Arthur tells them of the large explosions which ensued. Arthur believes that unless Germany submits to British terms there will be one more, 'big push and exit Fritz from Belgium and the N of France', Arthur envisions that there are, 'big things in store' over the coming months. Arthur is untrustworthy of the Belgians and believes them to be, 'a treacherous lot of devils and spies'. Apparently twelve months prior to this date, not four kilometres to where Arthur is currently billeted, the Germans bombed one of the largest munitions factories and munitions dump. He explains this is why Lloyd George had asked the munition factory workers to work over an August Bank Holiday weekend. Arthur remarks that his parents might remember them working on this date. Arthur has been for a swim, which he has enjoyed, he has also been able to wash his towel and socks, something which is not always possible when there is only enough water to fill a dixie tin. He tells his parents about the march from France to Belgium where he passed other units of both English and Belgian soldiers. His unit had the furthest to go, crossing the frontiers twice while leading the English soldiers over the line. Arthur is amused that although they have crossed one boundary to another they are only stationed two kilometres apart. Arthur finishes by sending his best love and wishes to everyone, concluding a personal note for his brother Norman, explaining to him that he takes a great interest in Norman's letters even though he not always able to write to him separately.

Dated at: France.