Research is always on going. New records are being added online everyday, or it could be that a different search was entered which brings up a variety of different records to what you’ve seen before. Today was one of those times when I came across some letters written during WWI and published in the Geraldton Guardian newspaper.
These letters were written at Christmas 1916. Each one saying the war should be over soon, yet it went on for another 2 years. Interesting to see a letter from Rifleman G T Cordaroy of London Rifle Brigade writing to his aunt Mrs C Cripps. George Thomas Cordaroy is the eldest grandson of Sarah Cripps of England, sister to Charles Thomas Cripps. Alf Woodcock is also mentioned. Charles’ daughter Maggie, married Jack Woodcock, Alf is his brother.
Private Verney Binns, writing from somewhere in France, on December 31st, 1916, to his mother (Mrs. Ireland, the Bowes), says: — Well, this is the last day of the year 1916, and we are going strong yet. We had a very good time at Xmas. We had a splendid dinner cooked by our Australian cook on Xmas Day, and fruit, smokes, plenty of beer, a few bottles of champagne and the best port. Then on Boxing Day we had a dinner and a smoker afterwards. I sang a couple of songs and told them a few Australian yarns. Considering we are on active service it was ‘tres bon.’ I have had a very bad cold since, but as I have some eucalyptus I am getting on alright. Everyone has had it; even the doctors here. It gets one in the throat, and some have completely lost their voices for over a week. There has been a good deal of sickness amongst the Australians, and there are a good many out of my company have gone to England, and a couple are due for Australia, I wish I was on my way back, but I suppose I shall peg along until the finish: I only hope I get back with my health, and strength so that I can deal with wasters who talk about the boys coming away on a picnic to dodge their debts! Well, they are paying a bigger debt than any they left behind, not myself particularly, because I have been lucky enough, to keep out of the trenches but the best pals that ever I had died in hell for those cold footed wusses at home. Well, conscription missed, and I may as well say now that I voted for it, although I would not bring a dog of mine to this life. But a man that can come and won’t is far below a dog. We never can tell, but we may be called on to go in the trenches at any time. If we do, I’ll go in with a smile, and come out again, too. I always had a feeling I would get home, again, and have still. The weather is pretty bad here now, raining nearly all the time. One day the ground is mud a foot deep and the next day it will be frozen hard and every time your foot hits the ground it gives you such a jar, you think you’ve lost a couple of toes. I am working to-night, so won’t be able to celebrate the coming in of the New Year. I suppose you will be going to the Northampton Cup tomorrow, I hope you back the winner. I have a terrific lot of writing to do this mail. I think I stand a chance of getting leave either this or next month. I struck a fellow to-day who had just come out from England with the latest draft for the 28th Batt. He came over in the 7th/28th with me. When we were coming up from Marseilles he sprained his ankle, and had been in Blighty nearly nine mouths. Marvellous how some chaps use their heads, isn’t it! If I get my leave this month it won’t be out of my turn, I have been over nine months here and never had a day off. I am so glad that Alf Woodcock has turned up. I was only going on what young George Hand told me. He said he last saw Alf out in no man’s land badly wounded, but in the excitement one is liable to imagine things. You mention Mr. McMinn picking hops in Belgium. When we went up there it was for a spell. (I am talking about the whole of the 1st Anzac Army Corps) to give them a chance to bring the battalions up to full strength. Not being a busy part of the line, all the men that could be spared were put on assisting the farmers, so that is how some of our chaps came to be picking hops “avec Madame celie I gigue— Comprenez?” Of course, during that blissful period Muggins (or yours truly) was going for his life learning the Morse code and semaphore, and trying generally to become an efficient signaller. In those days I may have been seen out on some hill wagging a flag to some distant station on some other hill, telling them some silly thing in so many dots and dashes. Or, at another time, I may have been seen lumping timber and ammunition from daylight till dusk, and again I may have been seen riding nine miles to a part of the line in the morning, and working all day laying a light railway (trench line for the engineers), or juggling coils of barbed wire and angle iron, and sleepers etc., and then riding nine miles back to camp, and shadow stew, and then go to bed and so the merry game went on, and still does. I’m not complaining about my lot, since I came here. It would take a lot of that to kill this chicken, and we have been congratulated twice by General Birdwood for our work since we came to France, so we have done a bit of good. I hope everything is O.K. with the farm. Remember me to all my friends, and tell them I am doing well and still expect to put in another crop in dear old W.A.
Just a line or two to let you know that I am still alright. At the time of writing I am many miles away from home but the ship I am on is a good old boat, and I hope she will take us to our destination alright, and not get torpedoed on the way. This is the first time I have been away from home for Christmas and New Year, and I hope with good luck to be home again for the next Christmas. I reckon it was hard luck sailing two days before Christmas, but for all that I did not have a bad time. The Y.M.C.A. on board gave each soldier a bag which contained two Christmas cards, lollies, cake, etc., for Christmas; and on New Year’s Day they gave us some cake, lollies, and pudding, so I had no occasion to grumble. The second day after we left Fremantle, I was very sick all day, but since then I have had good health, and am at present just the thing.
Just a line to let you know I spent Xmas Day as pleasant as could be expected so far away from home, and I know that you will be pleased to hear I was invited to have Xmas dinner with Mr Peaters. We had turkey, plum pudding and roast beef with other refreshments, and I had to respond to the toast of “The old folks at home,” and you may be sure I did not forget to ask my friends to stand up and drink one silent toast for our fallen comrades. Well, I was thinking of you, and wishing that this dreadful war was over, and that I was back home with you all, instead of having to go back in a day or two where shot and shell are flying about night and day. I think this war will soon be over now, I would like to tell you more but if I did my letter would never reach you. I am sorry to say I have not received any letters from home for the last three weeks, but expect to get them any time all in a bunch. I know there must be plenty on the way, and I will get them soon.
In answer to your more than welcome letter of December 14, 1916 I am pleased to learn that the two boys will not be taken from you. There are plenty of men in England fit for service yet, and they are rounding them up. I am glad to know the crops are turning out better than you thought. It must be a great relief to you. I know you must miss uncle. I received your letter just as I was about to sail for this place, and we have been here just a week to-day. It is much brighter than where we were. There is something to see here, but there was only the sea and jungle, so you can guess we were all jolly glad to be here for a change. I don’t think the war will last much longer, and then for dear old England.
Now the winter has set in we are getting very cold weather. It is nearly always raining, and, if there is no rain we get black frost, and I think that is worse than rain. On Xmas Day I was in the trenches not very far from the old ruined village of —, and it has been blown to bits by high explosive shells. We were in the same place on New Year’s Day, and it is not the best place you could be in, I can tell you. Well I hope to be back in Australia for next New Year.
(Note: Ernest Mark Rodgers was 18 years and 8 months when he enlisted. He came home safely.)
Source: Trove – http://trove.nla.gov.au/; SOLDIERS’ LETTERS. (1917, March 3). Geraldton Guardian(WA : 1906 1928), p. 2. from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article66675466