TO mark the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War One the Gazette is continuing to publish excerpts from letters sent home from Ilfracombe men at the front line.
This week we have a letter from Lance Corporal Charles ‘Chas’ Brown of C Company, 1st Devonshire Regiment, who wrote from the trenches to his old headmaster Mr Lord at SS Pip and Jim’s School in Ilfracombe.
Dear Mr Lord - I regret not writing to you before, but at last I have a few minutes to myself. Thanks very much for the Christmas card, and I live in hopes of returning thanks personally before long.
I am longing for that, and very often at night in the trenches I think of the good times I spent at SSPJ.
On Christmas Eve we had a long march after a few days of ‘rest’, and at last reached the firing line. We had orders that B and D companies were to enter the trenches and A and C to be in reserve.
In the early hours of Christmas morning a German officer appeared and said that if we did not fire he would not.
I had to go off to the firing line with a message about this, and on arriving I was never more surprised in my life, as I found Devons and Germans all mixed up and having a fine time.
I believe this lasted all day. We relieved B Co. in the evening, and Boxing Day was just the same for us – all the best of friends.
I must honestly say I did not hold with it, and I said to my chum, ‘I wonder what the people at home will think of this?’
Well it very soon came to a close, and they began sending their ‘Jack Johnsons’, and we replied with our ‘iron rations’, which they do not like at all.
The weather here is awful, and it is quite laughable to see us trying to get out of mud knee-deep, so we hope for better weather soon.
There are one or two Combe boys in the regiment, of whom Private T Rawle is my mate. We both left Jersey together on August 20th, and please God we both hope to return safe and sound.
Tea has just arrived and Tom has the tea and I have the biscuits and jam. May the time roll on to when I can have a jolly good feed of Devonshire butter.
Please remember me to all my chums and say I should be very glad to have a line from some of them. Hoping you are in the best of health.
Yours very sincerely, Chas Brown (Lce Cpl), one of your ‘Old Boys’.