1916: A Beddgelert Soldier’s Letter

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First Night Under Fire.


Private Bob Thomas late of Cwmcloch, Beddgelert, in a letter to a friend dated October 31st from France, says: –

“ I have been over here about six weeks now. I can’t say I enjoy it; but I don’t grumble. It’s good to see a bit of the world and to see what war is like. I always wanted to come out here, but I must confess there have been moments when I felt sorry I have had to come. I have now an idea of what war is like.

The first day I went into the firing line Fritz gave us a lively time. I shall never forget that first day. It was a Sunday. When we got within range of the German guns I was a bit nervous, especially when the shells dropped around us in the trenches. I kept my eye on an old soldier and soon found out what was the best thing to do. I soon found the truth of the old proverb “Example is better than precept. ‘

Next day, about five p.m., Fritz started shelling again, and I thought my time was up. If somebody was to tell me before I came out here that things are as terrible as they actually are out here I would never have believed them. It simply rained shells that night. Thank God for that old soldier who stood near me. He heartened one as he stood there like a statue, never moving only to dodge the shells.

My courage nearly failed me that night; but that old soldier standing near me helped me to stand firm and copy his example. Well, Fritz got tired of it in about half an hour. I expect he thought we were all dead. We came off with surprisingly few casualties. I was none the worse, only half buried twice. A piece of shrapnel went through my steel helmet, but it did not hurt me; its force was checked.”


Source: The Cambrian News and Merionethshire Standard, published 1 December 1916