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 Post subject: Somewhere in France
PostPosted: Thu Nov 05, 2009 11:40 pm 
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I don't think the following letter fits exactly into this category but as it originated during WW1, if not in South Down, I thought I'd put it here anyway. It's the first in a series of letters written on the pages of a copy book and in pencil. Gerald Harris was a journalist in Dublin and joined The Royal Dublin Fusiliers. I have several others and together they paint a very descriptive picture of life in the fields of France and in the trenches. The first one is dated Oct.3rd 1917 and sadly Gerald was killed in action on January 13th 1918. The letters were written to a lovely lady I knew as Aunt Nora, she was a sort of great-aunt by marriage and lived for over sixty years after her husband died. I know they were never intended to be read by anyone else but some of you I know have a great interest in WW1 and may find them interesting.

Somewhere in France
October 3rd 1917

'When thou art gone, for thou shalt go
How can my heart bear all its weight of woe?'

My own darling little wife,
How truly prophetic were your lines tho' I feel I have but ill translated them. 'Somewhere in France' lying on one of the fields where one of the bloodiest battles of the early war was fought, I pen these lines. I now hear the guns booming and at night the sharp tattoo of the machines spurting out their message of death. May they carry to our common enemy - the enemy of civilization and happy homeland - the message intended for him when he has paid his reckonings darling -for pay it he will - then for the woods and vales of old Ireland again. I wish I could tell you the story of my soldier life since I left you, but then you know the censor has his duty to perform and his task dear knows is no enviable one. Let it Nora siffice to say that I had a very delightful voyage to France and through that country passing many towns and cities which made history in the past as well as the present campaign. We were hurried to -------- where I was immediately attached to a well known fighting battalion. Real life camp life dear is certainly weird and picturesque; it is teeming with thrills and not without its moments of elationwhen one seems braced up to dare and face anything. It is like beginning life on a more fearsome, bloodier tho' withal grander and loftier scale. Do not smile girlie at this because my heart is in the cause of justice, religion and humanity. Unless tyranny's finally crushed then heaven help the weak and defenceless. Looking at the ruined villages, the strangled condition of commerce, the machinery of a nation scrapped, the churches, once the pride of the people demolished and defamed, the thousands of fathers and brothers slaughtered embitters one against the author of all this fiendishness. We know what happened in your own city, but what if that disaster befell the land we all love so well.
Dear one, I would like to tell you lots and lots of things yet you must be patient. Now, what of yourself? I trust in God you are well and keeping up your courage. Keep it up darling for my sake and every smile will act like a whisper of hope to me. If I feel that you are downhearted it will only create in myself a recklessness which could only end one way. Also love, say a little prayer now and again at Rathgar for me. I am fighting for you and for your love and esteem. I know you will think all the more of your soldier boy when he returns to your arms.
Night my darling has suddenly fallen, even out here in the fields and I must say goodbye with a prayer once more that God may preserve and keep my beloved.

Your husband,
Gerald.


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 Post subject: Re: Somewhere in France
PostPosted: Fri Nov 06, 2009 2:14 am 
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GGG - How nice to read this letter,
but sad to know he died not too long
after.


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 Post subject: Re: Somewhere in France
PostPosted: Fri Nov 06, 2009 11:23 am 
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Very poignant letter indeed GGG but a nice memento for his family, many years ago I walked through some of those War Cemeteries both Allied and German, such an awful waste of life ...............................................


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 Post subject: Re: Somewhere in France
PostPosted: Fri Nov 06, 2009 4:24 pm 
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GGG.......I can imagine how this poor woman felt reading back over this after her husband was killed.As Northbrook said,a nice momento ,but heartbreaking............Did they have any children?


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 Post subject: Re: Somewhere in France
PostPosted: Fri Nov 06, 2009 6:15 pm 
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joanne wrote:
GGG.......I can imagine how this poor woman felt reading back over this after her husband was killed.As Northbrook said,a nice momento ,but heartbreaking............Did they have any children?


No, they had no family joanne.....she wrote poetry and was quite eccentric in her later years. She never spoke much about Gerald.....I have their marriage certificate somewhere, must look for it as I can't remember how long they were married before he was killed. I also have a little pocket-sized copy of Richard 111 which has his life's blood on it as it was in his breast pocket when he was shot and was returned to Aunt Nora by the War Office . He had underlined some lines that were quite prophetic as it turned out......'I every day expect an embassage, From my Redeemer to redeem me hence: And now in peace my soul shall part to heaven, Since I have set my friends at peace on earth.


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 Post subject: Re: Somewhere in France
PostPosted: Fri Nov 20, 2009 12:09 am 
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Thought I'd reproduce the next letter that came ......it's dated October 8th 1917. (Like Brian and myself, theirs was a mixed, or as it is now known, an inter-church marriage.)

My darling wife,
I am worried to know if my last letter reached you as I failed to write my name on the envelope. However, I sincerely hope it did as it was my first epistle from France to anyone. Say a little prayer for me as I shall be in the trenches on Wednesday afternoon and shall not be down the line again for twelve days. Today I attended Mass under conditions strongly reminiscent of the penal days. The altar was erected in a large dismantled and shot-ridden barn. Far as we are from the centre of civilization the improvised table was decorated with wild flowers. The ceremony was simple but oh so impressive, creating within onesomething of that due reverenceto what is pure and holy. The priest, an Irishman, Father Casey delivered a homely and convincing little sermon, while at intervals we sang hymns, closing with 'Faith of our Fathers.'
Darling, I feel that you are sometimes thinking of me at night when you lay in bed: strangely the thought constantly impresses on me that you are reproaching yourself for something in connection with my presence here. It hurts me and for my sake instead of giving way to any feeling of gloom or foreboding look forward as I do so ardently to the day you will meet me again safe and joyful in our own dear land. Won't our Pharoah be joyful too? (Pharoah was their dog I believe)
Next, dear chum of mine, will you please try to keep yourself nourished: it means much to both of us. I am keeping very fit but the cold here at night is intense and as you are limited to one blanket one must keep in mind that a soldier must be prepared to give luxuries a miss in balk. I shall wait till I'm at home in Blighty to enjoy myself thoroughly and if all is well I expect to see you early in Spring. What a time we'll have. Heavens how I dream of it. Now, best of all chums, write me a long letter with all the news. There are any amount of things I want you to send me. First of all any old penny journals with short stories. Since I came here I have read a piece of paper picked up in a graveyard twice over. If you could send me my razor it would be a great boon and also a bottle of hair-oil and a small hair brush. When I left Dublin all our brushes were taken and I have not yet secured new ones. My pay here is 5 francs weekly which in English money amounts to 4/2 (that's just over 20 pence in today's money!) and having regard to the price of everything that sum goes in a shamefully short time. Do not think - oh, not for worlds - that I am throwing out the lifeline, but an order for two shillings once a month or so would come as a blessing. Stamps are not negotiable, only Postal Orders. How many times do I dream of our little comfy Saturday nights in Rathgar. Time - do pass on swiftly and bring me to my own darling.
Like a decent little pal will you call into Mr. Kelly at Davies Place at Portobello and tell him that I met that fellow called 'Fireman' who used to write for the papers.By this time he is within call of Ypres which place the huns are likely to evacuate at any moment and may the devil go with them. I shall have lots of most interesting stories for you when I get home but you know darling that I cannot venture anything on paper here. The censor has enough to do without sub-editing my scribble.
Now I shall say goodnight and a short farewell for a few days. Remeber me to Mrs. Brownlee and all the friends and do not fail to write at the very earliest opportunity. If you chance to get a photo of yourself and the Pharoah taken send it to me. I have still your little green ribbon next my heart. With all my love dear heart, goodnight.
Your husband, Gerald.


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 Post subject: Re: Somewhere in France
PostPosted: Fri Nov 20, 2009 2:29 am 
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GGG these letters are real gems, they raised my interest as my brother-in-law has just returned from France where he was visiting the cemetaries out there, he was the first of my wife's family to visit the grave of their Uncle who was killed on the 1st July 1916 and is buried in the Connaught Cemetary in Thiepval. I was also interested in the Dublin Fusiliers, they have a web site, and of course Johnny McEvoy wrote and recorded a song about them probably from the view of someone who had survived and returned, the last verse is really haunting;
Now i am old not wanted here a stranger in my town
I sit alone in my back yard and watch the sun go down
But medals are no use to you when you are old and grey
And the taste of death is on your lips and never goes away
Donaghaguy[Wim]


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