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           Home >  History  > Letters from World War 1  :

Letters From World War 1
Part 10

Alister Robison - 27/04/01

A young New Zealand soldier serving overseas writes to his family.

Alister has his twenty first birthday on a fine day, but cold weather is setting in.

Letter 27

10th Nov (1916)
(Enclosing a press photograph of a tank)

Dear Everybody
We had the most perfect weather for the 9th - the first day for some time. In the evening 4 of us had a bottle or two of champagne to celebrate such an important occasion as my 21st birthday. Last birthday I had been in camp about 3 weeks in Tauherenikau.

I hope you got my letter in time for Xmas. We were told it wuld reach NZ in time so I suppose it is OK.

Since I wrote last I have been moved back into a better job. All I have to do is to have my meals a bit earlier & then go & relieve the boys on duty & let them have theirs. Perhaps I do 2 or 3 hours work a day. Its really not enoughto do & I'm getting sick of moping round all day. We have a Fritz exchange with ten plugs on it. Sometimes we get pretty busy when several are calling us up. Its a bit tricky at first but when you get used to it it is very easy.

Things are very quiet here now. In fact they have been all the time. We have had a lot of rain lately & the trenches are in a fearful state. It is also getting colder every day. The infantry must have been having a rotten time. I'm very glad I transferred out of them in NZ.

I ran across Brody - do you remember him in Nelson the chap with the ginger hair. He's an intelligence officer. He was the only officer in his lot to come through the big push untouched.

This place is as bad as the base for news. just as I wrote that Roy Campbell-Thomson - do you remember him - came in & had a yarn. I've run against him 3 or 4 times lately. He's in the Company Signallers.

Let me see Nancy's birthday is Jan 9th and yours Mother is Jan 17th. I think thats right isn't it. So many happy returns of the day when the day comes or when the days come. I hope this reaches you in time.

No more news so au revoir & best of love

P.S. I think I acknowledged with many thanks that 15/-. If I hadn't I do so now.

Letter 28


Dear Everybody,
I got your letter of 29th Sept a couple of days ago Mother & was much pleased to see that postal note for I was (not?) too flush of cash at the time. Also was much amused at the Limericks which are very good.

It has been extremely cold indeed for the last few days. The weather has been fine enough but there have been very sharp frosts & bitterly cold wind. Last night it clouded over & it started raining late at night & when we woke up this morning we found everything white - it had snowed. By Jove it was cold. I was on from midnight to 4 am so I slept in till midday & as I was feeling hungry I managed to get enough energy to get up. It was just as well too for there was a good feed on - a rare occurrence.

Yesterday 4 of us went & dug up some potatoes from a patch reasonably close to Fritz's lines & it was a wonder we weren't sniped at. However Fritz shelled our aeroplanes directly overhead & pieces fell all around us. One big piece coming down made a sound like the horn the French paper boys use - did you ever hear them when you were in France? I turned round to see if anything or rather anyone was calling us - when it fell with a thud about 3 yards away. I'm sorry to think you got a scare about me - thinking I was wounded. At any rate I wouldn't be a Private but a Sapper.

I suppose you've heard that Georgie has had a bad spin lately - well about a month ago. I had a letter from Aunt Maud the same mail as I got yours & she mentioned Georgie's health & said "of course she couldn't be well." It might be time enough but it was rather sarcastic was it not? as Mrs Creswell would say.

I suppose we've got to look forward to some more cold weather for some months yet. I'm having great trouble in keeping my feet warm & so will be glad when summer comes again. I'm like Dad in liking warm weather. Its the first cold weather I had since I left Nelson.

I got your parcel with the Balaclava & socks - they are both beauties & also the sweets.

I had a good letter from Maurice Rogers telling me all about the College news. He seems to be a good runner & apparently ran John Andrew pretty close. I also had a letter from Mrs Sheath. All the old hands have left except one but she has a full house I think.

No more news
All well here
Best of love

PS While I think of it - this pad came from Nelson together with a parcel - 2 parcels - good ones too. One of our boys got one of these pads & there was a note in it from Gertie Clark & another one got a note from Mrs Squires. The parcels were much appreciated as we had just come out of the Somme.

When Nancy has her next conversation with Maurice over the fence or telephone tell her to tell him I got his letter OK & was much interested in the school news & that I shall write soon.

By Jove the Quilliam's of New Plymouth have had a rotten time. I hear Mrs has died - a son got killed over here & their office has been burnt down.

Letter 29

26th Nov 16

Dear Mother Father & Nancy,
There's absolutely nothing to tell you this time I'm afraid. I got a paper yesterday dated August 23rd. It ought to have arrived long ago. As a matter of fact the papers are coming few and far between & there must be a lot some where. I'm getting your letters OK though.

I also got a parcel from Susie & this pad was one of the things in it. A towel, soap, tooth brush, a hanky, & some sweets completed the parcel. So it was a useful parcel wasn't it?

I'm sending you a view of a tank. Its the first one I've seen published.

I've got in communication with Dick Grace - through the Nelsonian. He's been out here over a year & hasn't had any leave to Blighty yet. I saw the other day that Harold Wilkinson is in the R. F.C.

I also had a letter from Arthur Shaw. He's been all over the show & has had nearly every week end in London so he's not doing so bad for one on Active Service.

There's nothing more to say except I'm very well & hope you are the same with heaps of love

Letter 30

5 December (1916)

Dear Everybody,
We have moved out for a spell for about a fortnight. We are only about 10 miles from where we were before. Our billet is a fairly good one though not particularly airtight in the chilly mornings. We only have a parade once a day & then have the rest of day off. We have to clean our buttons & boots again - the first time since I arrived in France.

We are playing the various battalion signallers football so we are assured of at least 4 games. Togs are hard to get so it will be a queer looking team when we appear on the field. We are in bad condition too for football for at this game one doesn't get much exercise.

I had a paper from you today but no letters. I had a long one from Nancy - including photograph which, although she apparently doesn't like it, is a good one. There's no doubt that the head & shoulders, if taken off, would improve things a bit!!!

I saw Dummy Richmond today & he seems quite well on it. I had a bit of a yarn to him but he was in hurry.

I noticed in Nancy's letter that Rupe is a bore & that he has gone back to the 19ths. From the 11ths to the 19ths is a big drop back isn't it? Worse than mine.

I got the birthday parcels from England in good order & good parcels too. Merci beaucoup. You can rest assured that anything like that is fully valued out in this mud hole.

I got a parcel of gift stuff l'autre jour & on the card which is inside it had on it from "Messrs K & M Rogers". I read Messrs as Misses at first & thought it was a coincident(?) getting one from them. It might be too for all I know.

Our officer is away in Blighty at present lucky fellow. & one of our Sergeants is in Paris for 3 days leave.We still run an office here but it is very quiet and one can manage it easily. There's about 10 of us doing duty so the hours are few & far between when we work. This watch I'm doing from 8 pm to 2 am. It is now 11 am so have 3 more hours to do.

I've told you before that there is very little to write about in this cold country - for it is getting cold now.

So must say au revoir
With best of love

(PS) All O.K. here hope you are the same & are having good games of tennis. Also got a letter from Dad explaining about money. If I ever wire for any more take it out of my account Dad & never mind about replacing it.
Compris. AR

Alister Robison
Alister Robison
Letter 31

Dec 1916

Dear Everybody,
I got your letter of the 27th Oct. & one from George Clark yesterday.

We have had another footy match & managed to win it by 5 to nil. We have played 4 matches now & have won the lot without having a point scored against us.

We are moving back into the line either today or tomorrow so will have to spend Xmas in the trenches. At least the infantry will but it wont be so bad for us. I believe our possy is not so bad.

The weather now is very rotten & always fairly cold & overcast. Nearly everyone including myself have had colds. I've got rid of mine thank goodness, but some of the others are still pretty bad. I wish this beastly winter would hurry up & get over. But then I suppose the dust would be rotten but of the two evils I suppose the dust the best I think.

I had a letter from both Nana & Aunt Georgie & both seem to be all OK now & both escaped the "flu" that was going round London. Thats what I had I think. All at 43 had it I believe. The pains in little Mary are rather rotten for about 2 days & then one is OK.

Things are very slow here & one finds it hard to find something to do & hard to keep one's feet warm. I usually go for a walk some time during the day.

We've got a new cook now thank goodness - the other one was a lazy beggar. The new one is a very good cook so we can look forward to some good feeds.

Well everybody au revoir
Best of love from

Click to read Letters from World War 1 - Part 9
Click to read Letters from Word War 1 - Part 11

Watch for more in this series.

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