the Zine page for current issue of news and articles concerning New Zealand life and culture in 1996 NZine became New Zealands first interactive online magazine showing NZ to the world warts and all New Zealand Regional Information and Links to New Zealand Resources contact the publishers and editorship of NZine
clickable listings of previously issued NZine articles - over 1000 still of interest Add your comment to the NZine guestbook - also join and use forums for more interaction
Search Articles  

           Home >  History  > Letters from World War 1  :

Letters From World War 1
Part 12

Alister Robison - 11/05/01

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

Digging trenches in the mud for cables, trekking for three days, playing rugby.

Letter 37

17 Feb 1917

Dear Everybody,
Just after I wrote my last letter & had posted it along comes a nice long letter from the three of you & also two 'Presses' & 'merci beaucoup' 5/-.

The weather is quite warm now & on account of the thawing everywhere except on the roads there is a mass of mud. The temperature in the day goes up to 45° or 50°.

It seemed rather amusing to hear Nancy talking about ice-creams while we out here have been like blocks of ice for over a month - more or less. However its quite warm now....

As you can see by the papers things are livening up a good deal on the whole line. I'd like to be able to tell you some of the dodges we are getting up to.

I got a book on "The War & the Bible" from Georgie. I haven't read it yet- haven't had time. However 1917 is going to be a great year, as two great prophecies run out. Georgie wrote a letter to the "Daily Mail" about it & got hundreds of letters asking for fuller information.

Don't forget to send that tobacco please. "Camerons Havelock Mixture" if you can get it.

I have just received another tunic. I had the other 3 years all but a month. I got it when I first joined the territorials in Auckland.

I hope you all had a good time for your Xmas holidays. It must have been tres bon up at Featherston. The garden must have been looking O.K. Mother.

Alister Robison
Alister Robison
Well good-bye all
With best of love
from Alister

Letter 38

21st March 1917

Dear Everybody,
Last letter if you remember was censored & returned so I might have missed the mail.

This week has been a great one for the Allies hasn't it? The Russian upheaval & the fall of Bagdad & the Germans retreating. I suppose it will affect our plans, though of course I'm at G.H.Q. and can't tell. It is very quiet up here up till the present, but of course in view of the latest events it may break out at any time.

So Mother you thought you bowled me out over the money & champagne (it is called such at any rate) costs 5 or 6 francs a bottle, which is equal to 3 or 4 shillings - not a quid as it is in the good old place of N.Z. Talking of drinks, there's one thing that I miss very much & that is a drink of water. Every well or supply has to be chlorinated first to kill all the bugs.

We are having equinoxial gales at present & it has suddenly turned very cold with wind rain & sleet all having a good turn. At present (5am 21st, pay day) the wind has gone down so perhaps it has to clear up....

I asked you some time back to send me 10/- every letter but as you are sending pretty regularly the old five bob I think you can cut the 10/- out of it.

Well everybody I hope you are all O.K. - the same as I am
With best love

Letter 39

13 April 1917

Dear Everybody,
For a change we have had a whole fine day. It is usually fine in the morning & then it either rains or snows or both - as some of us found out to our sorrow.

For the last three days some of us have been out burying cable. Every man has to dig up a trench 6'x6'x3' a fair bit too. The 3' generally dwindles down to a shovel's width at the bottom The first day was a rotten one for it was raining when we started. Then it cleared off till about 11 am & then it started & never stopped all day & we left off at 5 pm!! So you can imagine the state we were in but 'c'est la guerre'. The next day was fine & so was today. The first day I was pretty done up as I hadn't done any hard work for months. It usually takes us all our time to get enough exercise.

Of course we have to fill up this trench too & of course my hands never got blistered, Oh no! & the infantry (who usually do that kind of work for us) never slung off at us either, when they saw us with shovel and mud from head to toes - c'est la guerre.

However now I'm pretty fit & that is a good thing to be now-a-days.

We've a new sergeant now. The other one has been made Quarter Master sergeant at Division.

My wrists are pretty sore at present on account of this digging....

Our section played another match against the machine Guns & won 21 to 3. They were the first team to score against us. They kicked a goal. Our line hasn't been crossed in ten matches & we've scored about 130 points. I think I told you about the match against a battalion of Welshmen. We won 15 to nil. We had Colonel Plugge as referee & had the band out & the general to watch the game It was a very good game at first but the Welshies got very disheartened towards the finish.

I see you've had a big fire in Sleepy Hollow. You must have had a great view from your window Mother.

Well no more news now.
Am in the best of health & I hope you are all the same.
With best love
from Alister

Letter 40

20-4-16 (Actually 1917)

Dear Everybody,
This is some paper Susie sent me - not as a hint but to write to someone else, was the way she put it.

I have been doing some hard graft for about 10 days now. About 10 days ago I was one of a party who for four days - dash it all I remember telling you that in last letter. Well after four days of it we went for a 3 days trek to do some training. The first day we did 10 miles - I was on a horse as I was on 2 to 8 the night before. The second day we did 8 or 9 & the 3rd day we did 14 miles with the last part all up hill. We did that last one in just over 4 hours actual marching time - pretty good going eh? Of course we had full marching order on.

Its great to be in a village or in country where everything isn't knocked about & where one doesn't have to wear a gas helmet. It is very pretty round here & will be more so in summer.

The weather is fairly warm now though still a bit wet. The crops are all showing above ground.

I had a couple of 'Presses" the other day but your letters haven't arrived for some time. However there's a mail in now & I may get a big bundle of them. Its good war news we are getting now a days isn't it. The pessimists are having to change their minds about the fighting qualities of the British troops in the open. Now America is in we ought to have plenty of money.

I suppose tennis is just about over now & golf starting. Nancy I suppose will be a regular player this season.

I hope you are all OK like I am
With best love

Click to read Letters from World War 1 - Part 11
Click to read Letters from World War 1 - Part 13

Watch for more in this series.

Home       NZ Map       Contact       Recent Articles       Your Views      

Copyright 1996 - 2005 NZine - A Quality Service from Plain Communications LTD