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           Home >  History  > Letters from World War 1  :

Letters From World War 1
Part 15

Alister Robison - 01/06/01

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

After fourteen months in France his hoped for leave in England is finally granted.

Letter 50

30th July 1917

Dear Everybody,
Am on another job now. We have another officer while ours is away sick & the former wanted me to be his groom but it didn't appeal to me so I refused. He got another to do it for him however & so thats how I lost a good job. The lad who took my place was up with the linemen at our forward station so I took his place. It is the same place where we had our HQ after we went in the line after the Messines stunt. I referred to it in one of my previous letters. There is an NZ mail in but I haven't any letters yet. They usually come in alphabetical order so I usually get my letters amongst the last. I'll keep this letter till I get one of yours.

I had several letters from England during the week & there is still no news of Fay. I don't give him a chance.

The Ruckers & Aunt Maud both send me over parcels pretty regularly. I wish you, Mother, would write them & say how much I appreciate their kindness. I, of course, write and thank them every time.

There is a slight possibility of me getting leave in a month or two if our rate of leave, 8 a week, still keeps up. They are on the 9ths now but they are going back to the main body 2nd 3rd & 4th Refts. There are not too many of them so there's a hope.

3am 3rd
No letter yet so I'll have to close without seeing yours.

Had a yarn to Lawerence (Captain) Chaytor today. He says Jack is in hospital with a wound in his knee but apparently is not bad.

You might hear something startling about Jack Coote shortly as he has patented something. If it proves any good it will be a great thing. If I stated what it was the letter would be censored.
With best love to you all
from Alister

Letter 51

10th August (1917)

Dear Everybody,
Still no letter from NZ by last mail so its just as well I never held mine back till I got one of yours.

I am still up in that forward possy of ours & am getting fairly sick of it. Its a good place to save money at any rate. I had a letter from Hamish today & he is still at the same place. He is a staff sergeant now so gets a fair amount of pay. That wet weather we had lasted for about 4 days so you can guess what the mud was like & what a time the infantry had in the out posts & in the trenches. This show leaked badly & it very nearly got us under when it came to pumping it out. Luckily for us a Battalion HQ came in here & some of their men were shoved on the pump. It took them about 12 hours to dry the place. Since then "we have the menace well under" - official.

It was bad luck all that wet weather coming when we had just started that big push in Flanders. Russia's trouble is apparently spreading now into Roumania. It wouldn't pay to be a pessimist now would it? One would be having a rotten time of it.

I ran up against Tristis Sadd about a fortnight ago. He is in our medical Corps. He is just the same as ever.

This place is nearly as bad as the base for news. Do you remember the "long" letters I wrote from there.

Well au revoir everybody. I am quite well & hope you are all the same too.
With best love Alister

Letter 52

August 20th 1917

Dear Everybody,
The long looked for letters arrived tonight - one from each of you & two with 5/- in them which is gratefully received. There is a gap between Mothers letters of 37 days - May 21st to June 27th. So no doubt there is another - perhaps two - that ought to be arriving but might be at bottom of sea. The Presses are arriving OK & the last one is late in July.

We are out of that dug out now & have respectable huts to sleep in & can live in comparative comfort.

Had a letter from Don tonight from London so am putting in for special leave to see him. He is over for a month & may be can have that extended. He is also working hard to land a trip back to NZ. He will have all the latest news about me. I hope he gets it.

I heard yesterday that Keith Duthie was killed - got sniped by the same man who General Johnson was killed by.

We are having beautiful weather lately & the Frenchies are getting in their crops with as much haste as is possible with their antiquated methods.

I wrote & told Aunt Maud that I would be probably getting leave within a month (ie I wrote 10 days ago) & got a letter from her saying that I wouldn't meet a dismal family but a cheery one, which seems to be different to what they write to you. I don't think I will be going over soon now unfortunately.

News is scarce again - news that I can't tell you. Never mind we'll win the war yet - shortly I believe.

Am glad to hear that you are playing good golf this year Dad. You are improving every year. I suppose you are coaching Nancy as well as Mother with the same old hearth broom.

Am OK here & hope you are all the same.
with best love Alister

Alister Robison
Alister Robison
Letter 53 Telegram
2 Sept 1917

Leave at forty three ten days

(43 refers to the address of the Pember Reeves family in London.)

Letter 54

43 Cromwell Gdns
Sept 9th 1917

Dear Everybody,
I hope you received my telegram stating that I was on leave. You are apparently going to be inundated with letters from 43 & 31 & from the Ruckers - all stating the same things & here you are getting my version of it. I go back tomorrow morning leaving London at 8 am. Altogether I have had 9 1/2 clear days in London. The trip from my unit to Boulogne took several days because leave stopped for a day & I had to stay back two days & then we were held up at Boulogne on account of rough weather in the Channel. The weather was not too nice & the camps one passes through are very different to home.

The morning we left Boulogne we were aroused at 2.30 am then had to go & get our passes altered as we had been delayed a day. There was a drizzle & there were about 3000 men lined up in one queue. Then we missed breakfast & eventually arrived on the boat at 7.30 am. The trip across was fairly smooth & we arrived in London at 12.20 pm where I ate several buckshee sandwiches. I then went to the bank & drew some money & found to my astonishment that I had 51 pounds to my credit when I thought I only had 31 Pounds. Have you been putting in any for me? None of them here have so it must be you. I still have 26 pounds in the bank & 9 pounds in my pocket. I spent about 12 pounds in nine days because they insisted here that they should pay for most of the theatres. I paid for about half of them. Of course I taxied to most places. My motto when roaming about was "when in doubt take a taxi " - a very good one too.

The weather was good - it only rained the day I arrived & the day I leftl The first thing I did was to have a nice hot bath & Aunt Effie took me out to afternoon tea. For me it was a huge dinner for I was really hungry. Then we went round & saw Aunt Maud & Betty at Grosvenor House, The Duke of Westminster's house - also the Ministry of food. I stayed home that night & went to bed early.

It was lovely to be in a decent bed with sheets & eiderdowns. I wasn't one of the idiots who can't sleep in "em" but go & sleep on the floor. Next day I went & saw Nana & Georgie & then went off for a week end at the Seymours - cousins of Betty. They live at about 10,000 a year in peace time so believe me kid it was some place & also "some" meals.

On Saturday afternoon Mr Seymour & I did some shooting - rabbits & grouse with the girls as beaters. The rabbits sit down & let one shoot them but the birds "was" different - quite. My bag was 2 rabbits, grouse Nil. Mr S got several birds. On Sunday I went to church at a pretty, old church in Bedford & after Mr S shewed me an old Jacobean house (now converted into a mansion by a Yankee, a relative of Carnigie(?) or Pierfont Morgans.) There was a lovely rose garden & the old part of the house looked lovely. In the afternoon we played tennis where of course I thoroughly enjoyed my self. I had about 6 sets and thought that part the best of the lot.

In the morning I hunted up Don Harkness & eventually found him at another hotel - the Regent Palace. I had been ringing for him at the Strand Palace. I really got leave through him for I told the boss he was my cousin etc. etc. & the stunt worked - but don't tell anyone. I found Don very altered especially in speaking. We had a great yarn & he took me to the Savoy to lunch & promised me a trip in an aeroplane.

He and I went round a fair bit during the day but at night I went to the theatres with one of the family & he always had something else to do. I went to 7 theatres in 6 days & enjoyed the lot. Some of the revues are a trifle spicy in parts & one can't laugh with a lady can one? Its terrible hard on the jaws though. Cheep - Bubbly - Zig Zag - A little bit of Fluff - Round the Map - Chou Chin Chow & Topsy Turvy - were the ones I picked out. They are all light stuff & you laugh all the time. Don & I went out to lunch with Elsie Booth & we had her round here to dinner & a theatre afterwards. She has a good position in the Ministry of Munitions. When I had nothing particular to do I used to career off somewhere in a bus & generally managed to get fairly lost for a bit - but I always managed to get back to my centre & starting place - Piccadilly Circus.

Yesterday was my busiest day. In the morning I went out with Don to an aerodrome & up we went in a plane & careered about for 1/2 an hour. Everything looks so strange & every track is easily picked up. He did a bit of this with me (/\/\/\) & when the nose went down first time was the only time I felt 'not at home'. We went up 200 feet altogether & unfortunately the weather was hazy & we couldn't see too far. In the afternoon we went to the Chu C.C with Ruth & Betty & at night I went with Betty to Round the Map. During the week I went & saw Uncle Will & Beryl at their country cottage & also had lunch with Nana & Georgie another day. (Georgie does ask one such awkward questions.) We had a raid one night but nothing near our way. In France we have been - as you probably know a little bit North & a little bit South of Armentiers but where the Division is now I could not say. I have what is considered a "good job" as far as safety is considered & the infantry always like having a little dig at us whenever we pass them. So don't worry about me. Since I joined the section we have had only one casualty by shells & that by one of our shells - several have gone away sicker. 2 of our corporals were wounded but they were in a forward possy & not with us - a small list isn't it?

Don is trying to get back to NZ but hasn't heard any more news yet & if he does get back he will tell you all about our doings. I do hope this letter doesn't get sunk - as it would be such a waste. I go back tomorrow!!!
Best love to you all from Alister

Click to read Letters from World War 1 - Part 14
Click to read Letters from World War 1 - Part 16

Watch for more in this series.

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