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           Home >  History  > Letters from World War 1  :

Letters From World War 1
Part 17

Alister Robison - 15/06/01

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

It's winter, there's a New Year celebration after Christmas in action, and Alister is still in good health.

Letter 59

7 Dec 1917

Dear Everybody,
Winter has now set in & for the last 10 days or so we have had heavy frosts - so heavy that the sun can't melt the ice & everything is frozen hard. However the boys in the line prefer the cold weather to wet & slush & mud. I went for a walk the other day & passed through a town that is famous & has been since the beginning of the war. The thing one notices first is the comparison between the roads & the ruins. The former are kept in perfect condition while the latter well there's not one building left standing. Old Fritz still fires a big boy into the place occasionally.

Horace is now in France, but as we seldom see the artillery I expect it will be some time before I see him.

I had a letter from Aunt Maud a day or two ago & she says that where the Cambrai stunt took place was where Fay was killed. She also had a letter saying that Fay was dead before he reached the ground, which apparently relieves her a lot.

The food question cannot be too good in England as Betty writes & says that compulsory rations is sure to come in, in the spring.

Our mail from NZ is long overdue & we haven't had one for just a month. I shall be sending a cable about the 10th or so of January wishing Mother & Nancy happy returns of their birthdays. I shall probably say Happy Returns or something like that. That will also mean that I am still going strong & OK. I got the Nelsonian last mail. I had just read the "Old Boys News" when I went for a walk. Several of the boys I'd been reading about were there when I was at school. I hadn't gone 200 yards before I met Denis Herdman & while we were talking Sos Chrisp came along. I had just read that (they) were in England. They had just come over a few days previous. We were still talking when Tristis came along.

Alister Robison
Alister Robison
I saw Rimgi the other day the first time since the end of August. He is a L/Cpl & has been since June though I did not know it till the other day.
All well here
With best love
from Alister

Letter 60

17 Dec. (1917)

Dear Everybody,
Winter has now come upon us in real earnest as last night it snowed heavily. We have all our winter clothing issued now so we are fairly warm. I also got the cardigan you sent me Mother. It is a beaut.

Last week I got a surprise as a large parcel arrived from Mrs George Bloomfield - a bonser cake. Most of the Christmas parcels are arriving now so we are living fairly well in the cake line.

By the way, if you sent me a cake now & again it would be very nice, because Aunt Maud told the Ruckers not to send me any more cake as she didn't think they ought to. I don't suppose things have reached such a stage in New Zealand in regard to food stuffs, as they have in England. If it doesn't cost too much put the cake in a tin & get it soldered up.

Phil is lucky in getting that job on the Hospital ship. He will have plenty of work to do at times & also at times plenty of leisure.

Do you remember Godfrey Payne? I saw him yesterday for the first time. He only lives a 100 yards away from me & last night he & I had a great chat about old times. He is a very decent fellow.

By today's mail I received 4 parcels, one of tobacco & one of sweets from you all, one from Betty - cigarettes, & one from Miss Murray - sweets & handkerchiefs. Altogether in the last 8 days I have received 8 parcels which is a bit of alright.

I only got one letter from NZ this time so far & that was Mother's dated September 24th, but there ought to be another in soon.

I received a letter from Betty the other day & it started off this way. "There will be several parcels for you & they ought to arrive about Xmas time". So I think I'm due for some more yet.

By the way Dad, what about investing that money of mine in something good. Something not held up too long & which bears a good interest. Uncle Ted might know something if you don't. I've just over 30 in England so I won't be short for a long time. But perhaps you find it useful for yourself and if that is the case just help yourself as you already know. I suppose there is nearly 180 there now.

Remember me to people I know in Nelson & tell them I'm OK
Best love to you all
from Alister.

Letter 61

(Menu with autographs enclosed)

1 January 1918

Dear Everybody,
Apparently your two earlier letters of September are missing for the only one I've received is the one of Sept 24th. They must have been on the Port Kembla.

The weather now is proper winter weather. Everything is frozen hard & the snow lies on the ground all the time. You can't imagine how slippery the roads become after a bit of traffic has been over them. The poor horses & mules - and men too slip & slide all over the shop. Today was much warmer & consequently it thawed & so roads became very muddy just as if a heavy rain had fallen. A lorry passing me on the road today very neatly splashed a lump of mud into my mouth - it tasted just like French beer so you can imagine we get fairly thirsty before we drink it -(French beer I mean not mud) I saw Godfrey Payne again today. It was lucky for me that I saw him because I was about four miles from home & had had no lunch. He took me to his place & tipped some rissoles(?) & potatoes into me.

Talking of food reminds me of our New Year's dinner. We were in the line for Xmas. (At least the infantry were. I was about 2 miles from it. But even there it was miles from anywhere.) So we decided to make up for it at New Year & believe me it was some feed. We were out of the line then & cooks had a few conveniences. I am sending you the menu with a few signatures scrawled on it. Please keep it somewhere for it will be a remembrance of a very pleasant dinner & concert. There was also a bit of the stuff that cheers & also inebriates.(?) But I made a horrible mistake - mind this is a &family& secret. If you look at the menu you will see that the duff is written along with two other things - well I had my helping - a liberal one - of duff & this is where I made a horrible blunder. I ordered another help & somehow or other did not notice the other 2 dishes. By the time I'd struggled through the second help I was well gone & the waiters brought round the next lot. Heroically I got through this & then was faced with still another course. Well I had to leave some of it this time. For four or five hours mark you I was not too hilarious because accidents might have happened. Don't forget this is quite a family affair. I hope the censor doesn't open this letter.

We had a few of the &Kiwis& round to give some items during the concert. They were good too. I was very lucky in being able to sit down. I couldn't even drink the toast of the King. I saw the New Year start & then went to bed for I was on duty from 4 till 8 am.

I have plenty of winter clothing & 3 blankets & at present a bonser little bed. There are four of us in a hut where there is a stove which heats the hut up in two twos. We have supper nearly every night. We couldn't be better off.
Best of love to you all
from Alister
P.S. Thanks for photo Nancy. Its a goody.

Click to read Letters from World War 1 - Part 16
Click to read Letters from World War 1 - Part 18

Watch for more in this series.

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