Letters From World War 1
Alister Robison - 23/03/01
A young New Zealand soldier serving overseas writes to his family
In England at last, and it's beautiful.
June 11th 1916
Dear Mother & Father & Nancy
We are at last in civilised country & very nice we find it.
We negotiated the billows successfully though it was very dangerous. It is
also a great relief to finish with the life-belts & hammocks.
We arrived at Plymouth early on the 7th but did not stop there for we went
up to Devonport. It was lovely to see something green again & what we saw
was some of England's best. No wonder you raved about the beauties of
England Mother? The Admiralty buildings on the sea front were magnificent.
They were to me at any rate for they were the first huge buildings I've
seen. The harbour all the way up to Devonport was full of naval boats &
training ships & we cheered them well & they us.
There are 2 old ships like the 'Victory' & we passed very close to them so
we got a good view & can imagine what the 'Victory' really is like.
The only trouble was that it was very cold & raining. At sea it was
extremely cold but as we got closer in it got a bit better but it never
stopped raining till well into the forenoon.
There were a good few boats in the docks but they were well guarded & we
were very restricted in our movements. One of them was in the great battle.
There were 3 train loads of us & we were the last to go worst luck. It was
8pm when our train left & so we had only about 1 1/2 hours in which we
could see the scenery. What we did see though was lovely & we cursed our
luck in not being in the first train for they had daylight all the way.
We were as merry as crickets once we got in the train & cheered & hoorayed
all & sundry & they cheered us back. Our traveling accommodation was the
worst they could give us - 3rd class & 6 in a compartment - & that's very
good. The 3rd class here is not quite as good as 1st in NZ but it's a long
way better than 2nd. After the Trentham trains & Egyptian trains it was
like travelling in ultra 1st class.
We never got here till 3.30 am & as we were feeling very fit we played
cards all the time. When we got to Exeter at 1.30 pm it was just too dark
to play, but as soon as we got there they lighted the carriages up, but had
to keep all the blinds down of course.
The people of Exeter provide tea & a bun free to all troops passing through
so we came in for it too. Just as we were wanting something too. By Jove!
It was lovely tea - absolutely the best I've had since I left NZ! & it
wasn't long before I put in for another one. We all appreciated their
kindness very much & gave them a great cheering when we left.
All the stations are practically in darkness & lights are only strong
enough for the porters etc. to just see what they are doing.
We didn't know where we were going but by seeing the names of stations we
could gradually trace it by a map on the wall.
This camp was built 12 months ago for the NZ main body - but they never
came here but went to France instead. We live in huts & have mess rooms.
Everything is very convenient. It is all like Trentham & Featherston. At
present we are the only NZ's here but the --ths will be here in a week.
All the rest are Tommies. It is a huge camp.
About 3 miles from here is an aviation school & every morning & evening
there are at least 6 aeroplanes flying about. Already we are used to them
& don't run out to see them. They kick up a row don't they? It's great to
see them though. Bye the bye, just before we got into Plymouth we saw an
airship. It was a huge thing but I don't suppose it would be a Zeppelin
for it was well down & there were a number of destroyers about. After a
bit it rose & went above the clouds.
Today being Sunday we had from 9 am off & as we can go 5 miles in any
direction without a pass we decided to go to Stonehenge which is about that
distance away. In doing so we passed through several villages & by Jove
they are pretty & picturesque aren't they? I thoroughly enjoyed the day.
Of course everything is at it best. Stonehenge is just like you see in
postcards. There is no more of it either. It is marvellous about getting
the stones put up isn't it? We had a policeman telling us all about it &
pointed all the interesting stones. You know all about their religion &
sun's connection with it. I suppose.
I've written to Aunt Maud telling her of my arrival & that I shall get up
to see them as early as possible.
I hope this letter is not too long after the last one from Egypt. I also
wrote one on the boat.
We haven't had any mail yet what so ever but I suppose it is chasing us
back from Egypt & we ought to get it pretty soon. It will be lovely
getting something to read about home.
I suppose your handicaps at golf have been lowered by 50% now eh! Keep at
it. Even so I suppose Richmond will win the champ. again.
They keep these letters 3 weeks before they post them to the boat so I
reckon it will be about 2 months before you get this one.
With the very best love to you all & hoping you are all O.K.(the same as I
Alister Robison aboard ship
15 th June 1916
The mail closes every 3 weeks only & today is the last day. I've already
written this week but this will go by same mail.
These letters are not censored but are held up for some time instead.
I've written to Aunt Maud but have not had an answer yet - but it ought to
There is a rumour that our long delayed mail is coming over from France &
ought to arrive today. I hope it does because we haven't had any mail
whatever yet & a letter from home will be very nice.
Our unit was on duty on Monday & 6 if us were detailed to be Town Police to
the village of Amesbury - about 3 miles away. It was the sweetest job I've
ever had. There were no soldiers in town till about 5 pm & so we had from
8 in the morning till then to sight see. We "ate, drank & made merry" as
it were. It is a very pretty little place so we thoroughly enjoyed
There are rumours that we are going to move to Christchurch down near
Bournemouth - but we can't believe anything till we actually are on the
There is no more news but this was to let you know that I am perfectly well
& enjoying myself.
Stick to the old address.
Au revoir with best love
Click to read Letters from World War 1 - Part 4
Click to read Letters from World War 1 - Part 6
Watch for more in this series.