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           Home >  History  > Letters from World War 1  :

Letters From World War 1
Part 8

Alister Robison - 13/04/01

A young New Zealand soldier serving overseas writes to his family. After two months of monotonous waiting "Got the news that three of us were to join up with the main body," and moved to within sound of the guns.

Letter 17

Written on YMCA paper
11 August

Had a record mail last week - 5 letters. 4 from you & one from Horace. Unluckily some one threw them into the rubbish tin after me having put them into an envelope.

We have had a few cricket matches during the last week or two. First we played the artillery & won by 2 runs. It was exciting as all our best men were out. Then we played the ASC & lost by 60 runs. I played in both matches but haven't got back my old form of 1915 - by a very long way.

The weather up to today has been glorious. In fact it is over 3 weeks since we had rain.

I had a couple of boxes of eatables from Aunt Maud & they went OK. Had a letter from her yesterday & I had to say whether I had an Uncle Norman Anderson, as he wanted money through Uncle Will & the bank wanted him to say who he was or something. Any rate I told them he was doing fine & was 'quite alright'.

Dear Everybody there is really nothing to tell you. It must be rotten getting things like this I know. I see a good bit of Ken Allen & Semmer & they are like me still at a base. But I'm OK & glad to hear you're the same, best of love from

Letter 18

20th August 1916

Dear Mother & co
Have just had a mail comprising of 2 weekly presses 7th & 14th June & a Weekly News from Phil Graves & a parcel from Susie of cigarettes & a pair of socks & two days ago I had a letter from Dad & Mother & Susie. So I've done well this week.

While I think of it Dad are you getting my allotment of 4-13 or 4-10 a month. (3/- a day). You ought to be & if you are not write to the Defence about it will you.

I also heard for the first time of the fiver sent to the H.C. They had not got hold of me, but I have written to them about it & they are to put it in the bank where I will have about 30 to my credit. If I had only known about it I could have got it in London when I was there. It was good of you to send it Dad. I suppose by the time you get this you will have heard that Fay was injured. I have not heard particulars yet but have written. He was so good at it too. During the week I also had letters from Nana & Aunt Maud & also a bosker cake from the latter. Nana said I had written her a most interesting letter. It took me about an hour to write a little more than this so I was much relieved to hear it.

There are concerts & lectures here every night if you like to look for them & there is one man who speaks on the war & like you with Mr Wilford makes one feel very optimistic. He is a good speaker. There have been some very good concerts too, for now there are a lot of the actors over here & of course they are in their element.

I was speaking to a Div Signaller who is here down from the line. He is the 3rd man to be wounded in the Signallers since the NZers have been here. They are over strength up there now. There are about 33 of us here now & a lot at another camp so when we are going up I don't know, as you can see it will be some time. The 11ths have been here 3 months & there are some 10ths here yet.

That may be satisfactory to you but it is beastly monotonous here & everyone is heartily sick of it for we have to stick in camp all the time.

While I think of it I also got the Nelsonian & of course the Old Boys column is very interesting now. You might ask Mr Broad, Dad, how my subscription is lasting. It is 3/- a year. I think it is alright though.

From what I can make out Mac Clark is up the line with the Cyclist Corps, but I'm not sure about that.

I see Mother has been figuring in Society at Bishopdale at an "At Home" for Dean Carrington. I didn't know you were so interested in that sort of thing. Will let you know about the money next letter.
Well, au revoir, everyone

Letter 19

3rd Sept 1916

Dear Everybody,
I'm very sorry that I never wrote last week, at least I wrote but never posted it. While turning out my pockets today I found last week's letter in one of them. This is what I wrote.

"I met Rungi Jervis about 2 days ago. He'd been here about a fortnight & only about 3 tents away from mine. I thought he saw him the day he arrived here & he thought he saw (me) some days later. I spent most of the day with him as he was going up the line next day. It was lucky I noticed him. He looked very fit.

I suppose you saw that Dug Gamble had been killed - in Egypt I suppose. It's rotten is'nt it? His family have had a bad time since the war haven't they? I got another 'Press' today dated 28th June & now have had letters up to July 12th!"

That's the main part of the last letter. Since then a few things have happened. All signallers that left as soon as we got there - Arthur Shaw was one you remember - have gone to England & all those who went to England remained here. So once again the heavenly twins have been separated. They have gone to a place called Hitchin about 20 miles from London. Of course that makes our chance of getting away somewhat better. Of course we may go to England too. We can't tell.

I came across Harry Clark a couple of days ago. He was ordered out of Egypt & so was put into the infantry. He had sunstroke. He says Mac is in some base job at Alexandria. I wrote and told someone that he was up the line with the cyclists, but there is another man of the same name in them, & I mistook him for Mac.

You must ge getting a lot of fun out of the 'Silver bullet' affair Mother, but it must be terribly hard work. Your letters have amused me a lot. I can just imagine you laughing till you couldn't stop over the Princess affair, because I know you pretty well, but I fail to see why you shouldn't be one, because you are quite young yet you know.

I am looking forward to the result & am pretty sure you will top the poll. I wish you luck. When you get this it will (be) all over, of course, but I can't wish you luck earlier can I?

Don't forget Dad to look after my allowances & see that they all come. By the time Nancy gets this it will be nearly matriculation time. I wonder if you will go in for it. I hope you have better luck than I had, if you do enter. Ken Allen is off up the line today. He gave me song to post to Bec. Don't forget to ask her if she got it. Its called O John no - from some English folk songs.

Alister Robison
Alister Robison
No more news
Best love

Letter 20

8th Sept 1916

Dear Everybody
Its under a week since I wrote last but there is a mail closing tomorrow so here's just to let you know I'm OK.

We are having a good spell of fine weather again after a pretty hard deluge for about 2 days.

It's a horribly dull place this camp for news as you, by now, have found out through previous letters, & this week is a very similar one for there's nothing to write about.

I suppose Nancy is having her annual September holidays. I wonder if you took her up to Mrs Adams? Remember me to her next time you write Mother.

Good luck to the Princess.
Au revoir Everybody
Best of love

PS Has Mrs Allen Jnr got that piece of music?

Letter 21

11 Sept 1916

Dear Everybody,
Had the great surprise on the 8th. Got the news that 3 of us were to join up with the main body. We have just arrived here and am seizing the first opportunity of letting you know. Am a driver & have to look after 3 horses!!! Can you imagine me. Have a very sore sit upon already. Have a very safe job at the rear base about 8 miles from the line. The boys tell me censorship very strict so can't say where we are. Have been shoved on horse picket already. The row is pretty big from here & getting bigger as the night gets on. What do you think of Don getting that medal for conspicuous bravery. I forget the name of it. Have met a lot of the Auckland Div Sigs - all those who are driving. I will write more fully as soon as I can as I have to go on horse picket very shortly. The day is very fully occupied what with watering grooming feeding & cleaning harness. With best of love to you all. Am "quite alright" in this place. Don't worry.
Au revoir.

Letter 22


Dear Everybody
I suppose you have my previous note from here. As I said before it was a great surprise to me to get up with the main body. Three of us came up. It took us a day to get here - just about all of it in a truck with about 40 in it. Then we had a 8 mile walk but we managed to get lifts in motor transports. The amount of traffic on the roads is absolutely astounding & makes one think that 2 years ago England had practically nothing & then to see the motors & wagons. It opens one's eyes.

I am now a driver. After training for 9 months as a signaller it seems a lot of rot doesn't it? Especially with the little I know about horses. However my present are quiet. I was wild as anything & still am but will have to get over it.

We have to groom water & feed the horses before breakfast which gives a good appetite. Then we saddle up & exercise them & groom again & feed before lunch & then clean the beastly harness, Which never seems to get clean for rest of day. I don't have a spare moment till after tea.

There are only 5 tents. Luckily I managed to get into one. The ones who can't get in make bivouacs with all sorts of things - mostly ammunition boxes and oil sheets. Most of them are very good ones.

The 'straffing' here is pretty hot at night - on our side. We don't get much of Fritz's stuff here. Have only had about 6 shells any where near us - the nearest being about 400 yards away. At present there is a deuce of a 'straffe' by us. Must be something doing shortly.

The weather is getting fairly chilly now & looking after horses in the winter is 'quite alright' I don't think.

We chaps who were left behind in Egypt have had all the luck. Getting a good trip to 'Blighty' & then we are up here. The crowd who came here straight away are away in England now.

No more news now but will write regularly. Am perfectly safe here with the horses.
So au revoir
Best of love to you all.

Click to read Letters from World War 1 - Part 7
Click to read Letters from World War 1 - Part 9

Watch for more in this series.

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