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Robert Ernest Vernede - Novelist/Poet


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Marina,

A quote from one of Vernede's later letters whilst with a service battalion " They haven't nearly as good idea of making themselves comfortable, feed & live like pigs & don't get any work out of the servants. Same with the NCO's I should fancy, but that remains to be seen".

Quite sweeping statements, he nust have had something to back these statements up one would presume. The Villiers Stuart goes to war makes a note on the regular battalions, that whilst he was in charge of the 9th (S) Battalion, Rifle Brigade, they only lost one man during take overs and compares that to a regular battalion. Whereas Nettleton who served with a regualr battalion comments on the regular officers attitude to him as a civilan in officers clothing being sent to a regular battalion. He makes interesting notes on the difference between the regulars and service battalions where a regular battalion would march off the battlefield taking casualties through artillery fire.

Andy

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2nd part of the letter

Still Tuesday

I wish I could write you nice letters like you write me, but when I take up the pencil I seemto be just as dull as when I don't, or duller.

The sun has come out and its not a bad day. Working party tonight, blow it, as I don't amuse myself much digging in the dark, though I like it by day.

31st. Working party no bad last night - fine night - told off the sappers successfully. Another party tonight, bust it. I'll have to finish this tomorrow.

June 1st. Have to send this off in a hurry, and I meant it to be a long one, but was out till 2am and busy this morning. Have you seen the Batt. mentioned in despatches??

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June 2nd

I had to Hustle off a letter yesterday which I had meant to be a long one, as there was not much time left. We spent the morning dodging shrapnel which the unpleasant boches put over what should have been our sequestered spot. Both B. brothers and Brown were nearly laid out, being within a few feet, and we were all within a few yards. The padre had one bullet put through a letter he had just written to his wife and found another in his surplice. Souvenirs!. In the afternoon I went for a ride on the Coy. horse, who skidded on his nose for about twenty yards on the way back. Luckily I had just decided that he was going to fall, so managed to jerk him up again. It's a troublesome trick in a fine horse otherwise. He used to belong to Prince Arthur of Connaught. After tea I started a trench in which to get if any more shrapnel came along; also had my hair cut, but no digging party at night.

Today we move - not exactly into the trenches but not far off.

Our guns are making a horrible row, deafening one, which accounts for the spasmodicalness of this.

Didyou see the new C-in-C's despatch(in the papers on tuesday last)?. it's not very exciting, but it describes the attack at Hooge and the Batt. is mentioned. The list of those mentioned looks long, but as a matter of fact there is only one other in our Division mentioned, so it is an honour of sorts. It's still beautiful weather.

Andy

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'Digging a trench in which to get in...' what a life! All mixed up with stuff like haorcuts and horses.

When he says the horse skidded along on its nose, does he mean it actually fell, or was dragging along in some way?

Marina

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Marina,

You know as much as I on this subject, the letter is as written.

Andy

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June 4th

It is my birthday. It's a little cooler to-day but not bad, and as a matter of fact the nights are the more important, as that is when we work. There is very much to do, which I like, as it's less boring to have work, and we also have some small excitements - were whizz banged yesterday and had a great artillery display last night - over our heads almost entirely. Noise! Noise! Noise!

My servant is on leave and I realise how good he is now that I'm doing with somebody else. Corporal A. has been made a Sergeant, and we are perfuriously putting up really good dug-outs together. Some shells are coming over, bust the boches! The noise puts me off.

Andy

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Still June 4

I am ashamed of my scrabs, tho' it really is a little difficult at times, what with candles and other people jabbering and slipsiness and such - not to mention being an idle letter writer at the best of times.

The weather has turned suddenly muddy, bust it, as it's very easy to be too cool in the trenches even in summer.

June 5

Not much done yet and very near post time. It's turned Aprilly today - sharp showers and sunshine.

Andy

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Andy,

I have just caught up with these letters and have enjoyed reading them,

Marina has said all that i can,

thanks for posting them,

mandy

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Mandy,

You are welcome, I will keep posting them as marina and yourselof seem to be enjoying them.

Andy

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Please do, Andy. I look forward to the letters. My favourite part of the forum is always the men's own letters and diaries and the anecdotes.

Marina

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June 7

Peaceful day for me today - Brown being on tonight. I got to bed at 3am, having trotted about since 9pm yesterday. The men are working very well and the only trouble is that we don't stay long enough to finish things properly.

Yes, awkward about that Boche gain. A place I sat in quietly for four days with my platoon was, I believe, heaped with dead bodies - ours and theirs.

I suppose the navy business was much better than it seemed at first, and at any rate there wasn't the glib boasting that takes off from some of our other efforts. The main disappointment is that they didn't, and probably couldn't, deliver the sort of blow that might really have hastened the conclusion of the war, for I suppose if Germany had lost her fleet, she would have had to resign the more absurd of her pretentions. The proportion of killed is rather awful: otherwise the casualties are no more than the armies lose in a days fighting that practically goes unrecorded.

One presumes that he is replying to a letter from his wife here with reference to Jutland.

Andy

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As said before by the girls, this is a very interesting post, giving the thoughts and feelings of a man who could express them in the written word, so well.

Cheers

Kim

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Kim,

It is a very interestiing insight into day to day life at the front and does make interesting reading.

Andy

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The remark about the quiet place he had been in now being stacked with bodies was chilling - it could just as easily have been him and his men killed there, given a different time slot or order from above. So much of what happened to people in this war seems to have been largely a matter of luck.

Marina

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9 June

This will have to be a scrab, as we have been working all the morning instead of last night, which was very wet. Two padres just come into the dug-out and the jabber is incessant.

Andy

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Here's a find - it's an article about soldiers'  letters home and includes extracts from Vernede's correspondence, also Raymond Asquith and other names.  The Asquith extract is a classic!

http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_...514192#continue

Marina

Hello Marina

You are to be heartily congratulated on the exquisite nature of the extracts.

I trust you will be suitably rewarded for your efforts!

Bob

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Hello Marina

You are to be heartily congratulated on the exquisite nature of the extracts.

I trust you will be suitably rewarded for your efforts!

Bob

Thanks, Bob _ I'm glad you enjoyed them. But there wasn't really any effort - just posted a link I found. Effort is what Andy''s doing - typing Robert's letters up for us! When you read history books about the war, you learn a lot and it's interesting - but it's easy to lose sight of the real people behind events. I suppose that's why I enjoy this type of thread so much. LOng live the extracts and memoirs!

Marina

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June 10

Out today - a mild showery April one. Got to bed at 3am to the sound of distant firing, and am not as vigilant as I ought to be when writing to you. We had a fairly exciting day yesterday. Some aggravating gunners, two of them Colonels, who ought to have known better, came into the trench unbeknown to us and began observing over the parapet by day - a thing we have been at the utmost pains to prevent our men doing for days past. Just as we found them there, dancing happily about with field glasses and things, the Boches spotted them too, and opened with whizz bangs and H.E.

Quite hot for half an hour, but nobody hit luckily, though the trench was bashed in in parts - the annoying thing is that they have now marked it down as a suitable target. In the evening I had a man hit by a machine-gun and had to roll rapidly down a steep bank in the dark to avoid it myself. Still, its a very nice change from the last place, especially when one thinks of what is going on there now - of which we only get the light in the sky and the heavy boom of the guns.

Andy

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June 10

Still, its a very nice change from the last place

That's what I call cool under fire! especially when one thinks of what is going on there now - of which we only get the light in the sky and the heavy boom of the guns.

And that bit gave me the shivers!

Marina

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June 12, 1916

The weather has turned to a horrible wet cold slop and it's more like November than June.

One sees a few roses in shelled gardens climbing among shattered bricks, and the wild flowers are rather numerous in the parts where nobody dare go to cut the hay, and it's too dangerous to pasture animals. Yes, Sgt. A. has got the M.C., and also Sgt. W., and some of the others may get it for Hooges yet.

The Naval news seems to grow better daily. I think Howard is justified in his grouse, but, of course, it is even more so in the Regular Batts. and the plums are very strictly preserved. I think before the war ends, the system will have to be altered, or we shall find ourselves working on the odd and probably disastrous view that three months at Sandhurst is more valuable than two years at the front. However, we generally do end by surrendering our cherished stupidities before it's too late.

The Howard in the letter refers to Sub-Lt. Howard Fry, Howe Batt., Royal Naval Division. Killed in action, November 16, 1916.

Andy

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Going to be away for a couple of weeks on business so I will post the letters for that period.

June 14,1916

It hasn't rained today but is beastje cold, and I shall out on my fur-lining for working party tonight. We go and return in a lorry, which makes it a lot better for the men, who always hate to have a long march thrown in. Yesterday I went for a ride with Padre Buxton. We had a very nice ride. I rode a pack animal - rather a nice beast, sturdy, but with a very hard mouth, like most of them. No stumbling, however, which is a great advantage. We had tea at a nice French shop and were joined by the doctor, who rode back with us. Then we changed our time at 11pm and are now the same as you again, I suppose - an hour earlier.

B. has (temporarily) taken on the bomb squad which was offered to me, but I rather jibbed at it. It means leaving your own platoon and also dealing with weapons which I know I should be absent-minded about at intervals, and I don't altogether believe in being turned on to any mortal thing, whether you're suited for it or not, merely because the authorities don't try to find out who is suited for what, though one doesn't like to refuse if it lets some one else equally unwilling in for it. However, I did offer myself as victim before, and let B. have it this time, as he said he didn't mind in the least. They probably have forty trained bomb officers waiting at Sheppey, forgetting things as fast as they learn them!.

There seems to be next to no news of the Salient in the papers. The Canadians seem to have had a lot of casualties. But every one is cheerful over the Russian news, and the war, as usual, is going to end in a month or two. I'm afraid leave is going through very slowly this time, and it's very hard luck on the men. One Sergeant was telling me yesterday that he's only had four days leave since we started. I't's not economy, considering what a strain it put's on everybody, and I don't think people realise that this is a war where for the first time almost there is no rest from risking one's life and limbs - least of all, of course, for the Rifleman.

I suppose there are bound to be many and violent happenings this year (not that I know of any)

Andy

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Going to be away for a couple of weeks on business so I will post the letters for that period.

Thanks, Andy.  This is a bleak day - you're away and the John Pitt thread has finally concluded also.  Sigh.

June 14,1916

merely because the authorities don't try to find out who is suited for what, though one doesn't like to refuse if it lets some one else equally unwilling in for it. However, I did offer myself as victim before, and let B. have it this time, as he said he didn't mind in the least. They probably have forty trained bomb officers waiting at Sheppey, forgetting things as fast as they learn them!.

So dry!  I love that about him!

I suppose there are bound to be many and violent happenings this year (not that I know of any)

Just as well he couldn't look forward a couple of weeks.

Hope the business trip pans out, Andy.

Marina

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June 17, 1916

The weather has turned fine again, which is rather pleasant, but on the other hand we had one of those middle of the night alarms, gas helmets on, prepare to go up, and all the rest of it, amid a terrific noise of guns, which makes one fairly sleepy next morning. Nothing came of it except sleeping in one's clothes. Also yesterday we had an accident by which one of our best Sergeants lost his life. Poor youth, he was a very brisk, well made, gallant young Sergeant, and I remember thinking several times when I happened to be watching him in days past that it was particularly unpleasant to think of any one so splendidly built being knocked to atoms by some of these devlish machines - as I saw him yesterday. He was telling me a few days ago that he was going to apply for a commission. It's very sad, and I dont think one gets used to these things.

Every one is cheerful about the war at present.

This is written in snatches of a very fussy morning.

Andy

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June 18, 1916

I realy am rather hustled today and didn't have much time yesterday. Went to Sergeant............'s funeral - about three hours - very impressive - the C Coy. officers acting as chief mourners - came back and had a working party till 4.30am this morning. Since when I've mostly slept. Trenches tonight, so I'm glad I slept most of the morning and had a hot bath; but I've very little time for writing. I've still got to make up accounts - I must stop. I shall probably have more time the next few days. I hope so. Nice weather again.

Andy

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