The Words of a young Private - Gilbert Thomas Richardson Pettigrew Part 2

Gilbert Thomas Richardson Pettigrew must have been quite the young journalist, his second letter home, again sent to the Mayor of Warwick was published once again in the Warwick and Warwickshire Advertiser. His tone in this one seems much more aware of the war he has found himself in. His words dashed off in an excited tone to then be drawn back in remembrance of more recent events...


A Lance Corporal in the 10th King's Shropshire Light Infantry, hear his words:


This letter is on the eve of my going into the trenches for the first time. Since my last letter we have moved some five miles south from one part of the firing line to another. We are now in a small town which has, so far, escaped the fire of the German big guns. Our bullets are adjacent to a schoolroom which has been utilised as a Y.M.C.A. concert hall. But I am hurrying far ahead of events worthy of record.

Though we have not actually been in the firing line, we have on five occasions been engaged in the digging of reserve trenches under somewhat heavy fire. We were escorted to our respective positions by the men who, to say the least, have forgotten 'nervousness'. Though bullets were flying in all directions they appeared not in the least perturbed. With not so much as a 'duck' of a fraction of an inch, as a leaden messenger sang 'music' in their ears, they walked along through open fields to the site of the new trenches. Speaking to one the other day, I was informed, 'You haven't the least difficulty in dodging them (bullets) but no matter how you try you can't evade the one that hits you.' And so they go on, fatalists everyone. 'If I am to be hit I shall be, whether in a trench or walking where a trench is to be.' This is how they look at things.

I heard yesterday of a novel way of locating snipers during the night-time. I can vouch for the accuracy of this, for it came from the lips of an old Warwick friend, whom I have seen since arriving here. An officer standing six-feet-three figures as the hero. Our men were repeatedly sniped, and from the trenches it was impossible to get a sight of the flash from the German sniper's rifle. The officer in question called around him the snipers of his battalion, and told them to watch. He was to be the 'bait.' Mounting the parapet he struct a match - and waited! The snipers watched. Nothing happened, and another match followed. Still the snipers were in attendance. Here my friend was called away to draw rations and I never heard the result. When I see my Warwickian comrade again I shall insist on hearing what eventually happened.

But again I am leaving untold my first experience under fire. It wasn't much! All the way to the trenches I was feeling none too cheerful. I am not ashamed to own this. Suddenly something whipped over my head. I have been taught during my training to drop quickly to the ground, and I excelled. It was really a smart movement! But nothing happened for a while, and I began to grow used to affairs, and, suddenly, all my qualms left me. I think it was the example set by the guides. They didn't 'duck' and they weren't hit, and I tried the same and got away with it. It was only for a brief period that I felt uneasy. It seems absurd probably, for those at home, when I say that one does get used to the flying bullets, but it is a solid fact, nevertheless. Of course, should one graze your ear, it causes a momentary shock, but nothing else. We have had very few casualties.

One man was saved by a small hymn book he was carrying in his left breast pocket. The bullet went through the book and somehow ricocheted and lodged in the sleeve of his tunic. Anyhow, a piece of lead dropped from the left sleeve when he took off his coat. Another near squeak happened to a friend in my section. His rifle sling saved him. He has still the bruise on his shoulder. I see by the newspaper that Mr Asquith came over and paid a visit to Headquarters the other day. He had quite a good reception too. I wish he had come our way. Our battalion is quite at home here. We have discovered an old duckpond, and now it has been weeded it makes quite a decent swimming bath provided one can turn quickly and likes swimming in a limited, very limited! circle. And the weather is simply glorious. We always manage to get a cold bath, despite mud and weeds.

Warwick and Warwickshire Advertiser 19 June 1915 page 6