The Words of a young Private - Gilbert Thomas Richardson Pettigrew Part 3

It seems that our newly promoted Lance Corporal Gilbert Pettigrew was keen to keep those back home informed of life on the Western Front. His chosen source for collection of this correspondence - the Mayor of Warwick.


In a new letter dated 15th June 1915, he wrote once more with humour and energy. Decide for youself whether his stories are for self-reassurance or home reassurance. Whether informative or an act to keep home still in his thoughts. But keep in mind, this was war. His writing a reflection of his ever-changing thoughts.


There are humorous incidents even resulting from the bursting of a shell within hundred yards of a hut full of soldiers. This particular instance is very worthy of record. We do not draughts while we are sleeping, and so last night we rigged up a waterproof sheet over the open doorway and put a box of bully beef on the floor to keep the sheet fixed down. One of the enterprising boys of our section was busy making tea while these preparations were in the course of process. Boiled to a 'T' (this might be humorous, but the fun follows) our amateur cook hurried to the hut with his canteen of tea, when a 'coal-bucket' whizzed through the air and burst about seventy yards away. This much for the cook. He did not drop the tea and run for it, but made like the wind for the door, burst through the waterproof sheet and went head over heels over the bully beef box, tea as well. We were just about to realise that we were under shellfire, and when we saw a dark object burst through the door amidst a cloud of steam, gasps of horror went up and cries of 'Lie low!' When the object began to complain, as a Tommy can, on occasions, one could scarecely hear the other shells dropping for the roars of laughter. The 'iron rations' continued - the Germans are always thinking of us - and we left the hut while the bombardment lasted. No one was hurt (except our cook, and, judging by the noise he made he was badly cut up - this because of the hot water, and the kind forethought of the person who put the box in the doorway) but the town near by suffered badly.

Only a few days ago the beautiful church was wrecked by two shells, and the majority of the houses battered about. I went into the church yesterday and spent quite a time examining the ruins. The Germans should be repaid in their own coin, and probably such will be the case. They have wantonly smashed up all the most beautiful buildings around here. And, possibly, they have laughed because of their marksmanship. 'They won't see the fun in a short ime.' The town itself has been deserted by the inhabitants. Everything has been left hurriedly. Still the shells do their destructive work.

A friend of mine today received the following letter:-
'Dear Soldier, Just a few lines to say that as you are fighting so bravely for our King and country, I am sure I ought to help you in some way. I am glad the warm weather has come. It must be so much nicer for you. This is the fifth parcel we have sent from our school. The teachers have helped to make our gifts, which we so gladly sent to our brave soldiers at the front. I do wish this terrible war was over. I am sending you a pair of socks. I hope you are quite well, and have good food to eat. Many English women and girls are knitting so much for our soldiers and sailors. I hope you will be pleased to get the socks. The girls do the knitting, though two or three boys have knit warm mufflers during the war. The Kaiser wants what he will get, I think - that is a good beating. I hope my socks will be a great comfort to you. When the war is over I hope it will be our brave soldiers and sailors who will come home victorious. Will you please accept this small gift with the love and best wishes of Sybil Leighton, A scholar of the Maseley Wesleyan School, Shropshire.'

These little expressions of sincerity from home do one quite a lot of good. The letter itself is so simple and speak such a lot. Would to Heaven that those who have not done their duty (there are still thousands) could boast of equal love of the country. This is an example for them. Even the child of tender years does her share. And what a share it is! Heaven bless the kiddie! We have been in the trenches, and, happily, the battalion has not suffered heavy loss. One poor fellow - quite young - had one leg blown off, and the other terribly lacerated by a trench mortar. He lived for six hours. He was buried here. We laugh at the bullets, and shells too, when in the trenches. But these trench mortars are certainly terrible. The rifle grenades, too, are bad. Happily these reach our lines only occasionally, and we give more than we receive.

I met a Warwick friend the other day. We were billeted here and went direct to the trenches. I hadn't seen the friend in question for some years and it was only by chance that I remembered he had joined the battalion there. We had quite a long talk, and enjoyed it. By the way, I never heard the conclusion of the 'sniper trap.' I should imagine that one draw's one own. Personally, I am having the time of my life. Perhaps time will tell a different story but I am very, very sanguine.

Warwick and Warwickshire Advertiser 26 June 1915 page 6