Larks Ascending April 1917

Thank you to the descendants of Pte Charles Oddy (died 21 April 1917) for a copy of his final letter home, dated 14 April. Although Charles is listed as 11 DLI on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website, he may have only spent a short time with them before being transferred to 14 DLI, since he is commemorated on the Loos Memorial where they were serving at the time. He originally signed up with the West Yorkshire Regiment in Leeds in 1915.

This is what Charles wrote, which I think says all that is necessary and much more than the various celebrities who have been asked to ‘write letters to the unknown soldier’ as part of the rapidly multiplying WW1 commemoration events. I have kept the original spelling and grammar to be faithful to Charles’s style – he was by trade a Letter Press operator.

April 14 Sat. [1917]

Dear Wife

I am pleased to hear from you that you are all well at home, also to tell you that I am well only longing for this war to finish to be able to get home again to my dear ones. The parcels you have sent me are allright and they have been very nice. We have had a rather hard time but we have to keep smiling, that is all we can do. Pleased are Eveline is well again and you must do your best to keep smiling till i come home. You taught about Easter you been all alone, well I did not hardly know it was Easter if it had not been for the letter from you. It was a very nice day here, was Easter, the Larks was singing at 5 o’clock in the morning. You would be surprised at the number of larks that sings between us and the germans then it make me thing what fools we are to be at war, when we have such a beautifull world. Then after Sunday we have had snow and rain, winter again. I was sorry to hear about our John been ill but I think he is better again. I have received a letter from the shop with 2/6 enclosed so I enclosed the letter to you. I have had little time to write love and I know you have asked me questions and I have forgot to

them, so I leave it all for you to do your best with. Well I shall have to close as I have to do duty.

I am

Your

Charles

XXX

Best love to you all XXX

 

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April 1918

On 1 April 1918, 11 DLI was pulled out of the line and sent to Quevauvillers, just south of Amiens, in order to regroup and refit. They rested there for five days, while they were joined by 470 men, plus Lts A Floyd and M Cooper. The first thing everyone was doing, of course, was lots of drill, since many of the new recruits were young conscripts after basic training. To drill that into them, there then followed several days of marching: on 7 April to Lincheux; on 10 March to Huppy, where they were joined by another 108 men; then on to Rieux for further training.

There was a major sort out. 191 men were sent back to Base at Etaples, either because they were unfit through what the battalion had experienced, or because they were deemed unsuitable for a Pioneer battalion. Another 14 officers at 2nd Lt rank also joined. On 17 April, Lt Colonel Hayes himself went back to Base, reporting sick with continued problems from having been gassed during March. Lt Col RE Boulton assumed command, transferring from 1 King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry.

On 18 April, the battalion marched on to Frevillers and spent the rest of the month in training, attending lectures, doing drill and physical exercises. Captain Pemberton, who had been second in command to Hayes, was transferred to XVIII Corps staff as Education Officer and his place was taken by Captain HF Ling of 4th Suffolk Regiment. By the end of the month the battalion had virtually a full complement of men: 41 officers and 806 men on the battalion roll.