Friday, November 11, 2011

An Armistice Day Tribute to my Grandfather, Pvt. Francis Allyn Newton, Part III

It seems strange to lay in bed all day and have some one make up your bed and bring the food around. I would much rather be able to get about and wait on myself. I feel so strong in my arms and back; feel like I'd like to cut wood or something like that. But it is far different with my poor legs. I used to have such a strong pair of legs; never failed me on a hike, no matter how heavy the load. This morning when the sister made up my bed, I got up and sat on the edge of the next bed. I found that I couldn't support a pound of weight on them. It will be quite a while before I'm able to carry an eighty pound load around. 

I lost all of my equipment and clothes on the battlefield. I managed to save most of my personal articles which I had in my pockets and in a leather pouch on my belt. I will have to get a complete new outfit before going into the field again. Oh! such a lot of equipment strewn on that field of battle. Thousands of rifles, packs, ammunition, canteens and even food that the men carried. Everything is picked up and put in a salvage dump. Anything that is serviceable is cleaned up and issued again.

No civilian, no matter how much he reads about it can begin to picture the terrible sights on a modern battlefield. It is enough to make a strong man turn sick to see the awful sights. I won't try to describe them for it might make you shudder. It is sight I will never forget if I live to be a hundred. People at home read about the great advances and even the casualties but they can't realize the real state of affairs. You see many men blown to bits and limbs town off by the explosion of shells.

It is all very nice for a big General to get credit for winning a victory, but it is the rank and file that has to face the enemy and suffer. 

When going into a battle you don't have any real fear of getting hit but you do not know which breath will possibly be your last.

I can hardly be called a soldier of fortune. Many men happen to pull through the scrap without getting a scratch. I have talked with many Englishmen who have been over the top several times without getting hit, but sooner or later they get their issue. I've heard many Englishmen talk that they would like to get wounded so they could have a few week's rest in Blighty. Myself, I would much rather not be wounded on account of the pain and discomfort caused by it. A fellow can't always have his choice though.

Do I like England as well as France? What little I've seen of Eng. I like better than France. Over "there" the language and manners are foreign and nothing seems homelike. France is a good place to die in, being the greatest burying place in the world. It is a good country to keep away from. There are many beautiful places to see but they don't begin to compare with good old U.S. I'll never be at home in any other country. You hear so much about the beautiful French ladies, but they are not half as nice as the English or American lassies. 

As to my mail: It will be safe to send two or three letters here but I don't know how long I'll stay. They have a convalescent ward here and I will probably be here around three months. I'll let you know how I'm getting on and you can tell about how long I'll be, by my letters. It takes only eight to twelve days for mail to get here. You will be able to sent parcels too. I'm quite sure you can send packets to England; best see the Postmaster though. We could get stuff sent thru the Paris branch of Wanamakers while in France.  Chocolate and cigarettes are the most important things to send. Possibly a fruit cake or some figs or dates could be sent. I'd awfully like to get something from home again, so try your best. You might send a few Gillette razor blades. Maybe sometime I will be able to repay you. Wish you'd take about $20 out of the bank and sent it by mail. I will have considerable time to run around before going back to the company, and I'd like to see England a little. Don't know when I'll get any money, probably not until I get back to H. Co.

This is Monday evening and still the letter isn't finished yet but I'll sure get it off before going to sleep. I am feeling find today and my legs don't cause me much pain. I can roll over and lay on either side with ease. I can sit up a little and brace myself with my left arm but it makes me feel quite dizzy to sit up long, so my letter hasn't progressed very fast. The little cuts on my thumb are nearly healed and do not bother me any. My right leg pains me quite a lot just now and I don't feel much like writing but maybe I'll be able to forget it until the pain eases. 

The Red Cross man came around today and gave us a razor, brush, soap, tooth-brush and powder and a piece of chocolate.

I'm using a great assortment of writing paper but it's all I have. I managed to save my fountain pen so I'm all right. 

I rec'd the pictures you sent and carried them in my pocket book so I still have them. The camera does not work just right does it? The pictures look as tho a little light leaks in. But they were pretty good and I enjoyed them much.

Didn't Ralph have a mischievous look on his face. Looked as though he was trying to steal away without being seen.

Ask Betsy where her smile was. Isn't she getting tall through, but she doesn't widen out much. Helen looks much the same; a little more slender if anything.

You and daddy look about the same, not much older. It is a shame that Helen snapped the shutter so quick, but you'll have to try it again sometime.

The pictures of the house were fine. I really think I'd like to live in a house like that. Everything looks so attractive. The garden and fruit trees surely look good in the picture. 

Perhaps you would like to know how we eat in the hospital. For Breakfast we have cereal, bread, potatoes, bacon and coffee. Dinner we have mashed potatoes, some kind of beef, vegetables, bread, pudding and tea. Supper we have fried potatoes, meat, bread, sauce and tea. We have a cup of cocoa before going to bed. The bread is whole wheat but is very good as is all the food. So much better than the British rations we had been getting that one can't begin to compare them.

Pvt. Francis Allyn Newton,
© 2011 Newton Family Collection
When we left the trenches to go over the top none of us had a drop of water. That is a grave mistake as none can tell how long it will be before we get more water. And if a man is wounded and bleeds a lot he gets very thirsty. I did not have much trouble for the stretcher bearers had plenty of good water. Water is extremely difficult to get in the trenches, and it was not the officers' fault. 

Well, I must stop someplace or I'll never get finished. Will write again in a very few days. Don't worry 'cause I'm all right.

                                                            Lots of Love to All,


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