February 1915

Submitted by John Palmer

In February 1915, Bombardier John Palmer was told that he had been selected to go on leave.

"I imparted the great news to my pals and after many envious looks, handshakes all round, we began to come back to Earth. Suddenly someone had a great brainwave. They all decided to write letters to their relatives and girlfriends. I could take them and post them in England. This was strictly against regulations, but they all gave their word that the contents would be purely personal, especially to their wives and girlfriends. The thought of being able to get one home without prying eyes first perusing them meant much to all concerned."

Like many other soldiers before and since Palmer spent the next few days ‘sweating on leave’, especially while trying to repair the telephone lines that linked the artillery to the infantry in the front line.

"It was no joke as it was pitch dark and I was on my own. I found myself stumbling into shell holes and being lacerated by barbed wire. I began to wonder if I should get my leave home after all, especially when ‘Fritz’ commenced sending some shells over and a machine gun opened up nearby. I must confess that I began to get that feeling which frankly amounted to fright, all I could think of was my leave – and the chance of losing it."

At last the red-letter day arrived…

"Home, after about six months of mud, blood and enlightenment. Five whole days right away from the firing line. I must have frightened the life out of my mother when I walked in. I was still alive with lice. I made my way down to the Conservative Club where I had a wonderful bath – the first since I left Aldershot. Rolled my dirty underwear up and took it home to dispose of. Later, I showed myself down the town. It was over all too soon and the five days had dwindled to three days when the travelling had been included."

Leave was a rare event for the ordinary soldier. They looked forward to it so much, but it quickly evaporated as time rushed on. John Palmer was soon back at the front.


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February 1915
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