The Front Line
November 1916

Dearest Brother,

I hope this letter finds you in good health. Your last letter made me smile, a rarity out here. To know things are still the same and our home is not yet poisoned with death, greed and disease is comforting. I am relieved that you are not yet old enough to endure this war. I understand brother that you were disappointed in being turned away from service but war is not all people say it is.

War consumes my thought. I try to think daily of you and mother to help block out all I and the fellow soldiers see. Too many men do not have a home and someone to love them, like I do you. I have been fortunate in this life because without love, it makes it harder to cope with the horrors of this place. Many go mad with the things they see, terrible things. Things we would not dream of in our wildest nightmare. I know you still believe that everyone and everything can be saved from hell but out here… it is hell! Every night we cower in trenches, filled with sticky, squelching mud up to our waists with no room to move. Our fingers and feet numb to the cold winter.

Remember that month of terrible weather. The downpours of rain turned fields into nothing but glorious mud pits that were irresistible to us as young boys. Mother was so mad when we came home every day, caked in mud but that did not stop us. She could never stay angry for long. We always knew there would be a fire waiting for us and some of mother’s lovely homemade soup. We had the luxury of being able to warm up and dry out.

It is like that here, only we can never warm up, never dry out. Almost all the men have a case of trench foot because our feet can never get dry. All the skin peels away, leaving nothing but a nasty and bloody mess. The rats like is though. The conditions, the weather, the food! They come to have a nibble of us, see who’s the fattest, the tastiest. There is no competition really.  We all look and I’m sure taste the same. Nothing but skin and bone, dog tired and worn down by the horrors. You can always tell by a man’s eyes who has been in this war the longest.

Rats sometimes bury themselves into the dead out in no-mans-land. No-mans-land is the second worst thing in this war. More often than not there is a fog that seems to inhabit no-mans-land. Some say it’s the dead men’s spirits waiting for us. Waiting for us to stop fighting the battle that cannot be won. Waiting for us to join them in death. It is only a scary story to keep the soldiers up at night but you cannot help but be on the look out. Although there are more stories floating around the camps than fact.

However, if that does not scare you little brother then this definitely will. The worst part of the war is the never knowing. Never knowing what lies ahead. Never knowing if you’re going to be the next one to die. Never knowing what the enemy are doing just a few feet away. All we seem to do for days is wait but when and if the bombing starts whatever we do next is automatic. By now we are hard wired when it comes to the actual war stuff. No feelings involved, they are not allowed. Just kill, kill, kill and maybe if you’re one of the lucky ones, survive! These words have not been spoken to us but it is a hard known fact. It is beyond a doubt, survival of the fittest.

I apologise for burdening you with this. No man should have this insight if not necessary but it is a relief to tell someone, even to write it down upon paper. I plead with God every night with the quiet sky as my witness, that you my brother will hopefully never understand the horror of war. I confide in you now, at long last because it has been too long a time since my eyes have feasted upon a clear blue sky, where the sun shines and the birds sing and the grass sways gently in the summer breeze. I try to remember my childhood and the happy moments I have experienced, but the war seems to have blasted them all away. All fond memories have left this earth along with many of its people, in hope of finding a better and simpler life.

I, along with my fellow soldiers who I can gladly call friends are going into the German trenches tomorrow night. It is a last ditch effort in hopes of gaining some land or vital information. The Sargent is a fool if he thinks we are going to walk away unscratched. It is not my intention to weigh you down with this knowledge. My hope is to only prepare you, as I fear I may not come back this time. My “luck” has kept me going far too long and I am afraid it has run its course.

With that, I ask you to give mother my love and take care of her for me. With the news she will depend upon you more than ever. Be strong and remember always that you are the best little brother I could ask for and do not forget it.

With all my love to you,

Your brother, in life and in death.

Side note: I wrote this when I was fifteen years old for an English assignment. I found it the other day in one of my old jotters and I thought it would be fun to share it on the blog. As always I would love to know what you think of it… : )