Letters of James Lindsay Salmond Smith

These letters were written by my grandfather to my grandmother during World War I. They were married on the 22nd July 1916, at which time his occupation was described as "Lecturer in Plant Physiology Edinburgh University (Bombardier Edinburgh University Officer Training Corps)".

I don't know if grandfather volunteered or was conscripted. Conscription for men aged between 18 and 41 was introduced in Britain February 9, 1916.

I've transcribed just a few extracts from the letters below, to facilitate browsing the letters. Comments of mine are in [square brackets].

17/02/16 [Is this date right?]
(France) You asked about the work - it is administrative artillery work (Counter Battery).
["Counter Battery" means artillery aimed at knocking out the other side's artillery. The term is still used today.]
18/11/16 (France)... arrived safely ...
05/12/16 The Tommy's Cooker has been a great success.
[A Tommy Cooker was a small, portable stove.)]
17/12/16 [Self portrait with hands in pockets]
So you will have seen pictures of Tanks by now. I saw one in an illustrated paper myself - but again I have seen the real thing so I have you there. I really thought they would be much larger.
[Tanks had only recently been developed.]
14/01/17 (France) ...Another dog has wandered into the Batty - not much of a dog and of course it would like to make a home here...
18/03/17 Sometimes we are very comfortable here. The food is superior to what I had at the Batty and is quite as good as I had at Lydd...
06/04/17 (France) ...The Bosche has just one more shot in his locker - to send out his fleet and perhaps also to make a landing."..."I was up at Baup yesterday and saw the result of the ruthless Bosche - orchards destroyed, each tree carefully sawn across one foot above ground, houses pulled down, blown up & so on, all of no military value but done out of sheer spite. The Bosche left notes in English in conspicuous places - one read 'This is the road to Berlin. Come along Tommy. Yours Fritz.' Who wrote them we don't know, probably an officer to give a sense of healthy morale on their part.
09/04/17 Yesterday was pleasant and Pinto and I meandered hand in hand (as it were) and visited some places in the rear. How pleasant it was!
24/05/17 (France) We have just arrived here in the north after a three days ride. It was all very interesting... Yesterday we arrived at our temporary quarters here, only about 10 miles E of H [Hazebrouck (town web site)].
12/07/17 (France) I'm sorry I'm so neglectful. It happens sometimes that I mean to write at a certain time and then something happens to prevent it...
20/07/17 (France) Do you realize that we have been married for one whole year now? ...
20/08/17 (France)
25/10/17 (France)
13/11/17 (Italy) ...We got a very striking welcome on It. soil and were heaped with flowers, cigars, cigarettes, flags and fruit. I hope we shall justify it all...
23/11/17 (Italy) Now that I have a few minutes to spare I am going to tell you about my visit to Venice...
24/12/17 (Italy)
28/12/17 (Italy)
01/01/18 (Italy)
11/02/18 The eye is going splendidly and will be all right in a day or so. It is kept bandaged up and treated three times a day.
13/02/18 I am still here. The Doc yesterday remarked that the eye was going excellently and that I was almost convalescent - and now I am wearying to get back before the Col arrives...
25/02/18 The eye fellow was round today and is allowing me to get up - not that I have even been ill you know, but he insisted on a complete rest as part of the cure. The eye would have been better sooner if this specialist hadn't gone off to Rome on holiday. It went worse then...
01/03/18 The specialist was in today and he thinks I am getting on all right. I can see very well with the eye now and it is only a matter of a few days more.
12/03/18 The eye specialist was not round today but this morning the eye was looking and seeing very well indeed and I am quite pleased with myself...
22/03/18 Today has again been glorious - strong warm sunshine and nothing to do - as usual. I haven't seen the eye fellow for a couple of days but the eye is getting along all right.
29/03/18 ... The Col has not yet sent on anything about leave and I fear leave is rather uncertain on account of this trouble in France, ...
12/04/18 Here I am standing by waiting permission to go on leave. They are taking a devil of a time getting it through. Of course it may come at any time...
15/04/18 That's torn it. They won;t grante me leave meantime --- them, but the Hun is to blame. He is very close to the main railway line in France and very little traffic is possible.
24/04/18 [postcard]
03/05/18 ...It will be the 9th or so before you get this and you will be well on your way to delivering the goods...
27/05/18 [Paris visit - returning after home leave?]
03/07/18 [Alastair was born 25/6/18]
09/07/18 [Addressed to Alastair]
04/11/18 I am very anxious about you both as I hear that 'Flu' is very prevalent at home. I see by the Times of the 31st that all schools in Edin. are closed down for three weeks...
We went to Oderzo [town web site] which had been evacuated by the Austrians just the day before. The bridge over the Livenza was blown up and we had to cross by means of a temporary pontoon bridge. Coming back we struck a badly shelled area reminiscent of the Western Front. In general the ground was not much broken up by shell holes. Altogether we won a very cheap victory. As I write 3:25 or 15:25 as we now call it the last shot has been fired against Austria. Hostilities ceased at 3 as you know.
Italy is jubilant. One would think that she had done it all but we know better. However I'm glad its over. Whether we go straight on through Austria is not yet decided.
10/11/18 [to Alastair]
12/11/18 [to Alastair]
24/11/18 There's a lot of flu about but not very virulent in type.
30/11/18 [to Alastair]
01/12/18 [to Alastair] ...Fancy you going about Princes St with a flag pinned on you...
12/12/18 [to Alastair]
15/12/18 [to Alastair] Enclosed is a photo of my General. I believe one could guess that he has served in India and can be on occasion a 'holy terror' with an enromous liver. He does 'bibe' at times I can assure you, and I am frequently left to take him about thus earning the thanks of thousands.
18/01/19 [to Alastair]

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