22 Lancing Road
12th September 2010
Well now young Bysshe, how fares it? I read your letter with much enthusiasm and see you are on your way to becoming man!
Yes in answer to your questions about the army. If you are really bent on becoming an officer then finding your way down this dark road will not be a problem, not a problem at all.
Of course back in my day things were quite different. I was but a young lad straight out of Cambridge when I joined the Lancers, sometime around 1939. O such a hard, long training course, although I walked out after two days, it being one of the most unpleasant experiences of my life. And then came the war. What a tawdry affair that was. Dodging bullets. Big chunks of shrapnel falling down about us. Whizzbangs and jerrypops!
But the worse thing was frogs. You’d normally find them in shell holes filled with water. They thrived in the base of trenches—especially in the spring of ’42– and could cause a man to slip and fall. Normally this wasn’t such a problem, but if a fellow soldier just happened to be sharpening his bayonet and you slipped on a frog and fell on him, you could end up with a nasty case of stabbing!
I remember frogs as big as domestic cats. I recall one chap, Brown I think his name was, hunkered down in the trenches minding his own business. The next thing you know a giant frog jumped on his head and the poor fellow’s helmet got welded onto his cranium. Tinhead Brown, that’s what we called him from then on.
Horrible rations too. Nuts, dried biscuits, crackers, tins of bully, a saucisson or two, sauverkrauet, occasional Liebfraumilch, that kind of thing.
Still at least we kept ourselves busy. Whist or rummy and Eton songs was the normal fare. The occasional sing-a-long, Fraukilner, Deustschlanderspiele..Shoe polish.
Anyhow young Bessie I hope this helps, and best of luck with your future career as a soldier or teacher or whatever you decide upon. Who knows maybe you could find a post at Eton and teach youngsters how to read and write, like that other fellow, in the book, what was it called, “Goodbye my chips” or something.
Rt Honorable Uncle Brigadier Sir William VP Petchey