Extract from a letter written by William Hilton Saunders sent to his sister Doris in Wongarbon, which was published in an article titled ‘Letters from the Front. Driver H. Saunders’ in the Wellington Times, 16 October, 1916, p. 2.
“LETTERS FROM THE FRONT.
DRIVER H. SAUNDERS.
From Driver H. Saunders, (“Somewhere in France,” 13th August, 1916), to his sister, Miss Saunders, at Wongarbon:—
This is only my second letter from France, although I have sent several field service cards and a packet of fancy P.C.’s. I feel almost ashamed of myself to think I have been about two months over here and only written twice because I can just imagine how you all watch the incoming mails for a letter from “someone in France.” I hope you have received all my letters O.K. I wrote one from Serapeum, containing 17 pages; let me know if you got it alright. The only mail I have received since coming to France was a couple of papers on July 2nd and about three days ago three letters from Australia, all dated 11th July. I can tell you, Dot, I was some pleased, and felt about six months younger. I had just read the letters, and walked down the village, when who should I meet but Will Collyer. He had just arrived from England with some reinforcements, and was getting fixed up at headquarters. He looks well and was very pleased to see me. He was in England for about two months, and has had a good time.
… I saw Don Stewart and a few more of the 13th boys, including Les Anelzark [sic] and Will Robinson, also saw Mr. McKillop, one of our 13th Batt. Lieutenants. Well, Doris, we have been in action, and I had my first experience of shell fire. Fritz shelled four of our waggons one day, and one of our mules was hit in the leg and destroyed. ‘Twas in broad daylight, and when we started to get away a high explosive landed on the road 2 feet behind our waggon. It was fairly close, but although we got covered in mud and dirt, and the explosion lifted the timber about 2 feet in the air, nobody was hurt. It made my ears ring for a while, but although I have been up amongst the batteries with a bombardment in full swing, I have not felt the slightest effect. It is a very pretty and fascinating sight to watch the star shells and shrapnel bursting at night time; the sky is as bright as day, and it always reminds me of some gigantic industrial enterprise with the roaring of the cannon and rattle of machine guns representing the machinery. Our job is not a very dangerous one, but the closer we are to the line the more interesting it becomes. We are now a good many miles away from the roar of the big guns, in a quiet and secluded little village, about 10 miles from anywhere and somewhere in France, so now, you, by that detailed description of our position, should know exactly where we are camped. (Rats.) We are resting, but expect to be doing another “shove” in the “big push” before very long, and although we have a fair weight to push, the muscle of our chaps will tell in the end, and you will be laying the table for five instead of four as is now the case. Ernie May is still with us, and looks splendid. He is quite fat and looks better now than I have ever seen him. There is no doubt this is a great life, and a healthy one. I will get my photo taken one of these days and send you a couple.
… Mack is in one of the mortar batteries, but I have not had a line from him. I have not received the parcel Mum mentioned, but I suppose it will turn up some day. How are all the home folk? I hope they are all well. I believe it is very cold at home this winter. The weather is lovely in beautiful France, but of course it is summer time now. Well, Doris, I must close now as space is limited. Best wishes to all my friends.”
Click here to view this article in Trove:http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article137408900
[Note: William Collyer, “Mack” Wilfred Ernest McDonald, and Ernest May were other Coo-ees from Wongarbon. Donald Stewart was a Coo-ee from Wellington. Leslie Anlezark was a Coo-ee from Orange].