A Letter from a Rainham Soldier on the Western Front in 1916

Reuben Wickens from Station Road joined the Coldstream Guards and soon found himself in the trenches of the Western Front in France while his brothers Reg and Seymour served in Gallipoli with the Royal East Kent Mounted Rifles. He wrote a letter to his parents describing his conditions in January 1916. The same letter appeared in the East Kent Gazette dated January 29th 1916.

‘The tea was very acceptable, and I thought it, with the sugar and tinned milk was the best thing I had sent out. I received the parcel for Christmas just before going into the trenches. We had about a dozen canteens of tea from it and now have quite a lot left. We were so anxious to have a cup of tea that I went out in broad daylight for some water. Whilst getting it the Germans sent over a couple of shrapnels which burst very close to me – rather a narrow escape but we get used to that kind of thing out here. We are going up into the trenches again for New Year. What a hope for a Happy New Year.

 Last night we had our Christmas party and dinner (December 30th) roast beef, potatoes, cabbage and plum pudding. There was hot tea, beer and cake, but poor me being a ‘TT’ had to go thirsty for the time.

I hope that Bert and Reggie are alright and having as good a luck as I am. Thanks so much for sending the ‘East Kent Gazette’ out, it’s quite a treat to get a paper out here. ‘A Happy New Year.’ Yes, filling sandbags and building parapets at night! But never mind, we have them beaten and when the big advance takes place good-bye to ‘Kaiser Bill’ and his lot.

Tell them at home that we are not down-hearted yet. What we want is you at home to keep sending men to fill the gaps that must necessarily be made and then you’ll soon see what will happen on the ‘Western Front.’ You’ve no doubt heard the saying:

‘I’ll go one,’ said Belgium.

‘I’ll go two,’ said France.

‘I’ll go three,’ said Russia.

‘I think I stand a chance.’

‘I’ll go four,’ said Germany.

‘And wipe them off the map.’

But Bill fell dead when Britain said,

‘Blimey I’ll go nap.’

Well, we hold the nap hand now and shortly we shall play it, so cheer up.

Reuben Wickens survived the trenches of the Western Front and returned to Rainham at the end of the war where he was reunited with his two brothers Reg and Seymour.

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