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World War I Tuesday, 3 November, 1998, 11:30 GMT
Letters home: 'The real state of affairs'
Tired of fighting at the front Laurie Rowlands wrote a frank letter to his sweetheart Alice, in which he revealed his fears and the low morale of his comrades.

DL Rowlands, who served with the 15th Battalion Durham Light Infantry, also described his part in the battle of Brookseinde, at the third battle of Ypres.

5/2/18
France
Evening

Sweetheart Mine,

Now barring accidents you will get to know all about it. I know you will have a big surprise when you get this letter - I hope it lands without mishap. If anybody in authority was to see it -!

Of course you have guessed by now where I had my first experience of the line. Yes, it was on the Ypres salient... Oh it was a lovely 'baptism of fire' that night. We had to dig ourselves in and early in the morning Fritz started straffing.

Oh Lord, if ever a fellow was afraid, absolutely frightened to death, it was this child. Then one of my Section took shell shock when a big 'un dropped a couple of yards off the parapet and then the instinct of the leader, or one whose place it is to lead, came to the top and I became as cool and steady as a rock. I had twelve men when we went in, I came out with three. Oh it was ghastly.

Perhaps you would like to know something of the spirit of the men out here now. Well the truth is (and as I said before I'd be shot if anyone of importance collared this missive) every man Jack is fed up almost past bearing, and not a single one has an ounce of what we call patriotism left in him. No-one cares a rap whether Germany has Alsace, Belgium or France too for that matter. All that every man desires now is to get done with it and go home. Now that's the honest truth, and any man who has been out within the last few months will tell you the same.

In fact, and this is no exaggeration, the greatest hope of a great majority of the men is that rioting and revolt at home will force the government to pack in on any terms. Now you've got the real state of affairs 'right from the horse's mouth' as it were.

I may add that I too have lost pretty nearly all the patriotism that I had left, its just the thought of you all over there, you who love and trust me to do my share of the job that is necessary for your safety and freedom. It's just that that keeps me going and enables me to 'stick it'. As for religion, God forgive us all, it hasn't a place in one out of a million of the thoughts that hourly occupy men's minds...

God bless you darling and all those I love and who love me, for without their love and trust I would faint and fail. But don't worry dear heart o' mine, for I shall carry on to the end be it bitter or sweet, with my loved ones ever my first thought and care, my guide inspirations and spur.

Au revoir my own sweetheart and God will keep you safe till the storm's over, with all my heart's deepest love. Your own loving
Laurie

P.S. There are only I believe about 40 in this company due to leave before me now, so I may not, with any sort of luck, be more than six or eight weeks after this epistle.

D L Rowland's letter is held in the documents library of the Imperial war Museum.

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