I’m missing you and the children immensely. How is Charlie, and sweet Gemma? I hope they are keeping well, and I hope they forgive me. I thought that the war would be over by Christmas, you see. I promised them I’d be home on Christmas Day, that my stories of adventure would be the best bedtime stories they’d ever heard.
But it’s been a year now, and we’ve only moved a couple of metres forward. Not once have they let me come home.
Believe me, I’ve tried every possible idea to be sent back to you. I even considered secretly not rubbing whale oil on my feet, in order to get Trench Foot and be sent away due to injury. But after seeing one man try it and get brutally punished by our commander when he realised, I haven’t had the heart to. The war can’t be that much longer, can it?
So instead I fight as hard as I can, so we can win that day earlier. So I can see you and the children that day sooner. Yet I don’t think my efforts have made much of a difference. What difference will one man in millions make? We are fighting in France, just North of Normandy, but have sent for extra troops due to the strength of the German army.
We’re no safe anywhere. The heartless enemy threw a shell into our toilets the other day, killing the poor man who had simply wanted to relieve himself. After that, I was constantly on edge. I wasn’t safe anywhere. Eating. Sleeping. Living. Even whilst I was being eaten alive by the lice, I was still haunted by the fear of death. Only through death would I be away from the merciless bullets, but by then it would be too late.
Yet I used to be content with war, it wasn’t so bad.
We’d joke around, smoke a cigarette or two, and could almost ignore the boom of bombs echoing around us. Our common favourite jokes were about food: we referred to cheese as ‘bung’ because it gave us all constipation. What’s more, the sausages were ‘barkers’ because we always suspected they contained dog-meat!
Do you remember my best mate Tommo? How we signed up to join together? His cheeky grin as he said how many women he’d impress, how he’d return in no time, how he’d be the town’s hero?
The jokes, the fun, the escape from the horror of war, vanished as soon as he was killed. He died in No Man’s Land when a bullet smashed through his ribcage and ripped his heart. I turned round to see his shuddering, maimed body sinking into the mud, his last breath calling for his mother. Yet I was unable to help him. It was too late. Turning back would likely lead to me being shot, and even if I didn’t, I’d be shot anyway by a senior officer afterwards: we’re forbidden to turn back.
At first I thought the war was a chance to show how great our nation is, but now I realise that it’s pointless, resulting in millions of deaths whilst governments sit in their plush chairs, squabbling like kids. Even those who aren’t killed are irreversibly wounded- in their body or mind- and I hate to think of how you all back home have to suffer too. It seems we hardly move at all, and I sometimes just loose the will to live. But then I remember you all. The laughter of Charlie and Gemma as they race round the house. The soft sound of your voice as you read them stories. The gentle crackle of the fire as we sit together, mesmerised by its warmth, our breath visible in the air.
I miss you. I live for you. I will see you again.
Don’t worry, not even the deadliest weapons could keep me away from you. Love is stronger than hatred, I hope.
Your loving husband, Thomas.