Witley Camp, 1915

“I haven’t had time to drop you a line, And thought perhaps you might grieve:

So I send you this card just to say I’m alright,

 And longing to see you again when on “leave.”

When Old England’s Call for more men to fight,

 For her Honour — in me caused a thrill;

I felt fight I must or else I should “bust,”

 So I’m at Witley Camp, on the Surrey Hills.

The work is hard, for we’re “at it” all day,

 And sometimes half of the night:

But we’re hardening to it and getting quite fit,

 And thank goodness for “grub” we’re alright.

My duty calls me as the picture shows,

 To the front where the fightin’ is done;

And once Witley Camp Tommies get grip on the foe,

 There’s no letting go till they’ve won.

But cheer up, my dear, tho’ parted we are,

 And though I’m so far away;

My loved ones are ever first in my thoughts,

 I’m thinking of YOU everyday.”

 I found this little poem on a postcard while doing some research on my Great-Uncle James Travis’ time serving with the 11th Manchester’s. I have no idea if he ever sent something like this to his wife, Sophia or his own family. If he did it has been lost or destroyed, but it is an insight into British military thinking at the time. When they were at Witley Camp, the Manchester’s we’re getting ready to be sent to the Mediterranean where they would see action during the Gallipoli campaign. 
 As you read the poem, you get that sense of bravado, that once we get there this fight will soon be over. Not unlike what we continue to do today as we send our young men and women into harms way, defending our precious liberties. Unknown to them and also, unknown to us, we don’t know how long this will continue. The Manchester’s will go to Gallipoli, then they will be evacuated and sent to France where they will participate in the Battle of the Somme. Many will die, many will be wounded, much of the bravado will probably be toned down by the harsh realities of trench warfare. 

 We do well to remember these young men and the sacrifices they made, leaving their families, friends and jobs, not knowing when or if they would return. We also should reflect on our own time and what we are asking of our current military. Peace is ever elusive, whenever we think we have found a solution to war, we find it nothing more than a mirage that disappears in the heat of human emotions. Yet, we cannot lose hope, for once hope is lost then we are lost, life is lost.


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