24 June 1917

 Archive Ref: IE IJA /J2/83_Letter to his Father_ (145)
B. E. Force
24/6/17
My dearest Father,
Your welcome letters have just reached me , for which many thanks. I am glad you found my last“budget”interesting for it was written so hurriedly in bits and snaps and all sorts of pieces,I was half afraid you might not be bothered reading through it.
To pick up the thread of my last account we marched back to the rear after the battle by easy stages bidding goodbye to Locre and the convent where we had

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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spent nine months not unpleasant ones in the beginning though lively towards the end. Looking back on the terrible winter we went through I often wonder what I should have done were it not for room the good sisters put at my disposal when I got back from the trenches, and which gave me a chance of a decent rest + sleep. I don’t suppose we shall see the convent again but the memory of there kindness shown to all of us myself especially as I was part of the community will not easily be forgotten. We spent the rest of the week billeted in farmhouses the weather ideal if on the
Hot side and the peaceful country seeming a paradise after the din of battle. It was only when the strain was taken off that we realized how utterly tired we were, but rest had come at long last and and we took it–night and day. Then just as we were settling down to enjoy a well–earned repose an urgent order reached us to return at once to the trenches I shall not easily forget that days march ( Sunday 17th) The heat was terrific + the road long + hilly. The men“stuck it”magnificently in fact too much so for several of them fainted from exhaustion and all were fairly
well done up by the time camp was reached. That night at one AM word was received that raid was cancelled + that we were to return to the place we had come from! Someone had blundered or it had dawned upon the minds of those in power that the endurance of even Irish soldiers has a limit. The next few days were spent marching back further + further and now we are settled down in quite a nice part of France very comfortable
 
in fine farmhouses and best of all have to stay for some weeks a least resting and training, It is delightfully peaceful + quiet and if the weather did give us a good drenching on the march
it is on its best behaviour now plenty of sun with cool breezes.
There are very little incidents in are last battle which I suppose would be of interest to you if I could recall them. Two horrible sights are photographed on my mind: are a convoy of waggons which had been caught by our artillery+
 
every horse killed. The poor beasts had evidently gone mad with fear and made frantic efforts to break  the traces, judging by the extra -ordinary positions in which we found them
lying. It was a sad and pathetic to see the fearful expressions on those poor beasts and the look of fear on their faces.
The other was the corpse“dump”of German dead the bodies tied in bundles and some of them with heads cut off and [feet] censored? Hands + legs amputatedbelow the knee, run through the body with a pole so that three could be carried at the same time.

I must confess I did not believe the stories of the “ corpse factory”, but here was  evident proof of its existence, for heads, hands feet of the dead had been chopped off by the Boche themselves .

The sight was too horrible for words, but it will give you an idea of the grim earnestness with which  the war is being raged.

I shall not promise to send a letter for some little time, chiefly for want of news, but I shall keep in touch with you by an odd post -card that is if I do not become too lazy to write that much.

I am ever so glad to learn that you are with dear Lena (whom please thank for her letter) and the chicks in Balbriggan. The next bit of news possibly will be that you are taking headers off the top of the light house or some other feat worthy of your venerable grey hairs!

I have pretty well got over the efforts of the last months hard time these days in the country are working wonders on us all. Heaps of love to everybody

Ever dearest Father

Your son Willie.