Journal Volume 6 2010
Letters to Stillorgan from the Western Front (continued/1)
Private Edward Mordaunt
There is little information in the Collection specifically on the society’s work or the people involved, but the wealth of experiences recounted in the soldiers’ letters is quite breathtaking. What I have chosen to do in this article is to present the stories of just two of the soldiers, retaining original spelling and punctuation. In Volume 1 of the Collection, there are thirty-six letters from Private Edward Mordaunt, 8723, No. 6 Platoon, B Co. 2nd Royal Dublin Fusiliers, and they date from July 1915 to December 1917. The first letter is headed BEF (i.e. British Expeditionary Force), France, and it gives some information on his background:
You ask me if I live in Dublin, Well, I should think I do I was born in 19 Upper Rutland on May 26th 1894 and lived in Dublin up to February 1911 when I then enlisted and is still a soldier I left England on April 6th 1912 and went abroad to India which I liked very much I was there untill June 18th 1914 when we left India for the front ……….
I landed in France on 25 september 1914 and I am here yet I need not tell you I have suffered cruel since then but thank God I am still alive, the worst of it was the winter out here we were both frosed and up to our chests in water.
Dear Miss Roberts I think if I was made of iron I would not stick it as well as I am doing but for all that I am far from home but happy.
Bravo the Dublin Fusiliers
From your faithfull and unknown friend
ps Please excuse the paper and writing as I cannot get any better between food and writing we are nearly starved for the want of them.
Goodbye if you do not hear from me again as we are in a very dangerious position.
with best of good luck and wishes
The next letter shows his appreciation of a parcel received, which included ‘my faviouret cigarettes Woodbines’ and gives a clear picture of his state of mind on the eve of battle:
I need not tell you Dear Friend your socksare very usefull also especially when I come out of the trenches when we have to keep our boots on without even unlacing them for 7 days and also after a rout march when our feet do be very sore there is nothing like a change of socks for a relieve along with a cigarette.
Dear Miss Roberts I am very sorry to tell you there has been bad news told us I am afraid this is the last letter I shall be able to send you so I will make it as long as I can for our commanding Officer gave us a lecture about it and it is about a big attack which he said we are to be engaged in a very short time he told us that us that our boys and the French are making great progress in both North and South and he said that he hopes we do like wise in the centre which he said we will be in very shortly but I need not tell you that when I say I am afraid we will be soon in action I don’t mean that we are afraid of the Huns ah know far from been afraid of them because our irish blood is boiling (looking?) to get in close quarters with them and show them once more what an irish man is made of.
My faithfull friend I am sorry to say that I don’t think I have any heart at all after what I seen what the Huns done in certain places in France which I am not allowed to tell. I seen them slay innocent women and children and also young girls it was something shamefull it brought the tears to most of our eyes who seen what they did and I think it is our turn now to revenge the death of those poor innocent people and also our poor comrades who died on the field of battle for those we love I am not afraid to die tomorrow for I know I am doing it for a good cause ……….
I shall never forget your kindness to me and a great many of my chums also I must say your name is very much appreciated amongst the boys of No 6 Platoon B Coy RDF out here.
Private Mordaunt survived this engagement, and in December 1915 wrote about his second winter in the trenches:
We are having a very hard time of it in the trenches between rain frost snow and sleet it has us near dead and that is not bad enough but when we lie down to get an hours sleep the rats start to annoy us so that between them all including the Hun I need not tell you that we have a fine time of it (I DON’T THINK) but still “Are We Downhearted? No.”
The slogans “Are We Downhearted? No!” and “Will We Win? Yes!” appear frequently in the letters and are the kind of mantra that men might have chanted to keep their morale up. One of the early war songs had the refrain:
Are we downhearted? No! No! No!
We are ready to go, go go.
Goodbye sweetheart, for a little while,
Goodbye mother, let me see you smile
Soon the bugle will blow, blow, blow.
Duty calls, we know
And we'll hang the Kaiser to a sour apple tree,
Are we downhearted? No! No! No!