Edited extracts from Eric Chinner's WWI letters
France, July 2, 1916
...For a couple of days we have listened to an amazing bombardment, witnessed shells bursting around our aircraft; and now comes the splendid news that our boys have advanced. Hooray! We have just come off Church parade. It was held in a lovely green paddock. The text was ‘Yea, though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me’. During the sermon a landmine was exploded and shook all the earth. Another was exploded during the Communion which followed. The padre spoke on these words at Communion – ‘Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies’. And all the while we could hear our enemies’ shells bursting...
...Yesterday a mail arrived. I had not received mail for over a month, so you can guess how welcome it was. There was a letter from mother, one from Father, Vivie, Lloyd, Clive, Jim, two Chronicles from Father, two letters from Gladys, and one from the Maloneys, and a letter also from Miss White.
France, July 13, 1916
Dearest parents –
...Yesterday Fritz was very annoying – smashed up our parapet. So today we have been patching up...Although I have been in the front line I have done no fighting. Our battalion is the fatigue battalion for a week or so – that means we have to keep the trenches in good repair. The ‘tommies’ let them get very bad, and we have a big job ahead of us to get them up to scratch. No casualties have occurred in our battalion yet...
Goodbye, darling parents.
Fondest love from your soldier laddie,
France, July 13, 1916
My darling Mother –
In your parcel there came a white carnation and my colours. They were what you wore on Mother’s Day. Dearest, I put them both in my pocket book. This book contains your photos – it is my treasure book, and I always wear it over my heart. Your ‘Mother Flower’ will help to bring me back to you. God bless you, darling Mother. Heart’s love from your devoted son,
France, July 15, 1916
Dear Clive –
...I am still keeping well, but the guns don’t give a chap much chance of sleep. Last night Fritz shelled our billets and got three chaps. In a couple of days we are taking part in a great offensive. We are the first to go over the parapet. You will have heard all about it before you get this...Of course, I’m a bit shakey, but not very scared. Of course, we are trained for a bayonet charge, so we expect it more or less.
Well, Clive, old chap – I’m writing this to you because you will know something of what is doing should anything happen. I feel sure that God will watch over me and pull me through.
Love and thanks from Brother Eric