Tommy Erskine’s Diary (22): 24 March 1915 – Back in the trenches – Many Casualties at Neuve Chapelle


We went back to a support farm on Sunday 4 pm & returned to the firing line last night, so that of the last 10 days we have spent only 2 in billets. There is no prospect of a relief yet – there doesn’t seem to be a battalion to take our place here at present. We go back to reserve farm tomorrow night, and after 2 days there we will return again to the firing line unless the batt is relieved. I hope they’ll give us a longer spell in billets when it does come – we’re ready for a rest now. This is the longest spell in the trenches the batt has had since Ypres.

I have here a paper of 22nd inst. giving another list of casualties of Nueve Chapelle. Our 2nd batt has lost most of its officers including its Colonel. Poor Tommy Letters* the cheery clever fellow of Glasgow University, whom Ralph & I often spoke about, is reported ‘missing, believed killed’. It’s terrible. Capt Halliswell HLI (Highland Light Infantry) is wounded. I wonder if Charlie Mylles got through it. It’s a piece of pure good fortune that our Batt didn’t happen to be in this show. There were 517 casualties among officers alone.

The Germans yesterday put a rifle grenade into the trench on our right, killing 1 officer & wounding 6 men – of the Suffolk Regiment. I hope my grenades have accounted for a good many of the enemy.

*Lieutenant Thomas Arthur Letters was born in Beaufort, Cape Colony – a small town in the middle of the Karoo which I happened to pass through recently while driving from Capetown to Johannesburg – and graduated from Cape of Good Hope University before going to Glasgow University, where he excelled in both his studies and athletics. 

He was killed on 13 March 1915 and is commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial. He was 21.


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