17th April 1917 - Letter

Letter home to Mum and Dad ...

17th April 1917

Three transports sunk in the channel.

Gas in modern warfare was one aspect of our military training which had so far been neglected apart from one afternoon wholly spent in putting on the masks by numbers.  The deficiency was hurriedly attended to.

Gathered together in a sealed off tunnel, the box gas respirators were adjusted as per instructions followed by an examination by the NCO in charge who undoubtedly took much pleasure in his assignment.  Having made much play with the errors and the tragedies which would ensue in the event of faulty adjustment he proceeded to turn on the gas.  For a few moments we breathed deeply and all was well then tragedy threatened one of our companions who was obviously in trouble.  His frantic signals could only be interpreted as a matter of a leaky mask.  Any moment we expected to see the poor fellow writhing in his death agonies on the floor.  Everyone dashed out of the tunnel and the unlucky individual was relieved of his mask.  The victim, pale and sweating and weeping copiously, soon recovered.  The incident was, of course, staged by the NCO to be a lesson and for the benefit of our morale – with perhaps an element of vicious intent!  The tear gas was quite harmless but he had tested our masks and his pupils.

At tea time we were warned for the draft to France on the following day.
We paraded at the E company office and were served out with a pay-book, “QWR” jack knife and field dressing with an iodine phial – causing a terrific wind-up.

Original diary entry
Original journal notes *

Ernest wrote up these original journal notes soon after his return to England. He completed the final journal that comprises the main part of this blog, and was based on these early notes, during his later years.