First World War Letters Home December 1918
Arthur talks of the Germans behaviour, nice warm quarters ...
December 10th 1918 night
My Dear Mother,
No mail for 4 days. We left Crépy on Sunday & came here to Hirson, a nasty dirty town of pre war times 10,000. It was nearly 90 k to get here, a quite lovely day & sunny & mild, we were very lucky, as yesterday & today it has poured & mud & beastly everywhere.
About half the inhabitants stayed here during German occupation & look badly fed many of them. Bosches were here 4 years. The inhabitants tell me that later the Bosches soldiers themselves had very little to eat, in fact one woman told me she wondered how on earth the soldiers kept going on the very little they got, so that being the case of course it was natural our & French & other prisoners were half starved!
This place is 9 k from Belgian frontier. Railhead for here is, at present, Laon, 56 k from here. They hope to get line opened to here by 1st Jan.
There are a lot of bridges blown up, also wrecked Bosche trains along the line. They had filled trains with various things but could not get them away, I fancy French or our aviators cut line by bombs. This is on edge of the Ardennes & a manufacturing district & fields very like England, hedges etc & little copses here & there, but of course no sign of stock, no doubt everything eaten long ago by Bosches or taken to Germany.
The people tell me that during the last year they noticed a big difference in behaviour of the Bosches soldiers towards their officers, discipline got very slack & saluting & all that done any how if at all. They say many of the men were alright & did not worry them but the officers & Kommandaten were very haughty & hard on the people. They had to work in fields & got 2f a day of which 50c were kept back to pay for their food. Of course Govt. feed all the people now. Nothing hardly in shops, a certain number of houses destroyed by bombs, French used to bomb the place quite often. They had sort of German W??? working here, 200 girls I think they said, clerks etc.
We are very roughly lodged. I was given an attic room, but it was too far from the men & cars so I had to camp first 2 nights in large room of a large school where chauffeurs are, but today moved into a room a fellow found for me over a café, it was a lumber room, but they cleared the stuff out & I’ll be better there. It has a small stove, so at least I shall be able to have a little fire if it gets cold. Country round much more attractive than where we have been, but our quarters at last place much better than here, lots of wood & good open fireplaces & fires, here nothing of that, beastly little stoves.
I sincerely hope by 1st Jan we shall be disbanded, as very little work now & everyone very fed up & longing to get home.
Yr affect son