A Yankee in the Trenches
R. Derby Holmes

Part 3 out of 3

that Blighty had for us.

I never saw a finer sight than the faces of those boys, glowing
with love, as they strained their eyes for the first sight of the
homeland. Those in the bunks below, unable to move, begged those on
deck to come down at the first land raise and tell them how it all

A lump swelled in my throat, and I prayed that I might never go
back to the trenches. And I prayed, too, that the brave boys still
over there might soon be out of it.

We steamed into the harbor of Southampton early in the afternoon.
Within an hour all of those that could walk had gone ashore. As we
got into the waiting trains the civilian populace cheered. I, like
everybody else I suppose, had dreamed often of coming back sometime
as a hero and being greeted as a hero. But the cheering, though it
came straight from the hearts of a grateful people, seemed, after
all, rather hollow. I wanted to get somewhere and rest.

It seemed good to look out of the windows and see the signs printed
in English. That made it all seem less like a dream.

I was taken first to the Clearing Hospital at Eastleigh. As we got
off the train there the people cheered again, and among the
civilians were many wounded men who had just recently come back.
They knew how we felt.


The first thing at the hospital was a real honest-to-God bath. _In
a tub. With hot water!_ Heavens, how I wallowed. The orderly helped
me and had to drag me out. I'd have stayed in that tub all night if
he would have let me.

Out of the tub I had clean things straight through, with a neat
blue uniform, and for once was free of the cooties. The old
uniform, blood-stained and ragged, went to the baking and
disinfecting plant.

That night all of us newly arrived men who could went to the
Y.M.C.A. to a concert given in our honor. The chaplain came around
and cheered us up and gave us good fags.

Next morning I went around to the M.O. He looked my arm over and
calmly said that it would have to come off as gangrene had set in.
For a moment I wished that piece of shrapnel had gone through my
head. I pictured myself going around with only one arm, and the
prospect didn't look good.

However, the doctor dressed the arm with the greatest care and told
me I could go to a London hospital as I had asked, for I wanted to
be near my people at Southall. These were the friends I had made
before leaving Blighty and who had sent me weekly parcels and

I arrived in London on Tuesday and was taken in a big Red Cross
motor loaned by Sir Charles Dickerson to the Fulham Hospital in
Hammersmith. I was overjoyed, as the hospital was very near
Southall, and Mr. and Mrs. Puttee were both there to meet me.

The Sister in charge of my ward, Miss Malin, is one of the finest
women I have met. I owe it to her care and skill that I still have
my good right arm. She has since married and the lucky man has one
of the best of wives. Miss Malin advised me right at the beginning
not to submit to an amputation.

My next few weeks were pretty awful. I was in constant pain, and
after the old arm began to come around under Miss Malin's treatment
one of the doctors discovered that my left hand was queer. It had
been somewhat swollen, but not really bad. The doctor insisted upon
an X-ray and found a bit of shrapnel imbedded. He was all for an
operation. Operations seemed to be the long suit of most of those
doctors. I imagine they couldn't resist the temptation to get some
practice with so much cheap material all about. I consented this
time, and went down for the pictures on Lord Mayor's Day. Going to
the pictures is Tommy's expression for undergoing an anesthetic.

I was under ether two hours and a half, and when I came out of it
the left hand was all to the bad and has been ever since. There
followed weeks of agonizing massage treatments. Between treatments
though, I had it cushy.

My friends were very good to me, and several Americans entertained
me a good deal. I had a permanent walking-out pass good from nine
in the morning until nine at night. I saw almost every show in the
city, and heard a special performance of the Messiah at Westminster
Abbey. Also I enjoyed a good deal of restaurant life.

London is good to the wounded men. There is entertainment for all
of them. A good many of these slightly wounded complain because
they cannot get anything to drink, but undoubtedly it is the best
thing for them. It is against the law to serve men in the blue
uniform of the wounded. Men in khaki can buy all the liquor they
want, the public houses being open from noon to two-thirty and from
six P.M. to nine-thirty. Treating is not allowed. Altogether it
works out very well and there is little drunkenness among the

I eventually brought up in a Convalescent Hospital in Brentford,
Middlesex, and was there for three weeks. At the end of that time I
was placed in category C 3.

The system of marking the men in England is by categories, A, B,
and C. A 1, 2, and 3 are for active service. A 4 is for the
under-aged. B categories are for base service, and C is for home
service. C 3 was for clerical duty, and as I was not likely to
become efficient again as a soldier, it looked like some kind of
bookkeeping for me for the duration of the war.

Unless one is all shot to pieces, literally with something gone, it
is hard to get a discharge from the British army. Back in the early
days of 1915, a leg off was about the only thing that would produce
a discharge.

When I was put at clerical duty, I immediately began to furnish
trouble for the British army, not intentionally, of course, but
quite effectively. The first thing I did was to drop a typewriter
and smash it. My hands had spells when they absolutely refused to
work. Usually it was when I had something breakable in them. After
I had done about two hundred dollars' damage indoors they tried me
out as bayonet instructor. I immediately dropped a rifle on a
concrete walk and smashed it. They wanted me to pay for it, but the
M.O. called attention to the fact that I shouldn't have been put at
the work under my category.


They then put me back at bookkeeping at Command Headquarters,
Salisbury, but I couldn't figure English money and had a bad habit
of fainting and falling off the high stool. To cap the climax, I
finally fell one day and knocked down the stovepipe, and nearly set
the office afire. The M.O. then ordered me back to the depot at
Winchester and recommended me for discharge. I guess he thought it
would be the cheapest in the long run.

The adjutant at Winchester didn't seem any too pleased to see me.
He said I looked as healthy as a wolf, which I did, and that they
would never let me out of the army. He seemed to think that my
quite normal appearance would be looked upon as a personal insult
by the medical board. I said that I was sorry I didn't have a leg
or two gone, but it couldn't be helped.

While waiting for the Board, I was sent to the German Prison Camp
at Winnal Downs as corporal of the permanent guard. I began to fear
that at last they had found something that I could do without
damaging anything, and my visions of the U.S.A. went a-glimmering.
I was with the Fritzies for over a week, and they certainly have it
soft and cushy.

They have as good food as the Tommies. They are paid ninepence a
day, and the work they do is a joke. They are well housed and kept
clean and have their own canteens, where they can buy almost
anything in the way of delicacies. They are decently treated by the
English soldiers, who even buy them fags out of their own money.
The nearest thing I ever saw to humiliation of a German was a few
good-natured jokes at their expense by some of the wits in the
guard. The English know how to play fair with an enemy when they
have him down.

I had about given up hope of ever getting out of the army when I
was summoned to appear before the Travelling Medical Board. You can
wager I lost no time in appearing.

The board looked me over with a discouraging and cynical suspicion.
I certainly did look as rugged as a navvy. When they gave me a
going over, they found that my heart was out of place and that my
left hand might never limber up again. They voted for a discharge
in jig time. I had all I could do to keep from howling with joy.

It was some weeks before the final formalities were closed up. The
pension board passed on my case, and I was given the magnificent
sum of sixteen shillings and sixpence a week, or $3.75. I spent the
next few weeks in visiting my friends and, eventually, at the 22nd
Headquarters at Bermondsey, London, S.C., received the papers that
once more made me a free man.

The papers read in part, "He is discharged in consequence of
paragraph 392, King's Rules and Regulations. No longer fit for
service." In another part of the book you will find a reproduction
of the character discharge also given. The discharged man also
receives a little silver badge bearing the inscription, "For King
and Empire, Services Rendered." I think that I value this badge
more than any other possession.

Once free, I lost no time in getting my passport into shape and
engaged a passage on the _St. Paul_, to sail on the second of June.
Since my discharge is dated the twenty-eighth of May, you can see
that I didn't waste any time. My friends at Southall thought I was
doing things in a good deal of a hurry. The fact is, I was fed up
on war. I had had a plenty. And I was going to make my get-away
before the British War Office changed its mind and got me back in
uniform. Mrs. Puttee and her eldest son saw me off at Euston
Station. Leaving them was the one wrench, as they had become very
dear to me. But I had to go. If Blighty had looked good, the
thought of the U.S.A. was better.

My passage was uneventful. No submarines, no bad weather, nothing
disagreeable. On the eighth day I looked out through a welter of
fog and rain to the place where the Statue of Liberty should have
been waving a greeting across New York harbor. The lady wasn't
visible, but I knew she was there. And even in a downpour equal to
anything furnished by the choicest of Flanders rainstorms, little
old New York looked better than anything I could imagine, except
sober and staid old Boston.

That I am at home, safe and free of the horrors of war, is to me a
strange thing. I think it comes into the experience of most of the
men who have been over there and who have been invalided out of the
service. Looking back on the awfulness of the trenches and the
agonies of mind and body, the sacrifice seems to fade into
insignificance beside the satisfaction of having done a bit in the
great and just cause.

Now that our own men are going over, I find myself with a very deep
regret that I cannot go too. I can only wish them the best of luck
and rest in confidence that every man will do his uttermost.



I cannot end this book without saying something to those who have
boys over there and, what is more to the point, to those boys who
may go over there.

First as to the things that should be sent in parcels; and a great
deal of consideration should be given to this. You must be very
careful not to send things that will load your Sammy down, as every
ounce counts in the pack when he is hiking, and he is likely to be
hiking any time or all the time.

In the line of eatables the soldier wants something sweet. Good
hard cookies are all right. I wish more people in this country knew
how to make the English plum pudding in bags, the kind that will
keep forever and be good when it is boiled. Mainly, though,
chocolate is the thing. The milk kind is well enough, but it is apt
to cause overmuch thirst. Personally I would rather have the plain
chocolate,--the water variety.

Chewing gum is always in demand and is not bulky in the package.
Send a lot of it. Lime and lemon tablets in the summertime are
great for checking thirst on the march. A few of them won't do any
harm in any parcel, summer or winter.

Now about smoking materials. Unless the man to whom the parcel is
to be sent is definitely known to be prejudiced against cigarettes,
don't send him pipe tobacco or a pipe. There are smokers who hate
cigarettes just as there are some people who think that the little
paper roll is an invention of the devil. If any one has a boy over
there, he--or she--had better overcome any possible personal
feeling against the use of cigarettes and send them in preference
to anything else.

From my own experience I know that cigarettes are the most
important thing that can be sent to a soldier. When I went out
there, I was a pipe smoker. After I had been in the trenches a week
I quit the pipe and threw it away. It is seldom enough that one has
the opportunity to enjoy a full pipe. It is very hard to get
lighted when the matches are wet in bad weather, which is nearly
always. Besides which, say what you will, a pipe does not soothe
the nerves as a fag does.

Now when sending the cigarettes out, don't try to think of the
special brand that Harold or Percival used when he was home. Likely
enough his name has changed, and instead of being Percy or Harold
he is now Pigeye or Sour-belly; and his taste in the weed has
changed too. He won't be so keen on his own particular brand of
Turkish. Just send him the common or garden Virginia sort at five
cents the package. That is the kind that gives most comfort to the
outworn Tommy or Sammy.

Don't think that you can send too many. I have had five hundred
sent to me in a week many times and have none left at the end.
There are always men who do not get any parcels, and they have to
be looked out for. Out there all things are common property, and
the soldier shares his last with his less fortunate comrade.
Subscribe when you get the chance to any and all smoke funds.

Don't listen to the pestilential fuddy-duds who do not approve of
tobacco, particularly the fussy-old-maids. Personally, when I hear
any of these conscientious objectors to My Lady Nicotine air their
opinions, I wish that they could be placed in the trenches for a
while. They would soon change their minds about rum issues and
tobacco, and I'll wager they would be first in the line when the
issues came around.

One thing that many people forget to put in the soldier's parcel,
or don't see the point of, is talcum powder. Razors get dull very
quickly, and the face gets sore. The powder is almost a necessity
when one is shaving in luke-warm tea and laundry soap, with a
safety razor blade that wasn't sharp in the first place. In the
summer on the march men sweat and accumulate all the dirt there is
in the world. There are forty hitherto unsuspected places on the
body that chafe under the weight of equipment. Talc helps. In the
matter of sore feet, it is a life saver.

Soap,--don't forget that. Always some good, pure, plain white
soap, like Ivory or Castile; and a small bath towel now and then.
There is so little chance to wash towels that they soon get

In the way of wearing apparel, socks are always good. But, girlie,
make 'em right. That last pair sent me nearly cost me a court
martial by my getting my feet into trench-foot condition. If you
can't leave out the seams, wear them yourself for a while, and see
how you like it.

Sleeveless sweaters are good and easy to make, I am told. They
don't last long at the best, so should not be elaborate. Any
garment worn close to the body gets cooty in a few weeks and has to
be ditched. However, keep right on with the knitting, with the
exception of the socks. If you're not an expert on those, better
buy them. You may in that way retain the affection of your
sweetheart over there.

Knitted helmets are a great comfort. I had one that was fine not
only to wear under the tin hat but to sleep in. I am not keen on
wristlets or gloves. Better buy the gloves you send in the shops.
So that's the knitted stuff,--helmets, sweaters, and mufflers and,
for the expert, socks.

Be very moderate in the matter of reading matter. I mean by that,
don't send a lot at a time or any very bulky stuff at all.

If it is possible to get a louse pomade called Harrison's in this
country, send it, as it is a cooty killer. So far as I know, it is
the only thing sold that will do the cooty in. There's a fortune
waiting for the one who compounds a louse eradicator that will kill
the cooty and not irritate or nearly kill the one who uses it. I
shall expect a royalty from the successful chemist who produces the
much needed compound.

For the wealthier people, I would suggest that good things to send
are silk shirts and drawers. It is possible to get the cooties out
of these garments much easier than out of the thick woollies. There
are many other things that may be sent, but I have mentioned the
most important. The main thing to remember is not to run to bulk.
And don't forget that it takes a long time for stuff to get

Don't overlook the letters,--this especially if you are a mother,
wife, or sweetheart. It is an easy thing to forget. You mustn't.
Out there life is chiefly squalor, filth, and stench. The boy gets
disgusted and lonesome and homesick, even though he may write to
the contrary. Write to him at least three times a week. Always
write cheerfully, even although something may have happened that
has plunged you into the depths of despair. If it is necessary to
cover up something that would cause a soldier worry, cover it up.
Even lie to him. It will be justified. Keep in mind the now famous,
war song, "Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag and smile,
smile, smile." Keep your own packed up and don't send any over
there for some soldier to worry over.

Just a few words to the men themselves who may go. Don't take
elaborate shaving tackle, just brush, razor, soap, and a small
mirror. Most of the time you won't need the mirror. You'll use the
periscope mirror in the trenches. Don't load up on books and
unnecessary clothing. Impress it upon your relatives that your
stuff, tobacco and sweets, is to come along in small parcels and
often and regularly. Let all your friends and relatives know your
address and ask them to write often. Don't hesitate to tell them
all that a parcel now and again will be acceptable. Have more than
one source of supply if possible.

When you get out there, hunt up the Y.M.C.A. huts. You will find
good cheer, warmth, music, and above all a place to do your
writing. Write home often. Your people are concerned about you all
the time. Write at least once a week to the one nearest and dearest
to you. I used to average ten letters a week to friends in Blighty
and back here, and that was a lot more than I was allowed. I found
a way. Most of you won't be able to go over your allowance. But do
go the limit.

Over there you will find a lot of attractive girls and women. Most
any girl is attractive when you are just out of the misery of the
trenches. Be careful of them. Remember the country has been full of
soldiers for three years. Don't make love too easily. One of the
singers in the Divisional Follies recently revived the once popular
music-hall song, "If You Can't Be Good Be Careful." It should
appeal to the soldier as much as "Smile, smile, smile", and is
equally good advice. For the sake of those at home and for the sake
of your own peace of mind come back from overseas clean.

After all it is possible to no more than give hints to the boys who
are going. All of you will have to learn by experience. My parting
word to you all is just, "The best of luck."


All around traverse - A machine gun placed on a swivel to turn
in any direction.

Ammo - Ammunition. Usually for rifles, though occasionally used
to indicate that for artillery.

Argue the toss - Argue the point.

Back of the line - Anywhere to the rear and out of the danger

Barbed wire - Ordinary barbed wire used for entanglements. A
thicker and heavier military wire is sometimes used.

Barrage - Shells dropped simultaneously and in a row so as to
form a curtain of fire. Literal translation "a barrier."

Bashed - Smashed.

Big boys - Big guns or the shells they send over.

Big push - The battles of the Somme.

Billets - The quarters of the soldier when back of the line.
Any place from a pigpen to a palace.

Bleeder or Blighter - Cockney slang for fellow. Roughly
corresponding to American "guy."

Blighty - England. East Indian derivation. The paradise looked
forward to by all good soldiers,--and all bad ones too.

Blighty one - A wound that will take the soldier to Blighty.

Bloody - The universal Cockney adjective. It is vaguely
supposed to be highly obscene, though just why nobody seems to

Blooming - A meaningless and greatly used adjective. Applied to
anything and everything.

Bomb - A hand grenade.

Bully beef - Corned beef, high grade and good of the kind, if
you like the kind. It sets hard on the chest.

Carry on - To go ahead with the matter in hand.

Char - Tea. East Indian derivation.

Chat - Officers' term for cootie; supposed to be more delicate.

Click - Variously used. To die. To be killed. To kill. To draw
some disagreeable job, as: I clicked a burial fatigue.

Communication trench - A trench leading up to the front trench.

Consolidate - To turn around and prepare for occupation a
captured trench.

Cootie - The common,--the too common,--body louse. Everybody
has 'em.

Crater - A round pit made by an underground explosion or by a

Cushy - Easy. Soft.

Dixie - An oblong iron pot or box fitting into a field kitchen.
Used for cooking anything and everything. Nobody seems to know why
it is so called.

Doggo - Still. Quiet. East Indian derivation.

Doing in - Killing.

Doss - Sleep.

Duck walk - A slatted wooden walk in soft ground.

Dud - An unexploded shell. A dangerous thing to fool with.

Dug-out - A hole more or less deep in the side of a trench
where soldiers are supposed to rest.

Dump - A place where supplies are left for distribution.

Entrenching tool - A sort of small shovel for quick digging.
Carried as part of equipment.

Estaminet - A French saloon or cafe.

Fag - A cigarette.

Fatigue - Any kind of work except manning the trenches.

Fed up - Tommy's way of saying "too much is enough."

Firing step - A narrow ledge running along the parapet on which
a soldier stands to look over the top.

Flare - A star light sent up from a pistol to light up out in

Fritz - An affectionate term for our friend the enemy.

Funk hole - A dug-out.

Gas - Any poisonous gas sent across when the wind is right.
Used by both sides. Invented by the Germans.

Goggles - A piece of equipment similar to that used by
motorists, supposed to keep off tear gas. The rims are backed with
strips of sponge which Tommy tears off and throws the goggle frame

Go west - To die.

Grouse - Complain. Growl. Kick.

Hun - A German.

Identification disc - A fiber tablet bearing the soldier's
name, regiment, and rank. Worn around the neck on a string.

Iron rations - About two pounds of nonperishable rations to be
used in an emergency.

Knuckle knife - A short dagger with a studded hilt. Invented by
the Germans.

Lance Corporal - The lowest grade of non-commissioned officer.

Lewis gun - A very light machine gun invented by one Lewis, an
officer in the American army.

Light railway - A very narrow-gauge railway on which are pushed
little hand cars.

Listening post - One or more men go out in front, at night, of
course, and listen for movements by the enemy.

Maconochie - A scientifically compounded and well-balanced
ration, so the authorities say. It looks, smells, and tastes like
rancid lard.

M.O. - Medical Officer. A foxy cove who can't be fooled with
faked symptoms.

Mess tin - A combination teapot, fry pan, and plate.

Military cross - An officer's decoration for bravery.

Military medal - A decoration for bravery given to enlisted

Mills - The most commonly used hand grenade.

Minnies - German trench mortar projectiles.

Napper - The head.

Night 'ops - A much hated practice manoeuvre done at night.

No Man's Land - The area between the trenches.

On your own - At liberty. Your time is your own.

Out or over there - Somewhere in France.

Parados - The back wall of a trench.

Parapet - The front wall of a trench.

Patrol - One or more men who go out in front and prowl in the
dark, seeking information of the enemy.

Periscope - A boxlike arrangement with two mirrors for looking
over the top without exposing the napper.

Persuader - A short club with a nail-studded head.

Pip squeak - A German shell which makes that kind of noise when
it comes over.

Push up the daisies - To be killed and buried.

Ration party - A party of men which goes to the rear and brings
up rations for the front line.

Rest - Relief from trench service. Mostly one works constantly
when "resting."

Ruddy - Same as bloody, but not quite so bad.

Sandbag - A bag which is filled with mud and used for building
the parapet.

Sentry go - Time on guard in the front trench, or at rest at

Shell hole - A pit made by the explosion of a shell.

Souvenir - Any kind of junk picked up for keepsakes. Also used
as a begging word by the French children.

Stand to - Order for all men to stand ready in the trench in
event of a surprise attack, usually at sundown and sunrise.

Stand down - Countermanding "stand to."

Stokes - A bomb weighing about eleven pounds usually thrown
from a mortar, but sometimes used by hand.

Strafing - One of the few words Tommy has borrowed from Fritz.
To punish.

Suicide club - The battalion bombers.

Tin hat - Steel helmet.

Wave - A line of men going over the top.

Whacked - Exhausted. Played out.

Whiz-bang - A German shell that makes that sort of noise.

Wind up or windy - Nervous. Jumpy. Temporary involuntary fear.

Wooden cross - The small wooden cross placed over a soldier's


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