By Dominic Hibberd
Last updated 2011-02-17
Tuesday 16th January 1917
My own sweet Mother,
I am sorry you have had about 5 days letterless. I hope you had my two letters 'posted' since you wrote your last, which I received tonight. I am bitterly disappointed that I never got one of yours.
I can see no excuse for deceiving you about these last 4 days. I have suffered seventh hell.
I have not been at the front.
I have been in front of it.
I held an advanced post, that is, a 'dug-out' in the middle of No Man's Land.
Those fifty hours were the agony of my happy life.
Every ten minutes on Sunday afternoon seemed an hour.
I nearly broke down and let myself drown in the water that was now slowly rising over my knees.
Towards 6 o'clock, when, I suppose, you would be going to church, the shelling grew less intense and less accurate: so that I was mercifully helped to do my duty and crawl, wade, climb and flounder over No Man's Land to visit my other post.
I am now as well, I suppose, as ever.
I allow myself to tell you all these things because I am never going back to this awful post.
Letter 480 makes plain the frequency of Susan and Wilfred's correspondence, as well as the difficulties of communicating in war. The intimacy between mother and son has a quality of honest directness - 'I can see no excuse for deceiving you' - and Wilfred is frank about the conditions in which he and his men were living. It is noticeable, though, that he never gives explicit details of the kinds of horror he must have witnessed.