26 April 1918

Just another note to say that I’m getting along well and expect to leave hospital soon and go out on furlough to London.

I was allowed out of bed on a wheel chair yesterday and I was wheeled down to a Miss Molyneaux’s for afternoon tea. She has a lovely old place —one of the finest I’ve seen. It was built nearly 600 years ago and was a stable when she first got it. That is, it was a stable for close on 560 years, in the time of Queen Elizabeth or be-fore her time. The main part of the old stable is now the drawing-room and really the loveliest place I’ve ever seen in my life. The old beams across the stable are still there and where the mangers used to be she has two beautiful statues. She showed me all over the grounds and really and truly it was divine.

Old stories she has in galore, dating back to the time the Normans ruled England, and they’re almost yellow with age. A Mrs. Addison, an Australian lady, and a Miss Leake, whose father owns all the ground around here for miles, including the ground the hospital is on. They have a beautiful old castle, too. Lady Wolseley was there, too. Of course, I’ve known Lady Wolseley for over a year now and she’s been awfully nice to me. I’m going to spend part of my furlough, which will be close on three months, at her beautiful old country house in Devonshire. I’ve had numerous visitors since I’ve been here, including Mrs. Dr. Scott, the Countess of Lytton and her daughter, and Miss Birdwood, who has been in several times to see me. She is the daughter of Sir William Birdwood, who is Commander-in-Chief of the Australian forces. She is awfully pretty, and quite young, only 20. I’m having supper with a party she has got up and is having it at the most famous cafe in Regent-street, the Trocadero. It’s a gorgeous place, where one eats to the strains of a heavenly orchestra. One leaves the place very reluctantly, I can tell you. I’m anticipating a good time and I’ll tell you all about it later.

The last place I was in (the Norfolk War Hospital) was a wonderful old lunatic asylum and held 4,000 patients, with a staff of 1200 nurses. I had a good time there and was sorry when I left. Of course I was in bed here all the time and that wasn’t very nice at all. They were all awfully good to me, too. It is situated on the East Coast of England and the old place was built in the time of Henry VIII. It stands in lovely grounds and holds some of the finest oaks and elms in the British Isles. The air there is lovely and there’s always a breeze from the ocean. I’ll send you some snaps when I get some printed, and I think you’ll like them.

I got the parcel yesterday. By jove, I’m glad of the shirts. They’re just what I wanted, and I don’t know how to thank you enough. I haven’t got the one with the boots yet but I expect it soon. My mail goes on to Belgium and is forwarded back and it takes a few weeks.

The days are just beginning to get a bit warmer now and I don’t think it will be long before we get the summer or spring. It has been a long, dreary, cold winter this year, and I spent the most of it in Flanders.

My little pal who enlisted with me out of the bank was killed just before I left and it nearly broke my heart. I haven’t got over it yet. I was just near him, too, and he died in my arms. We had been all through the great battles side by side, and in many a tight corner, including the tremendous onslaughts on the Somme, at Bapaume, and Bullecourt, and now he has gone and left me. He was killed by a shell which landed in our dug-out during the advance on Paschendaele. My word, that was an awful time there and I’ll never forgot it as long as I live.

It’s good to be in dear sunny old England again, and a month or two here ought to buck me up. My nerves are gone, and I’m afraid I’m only a shadow of myself. The color I always had, and of which you were so proud, has left me nearly—lost it after being blown up at Zonnebeke, near Ypres, by a huge shell. The fright nearly finished me, and I’m still nervous. But don’t worry; I’ll be lucky to get back as I am, if I’m fortunate enough. God knows what will happen when I go out again.

I hope to be flying an aeroplane next time I’m there, and if all goes well, I will, too. I’m dying to get a start at it, and bomb a few of those German towns. I must close now. I’ll write again later, when I settle down. I’m feeling much better now, and will be going out on furlough soon. The £10 by cable arrived all right; thanks very much. You can send some more when you get this letter. Don’t forget, will you. Very much love to all at home, and thanks again for the parcel. A great friend of mine has just gone back to Australia, and will probably call on you some time. His name is Lieut. A. G. Edmonds, and he is one of my greatest and best pals, so look after him, won’t you?

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25 April 1918

Ruined buildings in Villers-Bretonneux following the Allied recapture on 25 April 1918. Image courtesy Australian War Memorial.

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24 April 1918

Night attack by the 13th Brigade on Villers-Bretonneux, 25 April 1918, Will Longstaff. Image courtesy Australian War Memorial.

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23 April 1918

Aerial view of the blockships in the Bruges ship canal channel at Zeebrugge after the raid. From left to right the ships are HMS Intrepid, HMS Iphigenia and HMS Thetis. Image courtesy Imperial War Museum © IWM (Q 20648B).

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22 April 1918

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21 April 1918

Manfred von Richthofen, the “Red Baron”, Nicola Perscheid, c1917. Image courtesy Postkartenvertrieb W Sanke.

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20 April 1918

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19 April 1918

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18 April 1918

Members of the 1st Division in support trenches at Mologhein Farm near Strazeele Railway Station in Northern France, 18 April 1918. Mologhein Farm was the scene of sharp fighting and smart guerilla warfare by the Australians during this period. Image courtesy Australian War Memorial.

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To The Unknown Hero by Caroline Louisa Daniel

We hold no record, boy, of your brave deed;
We know not how ’twas done, nor in what need
Your courage lept to life.
We only know you’ve won a name,
And that you bravely played the game,
And conquered in the strife.

We try to picture, boy, just how ’twas done;
We hear the shriek of shell, the boom of gun,
And sudden in our dream.
Was it at night you braved the foe,
Or while the evening’s sunset glow
Made golden hill and stream?

We do you honour, boy, howe’er it was
Our hearts are full for you, more so because
We know not who you are.
We know you are some mother’s son,
And that a splendid Cross you’ve won,
Which glistens like a star.

And though you record boy, is not on earth.
And though no book of fame sets forth your worth,
Your heart need not be sad.
A surer book is kept on High,
And your brave deed will never die.
Rejoice, then, and be glad.

You are a hero, boy, though yet unknown;
I would Australia’s arms were round you thrown
In proud and loving care.
We cannot do too much for you,
A nation’s homage is your due,
A nation’s grateful prayer.

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