‘Up to our waist in mud and water’: talking to the Germans across the trenches

This letter appears to be from one of the soldiers Sydney Spencer had met while helping at a YMCA camp for soldiers early in the war. He gave Sydney a frank depiction of the grim reality of the trenches – but also some sense of fellow feeling with the enemy soldiers:

Pte S Brown
No 7799 B Company: 2nd Essex Regiment
12 Brigade: 4 Division
Expeditionary Force
14.12.14

My dear friend

Just a few lines to let you know I am still in the land of the living & in the best of health. I have wrote to Mr Hayes but have not received an answer up to yet so I expect he is travelling about. I have heard from Mr Warren at the Corp Stores at Packerton but received his letter a month late. It is rather wet out here in the trenches and we are up to our waist in mud & water, & are only 10 yards from the Germans’ trenches so they often shout to us & we shout to them. The other day we through [sic] a tin of meat over & they returned the compliment with a bunch of carrots so I think the Germans are as fed up of the war as we are. I often think the war won’t last much longer but on the other hand, I think that us & the French are relying on Russia too much & we shall have to do something to help them, & I expect that we shall have to lose a lot more men yet, but I hope it will not last much longer. I think this is all at present, hoping to hear from you soon. I enclose wishing you a merry Xmas & a happy new year, & remain

Yours sincerely

S. Brown

Letter from Private S. Brown to Sydney Spencer (D/EX801/78)

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