“The French are very selfish”

John Heading, a young man working with a labour company in France, wrote to his Berkshire farmer uncle with his impressions of his work – and the French.

Pte J C Heading
84,790
142nd Labour Co.,
BEF
France

My dear Uncle

I received your very kind letter, and we are glad of some warm weather. We have had quite a lot of thunder shower[s] ever since St Swythyn’s day, but it’s been very growing [sic]. The pears are very plentiful.

The French people charge very dear for everything. I take care they have very little of my money. There’s a reason in all things and they are very selfish. I’m very glad that this Heavenly Father has so mercifully spared my life up to the present time. I can assure you I have had some very narrow escapes. It’s only him that has kept me safe.

We have just heard some good news – this is Wednesday Aug 1st 1917. I am asking my wife to forward this letter on to you. We only get a green envelope once a fortnight and I send something home in that envelope for my wife. All other letters have to be left open to be censored. I may not post this letter until Friday has [sic] we expect to be paid then. I hope that you are all quite well and that the Country looks well. We, all of us, will be glad when the War is over, I can assure you.

We have a bath every week and we have to do our own washing. We are at a rail Head and have to unload trucks of Coal, Hay, Oats, Biscuits and all such things for the Troops. It’s a very heavy thunder storm, Aug Wed 8th, 1917.

I now conclude with best love to all. I remain

Your affect. Nephew
Pte J C Heading
84,790

Letter from Private John Heading to his uncle Albert Castle of Charlton, 1 and 8 August 1917 (D/EX2547/2/3/10)

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Good victory at Neuve Chapelle

Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey reports the latest war news, and has a visit from one of the Belgians who were at Bisham the previous winter:

12 March 1915
In evening heard Jules! had returned – went to France, coming here tomorrow he says!! Sleeping cottage tonight.

British victory at Neuve Chapelle good – nearly 1000 prisoners. Germans sunk American grain ship. “Eitel Frederick” now put in [illegible] damage.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale (D/EX73/3/17/8)