One Year of War
From a pile of ninety year old letters,
fragile and yellow, I get a glimpse of what the first World War
was like for Maude and her husband Lieutenant Guy Morris. The
letters only cover one year of their separations until he was
wounded by a bullet to his chest. These excerpts tell a little
of their struggles as a young couple coping with the horror of
8 May 1916: We are certain that our
boys are going to France the slaughterhouse.
23 May 1916: We are wondering now how
soon your next mail will come, whether you called at an Indian
Port, or if the next letters will come from Africa. We saw by
cable that you had arrived in Egypt and now cable says that you
have arrived at your destination. Where? France? Marseilles?
Surely they wouldn't send you raw and untrained in bloodletting
straight into the firing line?
13 June 1916: I have concluded that
your are fighting now. I am all alert for the paper every morning
for war news and casualties. There is a small list every day.
Aug 1916: Today news came that Italy
is at war with Germany, Romania with Austria. Victory seems to
have come to us - but what will it be worth if as individuals
we lose our all?
12 Sept 1916: How you would bear the
experience of seeing your first corpse? You seem to have struck
a nasty sight - in fact all your first impressions have been
rigorous. To think that your platoon should face this on its
first night. You poor boys. I wish it were all over and that
you were on the way home again with all your experiences behind
25 Sept 1916: So you stopped one at
last. After the first shock, I gloated to know that you are safely
out of that hell-hole of Europe at least for a while.
7 Nov 1916: So here's your son you gave
me. I can just imagine your excitement when you got my cable
.... a proud dad!
1 March 1917: Do you know you have a
son? I have had no word from you for 6 weeks. Welcome home. I
am to meet you at Port Chalmers .... just sick to see you.
4 March 1917: At last the day had dawned
that I have lived for .... Surely you have arrived at Auckland
- how can I calm myself ...?
This month we commemorate ANZAC Day.
That war set New Zealand on it's way to nationhood, so that we
in our generation can reap the rewards of peace and prosperity.