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I hope you can receive this letter because many of the people who wrote didn’t send their letter to their intended destination, and I apologize for not writing to you earlier, although as we moved from online to German, it became more and more difficult to find time to write. I suppose I may expect you to get this letter sometime this autumn and, if I am lucky, I may get my answer by next winter. I really miss you mom, I miss dad a lot, and Ariana, please send my regards to her once you receive the letter. The family photo is always in my left pocket in my jacket, I kept it when I was on the battlefield, I kept it when I was in the trenches, and I kept it whenever I go. I really miss home. This is my essay on a letter from the trenches of WW1.
Today is Christmas Eve. I am all alone. I still remember during Christmas time, we will gather around the fire and share our stories. Tom’s jokes still choke me up right now. ‘Jingle bell, Jingle bell, Jingle all the way,’ the lyrics and melody everywhere in the town, and we will move our hips along with the song. Here, Christmas is hard to realize. The white snow was falling from the sky, blanketing the ground with red dots. The coldness is gnawing away at us. We are all in the barracks right now with few precious candles; nobody says anything, and we are all busy writing letters. Comrade Jefferson was quite nice; he offered us a radio with discrete music. This time the mournfulness and resentfulness were all I heard. The music made from grenades and through bombardment had never stopped. I still remember the time when I could taste the hot turkey made by you with a few cups of tea and wine. How the mashed potato melted in my mouth with happiness and satisfaction. But here, cans of bins are all we have with us, everyone keeps their food preciously. Back at home, our house is always crammed with neighbors and grandparents. We celebrate together and open presents carefully with so much wonder. Most of the time, I was quite pleased with what I got, except last time, a pair of socks. But still, wonderful memories. Oh yea, we just got our first mailbox yesterday, the best present possible for us. … After the mail call, everybody would be nice and quiet when suddenly somebody would curse in a loud voice and shout, ‘Sabrina got married to John.’ It was hilarious. Everyone was so happy and seemed to forget they had the war.
How it works
But, moving back to reality. Life is hard. Clouds were always shadowing the sun, doomed the dim light, and the humid air was congested and mixed with a smell of blood. Mud and dust were flying around like a headless goat; the shells and holes are everywhere in the path of death. Everything is stinking. The plants are belled down with yellowish leaves that will never be able to stand straight, the insects are hidden away, the corpses were lying everywhere with twisted emotions looking at you innocently. Everything is hidden and loose, except the enemy, staring and glancing at you with hostility every second like a wild beast, desperate to tear you into pieces. We are now in the barracks, surrounded by shells, mud, wire, bullet, rats, lice, and trench foot. The dead body and insects caused a lot of disease within our small community. My friend Tom died last night due to malaria. The disease is infectious mostly, sometimes, it’s an epidemic that once you are contagious, you will be bedridden with no help from others. They are more willing to leave you as far as possible instead of even giving it a try on you. Life is tough. People here are the toughest and meanest you can find. No one cares if you die. It’s all up to you. The loneliness and frustration, or I would say the disparity, are eating away at me. No food to eat, no water to drink, no mates that you can count on.
The living condition is unbearable, making you tremble and totter. We have no clean water, no safe place to hide, no trustful comrade, only disparity gnawing away at me.
Most times, we lived in the trenches. We would spend time in small, dank dugouts, where we make our tea and lunch, and we would make a small circle and gossip. At night, the trenches come alive. We can finally move around and get a little bit of freedom back in our lives. Under cover of darkness, the guards would be replaced, and when it’s my turn to serve, I’ll have to be extremely cautious of the dodging sniper. They said the death in the night is sudden and torturing, sometimes a sense of relief. Once you are hit by the bullet, all you can do is slowly watch the red mucus bleed from your body. Due to poor sanitary conditions in the trenches, we suffer from many pests such as rats and frogs as well as many harmful things like lice and diseases like trench for and shell shock. Rats are everywhere; with their sharp teeth, they destroy whatever they see. They bite humans once they see it, desperate to prove their ability to other rats. With 20 cm long rats running fearlessly and aggressively at you, desperate to take one bit of your flabby muscles. Lice are also slowly killing us, we got all over our bodies. It took us nearly 2 hours to burn these lice off otherwise, it’s impossible and torturing to sleep.
The trenches were built up not only with the existing material but also with the body of our soldiers. The stinky smell and devastating emotions are what we experienced every single day, and of course, you will see familiar faces on it. This makes me evoke a strong sympathy for them, but in the meantime, I’m happy for them as they are finally breaking free. Even though the trenches are supposed to protect us as a shelter when we face the rain of bullets, it doesn’t work that way all the time. The grenades often explode in the narrow path of trenches, and with no pain, no suffering, people died silently and helplessly. Since they were not durable, we always had a chance of being cut down and crumbling.
The battlefield is a living hell where you are torn into pieces physically and mentally. There are bombs and bullets everywhere. Once we stepped into this red ocean, the dead atmosphere made me shiver, and the howling wind sorrowfully cried around us. With the sound “Sew’ we are trapped by the ‘bullet siege.’ I can even feel the heat of it once I get past through it. It’s like the devils from hell were dragging me and forcing me to sink into the mud to be a living corpse. The battlefield was a deathly arena with gunfire and the smell of rotting corpses left with a war-cry face on them. Smoke covered the enemy’s trenches in the distance, and a strange offensive language came out, but when they got eternal rest, they became quiet. The rattle of the machine gun in the magazine suddenly became active, and the bullets roared past, hitting us and the mud, covering the muddy ground with red liquid.
People were yelling across the field, ‘Help! Help me! Please!’ They shouted through my ears, begging for their lives. When I looked down at my feet, I saw blood everywhere; the dust and blood mixed sorrowfully on my shoes everywhere. People lay on the ground, groaning, crying, and screaming. The wounded lay on the ground, watching their legs blown up by the bomb, crying helplessly. Others had their intestines exposed outside the stomachs, faces were already filled with a ferocious look. When I was moving, I had to cross thousands of massacred bodies. I saw the struggle and crying on everybody. Their faces were twisted with pathetic emotion. I couldn’t look them in the eye. I stepped into the trenches; I picked up my ‘heavy’ guns. I paused when I was shooting. I hesitated for a second and looked down with shivering eyes at my sinful hands. Then I pulled the trigger with hesitation and unwillingness, just right after the colossal voice ”Bang”… My innocent enemy was down, down with the hope of his family, with his dream. My hands were full of innocent blood mixed with my blood. They were shivering with my eyes closed. I squatted down and used these evil hands to pick up the necklace of the Holy Spirit’s cross hanging around my neck. I closed my eyes devotional and kissed the cross with my soreness and apology. Then I traced the outline of a cross with the right hand upon the forehead and mumbled, ‘Sorry, that is what my country asks me to do, I can do nothing about it’’.
The war had shaped me into a person of the unknown I’m not even familiar with. I’m no different with savage right now, I hope you don’t get to see my appearances right now. My hair is matted and full of lice in it. When I shake my head or even move it, dandruff will float down like snow. I will have to use fire to burn it, and the itchiness is unbearable, especially when you are trying to take a rest. The iron water bottle sent forth a pungent smell as it’s been empty for the past few days; the only drinking water we collected are from the enemies when we are cleaning the battlefields. I was wearing the same old green uniform all the time, it was gradually turning yellow with spots of red as an unforgettable remark, and it had been refilled many times. My pin was just flipped off a few months ago. And because of the dimness of my hands, My fingers were inflamed, causing muscles and cells to rot away. Most importantly, my hands are always covered with blood, innocent blood. Every single cell is tasting the blood as it trying to make me a sanguinary man. Every day, I had to carry the machine guns for 2 hours. Although it’s heavy still, it’s not comparable with the duty on my shoulders. I am overwhelmed. I am suffocated.
Oh god, I mean, life is hard. Life is torturing you when you miss home the most. I should’ve come back today, but tomorrow we will face a massive war. Sorry, mom. Every day, I dreamed about when I was small, I was struggling with walking. Every time I tried to walk, you lift me up. You told me the time when I was down. I must stand up like a man and be strong. I still remember it, but this time, I fell again – but I don’t think I can be able to stand straight and face it anymore. I am lost. I can’t find my way.
So, mom, I cannot hold anymore. I want to spit it out. People always said, ‘ With great power comes great responsibility,’ but I don’t see it at all, I only see how they abuse the power. I hate the governments and these selfish leaders who stay in their big fancy, elegant houses with their families while drinking their whiskey and only give a cold glance at the number of people sacrificed. They are just corrupt officials. They can’t feel anything through their cold eyes. They are being portrayed as Devine figures who lead the people to victory and save the day, but they are just playing with numbers and us! We are those numbers! They evoke sympathy but do not give a damn about us! Their sons are sent to other countries to avoid any existential and potential risks. While we, also as sons, have to suffer and feel suffocated. I always asked myself a question. ‘Why are we fighting instead of keeping a peace world?’ But the answer also comes with the results of leaders’ imperialism and militarism, where they are being insensitive to what the people wanted. Most ridiculously, after they failed, their people will clean their butt and pay the price for them! We are their scapegoat! They are wrong! Totally wrong! If you really want to bring your people a more delightful home, you should make peace! Instead of killing innocent people. Shame on you! You brought your people a severe disaster.
Don’t be over-alarmed by the content of the letter or hurt. Well, I’m worried about the conditions of the letter; while very poor, I will write to you as much as possible. I want you to read them all and wish you all the best. Maybe it will only be one or two months before you receive this letter, but I believe you know this feeling tonight. Thank you for reading my life in the trenches letter.
A variety of letters were sent from the trenches during World War I. Some of these letters described the harsh living conditions and brutalities of battle, while others were personal letters from soldiers to their families and loved ones back home. These letters offer a glimpse into the lives of soldiers and their experiences during one of the most devastating conflicts in human history.
The exact figure of letters sent to the trenches during World War I remains unknown, although it is believed that millions of letters were exchanged between soldiers on the front lines and their loved ones back home.
The written communication was a desperate call for assistance from the Allied soldiers posted at the Somme battlefield, urging for reinforcements and additional resources to aid them in achieving victory.
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