Wilmot Evans to Mary Downing Letter, Apr 1915

This letter from Wilmot Evans to Mary Downing, dated 10 Apr 1915 is one of six of his war time letters preserved in Mary’s Writing Box.


1/S. Stafford Regiment   British Expeditionary Force

April 10, 1915

My Dear Mary

You are a sportsman to write to me again. and your letter not only saved me from dying of ennui and war-loathing combined, but filled me with unspeakable joy! It really was a very humorous letter and the sides of the trenches shook to the sound of my mirth. I am in trenches again now and the war seems to be going on quite quietly again like in the winter with only the usual bombardment and shooting each other at night. One new joke we have got is blowing up each other’s trenches by mining underneath, as improved weather conditions now allow this. We have just had our turn and blown a few of ’em sky high & so I expect they will shortly return the compliment as they generally do. I hate this mining game because one always feels unsafe! I have just got the faintest chance of coming home again with another week’s leave, but you mustn’t breathe a word of it, because it may upset the calculation of some of these generals in some way. I haven’t really much hope, but there is the remotest possibility and I am simply dying to get to Hagley to see it in its beautiful spring garb before I die. Also I want to see all of you vey badly as you know. About this charmer, though that you think has charmed my life and that you want to get for Noel before he comes out – I really do not know which it is. I seem to have met so many in my young but overcrowded life, I never caught any of them casting the spell though. I will give you a long list of their addresses when I come home & Noel can go all the way round and try them and see if he can spot the right one! I am talking too much nonsense but I fear I am getting light-headed with too much war.

I was awfully interested to hear about that house in Lower Hagley – West Hagley I should say – and I shall certainly have to call there if I can get home on leave. I had such a nice letter from your Daisy the other day for my birthday. She is a dear to write and I liked hearing from her ever so much. I have had quite a lot of Hatton letters all very amusing and characteristic of each one. Ella sent me some cigarettes for my birthday which she had bought herself. She hoped that the shopman had not imposed on her ignorance in her letter, but he undoubtedly had as they were appalling things. What are commonly known as stinkers though it was very good of her to send them as of course one smokes and eats anything these days. She is a queer old thing, and has quite taken her place now as one of the fine old Hagley curios.

I very nearly met my death on the top of a motor bus of all things the other day. I was coming back from headquarters to join the regiment after my machine gun course and we [ran into]a large copper wire which caught me round the throat & very nearly strangled me by dragging me back across the seats of the bus. It wasn’t only content with that but it broke off a telegraph pole which came into the bus and hit me on the side of the head and scraped all the skin off my face. At least I think that is what happened. Anyhow I am now sadly disfigured and have got a badly cut wrist, which refuses to heal in the trench mud.

I have had a letter from Gracie Reay ‘that little bit of oil rite’ as she signed herself, a very nice one and she said she had seen quite a lot of you up in town, and May too. I shan’t attempt a trip to town if I get leave again as my last attempt with Mother and Molly was such a dismal failure. I shall stay all the time in peaceful Hagley if I can. I am afraid getting away  from home will be worse than ever this time as I have a very great passion for Hagley at this time of year.

Yes it is sad about Bonham Burr, as he was really quite a good chap and I must say a very good all round athlete.  I wonder if we shall ever play many games of tennis again. It makes me awfully sad to think how much I am missing now the summer is coming on. D’you remember when we marched to victory at the Jersey Williams tournament together? And you have since spread the report that I just hit the ball and then turned away to pick up balls or something else always assuming that I had played a killing shot! It makes me laugh to think of it, though I don’t believe it really, I do remember playing against Claude Trow and Katie Hamilton, against whom we had to get 8 games on everyone else had done, and we simply pulverized them and made them so frightened that they almost gave us the games without playing, We were out for blood that day!  Those were all very good times & I do so hope we shall have them again some time but I don’t feel very certain of myself. I should like a staff appointment at headquarters now till the end of the war without having to put in the eternal proviso if I am alive!

If I get leave I must come and visit the hospital and see the quartermaster & hustle her off her dignity a bit. Also I must see the pretty sister again and have a chat with her I do miss seeing females so much in this war. Up here of course one goes for months and months without seeing any at all and I never realised before how fond of them all I was, dear little things! I suppose you haven’t played hockey at all this winter. It does seem sad as we shall all be too old or crippled or something by the time it is possible to play again. We got a lot of amusement and any amount of engagement out of it all! I trust that I shall see ‘that body of men who go for long walks – a form of soldier’ when I get home again. They sound very humorous. We shall want Noel there though to take them off. I haven’t come across Jebez Trotter out here, but I shall know him at once if I see him and go and make myself known to him straight away. As you say, I am sure he will cheer me up. It is still devilish cold for April, and I wish it would get a bit warmer so that we can really shake off the winter feeling. Well it is very good of you Mary Dear to have allowed me to babble on in this way for so long and I hope I haven’t tired you, but I like writing to you as you have such a receptive mind so to speak & take in so much, though you’ll have hard work to get much out of this letter to store away. Give my love to any of my family if it crosses your path at all. Thanks awfully for writing & do do it again some time. My family will let you know if I am coming on leave.

Yrs Ever

Wilmot Evans

Some mud jumped on to this letter made by a real live German bullet just then, but unfortunately it has left no mark as the April sun has dried it up too much. I don’t like to be deceitful or I would lick my thumb & then I could make it show & you would have a souvenir. Goodbye and much love.