Wilmot Evans to Mary Downing Letter, Aug 1915

This letter from Wilmot Evans to Mary Downing, dated 4 Aug 1915, is one of six of his war time letters preserved in Mary’s Writing Box.


4th S. Stafford Regt St Peter’s Barracks Jersey

Aug 4th 1915

My Dear Mary

How ripping of you to write me such a nice long letter. I simply loved it and was more than amused by your description of various happenings. I am simply furious that they should have given you your fortnight’s leave after I had gone back instead of before. I didn’t see nearly enough of you when I was at home or Molly and so I feel I have a very large grudge against the hospital, with all its stupid little troubles and annoyances. I do miss Hagley and all of you though, and I would give anything to be back there, even though I am having quite a good time here. Jersey is a very pretty place and an awfully good climate.  I feel much better now than I did at home and my wound seems quite alright now which it didn’t before. There are hundreds of beautiful girls here but nearly all of the ‘Garrison Hack’ type, which I know well having been stationed in Plymouth and Gibraltar. They are very friendly and I think one could get on quite fast if one wanted to, but I am afraid I am getting rather old and staid, Mary, chiefly owing to the war I think. Of course on the other hand it may be that the fast and furious life we led in Hagley has made me disinclined for any more of it. Anyway these girls had all been told about me by a fellow called Hassell, who was stationed here before but came out to form the regiment so I got to know him out at the war. He had told them all sorts of wonderful things about me and my deeds, so they expected a young God with flashing eyes and stalwart frame and all the other necessaries & had great difficulty in hiding their disappointment when they saw me. Hassell has been awfully good to me in taking me round and I have met nearly all of them now. We never seem to get back to bed before 1 in the morning and it has cost me any amount in taxis as the barracks are 6 miles away from the town & before I came here I thought that everything on the island  was within a comfortable walking distance. It really seems quite and expensive place in many ways.

I wish I had been back when Noel got his week-end leave so that I could see him again.  It is just possible that I may get down to Hagley again before I go, on a flying visit as Collas the adjutant, who is an old friend of mine says that I should be able to get a week’s leave before I leave for the front. Part of it of course will have to be taken up by the visit to the King. I have had several letters from Margery and Dorothy and they both want me to stay with them when I go up there and I don’t know what to do about it as I have promised them both to go. I also want you to come up Mary if you will at my expense and Molly and we will have a small ‘bust’ together. I expect mother will want to come too, but I shall have to let you know about things. At present I don’t even know when it is. I have had two letters from Daisy – Hatton I mean – and she never told me about the clock that Mrs Hatton bid so high for.  What a splendid story about Nancy! Isn’t she good to me, collecting all her spare money like that? I wrote to her the other day but I haven’t had an answer yet. I am very much looking forward to one as I really do love her. I think she is quite the nicest little girl I know, and I know a good many! Don’t tell Daisy – your Daisy – this or she will be warning me off. I miss dear old Raggie very much, and I wish now that I had brought him with me. He is so cheerful always and pleasant, and I don’t think I have ever seen him in a bad temper, though he has sad moods occasionally. I have had 5 long letters from Maritzburg this mail and all of them ie the people who wrote them, ask most tenderly after Raggie. He has a most wonderful way of insinuating his small self into one’s affections. P’raps the word I mean is ‘inserting’ but either will do if you know what I mean.

I loved those days when I used to came and talk to you when you were convalescing in  your dug-out at the top of the kitchen garden at Elm Lodge. They seem a very long time ago now, and I wonder if they are long enough ago for Mrs Downing to have forgotten how wicked Alston & I were to get inside the shed place with you. I was sorry for my own sake but not for yours when you recovered enough to be able to go back to the hospital. I say would you mind seeing that Molly writes to Joseph soon as I think she is treating him rather badly if she doesn’t because he really was a nice old thing  & he loved her in his own extraordinary fashion.  I really don’t blame Alston for not coming back to stay with Aunt Edith just now. I have the greatest respect & admiration, nay almost love for Miss Jobson but I think it must be very tiring being kept in hand as much as all that. Do you blame him? I had some very nice letter from Miss Jobson when I was at the war, & she said mine made her cry. I haven’t written since but you will know if you see her going about with red eyes that I have again taken up the pen & told her more about War and its horrors. Poor Miss Jobson! I wonder why she thinks me a changed lad. She is quite right, because I am quite changed, and I am no longer the light-hearted youth I used to be, though perhaps it will come back to me if I ever live through this war.

I always love coming back to Hagley because I feel I have more real genuine friends there than anywhere else and everybody is always so good to me. I like my home too very much in spite of all our little domestic broils and such like. It is rather funny how all these youthful subalterns here are quite in awe of me. They think that because I have a Military Cross that I am a devil of a fighter and quite a good fellow. They little know that out there that I am livid with fright practically all the time and filled with an utter loathing of the whole thing. Of course I didn’t mind it at first and then I was ignorant of the horrors of it all, but now that I have seen so much  I find myself getting in more of a funk every time. I don’t expect I shall go back just yet but I think the beginning of September will see me in the thick of it again. I am horrified at the class of officer they provide us with now. Of those 60 that we have got here there are only about 10 who can speak English properly and they go about cashing cheques without having any money in the bank and doing all sorts of low-down things. I am afraid the army will be in a very bad way by the end of the war if it ever does end. In many ways I don’t blame Noel for not taking a commission because it is much more respectable to be in the ranks from what I have seen lately.

Well, Mary, I fancy I have talked to you enough and it is now 2 a.m August 6th and I got back very late last night, but I wanted to have a chat with you before going to bed, hence all this. I was much amused about Mrs Percy spraining her ankle. She is a damned fool that little woman! Ernest must be an awful ass too I’m thinking to have married this desperate character. Do write to me again some day, Mary, as I love your letters and you are always kind to me. I will let you know about going up to town. If I only get a very short leave I shall go & see the King and then go down to Hagley the same day so that a trip in town will have to be off. I went to a dance actually last night, round a billiard room table to a gramophone but quite good fun.  I hope you can read this writing of mine but I always write much too quickly and I know it is difficult to read it myself. Also I never look through my letters a second time so God knows what I have said in this. Good Bye & please remember me to Mr & Mrs Downing & Noel when you write. Best of luck and don’t get well too soon or you will have to go back to the infernal hospital & I think you all work too hard.

Yrs Ever

Wilmot Evans