Wilmot Evans to Mary Downing Letter, Dec 1915

This letter from Wilmot Evans to Mary Downing, dated 29 Dec 1915, is the last of six of his war time letters preserved in Mary’s Writing Box.

Postcard of Wilmot (centre) and fellow officers in the Hockey team in St Peters - addressed to Molly Evans in Le Havre

Postcard of Wilmot (centre) and fellow officers in the Hockey team in St Peters – addressed to Molly Evans in Le Havre


St Peter’s Barracks Jersey

29 /12/1915

My Dear Mary

I was delighted to get your long and splendid letter the other day and it kept me amused for many a long and weary day. You really do write wonderful letters and this one in particular gave me exceeding pleasure. I am so sorry to hear about your burning yourself so badly and I do hope you are all right again now. It all sounds very amusing from the way you describe it, but it must have been devilish painful, because I know how even the smallest burn hurts more than anything else in the world. Yes, I am indeed lucky to be here in Heaven instead of out there and I can’t think why they have kept me so long as I am not doing much good as I can’t instruct though I am supposed to teach young officers all sorts of things. I am honestly beginning to be a wee bit ashamed of myself being here in peace and comfort, when all those others are having such a terrible time. Especially as I am a soldier by trade and ought to revel in battles & smoke & things. I am sorry for Noel because I know it is bad enough for an officer and I do hope he will take all our advices and a commission. I really must write to him some time. I don’t think it will be very difficult for him to get a commission now if his C.O recommends him. I think his war experience will help a great deal towards it. When one sees some of the things they call officers nowadays it makes me furious to think Noel is still a private soldier, and he simply must get a commission for the good of the country if for no other reason.

I have got just about 2 million letters that I ought to write now and haven’t written, because I have been so busy having a good time and enjoying life to the full. I heard from Bessie Hill the other day and she sent me a pipe for Christmas which was very kind of her. She didn’t say that her mother was ill, so I suppose she is better now. I suppose Hagley is dullish just now, as nearly everybody is away. I don’t think I shall come home again before going to war, but I may if I am sent to a new army, which they are making out of Derby recruits. There is a rumour going round that wounded regular officers who have been passed fit for service are going to be taken for this job .

We had a tremendous evening on Christmas Eve, as it was guest night and also a farewell dinner to a very popular Major, who has just got his orders for the front. We sang & broke uo the mess & played football in it till about 1 a.m. when we suddenly raided by all the members of the sergeants’ mess who came in to sing carols to us, & were also in various states of intoxication. They had all blacked their faces with soot out of the chimney and some of them were dressed in female attire. We finished up covered in soot & ash & blood as they blacked our faces for us as well. I got my face rather badly trodden in earlier in the evening playing ‘rugger’ as some one put one half of their heel on my nose and the other half in my mouth thereby loosening my two front middle teeth. I bled over everything from nose and mouth but it didn’t dampen my ardour at all. Oh it was a memorable evening! Yesterday we had a great football match played before an enormous crowd. I captained a regimental team against the island and the game was very fast and furious. We made a draw of it in the end.  And there are about 3 columns in the local newspaper this morning saying how wonderfully we all played. Rather amusing it is and has completely crowded out the war news. Not that there is much nowadays and what there is is generally bad.

I had a present and a letter from your little niece Nancy which was very nice of her and I have just written to thank her and also to her ma to thank her for a Christmas card. I have sent nothing this year, neither presents or cards as I am so hard up. I hear from Molly occasionally and she seems to be very hard-worked as usual, but fairly contented with life. I don’t write to her much as I write long letters home every week  and they are forwarded on to her so she gets all my news all right. She made a great impression here in Jersey and everyone is always asking me how she is getting on – even taxi drivers and hotel keepers & people like that. I had my Christmas Dinner with the Walkers the people she stayed with and we had a very merry evening. I am now a great singer and sung all these things like “A little love, a little kiss” and “Come sing to me” and “Sympathy” and devilish touchingly too. My rich tenor voice fairly fills the Walker’s drawing room as Daisy Walker is teaching me. She is such a nice girl and I am sure you would love her. Molly did and I do a bit too myself! She was engaged to a horrid man but she has broken it off. And if I was a marrying sort of bloke and full of courage I might step into the breach but I am not either of the above. And I love too many people and even here there are quite a lot. I expect Molly told you about all the people here if you managed to have a chat with her on her return. She didn’t tell you about the Fowlers I expect, as she wasn’t allowed to go there as they are ‘rather fast’. We go there very often for charades which are more than amusing! We did ‘counter pane’ last night. In the first scene I was a blase roue and we had a Monte Carlo gambling hall but had to play with ‘counters’ . We have got an enormous ‘make-up’ box and it takes us an hour some times to make up for a single scene. They have got lots of properties and things. The next scene was very improper as I went to bed with the eldest daughter both in pyjamas and bare feet, and then burglars came in through the window and removed a ‘pane of glass’. For the last scene we were all children in bed and Father Christmas came in and we all had large talking parts to bring in the whole word. But I can’t tell you the amount of amusement we got from it all in a letter. I shall have to come and describe my life here to you in person some day. I suppose you are still at home now. Anyhow I am sending this there and will you give my love to my family some time or other. Goodbye and thanks awfully for your letter & pleasant wishes for the New Year. I also wish you the very best of luck in it.

Yrs Ever

Wilmot Evans