23 November 1915

HELLES - Lieutenant William Ker, Hawke Battalion, 1st Naval Brigade, RND - On 23 November Lieutenant William Ker wrote a long letter summarising his recent feelings in the line with Drake Battalion at Helles.

"After six months I still write the above address with something of a thrill, and a lurking feeling, suspiciously akin to complacency, that it looks well at the top of a letter. There is no getting over the fact that a certain zest is added to any pleasures one may have here, and the edge taken off most of the unpleasantnesses, by the idea at the back of one’s mind that one acquires merit by being at the front, however stagnant things may be there. However, this sententious vein can hardly be too strongly deprecated. The bald fact remains that this is Tuesday, and tomorrow we wend our unreluctant way back to camp. Much as we should like to remain permanently in the firing line, all-consuming as is our ardour to outwit the Turk, and whether by sub- or superterranean means to reach Krithia before the winter of 1920, there is a general feeling that it would be hardly fair to the Marines to monopolize the trenches, and to leave them forever to the inglorious life of the rest camp. So tomorrow we go down, not, you may suppose, without a sigh. The thought uppermost in my mind just now, "The recuperative powers of the common fly!! would make a not unsuitable subject for a monograph by anyone who happens to be interested in entomology. Here we are having weather in which the ordinary human manages at nights to keep body and soul together by dint of wrapping himself in as many greatcoats, blankets, waterproof sheets, and empty sandbags as he can lay hands on, and, behold, a glimpse of November sunshine about midday, and out crawl, hop, stalk, creep, leap, and hobble a myriad of these odious insects, and proceed slowly but inevitably to thaw into the flying and aggressive state. True, they are not in their best summer form, but it remains to be proved that a fly is the less offensive because, instead of sporting light-heartedly about one, it lands with a complacent buzz upon one’s collar, and thence proceeds to crawl without undue haste down one’s neck ; or because, while retaining an ungovernable partiality for any food one happens to be eating, it is no longer capable of emerging from the dish when threatened with a fork!!


W. Kerr quoted by D. Jerrold, The Hawke Battalion: Some Personal Records of Four Years, 1914-1918, (London, Ernest Benn Ltd, 1925),p.100