Radcliffe on Trent WWI Letters

Herbert Sudbury Smith

Tank Corps Bovington Camp 1916

Sudbury Smith, Tank Corps Bovington camp (back row right)

Photographs and letters courtesy of the family

Herbert Sudbury Smith (known as Sudbury) joined the Tank Corps on 9 Nov 1916 as a Gunner.

Letters between servicemen 

Sudbury’s elder brother Joe, who was already serving in the army, sent him some advice on joining the army:

A few hints on how to make soldiering easy
Whether you like it or not always kid yourself, and other people that it is lovely.
Never grumble nor complain because it makes everything much harder and difficult.
Never complain or you will always find you will be a kind of a victim, for all that in the army you can take proceedings against victimisation, but it is not a wise course to take.
Never be late on a parade. Never go on dirty or with a dirty rifle. Always keep your rifle clean because it is a good friend.
Always treat your superior officers as your superiors, whether they really are or not, because while they wear the decorations they are your superiors.
Always take great interest in your drill, and if in the Artillery always take the deepest of interest in gunnery.
Never forget it is the soldier’s first duty to read daily orders, because you never know when you are going to be promoted.
Never be afraid of getting up five minutes too soon you can always find something to do.
Never get drunk or do anything that is likely to get you to the orderly room with your hat off, that is to say as a prisoner as it is far easier to get into trouble than out of it in the army.
Mark my word No 2 or No 1 Field Punishment * is not anything you would enjoy.
Never try stopping out when you ought to be in, sometimes it comes off, but most times it does not.
Apart from these items you would do well in the company office if they should happen to want anyone, a fairly good job I might tell you.
The last but not least put all the energy into it that you possess, and I am sure that you will enjoy it.

Click here to read article describing Field Punishments in WW1

Sudbury’s brother Joe, writing in 1915, describes his journey from England to France:

I was promoted at Rouen 15.8.15 Sunday
Monday Sept. 6th 1915. 12-15 P.M.My Dear Brother
Just a line hoping you are quite well as this leaves me in the pink. I am through this letter trying to let you know what I am doing and where I am etc. It is against the rules but still if you do not spread it about a lot I suppose it will be alright. I left Grove Park…. got as far as Heale 7 miles from Newbury and stayed there the night & resumed the journey to Avonmouth 8.8.15 which was Sunday at 8-15 AM. Arrived at Avonmouth at 6 o’clock same evening. While at Avonmouth I went to Clifton to see the world famous suspension bridge which is well worth seeing. Left Avonmouth for Southampton 10-30 AM 11.8.15 Wednesday arrived at Southampton 2-15 PM same day. Went aboard the Munich which took us across at 6 PM Wednesday evening and set sail at 7 PM prompt, arrived in the harbour at Le Havre with escort which we had from off the Isle of Wight at 1 AM Thursday morning 12.18.15. Here we drifted about till 8 AM, before we could pass up the river Seine to Rouen. We arrived at Rouen 2-15 PM 12.8.15 and stayed there until Sunday 15.8.15. It is a decent place and possesses a Cathedral with the finest spire in the world. Left Rouen at 3 PM Sunday afternoon 15.8.15 for a place called Neufchâtel, 40 or 50 miles from Rouen, arrived there at 9 PM and stayed the night, starting next morning at 8-45 AM 16.8.15 for a place called Abbeville another 40 or 50 miles from Neufchâtel. We arrived here at 1 PM had dinner and resumed journey at 3 PM for a place called Talmas where we are now stationed at 8-30 PM Monday 16.8.15. This place is as the crow flies about 10 miles from the firing line and can hear the guns quite plain, but you need not tell Ma that. Aeroplanes are very numerous in fact like flies, I think I have told you all this time hoping this will interest you.Please remember me to Rosa, Alf and all enquirers
I Remain
Your Ever Affectionate Brother
JoeI have not yet wrote to Tich.
I am NCO assistant Quartermaster
A decent job too, in office plenty of clerical work

Letter to Sudbury from brother

H S Smith letter from Joe re travel 2

Click on original letters for larger image

Sudbury’s brother Joe did not remain in the office. By the autumn of 1917 he was in Burton hospital with trench fever, but recovered and was transferred to the Rifle Brigade, then the Royal Army Service Corps.

The following letter to Herbert Sudbury Smith from his friend W. Sansom was written while he was on guard duty:

On Active Service2nd May 1915

My dear Spuds

Your cheering Epistle arrived quite safe this morning, and your very smartly addressed envelope was the envy of our boys. At first they wondered who “Bill Sansom” was, but needless to say it did reach me alright. I know what courting is Spuds, and as you seem to infer, it takes up a lot of time. Now my dear Spuds my present position whilst writing is very novel. Well you see I am on guard tonight, I have got a good thick cushion, which later on in the Evening will serve as a good mattress, for a pillow I have got a petrol tin and am as comfortable as a pig in “Shush”. I am going to do the “Bart Kennedy” Act tonight sleeping under the stars, and I shall be alright don’t you bother. Zeps or no Zeps tonight I shall sleep alright, but it is rather a long shift from 4.30 this morning until 5.30 tomorrow night, that’s what I am supposed to do. But I think it will be bed for me at 6 tomorrow morning as after 5.30 Roll Call tomorrow morning I shall be minus, my mate will drive tomorrow. Well Spudlets I don’t reckon much to your objections, but still you are alright, and as you may not be an expert Motor Man which we are all supposed to be I would not trouble the “M.T.” Ours is alright, but I would not care to be transferred into another company, ours is the original Comical Transport, and is absolutely the best on the Market.

I had a letter from the girl saying that they had two Colwick chaps billeted on them, I don’t know their names, but if they are as good looking as you with parting etc. I shall be beginning to think I stand a chance of being run off. Eh what Spuds. It is a beautiful night as I am writing, and when I have finished I am just going to have forty winks, and then from 10 to 12 I shall be calling out “Halt who goes there” etc. Oh we do the job properly. Well I have really no news, as you say English News is alright, but every morning I see train loads of wounded. Yesterday I saw two R.A.M.C. chaps get a chap off the train, he was wounded in the head and side and the clumsy ——– dropped him.
Needless to say he was placed under arrest.

I saw some Germans today under English Escort.

Excuse more now. Write soon.

Sincerely Yours always

PS Morning’s arrived, nothing out of the ordinary has occurred.
It is now 4.00 and the singing of the Birds is a treat.
Excuse this very poor letter, but I am writing under rather awkward circumstances.

W Sansom letter ed 2to H S Smith p1

Pauline file016