Saturday, November 25 – 1916
Letter from the trenchesMr. John Adams received, some weeks ago, an interesting letter from Sergeant Harry J. Allwood, of the Coldstream Guards, who has been fighting with the Expeditionary Force in France since the war commenced. I (‘Nomad’) know he has a wonderful record of service; but then, I have given some of his letters to John Adams before.
I have had this letter for quite a long while, but the Editor won’t allow me to run riot now as I once did. I don’t like being confined to such a short space, but we live in awkward times.
Mr. Allwood writes: –
“Dear Mr Adams. – It is too bad of me to keep on accepting the copies of the ‘Sport Argus’ without letting you have a letter. . . . Naturally, being a busy man, you have read of the adventures of the Coldstream at —–, where we kept our reputation.
“I saw Mr. Asquith just before we got nearer to the din. What a fine soldier the Prince had made, too! There is no difference in his dress to that of other officers, neither is there in gait, manners, or any other appearances. He goes about as an officer. The lower deck salutes him as an officer, and I honestly think that it was the King’s wish that he should be doing his bit in the happy manner that he has followed since he joined us. While on leave many friends thought he was in cotton wool, but I wish that everyone did as much as he is doing.
“Yesterday I went with our football team to play the Grenadiers. Although we beat them on Saturday five goals to nil, we could only manage to scrape home yesterday by a penalty goal. Proper army football was played, too. Just a few shells and bombs, and we should have been having a second taking of Flers. But the game was enjoyed for all the excitement. The rivalry has not diminished one lots. To-morrow we are off to play someone else, and I must write you again to let you know how we fare. In fact, to be here is almost to forget that there is a war on at all.
“My usual hearty thanks for the ‘Arguses,’ and I may say that I am getting quite a free library lately, as I have many Brums ask me for the ‘Argus,” and it is significant, too, that each borrower takes a delight in returning it so that it shall interest someone else. Naturally the doings of Birmingham F.C. are the primary cause, and speaking from experience the Sunday papers are more eagerly sought for this year than last. There seems to be a revival of the interest in home sports which as in evidence so much in the first year of the war. How long ago was that? To me it seems an age, but we keep jogging on, not knowing our rendezvous when peace is signed; whether we unite in the flesh or in the spirit, because I believe that we soldiers, who do our daily duty, re-unite after earth’s battles. . . I often think that my dear brother, who was sniped on 14 November, 1914, still keeps his cheery spirits watching me.
“We have a long way to go yet, but we must keep smiling, and ‘hang on till the last straw’ must be the motto. I have regained my health completely since I have been here, and feel as well as I did in August, 1914. – Yours sincerely, H.J. Allwood.”
Now there doesn’t appear to be much whining in that letter, no references to the wickedness of playing football (except for the purposes of getting young players for future league services).
Sergeant Allwood evidently thinks as the normally constituted, sensible man thinks, viz., that as we have trained up a grand army on sport, it would be a pity, if not indeed sheer jolly, to adopt another policy now.
Our old friend Allwood evidently has no admiration for Aston Villa, and their methods; to me those methods appear strangely like those of a contemptible person I once told you about, a man who decried the playing of cricket, and said he would not carry a cricket bag for a hundred pounds, but when pitifully small conscience did not revolt against the practice of hiding a tennis racket under his coat and walking to a private lawn tennis ground remote from the public highway.
(Sport Argus, 25-11-1916)