Letter 1

A note from the Editor:

The first letter we have from Oliver describes life in the Inns of Court Officer Training Corps. This is the only letter we have from his year in the O.T.C. in Berkhampsted. He joined on the 23rd of September 1915, and was discharged on the 25th September 1916, 'in consequence of being appointed to a commission in the General List for the Royal Flying Corps'.


Mrs Chas E Pearson
Hillcrest
Lowdham
Notts

Reply to No5 Company 1st Bat. I.o.C. O.T.C.
Stationed at Birkhamsted, Herts.
10.10.15

Dear Mother

As you see I have arrived here & am now in a billet & doing soldiering properly. The date may be wrong but to-day is Sunday & I have just come off church parade. We paraded & were marched to the parish ch. which we more than entirely filled. Some chaps having to be dismissed as there was no room for them. I can tell you the hymns went well. Westminster choir weren’t in it at all for volume & deep bass voices. We were only given a days notice before we quitted London & I had to make my dispositions in a great hurry. My dirty clothes I bundled together into an old kit bag & asked Miss Hill to send it off to you. You might send some clean clothes back in it when I want some. My portmanteau I asked them to send, to Aunt Laura’s where I knew it would be handy for Dad to fetch. I put all my mufti into it. I could not very well do anything else as it has no lock.


I was placed straight away into a billet which was extremely lucky as most were billeted in sheds in a wood yard, a place anything but desirable. I am very comfortable having a big double bed to myself & everything is very clean if rather primitive. My co billeter who sleeps in the same room was senior sergeant in his regiment & I am afraid his former power has not yet worn off & he is rather stand off-ish but is all-right otherwise.

Page - II

I am writing this in Les Johnson’s billet (“Buster” Johnson they all call him to distinguish him from “Langton” Johnson & “Girly” Johnson all of his section) he has a very nice sitting room for which he pays 3/- a wk & I propose to do the same in my billet as they have a room & are willing to let it for that money. Les & I are billeted about ¼ mis from each other so I cannot always be using his room even if I wanted to.

On Sat we (the recruits) were paraded befor the batt. Sergt. Major who is a man greatly to be feared as he carries the scales of life & death as it were. He made a minute inspection of our faces for signs of growing beards & our hair for shortness. I had had the tip so I was well shaven washed and cut & passed without comment. He made extremely personal, caustic & very humerous remarks on some of the chaps appearance.

The week Les Johnson came up he told off a file of 4 men to see that another one washed his neck which was dirty. He got me taped unfortunately for moving my head when at ‘shion and enquired if I was looking down the line for my long lost friend or what. Up till now parades have been very slack & I am getting on alright.

On Sat afternoon I played in a scratch game of rugger & got about crocked up for my pains by an awful hack on the shin. On oct. so Leslie & I are going up to London for the weekend to see Aunt Laura & have a bust round.

Page III

All the “Fair Virgins” as Leslie calls them were extremely sorry at my having to leave Woburn Place as they declare that now there will no excitement or fun at all. Three of them have been extremely kind in doing odd mending jobs for me & seeing after my luggage I left behind so I gave them some chocolates, cigarettes, & flowers respectively with which they were very pleased. Old Mrs Hill gave me a pair of her own knitted socks & wished me all luck all though I did turn her lodging house upside down sometimes.

Last night Les Johnson had some of his pals into his billet and we had a sing song & boosing & smoking match in which as you can very well imagine I felt very much out of it. By the way do you put cyder under the ban as they sell a lot down here of very good stuff & very cheap. I believe it is manufactured not far away. At present I am down on ginger beer which is the only temperance drink they serve to us, not even water. I am often thinking of you & your doings & wished I could see you again but it is impossible. Please let me have plenty of letters to;

Pte O.C. Pearson (letters only)
24 Victoria Rd
Birkhamsted

& anything important & parcels to
Pte OCP (No6405)
No5 Coy
Inns of Court OTC
Birkhamsted

With much love
Oliver

2 comments:

Kevlarg said...

Nice job Mike. I followed your link from the VLJ site. Being a Yank myself I had to re-read some of the language to understand what he was saying.

Its a great thing you are doing posting these.

Mike Johnson said...

Cheers Kev. Some of the language is just as unusual to us! It's definitely of it's time.