France, April 7th 
I received your letter a week or so ago, & intended to write to you before this, but have been busy having a good time, we have been out of the trenches for a week & are in semi-civilisation now. It feels good to be away from the trenches for a little while, old Fritz gave us quite a lively time the last time in. He messed things up pretty badly for us, but he must have been in a pickle for he got it pretty hot, & is getting it every day now.
It was my birthday just over a week ago & mother sent me a pair of gloves & a ten dollar bill & a good big parcel so I did pretty well.
We had a sports day yesterday and a decoration, the [indecipherable] handed out quite a few medals to fellows in our brigade, of course it rained & spoiled part of the fun but we had a pretty good day.
By the tone of your letter you seem to be pretty down in the dumps now that Harold has gone away, but cheer up dear, don’t go worrying about it, I know it’s jolly hard for you women at home, it’s worse for you than for the men, I think. Mother is worrying quite a lot about us but I wish she wouldn’t, it sets me worrying when I get a letter from home and mother seems to be fretting, so don’t you go worrying yourself all away. The war will soon be over and we shall all be coming home again, so cheer up & keep smiling.
I haven’t heard from Maud for some time now but I suppose she has been busy moving back to Leicester, or else she thinks I am a very uninteresting kind of a guy to write to.
I haven’t received that photo of you yet, so I am sending you one. I had my photo taken by myself but I started to laugh just as the deed was being did & spoiled it, but I had it taken again but don’t know what the other one is like yet. The folks at home don’t seem to think much of the one I had taken just before Xmas & they have passed some rude remarks about it so I thought I would have another try.
Well I think this is all this time so I will say good night, tell granddad & aunt Laura & all the folks I am still alive & going strong & will write to them some time soon.
Good by love from
The May 1917 letter below interests me for a number of reasons. First because it denotes the time William received his promotion from Private to Corporal. (He would have a second, to Sergeant, in the six months before his death, hinting at something of the soldier he was becoming but also, I suspect, at the volume of deaths necessitating the continuing promotion of men from the ranks.) Secondly because of the glimpse into his emotional state of mind, which reaches us via his concerns over his romantic life rather than his time in the trenches. I don’t know who Maud was but I can’t help hoping William got some further flicker of interest from her to hang onto through all those dark, terrifying days and nights. Thirdly because, no matter how many times I read it, I am always struck by the way he seems to be losing his grip on his grammar, syntax and punctuation – admittedly never terribly strong. Whatever the reason behind this, I’ve edited parts of the letter to make it more understandable but have tentative plans to scan all of the originals and make them available online. I do not believe William’s words are for me alone.
I received a letter from you last Wednesday & one yesterday, so I think it’s up to me to write next. I am glad my letter cheered you up some, but I say you told me in one letter that you never get down in the dumps “oh no”.
Well, I am still at the Canadian Corp school & having a good time. I rather expect we shall be going back to our Btns about the end of the week. They are pushing us through just as fast as they possibly can, gee I have done more writing since I came here than I have done since I left school, we spent about half of our time taking down notes & drawing maps & such like, a scout has to do a whole lot more things than just shoot Germans & prowl around in no mans land at night, we have to draw maps, sketch, write intelligence reports, observe, know all about rifles & telescopic sights, telescopes etc. be able to read maps, know how to use a compass & all that kind of thing & we get all that sort of work here, ours is a very interesting job it’s about the best job on the go over here I think outside of a good bomb proof say about twenty miles behind the line, but they won’t give me one. I got a letter from mother the other day & two from Laura. Laura writes & tells me all the farm news, how the colts and calves are etc. Harold must be having a gay old time, he sure is seeing the world, a trip to Canada after the war & he will have been pretty well all round the world.
We have some lively old times here the fellows are a jolly good bunch & they are all men that have been over here a long time & this is quite a holiday to all so you can bet we have some great old celebrations & some great old yarns go around of an evening.
Last Thursday being empire day we had a lot of big bugs around two generals & all their crowd, & Saturday afternoon we had sports, & yesterday after church parade we had a shooting contest eight men from each of the four Can. Divisions & our divis. Won by seven points.
I haven’t heard from Maud lately, she doesn’t write to me half as often as you do. Say I believe if you had your own way you would be quite a matchmaker, go ahead, hop to it, I’ll bet you think you are having some fun all to yourself but I believe you have struck a hard proposition in me, I am too slow they all tell me, so I guess it’s right, so Maud is going farming is she. I hope I get leave I’ll come & help her milk the cows etc. What oh “some spree”, I think according to your letter that David [Dorothy’s son] is going to make either a farmer or a gardener they are pretty much the same. You say in your letter that it is so strange that Harold is so sick all the time, is he just sea sick or was he sick before he left I had no idea he was sick. So you don’t like military letters, eh, it sure doesn’t make a fellow feel like putting any mushy stuff in a letter for the officer to read, I think it would be rather slow work making love through the mail under the circumstances. I know it would be better for me. Well I think I had better dry up it’s getting dark so good by give my love to Maud if she is at home when you get this.
PS Give me love to [indecipherable but probably Harold] when you see him. Send me his address please I lost the other you sent me.”
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