Spalding soldier’s experience of Christmas in the trenches in 1916

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In 1916 a Spalding soldier wrote of the importance of Christmas parcels from home to the boys in the trenches.

The young soldier, convalescing from injuries, wrote about his experience of the previous year’s Christmas dinner in the trenches as a way of showing generous donors at home how much their gifts were appreciated.

He talked of them being in the trenches considered “among the wettest in France” in frosty, snowy weather.

Their ‘reserve trenches’ were the cellars of two abandoned houses that straggled the village 800 yards from the German front line, but away from the rest of the battalion cooks.

Consequently each man had to take his turn to cook and as they were due to be in the trenches on Christmas day, they decided to have their feast the night before.

He wrote: “We all had parcels. I had one from Mrs Spikins and the Liberal Club, among others, and to supplement these we subscribed 2 francs a man (there were about 50 of us) and got permission off our officer for a sergeant and a man to go to (name deleted) where there was a large Army canteen to buy nuts, oranges and figs.”

Their cooking utensils were three “regulation Army dixies” and small mess tins. A Swineshead boy, previously head confectioner of the P&O line of steamers, was put in charge, his assistants an ex-Daily Mirror correspondent and a former Grammar School master.

Using the house’s broken flooring and doors for fuel, everything was boiled in the dixies. The cellars were decorated with food parcel paper, and the men squatted on the bare brick floor “and started the feast of our lives”.

He wrote: “I can have no better wish than that the Spalding town parcels bring as much joy as our parcels did to my chums and myself.”