A letter from Captain William Blackwood, published in the West Briton on 31st December 2014. Capt Blackwood was a well-known doctor in Camborne. He kicked off three rugby matches between Cornwall and Devon teams in spring 2015.
“I took a stroll round this afternoon to try and find some batteries that were blazing away nearby, but though I got close to them, I did not discover them; they are awfully well hidden on account of aircraft.
I got close up to one of our 4.7 guns; it fairly shook you when it went off suddenly in most unlikely spots. There is very little reply from the Germans, a fact we cannot quite understand.
Do not think I have turned in any night before 2am. Our wounded arrive about 9pm every night and then we are very busy. The colonel and I are doing all the surgery; extraordinary how cheerful the patients are.
My experience, so far, has been to increase my respect for rifle fire. How soon it gets dark here, it is only 3.15pm and I can hardly see to write. In some ways it is better, as it lets us get up earlier to collect the wounded. We go at 8pm and 5am, two of us together and 4 motor-ambulances.
It is a trifle too exciting as we go behind the trenches. Poor devils! What a state of mind they are in when he (sic) get them. The Germans have a searchlight going all the time. They are getting a bad time just now, our big guns shelling them for all they are worth. The windows rattle every minute. One would love to see the effect they are having.
The men wish me to thank you for sending their parcels, which are all arriving quite safely. Sergt. Henwood is acting as operation assistant, and is getting into the work very well. I must say I am struck by the manner in which the men are doing their work. It is not as if they have had any actual experience of surgical work before. They work six hours on and 18 off. My ward masters are Sergt. Bowden of Porthleven, Sergt. Whitter, and Private Negus of Dolcoath.
We only want Captain Billy James to be complete. Staff-Sergt. Olds is in charge of the pack store, where he is responsible for sorting over and re-issuing to the patients their rifles and equipment, a work which is made more difficult by the fact that the wounded are badly mixed. The other men are acting as nursing orderlies, and the rest as stretcher bearers. It would not be fair to mention any names in particular, as they are “one and all” doing all they can. I have been in charge ever since coming here, for which I am thankful. The general is very good and comes around every morning and speaks to each man.
We get plenty of apples here. It will not be a very cheerful Christmas for any of us, am afraid, though you women are supposed to be braver than men, but try to be as bright as possible; the war cannot last forever.
Just heard of the bombardment of the Yorkshire town, and hope it will awaken England up to the terrible nature of the war we are in for. I do not believe half the population realise there is a war on. We are in for a big fight to-night. We have been ordered to prepare for 250. We can see the guns flashing in the dark all along the front and hear the continual roar of firing. Hope we drive them back. It makes one feel very excited. They want one in the eye for the East Coast. Have not unpacked Christmas parcels yet.”