Trenches, March 15, 1916
Dear Mother and Father
The average dugout in the front line holds about two and you have to curl up in some peculiar shapes in some of them. There are three of us in the one dugout now and one lad had some rolled oats and we made porridge. It was the first porridge I’ve had since I left England and it was certainly good.
You asked me how the sox were for size – well that pair that Aileen sent is just right size and good and long in the leg and they are not too thick and easy to wash but I have plenty of sox already. Will you send a little tin of cocoa as it is very good in the trenches when you come in rather chilly. You needn’t send any more Oxo. We don’t use it much.
Don’t worry now, Mother, I will be alright.
Your loving son,
It is estimated that as many as 20,000 underage soldiers served overseas in World War 1. Jim was one of these teenagers. With quotes from Jim’s letters and diary (kept for 92 years in a shoe box covered in velvet and painted by his mother with the Union Jack), Hold TheOxo! A Teenage Soldier Writes Home tells the story between the lines of his life on the battlefields of Ypres and the Somme.
Jim’s Diary, September 20, 1916 / The Somme
Went from front line to Bombing post in ‘No Man’s Land’. D Company took Fritz front line but had to retire after holding for eight hours on account of shortage of ammunition. Nearly whole company wiped out.
This was the last entry in Jim’s diary.
Thomas F. Chambers, a retired college teacher. Lives in North Bay, Ont.
Hold the Oxo! very clearly demonstrates what war in the trenches means and how so many nations were stripped of their youth before they had an opportunity to truly comprehend their place in greater society.
Short-listed for the Ontario Library Association's 2014 Forest of Reading - White Pine Award for Non-Fiction.