Second Lieutenant Eric Douglas Smart’s father wrote this letter and sent it to his son, who was serving with the 10thBn. Royal Warwickshire Regiment on the Western Front, on 18 November 1916.
My dear little boy,
As you say it does really seem sometimes as though the war has reached a deadlock. That is quite impossible for either side to gain any real advantage over the other and that the state of war had become a permanent condition.
But this position of affairs is, of course, only seeming. With every day that passes each side is growing weaker and approaching nearer to the moment when they will have to cease the struggle.
But meanwhile you are feeling like a helpless brick in the vast edifice, a part of a cog in a huge machine. But don’t forget that you are not a helpless atom, but a living soul. A subject and a soldier of the great Captain, an immortal son of God. Not a hair of those head can be injured without His consent. Though you pass through the valley of the shadow of death He is caring for you and one, like unto the Son of God, is walking at your side.
I am delighted to know that you are not taking to military life except as a duty. Check your mirror, clean, clear and bright. Try to get leave as near as possible to Christmas. We are longing more than I can say to see you.
This letter was returned to Eric’s father five days later, stamped missing, and his father did not get his wish of seeing his son at Christmas.
Eric died on 18 November 1916 at Grandcourt, during the last day of the battle of the Somme. His body was never recovered and he is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial, Pier and Face 9A, 9B and 10B.
This letter was transcribed by me from the the 12thtrack on Forever: The Official Album of the World War I Commemorations.