The Western Front was so close to England that in certain areas in southern England the artillery from the battlefields could be heard. The fact that soldiers could receive jam and other (even perishable) items from home so easily was a constant reminder for soldiers of the stark difference and short distance between home and the front.

"Some things that we ought and ought not to send

Candies, cigarettes-and ordinary, plain cigarettes are good enough, so long as you send plenty. If he chews, send him chewing. Cigarettes are an absolute necessity because they are the only things soothing to the nerves when under heavy shell fire. Powdered milk in small quantities, or Horlick's Milk Tablets, are always welcome. Pure jam; don't ever make a mistake in this and send plum and apple, because if he ever gets back alive, he will surely take your life for making such a terrible mistake-different fruit preserves they long for. Never send corned beef. This would be even a worse crime than the plum and apple jam. A pair of sox, home-made and pure wool, you ought to send once a week, because you must remember the Red Cross takes care only of the wounded men and not the fighters in the trenches; the government and home folks must look after the fighter in the field. Three-finger mittens knitted up to the elbow, with the first finger absolutely bare, are very welcome. Scarfs [sic] are quite unnecessary. Tommy usually gives these to the French lassies. Different insect powders Tommy likes to get, because he can't buy these out there. There is no doubt about it that, although we used [sic] to the 'cooties,' yet sometimes they outnumber us and it is necessary to put a gas attack on them. Strong powders are the only thing. Candles, matches, and if possible small alcoholic burners are very essential things. Of course, if you send him a burner it would be necessary for you to keep sending him alcohol, because this can't be bought in France. Nor can we get sugar out there. Any of these things with a nice long 'letter' will delight Tommy or Sammy or Poilou."

--Harold R. Peat, Private Peat


British border regiment troops

British border regiment troops near Thiepval Wood, August 1916, during the Battle of the Somme

Photo courtesy of the Photos of the Great War Web site.
Used with permission.