Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Friday, August 23, 2019

Letter from an Indian Army Lancer at the Somme

Daya Ram (Jat) to Kalu Ram (Ambala City, Punjab)
2nd Lancers [Urdu]
France,  6th September, 1916

Indian Cavalry on the Western Front (Regiment Not Identified)

I went into the trenches on 7th August and returned on 28th August. Some of our men were wounded. I am not permitted to give any fuller details. The battle is raging violently, and various new ways of fighting have been introduced. The ground is honeycombed, as a field with rat holes. No one can advance beyond the trenches. If he does so, he is blown away. Mines are ready charged with explosives. Shells and machine guns and bombs are mostly employed. No one considers rifles nowadays, and serviceable rifle ammunition is lying about as plentifully as pebbles. At the trenches, thousands of mounds of iron, representing exploded shells, lie on the ground. At some places corpses are found of men killed in 1914, with uniform and accouterments still on. Large flies, which have become poisonous through feasting on dead bodies, infest the trenches, and huge fat rats run about there. By the blessing of God the climate of this country is cold, and for that reason corpses do not decompose quickly. It rains frequently and that causes much inconvenience. At the present time we are suffering, as the horses are tethered outside and the rain has converted the ground into slush. Sometimes we have to march in the rain and then the cold is intense. However after two years’ experience, we have grown used to all these troubles and think lightly of them. I have lots to write about, but I have no leisure, nor have I permission to do so. Even this I have had to write very prudently, otherwise it would be withheld.

[the letter was passed by the censors]

Source: Indian Voices of the Great War, p.231


  1. That is so dark, even with its short length and the censorship pressure.

  2. Dark maybe, but his martial spirit and stoicism are admirable

    1. I think so. He also finds good in bad - i.e., the cold.

  3. I'm also impressed by how well written this is.