". . . I suppose you will want to know something about the war. As you will see by the papers we are living in stirring and moving times."
The quote above is from a letter written by Sergeant James Duncan, M.M. R.G.G. and dated September 5, 1918. Sergeant Duncan was killed in action on September 23, 1918. Less than one month after his death, on November 11, the armistice was signed ending World War I. His letter appears in War Letters of Fallen Englishmen, edited by Laurence Housman. Here are some other quotes from the volume.
". . . I adore War. It is like a big picnic without the objectlessness of a picnic. I have never been so well or so happy. Nobody grumbles at one for being dirty. I have only had my boots off once in the last 10 days, and only washed twice."–Captain the Hon. Julian Henry Frances Genfell, D.S.O.
". . . I don't know how anyone can 'glory' in war except perhaps during the actual heat of an attack, then you cease to be yourself, and are released from all ordinary cares and associations. . . . But in war in its quieter aspects there can be no possibility of 'glory.' Then there is time for thought and philosophy to reassert their sway over the enthusiasm and question their validity and value. And what can you think then except of the crass stupidity of mankind in waging war."–Captain William John Mason
"Good-bye my true wife. The long and sad good-bye. Kiss our babies for me and tell them my last thoughts were of you and them. May they all be spared to live long, honourable and peaceful lives under the good old Flag that so many have died to uphold nor deem the sacrifice too great. May our boys and girls grow up to be a comfort to you, dear, and may we all meet again in that land beyond where there is no war of strife.–Private A. J. Wood, Australian Imperial Force
Personal letters written by people serving in the military give us an
understanding of armed conflict that no newspaper or history book can
duplicate. These letters not only add a personal and emotional dimension to past political conflicts. They are a precious record of the details of daily life. They also expose
a surprisingly deep and wide range of philosophical ideas held by
servicemen and women, even as dealt with the worst of conditions.
War Letters of Fallen Englishmen and its companion volume, German Students' War Letters, are just a couple of the fascinating published collections of battlefield writings. Many war letters are available for online viewing at sites such as the National Postal Museum's War Letters Lost and Found. Information on conserving letters is available at the American Experience website.