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A Letter from the Trenches

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                                            May, 1915


My Dearest Théodore,

Happy birthday! It has been months since my departure to the trenches, and I can say with full confidence that I miss you very dearly. I’ve received your letters and it seems you feel the same. Monsieur Courfeyrac, how I adore you. Tell my mother I am safe, and give the dog a lot of love from me. I am terribly sorry you could not have joined the rest of our friends and I, though with your current ailments, I simply couldn’t allow you to go.

All of our friends are alright, for the most part. Joly is doing a fantastic job of helping me to care for everyone here on the eastern front. It’s honestly fairly difficult due to the strength of the Germans and their weapons; Machine guns, grenades, and weapons so powerful they’d kill a man in an instant.

Our poor friend Bossuet got caught in some barbed wire last week. He almost needed to get sent home, but he is apparently far too determined! He now stays below the trench and occasionally helps Joly and I. His jokes are terrible, as always, but we’re glad to have him to lighten the mood. We are very grateful for him, as he makes the agonizing hours waiting for the Great War to be over worthwhile. Towards the beginning of the war, I had overheard a few tommies say something like “Six weeks and home by Christmas.” If only that were true. I wish I could hold you in my arms once more.

According to our superior, the war is currently at a stalemate. Lice, rats and fleas plague our daily life. It’s hell on earth, though moreso for our friends in the front line trenches. I can hear air raids and can see clouds of poison gas daily. I pity the poor souls fighting thanks to the immature actions of others. I can’t understand how the world could be so cruel to such innocent souls; how leaders like Kaiser Wilhelm II and other such men allow boys to murder each other for no good reason. It’s truly heartbreaking.

Despite our troubles, though, we’ve found ways to pass the days on the rear line trench. A soldier called Grantaire has figured out how to craft marvelous things called trench art. I’ve seen others do it, too. You’d like it, I think. You’ve always been into little trinkets, yes? I’ll ask and see if someone will let me send you a piece. It’s quite fascinating.

Something else I’ve found interesting is how some of the kindest men can be the most stubborn. Just today, our friend Enjolras nearly died thanks to trench foot! He refused to allow me to clean it at first, but soon the mud and water levels got to him and I needed to amputate his leg before it killed him. And do you know how unbearable our dear Enjolras can be if he doesn’t get to keep on battling? He blabbed through the entire amputation process on how he couldn’t be sitting around without a foot, he needed to be in the fields fighting until his heart gave out. And although persistence and stubbornness plagues his soul, and no matter how much he tries to argue, he will be sent home very soon, I’m sure.

In other news, our rations have increased due to the alarming rate of death among soldiers in our regiment. This is my fault, as I am head doctor. To be honest, it hurts to know they all could have been saved if only I had done a better job, if I had stitched wounds faster or with more precision. If I had only done a little better, I could have helped them. Now, bodies without names or families lay in no man’s land, and the ones that do are being sent back to their homes. Leftover shrapnel lays there, too, along with trench knives, forever lost from their owners. My heart is broken, and its shards go out to the lives lost in this godforsaken war.

I apologize truly for the appalling images my note may give you, though I must somehow express how heartbroken I am over this living nightmare. And to think, as this is a two front war, there are even more bodies on the other side.

You know I much prefer the philosophy and strategy of war rather than the war itself. Thanks to The War To End All Wars, I know this with much more confidence. I know my preference is behind the scenes, rather than watching people get sent to their deaths. I believe when I return to Paris, though, I shall not be continuing my medical career further. Instead, I shall spend the rest of my days with you, mon cher, and we shall be happy with our dog and the future ahead. Perhaps, if you’d really like, we may adopt another dog when I return.

I’m sorry, my Théo, but I must cut this short. I have been informed of a battle beginning, and I must prepare my medical kit before the soldiers go over the top. I look forward to when we next meet. I adore you.



            Florent Combeferre