Cold kidneys on brown bread

17th November 1914

And so to the end of Frank’s last letter.

I am getting on alright up to yet but have got a nasty cold in the kidneys but thats only half ones (mes?) luck. I have not heard from Tom yet but hope to before long, Don’t forget to tell Muff to drop a few lines and ask her about the cake what she is going to send. Now I think this is all the news  this time, for I am just going to have a bit of Tommie, trusting this letter finds you merry and bright and hope to hear from you soon

Frank complains about a cold in his kidneys. This could have eventually developed into nephritis, an inflammation of the kidneys, which afflicted British troops in the trenches from the spring of 1915. Trench nephritis was the third most common serious illness in the British Army during the First World War behind venereal disease and trench foot.

According to “Slang Down The Ages” by Jonathan Green, Tommy is a Seventeenth Century British Army slang word for the ration of brown bread, shortened over time from Tommy Brown. The meaning eventually changed to become a general phrase for food according to the Oxford English Dictionary. An alternative meaning is suggested that it’s from the Bedford tradition of giving bread away for free on St Thomas’ Day (21st December).

The Dorsets spent the day digging trenches. Some of Frank’s A Company was detailed to dig trenches connecting the Royal Scots with the Rifle Brigade. The Royal Scots had joined the left hand side of 11th Brigade as part of 8th Brigade on the 16th November. This linking up of trenches was to prevent snipers getting in between the gaps as we saw yesterday. I suspect digging trenches in frozen ground in woods with simple tools was pretty tiresome. Especially with a cold in your kidneys.