day about half over, and things very dull. Last night about 5,
we heard a very heavy cannonading guns and rifles which
last until about four this morning. Yesterday as usual, our guns
and those of the Huns had a go at one another, and also each
popped a few at the other fellows trenches. Bickles is
away on a job, so Im looking after his platoon, and practically
all shots fired at our trenches have gone into it, or the bit
next to it. So far the only damage done has been very slight
wounds to two, and parapets blown in half a dozen places. The
Bosche guns opposite us dont seem to be in it with those
of ours behind us. By the way Elliot Green is in one of the batteries
supporting our battalion in fact, his is operating with
our Co. at present. He is well, and a splendid gunnery officer.
the plans are changed for we dont expect and attack to
be made while we are here, and have just heard that when relieved
this time we are to be shifted to some other part of the line.
time has now elapsed to tell you more about our getting here.
As you know we landed at St. Nazaire on a Monday night, embarked
and pulled out about midnight. There was on First Class coach
with 4 compartments , each having eight seats and eight officers.
You can imagine how funny it was, and what sleep we got, when
I tell you we rested our heads on the next mans shoulders.
One chap tried the floor, but during the night I stepped on his
face, and that stopped. The men were in box cars; 40 men or eight
horses to a car. They barely had room to sit down, but although
there until Wednesday night about 11, we all rather enjoyed the
experience. And I usually feel badly used if I have not a drawing-room
to myself. We went all over France, skirted west of Paris, through
Rouen, up to Calais along near a coast, down near Hazebruke.
Wed. night we spent there and next morning marched for
first time on pave about 6 miles out into country. There
we stayed until the following Tuesday, when we marched also
pave and oh! so hard on fee and tiring through Armentieres, our
Co. being billeted the other side of it. While there each company
was attached in a sense to some Imperial Battn for experience.
We were with Queens Own Westminster Rifles terriers
but in the same class as London Scottish who to all ranks
were as friendly, kind and instructive as one could wish. From
there on no definite word yet.
present the chief word is will the mosquitoes be bad owing to
much stagnant water. Although it is nothing more than comfy in
the middle of sunny days, yet today, which is cloudy after two
mild days, we are quite conscious of them, though not bothered.
Rats also are here. Billy Marshall, who sleeps beside me almost
double bed fashion has had them run over him twice when
sleeping. As for me, not yet.
new trench coat came last night, very quickly, in fact, surprisingly
so. All my brother Co. officers think, because of it and my breeches
that you must have some pull with Post Office. 12 mouth organs,
toilet paper, bulls-eyes, 1 tin jam, figs splendid,
as what I ate last night saved my life today and tongue,
which we will have tonight. All bull, also another box of sweets.
I think we are tiring a bit of bulls-eyes and hard candies.
Some toffee would be better next, I think. The first order for
Co. mess has not yet come from F. & as it was probably
ordered before these other eats, would you mind chasing them
up, and find out when they were sent. As I get parcels bought
by you, with in seven days of writing for them, it should not
take more than five for theirs to get here. I have a pound note,
which cant change here, so am enclosing it to you. By the
way, would you send me a small copy of some book to fit
in pocket for reading here: Soldiers Three [Rudyard
Kipling] or some other good and fairly solid standard, but not
pleased with my trench coat, and as fur lining makes a bully
extra blanket, Im going to return my long Burberry and
some [things] to her things to be put in tin box. Dont
send me any more hankies, as Ive got too many now. Ive
got plenty of soap and tooth powder now, but a cake of castile
would be welcome.
very fit, lazy and happy, also pretty comfy. Trum.
makes me ashamed when I realize how long it is since I wrote
to you or any of my other happy family friends. Your
letter came a few days since and was handed to me in the trenches.
It brought me up with a turn for thoughts of business are very
remote these days. Eight months ago I would have deemed it impossible
that I could in such a space have entirely wiped from my daily
thoughts all things pertaining to our business; I could not have
believed that I would be happy. But so it is and I fear that
one of our biggest problems will be in settling down to comparatively
commonplace life after this go of constant turmoil.
life is a most curious one. Here we are in the thick of it, and
yet the majority as little concerned or excited as if they were
kept late at the office or for some appointment. On the 10th,
at 5 a.m. having only gotten out of the trenches about midnight,
we marched up to the place for the supports and waited for 7
when the guns started and 7:30 when the infantry took on, I,
like most, found it hard to realize that we were in one of historys
battles Neuve Chapelle but rather was filled with
disgust that it was out lot to be relieved and thus be out of
the trenches for the show. For the first hour or so the terrific
and indescribable din rather elated and excited one, but that
even wore off. Of course, our little bit of line only make a
noise to keep the Hun guessing, so we were not called in, but
when they had straightened the line up to our section if
they had during those three days we should have really
been in it and probably our sensations would have been different
when we saw our men falling all around us as did the Guards and
in all, its a wonderful life this. I am frequently amused
by the change temporary I gear that it has made
in me. Think, only eight short months since I felt piqued and
cross if breakfast wasnt just so, if my smokes were not
right, if I didnt get my two or something more tubs a day
at just the time and temperature, and as to being made to walk
half a mile because the car wasnt running? Oh! My! Now,
I think little of walking a mile to try to get a pot of jam;
four miles and back for the most luxurious tub in the world a
vat in a factory; I think I have cause for rejoicing when I find
on coming out of the trenches that our billets, in some broken
down and evacuated farm house, have plenty of straw, and cheer
with sincerity when I tumble into my dirty blankets with my clothes
off! Psychology applied in war is truly interesting and wonderful.
dont know that I can clearly describe the trenches in our
life in and about them. At the commencement of course the antagonists
dug down about four to five feet a trench 18 inches to 2 feet
wife, threw the earth up front and read to make parapets and
head cover. Every 6 to 12 feet traverses were made as protection
from enfilade fire
of trench tranverses to be added)
the advent of wet weather these trenches literally filled up,
there even being cases of drowning. The line for that period,
of course, always on the alert and never undressed or even with
boots off, as in many places the two lines are only 50 to 70
yards apart - in our from 80 yards at one end to about 400 at
the other. Immediately after going in, the O.C. of a company
posts his sentries, allots his men, giving them their firing
posts and bug-huts generally together sees what
materials and tools are left in; has his telephone orderlies
get connection with his flanks and headquarters arranges
for messengers in the trenches and out in case wires get cut;
allots duties; another party or patrol to worry the Huns by cutting
their wires, going out to see what they are doing, etc. This
is nearly always a night job. He also decides and arranges for
the work to be done towards cleanliness, upkeep and improvement
of his bit. To me it is a marvellous thing that, in these narrow
confined areas where in the space of three hundred yards or more
250 men whose composition is constantly changing, things are
as clean, as regards sanitation and fairly healthy, although
this number have livered there for in many cases five months.
am just getting over an attack of dysentery thus this
garrulousness, which I trust has not bored you too much. Would
you let mother read this, as my letters to my Toronto family
are very scare. At present, Im sitting outside the convalescent
Hospital about 2 miles back from the firing line. It is cloudy
but warm and all around me the birds are singing their spring
song and all the trees and shrubs in this old world garden are
coming out. One peach tree is half in bloom and its pink blossoms
remind me of those springtime trips to New York which I so often
thought were rather a nuisance. Now I hear the guns and laugh.
I believe that of all the happy family I am happier except
for those who are not about home - and have far less worry and
hardship than you at home.
give my regards to all, especially my brother directors. Tell
them Cheer Oh! it ill soon all be over and then they
will have a white elephant on their hands, for I have tasted
freedom and fear it will be a hard task to confine me in four