We have got here, that is some of us have got here which, though you may not think it, is more than most of us expected. Here is a very nice trench fairly clean, very safe & in one place so close to the enemy that they are afraid of dropping shells onto us for fear of damaging their own trench. “Close” means about 40 yards. But the Germans the other side of that trench are either asleep or drunk or both, or else they don’t exist. I honestly believe that even if K. of K. himself were to walk along the top of the parapet arm in arm with Sir Edward Grey the silly asses would not be induced to fire a shot. We cannot imagine what is the matter with them. My fellows have discovered several of their loop holes & have been firing at the iron plates. A bullseye is clearly signalled by the bell like ring as the bullet strikes the metal. One man this morning rang the bell about fifty times in a quarter of an hour firing each shot carefully over the parapet with his head & shoulders in full view, & still there was no reply. Even though the Hun is silent still there is a great war to be waged, the war of extermination; the extermination of the fly. The former occupier of the eligible freehold residence, in trench diction more commonly known by the soubriquet of “dug-out” – in which I have now to pass my time, thought fit to leave fragments of every meal that he devoured. These fragments by no means minute, rather in fact large, particles of bread, jam, butter, bacon, tea leaves, soup. Tatlers, & “Newspaper tablecloth-Daily Mails” covered with even more particles are strewn more or less indiscriminately about the floor, where, though no doubt picturesque to the Philistine Sherwood Forester, they serve as extra inducement to some two million homeless blue-bottles to come & have a free meal in my sanctuary. This being the case, will you, as soon as you conveniently can, send me a box, bundle, package or hamper full of every device known to the civilized world for the catching & killing of these pestilent monsters. Anything from a fly paper to a poisonous brick mushroom will be welcome; a very effective thing is a piece of wire gauze on the end of a stick with which one is able to smite some fifty or sixty at a blow. Even if I am unable to slaughter all the flies in the neighbourhood I may at least manage to keep the dug-out clear by thus inaugurating a reign of terror.
(To H.G.H) – Ypres
Just a line or two with this photo which was sent the other day. It was taken some time ago by a fellow Subaltern of D Coy & shows your infant prodigy on a hot day at the back of our old line of trenches. The ruins are all that is left of a Belgian farm, by name Spy Farm, so called because at some time or other our people caught one there & duly shot him. The hamper from Cousin E has turned up a fact which I forgot to mention in my last letter to Mother; it was filled with a large number of good things & in view or our prolonged & continued visits to these peaceful haunts has come in very useful indeed. We seem destined to stay in the trenches for ever, & never to get any rest at all. At least at present I cannot see who can possibly relieve us as almost every battalion is in the line. However so long as the weather remains decent as it is at present I don’t really care where we are, & it is as good up here as anywhere else. There are only two men in the German trench opposite, one shooting & the other digging, & at mealtimes they both stop work – at least for long periods in the day we can neither see his shovel or hear the other’s rifle. This dysentery business is an awful nuisance. So far my own platoon has been fairly free from it, but one or two have given up today, & several of them are not feeling up to the mark. Water is at times very scarce, & in some places very bad, & added to this there is a considerable amount of work to get through in the twenty-four hours. On the whole therefore one cannot wonder at the present state of the Battalion’s health; but it is a very great pity because we are continuously having to leave behind some of our best. I dare say a few days of warmth & hot dry weather will put matters straighter; of late we have had so much damp & rain. However we mustn’t grouse, & the fewer the men the greater the glory, especially when the authorities extend the line so much that a man & a boy are holding all the way from Dixmude to Gallipoli. I suppose you are in the midst of O. Locals in which case I hope you are converting Father’s Walsh, Macey etc. no time for more.