16 August 1915

Ypres barracks

We are off to the trenches tonight so I have just time to write one letter before we move off.  We got our Church Parade this morning followed as I expected by a celebration.  For the first time since we came here we have had almost the whole service.  A large room was found, a table, two candles placed in bottles, some flowers, we had no cross, but a small picture of St Anthony of Padua, presumably looted, added an air ecclesiastical.  Sandbags made excellent kneelers & really we managed to have a very quiet & reverent service.  Matins was also quite a success except for the hymns.  Our pianist was very good at comic songs but no great hand at hymn tunes which accordingly suffered.  By the way the various stages by which we acquired our piano are really rather interesting – I will set them forth in tabular form.

1 Pte X discovers a piano in possession of Gunners who offer to lend it us.

2 Pte X with party sent to fetch piano

3 Pte X returns saying not allowed to shift piano without a pass from the Town Mayor – This also orders of Military Police who are joint partners with the Artillery for the piano

4 Captain Y & 2 Lt Z call on Town Mayor who is out

5 Capt. Y & 2 Lt Z repeat call. Town mayor wishes to know

  1. a. Why he has never heard of the piano
  2. b. Whether it is wanted for military purposes
  3. c. Whether it is a clandestined piano

6 Town Mayor gives pass to move piano on condition that it is returned the next morning to Belgian Gendarmerie

7 Piano is fetched & used for sing-song

8 Piano wanted for Church Parade two days later – allowed

9 Corpl X & party sent out to return piano as ordered to Belgian Gendarmerie

10 Corpl X stopped by Military Police who demand permit to move piano or threaten arrest for looting

11 Cpl X meets Capt Y who goes to Town Mayor & gets permit.

12 Belgian Gendarmerie refuse to accept piano

13 Piano returned to us

14 We have piano, cannot get permit to move it anywhere & are going to the trenches tonight.  Next occupants will probably be arrested for looting piano.

The great point of course is that the sing-song was a success – a great success.  Last night we had the piano in the mess & having invited the cheery souls from the other half-battalion to dine with us, we spent a really first-class evening – several songs & lots of choruses – a certain drummer named Ward proving quite a good vampist or vampire.  Today I have wasted an enormous amount of time playing dominoes with Tomson but it has been raining & we have had little or nothing to do.

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