30 November 1915

LaCoutre

I hear today that the port of Boulogne has been closed for the last two days so it is quite possible that the addressing of my last two letters to the flat will cause delay in their arrival instead of your getting them sooner as I expected & intended.  This I am sending to the Vicarage to avoid any more mistakes.  I suppose it is the somewhat doubtful weather in the channel which causes all this trouble; they say that these storms break loose the mines which then float about at random & are a source of great danger to anyone & everyone attempting to cross.  Today has been really glorious; there were a few spots of rain somewhere about midday, but for the rest the sun has been both warm & bright.  Besides this the air has been clear, in other words ideal for observation purposes.  This being the case, the Brigade Major & I decided to try the ghastly journey to the trenches, & see what we could see up there.  We armed ourselves in thigh-gum-boots, mounted our horses & rode as far as we could without coming under the direct observation of some telescope-hogging Hun gunner.  A short walk across some very sloppy & clinging plough, over a few very full dykes, & through a dilapidated farm-house or two, brought us to the start of a so-called communication trench.  We waded bravely in & struggled along as best we could.  Where the water was too deep we got out & crawled along outside under the shelter of some friendly bank or anything else that would cover us from the watchful eye of the sniper.  The Brigade Major is a very careful man indeed & I always know that if I am with him I shall run no risks.  We reached the front line without mishaps & started to work our way along it.  Here things were by no means so easy as when I was up there two days ago.  Then there was ice & one could walk on it, now one has to plough through water & mud.  Then the banks were frozen hard & one could plant a hand on firm ground to support oneself.  Now if one throws out a despairing hand it sinks up to the wrist in the most filthy slime imaginable.  Part of the way was alright but by the time we had gone a hundred yards both of us had got water over the tops of our boots.  I for my part had both my feet awash which was very unpleasant, & would also have been very cold, had we not kept on the move.  We got quite a good view in several places of the land above & beyond, & saw one or two curious works that the old Hun is busily putting up – in preparation I suppose for the long-expected never fulfilled “great push” when it does finally come off.  Otherwise there was nothing very interesting – one or two duels in the air which came to nothing except a multitude of falling particles which splashed into the water all round, fortunately avoiding our unprotected pates.   We returned to the more healthy area by the communication trench up which I went two days ago & found that it had degenerated sadly.  It was no longer possible to wade down several portions of it & we had to use great care & caution & wriggle about all over the place to get out at all.  Long rubber boots are bad things for walking in, there is bound to be a certain amount of movement inside & ones feet get rather chafed at times.  This of course does not happen with waders & brogues because the latter keeps the former from slipping about.  We had our horses to meet us jogged home to lunch, at about 2.30pm.  I was absolutely ravenous but managed to restrain my hunger long enough to allow for my changing my wet clothes & getting into something more or less dry, & a trifle more respectable than my mud-stained trench gear.  The remainder of the afternoon I slacked away over a novel but after tea accompanied the Staff Captain on a horse –once more to settle billet squabbles.  Again some Highlander people had settled themselves in some of our billets & it took all Viccars red hat to get then to shift at all; in fact it was only with great difficulty that we succeeded in getting back for dinner.   As soon as the General gets back the Colonel is going on leave.  His idea I believe is to be at home for the end of the Uppingham term – somewhere about the 18th December.

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