17 January 1916

Hotel Terminus de Marseille Saint Charles

You probably by this time have seen & rejoiced over the glorious news.  A  C.M.G. for the Colonel & for Martin, a D.S.O. for Toller, & Moore has a Military Cross, so the regiment cannot be said to have done anything but very well indeed.  All these awards are of course given to those whose names were sent in as long ago as last September, they do not include any who were recommended for deeds of valour during our little scrap.  These of course will appear later.  What they do is this – Periodically units recommend names of officers & men for awards, after about five months awards arrive for some, others are “mentioned”, others more unfortunate get nothing at all.  After a battle such as ours, a special list is sent in & to some of those immediate awards are given as to Barton & Wollaston in our case.  The remainder, who have not been thus immediately dealt with, have to wait & usually appear later in the five month show.  In this way Woolly & Barton did brave things on Oct. 13 & got their award by Oct. 25.  Moore, on the other hand, did brave deeds in April & May & does not get his reward until this January.  So there is hope for us all yet.  There has been no despatch from French since Oct. 8th & I imagine that his last will very soon appear, & should of course contain some account of our little demonstration of Oct. 13.  With that there should be another long list of “mentions” & awards.   I went over to camp this morning to congratulate the glorious three, & stayed there to lunch in the mess.  It is some time now since I have been near the mess, & it was really apalling to see the number of subalterns whose names, even, were unknown to me.  They will I think improve in time but it will never be quite the same thing again.  Most of the officers up there have been inoculated and were consequently shivering in large overcoats although the day was a hot one.  I think I shall be vaccinated first & then if that has no effect be inoculated soon after.  It is 16 months since I was done & it does not last very much longer they say.  My days in this place are now numbered & in a day or two, to be precise, the 20th, I shall board a vessel of some description or other.  I put in a plea to the old Colonel who is the senior divisional officer here, & as there was room on the boat for an officer or two he said he would send me.  There will be no one on board that I know, in fact the only officers of this division are, I believe, four Staffords & few dozen chaplains.  The remainder of the cargo is Indian Army chiefly as far as I know.   I have not yet interviewed the boat on which I am to travel, but understand that  she is one of those whose track, in the good old times of peace was “near the Pusat Tasek of Panama” (I am not sure of the spelling but it is something like that at any rate).  I do not yet  know anything about either the length of the journey, or the port of disembarkation, or any little minor details of that sort, but shall doubtless learn all in good time.  I have at all events one thing to comfort me & that is that on reaching the end of my journey I shall very probably find a large stack of letters waiting for me.  All yours that have been addressed to HQ of the Bde will have gone on ahead of me, & in any case I have not had one from you now for a week or more, it is really terrible.  I shall have to start remembering what I have said in a letter for the next three months after it is written so that when there is an answer to a question or an allusion to some remark I shall know what on earth you are driving at.  I shall certainly write frequently & post whenever there is the slightest possible opportunity.  This has been a bad place for letter writing, there has never been anything much to say.  But going as we shall be soon to the strange & mysterious East there ought to be heaps & heaps of things about which to write to you all.  Jackson has left me & gone back to the 5th where he will have a Company, A I expect.  So I am now all alone, & have changed my room to be a single bedder.  I am right up at the top of the Hotel, a jolly room with lots of air & a good large window.  The view is not so much artistic as interesting, & consists of miles & miles of goods yards.  Guital, the chief Marseille goods station stretches away into the distance with its innumerable pairs of glistening rails reflecting many vari-coloured signal lights.  The noise is not very great as a very large amount of the shunting is done by ropes & windlasses, & not with an engine.  Occasionally however there is a fearsome crash, followed by the clang, clang, clang of one truck hitting another, for when the French do start shunting with an engine it is a grim performance.  They never care an atom how hard they dash one truck into another.  Even when putting a loco on to a passenger express it is done with a most appalling jolt, which sends most of the luckless passengers on to the opposite side of the carriage to that on which it is their wish & intention to sit.     Yesterday for the first time it was brought home to me only too plainly how much I have deteriorated in “training” during my three weeks in this place.  All our horses have now arrived, & I thought that as I had nothing better to do I would go for a ride, just for a short distance by way of exercise.  I had hardly gone a quarter of a mile at the trot before I had such an appalling stitch that I very nearly rolled out of the saddle.  I knew of course that I had increased in weight & size, one could hardly help knowing it, but I did not know I had got as flabby as all that.  Doubtless however a sea-voyage & a little hard work in the sun will very soon put things right for me.  I can’t say that I shall be very sorry to quit Marseille now that the time has come to go.  Cinemas, Music Halls, Opera & crowds of people make a very pleasant change after a ruined & depopulated village, but they are apt to become both boring & expensive after a week or two, & having had my little rest I am quite ready to sally forth again.  In a way I shan’t be sorry to hear the familiar whistle of some fat old crump going hurtling through the air, to burst, as a rule, in the middle of an uninhabited beetroot field.  After all we are at war, & war, to my mind should not consist of cinemas & those other things mentioned at the top of the proceeding page.


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