H.Q. 138th Bde.
Very many thanks for a long letter from you which arrived last night. With it came six or seven from Mother & a package from the M.T. Club. This last contained a metal mirror in a neat leather case, on which are stamped the school crest & a suitable inscription – apparently a Xmas present to O.M.T.s at the front. I think I can now account for all letters that mother has written though one or two may have gone astray just at Xmas time. Yesterday morning we got up to find that is was raining – raining hard, typical Flanders war weather. We struggled across from our Hotel to the train & sat down in the Restaurant car – this was the only way of securing breakfast as the train was not a corridor affair. An uneventful journey as far as Amiens & then we had to try & find out where our people were. All the news we could get was that they were at some point between Amiens & another place. The train went express to the other place so we decided to go on to it & come back if necessary. As it happened we saw our people detraining at a little station at which we did not stop. Thanks to the railway smash of the day before they had got there before us instead of vice versa as was intended. We eventually reached the other place, & finding that there was no train back until late in the afternoon, telephoned to the Division & got them to send a car along for us. Meanwhile we had lunch at the local inn & then found the car waiting.
The other place turned out to be a fair sized town & possessed at all events one thing we wanted, namely a shop large enough to supply us with some decent “phizz” for tonight. We bought two bottles & then sailed over here. “Here” is a little village about 5 miles from a railway & possessing one chateau in which we live. Like most French chateau it is as uncomfortable as it is magnificent. It looks very fine but is very cold & draughty. It is filled with odd bits of china & relics & curios which are not either valuable or ancient, but serve only to harbour dust & worry our servants, who live in constant terror of squashing something.
When we arrived here yesterday we found Col. Jones in the seat of the mighty surrounded by an officer or two & a man or two but no one else. It appears that two of six battalions those two to whom the Government did not give a sea-voyage rest-cure have gone on somewhere to do a little work. Jones was acting Brigadier & the other two battalions & the real Brigadier had not yet come up from the railway station. My billet is at the Doctor’s house, very nice it is too – a beautifully comfortable bed, & a large airy room.
We had not been here very long when an order came that the men of one of the regiments were to go under canvas & be segregated. Apparently there were a few cases of “flu” on board & somebody had got frightened, & imagined it to be some Eastern or tropical fever, very contagious of course. The whole battalion therefore is, at gigantic expense, to be separated & disinfected. Incidentally, some hundreds of men, straight from a hot climate & still wearing their thin clothing are to go under canvas in mid-winter in one of the wettest spots in Europe. So instead of a few “flus” there will be some hundred or so “pneumonias” which will be very much worse. The general arrived about 6 o’clock & with him some of the baggage. About the rest of the baggage there seemed to be most hopeless confusion & to try & straighten things out a little I made a trip down to the station. Everything turned out all right in the end, the only real difficulty was that there were several regiments arriving & not enough transport to clear away all their stuff.
I ran into one or two of the ——s: the regiment which contained Dickinson & Bates. The latter is home in England now sick, the former as you know was killed. There was one man of Dickinson’s Company there who spoke very highly of him. I think he was very popular. We just managed to get the Mess stuff up to the Chateau in time for the cook to get dinner ready, & after that we most of us retired to bed pretty early. I for one was very tired & slept very well.
Today has been much as one would expect for a first day in new billets. There has been a good deal of bother about the various arrangements for the mighty disinfecting business & during the morning we were all kept pretty busy. We have now settled down completely & Jones has gone back to his regiment.
This afternoon it cleared up a little & the sun shone so I got hold of a horse & went for a ride. There was nowhere in particular to go so I just rode where the animal wanted to go. We came across a very nice little village on the river with a rather fine looking church, full of flying buttresses etc quite a young Cathedral in its way. There was also a large chateau. Since tea I have been worrying around for billets & now it is time to go & get respectable for dinner so must close. The account of your Zep scare sounds very exciting, I hope they keep away altogether.