Though you might not think it, I am still alive & very fit. Work and work again from morning till night – and all the time the weather is positively atrocious. We never are vouchsafed a glimpse of the sun for more than an hour or two – while tonight is so cold that I have had to don my woolly waistcoat. At this point I was called away to try and find a supposed spy who was signalling with a lamp in the direction of the enemy lines. As a matter of fact the whole thing has turned out to be a “scare”, but that we did not discover until I had covered my best dress-clothes in mud, and slipped about all over the county in a pair of thin shoes. My average day for the last week has been as follows. Start out at 10.30 AM with a few sandwiches. Return about 3.pm and spend next 3 hrs in writing daily report for Division – also in snatching a hasty tea. About 6pm. I set forth again, armed with another lot of sandwiches, & stay out until dawn – wandering round trenches, visiting patrols – watching working parties, listening to the variety of noises produced by the always noisy Bosch. Home again about 4.0 AM as a rule and then to bed until about 8.30 when I have breakfast – in bed – and get up and bath etc. Each journey to the trenches is a matter of two miles or so and has to be done on a bicycle, and such a bicycle. The saddle is always too low, and its screws won’t hold it – no bell or lamp – a mud road of most atrocious bumpiness – pedals that sometimes go round – sometimes jam, and more often than not go round aimlessly without having any visible effect upon the gear or wheels of the machine. The night work is the part that I enjoy most though I have to give it a rest now & then; I have done so tonight. It is not very satisfactory always going to bed immediately after sunrise – sleep then does not seem half so useful as it does at the proper time. But it is at night that one gets most fun up in the trenches. The other night we had painted and took out with us a fairly large notice board which we fixed up in fairly close proximity to the other gentlemans wire. It bore the words VERBOTENER DURCHGANG – merely implying that we were owners of NO MANS LAND and had a right to dictate to the Bosch on the subject. In one corner of this board – which was black with hideous orange yellow lettering and a large white skull and cross-bones in one corner. So far to our disappointment the Bosch has not manifested any interest in our little venture, and we have not, as we hoped, caught any high rank Staff-officers looking over their parapet at it through field-glasses. When I returned the next morning – or when I was called the next mid-day – my servant told me that the General had got gout – at least he was limping about with one foot in a carpet slipper. It turned out that he had sprained his ankle, falling down the steps into his dug-out – a feat which he performed soon after a “fizz” dinner – given in honour of his recently acquired C.B. We are all feeling very braced over Beatty’s victory in the N. Sea and only wish the papers would make more of it. I suppose the catastrophe’s of K’s death has rather damped the rejoicing over the sea fight.
I am afraid you have not had a letter for about a week – I have not had a moment to myself in which to write one yet in spite of plenty of work I do not think anything interesting has happened. Most of one’s time is spent wandering round trenches, trying where to avoid heavy showers – which have been rather frequent of late. Shells are easier to avoid because they are so few & far between just in these parts. Lyttleton I saw the other day – his battery is within five minutes walk of this place. He seems to think that it is quite certain that Alington will get Eaton. He is said to have refused Marlborough already because he was sure of the bigger job. Two days ago I heard a few very interesting things and witnessed some equally interesting demonstrations on sniping by Hesketh & Pritchard who being a big game shooter is naturally acquainted with the subject. He is going round taking a 3 day “course” with each Brigade in the army – and has already been at it for nine months. It is rather cheering to find that the authorities send round some real “live” man with first rate knowledge – to teach one – instead of the usual “dry-as-dust”, theory-and-no-practice” sort of codger. I was rudely awakened the night before last by a most tremendous bombardment. It does not seem to have been anything particular – I am not even sure which side caused the noise – but it certainly reminded one of the good old days in the neighbourhood of Hooge. Crashing bombardments were almost a daily occurrence at the time in those parts. I see our Brigadier has got a C.B. And Williams of “ours” a Military cross. There are a good many other honours in the Division but this Brigade has not captured many. As you doubtless have observed they have not seen fit to give me anything – though my twin in the Scottish Rifles has been decorated. We are all rather sick about the gap – with no dispatch – Oct – last year. It may mean that a good many who would otherwise have been mentioned will not be. However it is of no real importance, and we will hope for better luck next time that we do anything striking. I managed to get to an early Celebration yesterday – within about 600 yds of the Bosch lines – a very nice little chapel in an old Barn. The Padre is an energetic man and has a daily celebration there no matter what the weather and war conditions are like. We had rather an amusing display yesterday afternoon. One of our biplanes was flying fairly low over the enemy lines. Several machine guns started to go for him, so he promptly looped the loop for their benefit. He then proceeded to waltz about in the most extraordinary manner – standing on his tail – side-slipping – nose diving – in fact doing a regular “show” display all for the benefit of the enraged Bosch.
An extra quantity of work must be my excuse for the long delay since I last wrote. Most days I have been out & about round the trenches, & have only just got in from a rather hot ramble today. Yesterday morning we rose very early & took advantage of an early morning mist. This made a most excellent screen & enabled us to wander about all over the place, where in the ordinary course of events the Bosch could see one. In the afternoon I rode back to our people to tell Godsal the result of my discoveries. I also went to hear our band play – it is very restful to have a little music now & then. They are really very good & I wish we could get some more music for them. The day before yesterday I got up fairly early & wandered round the lines of the next Division on our left. Apparently they had had some notice round about a spy – in any case they arrested me & hauled me off to be interviewed by their C.O. Curiously enough I was at school with one of the Subalterns in his battalion so was soon able to prove my identity. He made up his mind I was all right & then started a very gruff cross-examination comparing me to the description of the spy that had been sent round – thus – “fairly tall” – yes you’re tall – “dark” – yes “brown eyes” – yes. “Wears overcoat” – yes. “Carries gloves & stick” yes – “Captains’ badges” yes – “handsome” – No, no, you are certainly are not! Acquitted me at once, Have a drink! What will you have” etc. It was all very amusing but as it took rather a long time was also somewhat a nuisance.
Our weather now is really summer like, & is at its best in the very early morning, when not as a rule unbearably hot. I try to avoid if possible too much work during the heat of the day, & devote the majority of my energies to early morning & late evening – with an occasional night out. It is now tea-time & I am very nearly asleep. This is not due to any lack of sleep last night; but to the fact that after a very strenuous morning I had half a pint of beer with my lunch. It is quite a month since I last had any – & it has made me most fearfully sleepy. I shall certainly avoid it for the future in the middle of the day. Our own people will be coming here in a few days, & things will probably be very different. It is hard to imagine that there could be two people so very different as our two Brigadiers. They’re both jolly good soldiers but in quite a different way. I am writing this in the office dug-out which is a roomy & luxurious affair with real glass windows & a fire place – altogether a most wonderful place.