It is very nice having plenty of work to do again, and plenty I certainly have. There seems to be a never ending stream of paper pouring in upon us from every possible source, and every sheet has to come through me as a sorting office, before being disposed of – wither by the C.O, or by various Company Commanders and other important officials. The Commanding Officer – Col. Turnble returns from his leave today and we expect to see him here tomorrow night. I am wondering what he looks like – as my only view of him is a papers picture of him and his wife leaving the Church. Everybody says what a good fellow he is, so I expect we shall get on very well together. However it is just a little hard on a man to come back to his Regiment to find an unexpected and disturbing element in his Orderly Room. The weather has been absolutely glorious ever since I got back, and except for half an hour one night I have not had to wear my raincoat at all. It has probably been the saving of old wobbly knee, because if I had to start right away in wet & slippery trenches I shudder to think what would have happened. As it is I am partially broken in now, and do not mind what the weather does. My new mare – or rather my new mount – since she is one of the oldest soldiers in the Battalion – is Dolly, ridden successively by Aubrey Sharps, Wollaston, myself when acting Adjutant in 1915, and then Charles Shields for a very long time. She is very quiet with the except when guns go off, and then she hops about a little: she is never any trouble, and is just the sort of animal I want. We are getting swarms and swarms of officers, and shall soon have one for every ten men in the Regiment. They are not all over bright, but I daresay we shall turn them into some fort of soldiers before the war ends. I personally find that I am becoming very fierce – and awfully bad-tempered.
I am still very busy indeed, & have very few moments to spare for anything but work, as you have doubtless gathered from the shortage of letters that you have received. I have simply not had time to write – except one miserable field service postcard which I sent off to Dini just to show I was still alive. It was, and is, so very nice getting back to really hard work, and though at present I have an extra large allotment I think it not improbable when I get things more sorted out, I may have a little more spare time. Everybody keeps very fit & in the best of spirits, & I keep on meeting old friends, who all seem just the same as ever. I went round to old Bonnassieux this morning swaggering about with two ribbons “up” – a croix de guerre & a military medal. I shall probably go & dine with him in a day or two when we get a little less warlike. Today we have been much amused by a visit from a newspaper man – some reporter from the town of Leicester who wanted to see how we lived. He was much impressed, and I think on the whole enjoyed himself, though he was a little bored with a steel helmet and a respirator which he had to carry.
It is very nearly a week since I wrote but I have been worked off my feet ever since I got back to my Btn. Which I did last Saturday night. I found everybody in great form and full of good spirits especially Wollaston, the Major, & old John Burnett. As I more or less expected I have been reinstated as Adjutant, and Woolly has gone to “B” coy. I think he is a little sad about it but that cannot be helped. The C.O. is still on leave getting married, and Colonel Jones is once more coming to France, but to whom or for what purpose, no one knows. He will not be sent to us. Petch has a Military Cross, an event which we are celebrating this evening with a dinner. We start in two hours time and so far they have not succeeded in getting any port. I hope all will be well. Here am I jabbering away to you about all this nonsense and you are practically driven from home. I am exceedingly sorry to hear that you have had to leave London & hope that it will not be for long: at the same time you will certainly be more comfortable away from the noise. I am not sorry for poor Dad left there to face it all alone on Sundays.
The knee is standing the strain excellently. I am in the saddle for several hours a day – cantering about – running on my feet, and on the horses – in fact doing everything: beyond a small jar or two I never feel anything amiss. It was really rather like coming home after the end of term to get back here – not that I mean to imply that my leave was like term time, but it was very nice finding oneself once more amongst all one’s old friends. There are many gone; but those left all seemed awfully glad to see me. They are all delightful. The Battalion does not seem complete without Shields who was an institution but I daresay we shall get used to his absence in time – as we have the others. There is no time for regrets & the old C.O. would never allow any.
Thank goodness my stay in this abominable place is coming to an end & I join my Battalion tomorrow. At least we set forth to join our units tomorrow, the journey is always liable to take a little time. However I expect the next letter that you get from me will come from that haven of rest – Btn H.Q. I have met several friends down here since I last wrote. First of all I ran into Trotter who was in the Head form with me, next Cannon – “Long Percy” who used to be one of Kemp’s H.Q. Mess. The latter is an Instructor at the Training School to which all these Depots are attached. At the same school is a very merry Captain in the 4th Btn. named Bobby Evans whom I know well, & one in our second line whom I know slightly. I dined with Cannon in their mess the night before last – thereby having quite a respectable meal, a thing which it is impossible to get here. Last night two of us had dinner down in the town, where I spent most of the day – it was too hot to do much except sit of the beach & look at the sea. All the heat was apparently working up for a gigantic thunderstorm which we had last night. The lightning was as bright as I have ever seen, & the rain came down in bucketfuls, simply swamping most of our tents.
We had a very successful crossing & arrived all serene once more in the jolly old land of frogs. The other officer of my regiment who should have been there was not, but there were more than a dozen belonging to other Battalions, some of them Regulars, with whom I soon became acquainted. We did not come straight on up here at once but spent the night in a wretched Rest Camp, a miserable place miles out of town, where there were no Batmen & one was even expected to carry ones own valise about. We came on here yesterday & here we seem likely to stay – for an indefinite period. One point of great satisfaction is that I go back to my own Battalion, that is already settled. Here we are on a sandy plain & in tents, you can imagine the result – one’s kit, mouth & clothes always gritty. The mess, full of course of new officers of the most new order, is not a very comfortable spot & I shall not be in the least sorry to get moved on. Old Huskisson came by the same train from Folkestone, he is likely to become Staff Captain as Grinling has been moved to be a Brigade Major. I hope old Husky gets it, he is a first rate man & I know him well. Today we have been fitting & testing respirators, a performance which I believe we repeat tomorrow even more strenuously than today. As far as one can judge from rumours & reports, all the stories one has heard about the new Boche gas are grossly exaggerated, and really there is nothing to fear from it, if one keeps one head. Things seem very little altered since I was last here. Same old filthy trains and unlit carriages. Same way of loitering along & stopping hours between stations. Same playful habit of depositing one about a mile from the platform with no means of conveyance for one’s kit. Same French children very cheerful and very rude. Only it is not raining at the moment, several of us are just off into the town to get dinner there – meals not being very high class in this establishment.