Do not be surprised or pained at the untoward appearance of this epistle. We are at war and that is an excuse for many things. The sun is shining – birds singing – hares running about, and I, having just shaved, am lazing under a bank in the sun. Incidentally we are in the middle of a battle. We have done so many lately that I for one have become most terribly blasé – it is a big battle and some of us had something to do with the start of it early this morning. Since then other people have being going on through us, and if they keep it up at their present rate of progress, we shall soon be left behind, out of earshot even of our own heavy guns, and they are usually a good way back. I have not been very well lately probably because for 3 days we slept in a house (first time since May) with a carpet and all sorts of awful civilized booby traps of that sort. However I am better now, in fact quite fit again. As a matter of fact my recent indisposition may quite well have been due to over eating. It has been extraordinarily interesting to see the changes in the country as we passed through. First the absolute desolation & ruin of the country which for more than a year – last winter – had been front line. Then came villages somewhat battered by artillery and too close to the Hindenberg line to be very pleasant. Then one day some cultivated land. Then – my battle because I was in command – a village still containing Civilians – Bochized since 1914 – underfed and bullied – taught to take their hats off to every soldier – afraid to smile. But still a village with many houses intact and consequently billets instead of bivouacs. Today these same down-trodden civilians are watching gangs of Boche prisoners march along their streets. I fear with considerable glee, and no little hatred to judge by the cries of “coupez la tete!”. They are having the time of their lives, and it does one’s heart good to see them. We got eight new officers yesterday but I hardly had time to look at them before moving off to this battle. I expect they will last for a week or two and then fade away for the winter. Banwell and I will remain and possibly one or two others who have managed to stick so far. Taylor, Dunlop and Argyle are quite useful examples. Ashdowne is on leave in town somewhere. Most of our wounded have managed to find their way to London. I dare say Dad has already seen one or two of them. This battle is really going extraordinarily well and the noise which at dawn was so terrific has now dwindled to a distant murmur in the East. I expect the old Boche will be well on his way to “evacuation” by now whether he likes it or no. I am not a “fire-eater” but I must say there is something very enjoyable about a battle which goes well. No time for more, I expect we shall pack up and go home soon.
Leave from Oct. 23rd to Nov. 6th. Armistice Nov. 11
Very many thanks for several letters. There are several of the Rgt. about. Brooke & Sloper are both at P of W Hospital Marylebone. Col. Griffiths is at the Russian Hospital in S. Audley St. Do get Dad to go and see him – do go yourself – you will find him very refreshing & most cheerful. Give him my love and tell him he is dead sure of a D.S.O. I will come & see him when I get leave. Johnson is ours all right. Did Dad see Brooke? You said he was going to do so. Up to the present there is no sign of Col. Wood but I expect him back any minute – we need him very badly. Petch will probably be home soon, also Barrett – in fact the latter is already in England. Petch’s wound is not serious but he had fever with a temperature of 106.6! Mace, Parsons and Buckley are also somewhere about and I daresay will get to London Hospitals. I hope Dad will go and call on any he hears about. Ashdowne has gone on leave – I meant to tell him to call on No 16 but forgot, perhaps he will do so in any case – a funny lad but a very good sort and “one as will stand by one”. We have an excellent H.Q. with a real porcelain bath and a carpet or two. It has been very interesting liberating civilians who have had the Boche since 1914. They are very pleased to see one, and so everything they can to be helpful – particularly to the wounded. The country looks very nice and the weather today has left nothing to be desired, so everything is excellent. I keep on dropping off to sleep as I write – so I must stop.
We are now at rest and I hope in a day or so to be able to write a respectable letter – unless of course we are rushed off to battle “toute de suite”. I am no longer in Command, one Dyer Bennett having arrived. However, I was C.O. for 6 days including a battle or two which were very successful. I am now once more Adjutant – my proper job. Very fit and well, and hoping to get home soon. Have had extraordinary luck – Ashdowne, Banwell, Dennis and myself are the only officers who have been through whole of last fighting and two – B. and D. had slight wounds. One serious loss during last few days has been that most delightful little man the Doctor who was killed tying up a wounded man. Yesterday was the worst day, and yet the very best day I have ever had in this war – some time I will tell you all about it. Col. Wood should be back on Thursday, & then for LEAVE. I cannot quit here until there is someone at the wheel who knows all about the Btn.
Many happy returns of today, meant to write on 2nd but could not. A table, a tent, and a candle – no great noises outside – fingernails which do not look as though mustard & cress might at any moment sprout up, and , above all, a chin not in the least like sand-paper, or a hearth-rug. It is true it is cold weather for tents, and there isn’t a house within miles, and none of the ordinary comforts are available, but sill we feel quite respectable. For the moment fighting is over. We have had three battles since the day I started to go home on leave, and heard rumours of coming war and so returned – way back on the 22nd. About our first I have told you, and the second is now history, or at least in the Daily Mail. Our part in it was important and the result excellent – casualties very slight except for the most unreplaceable Padre. He is a terrible loss as he did so much for us. Our third & last battle was also very successful though as a Btn we were only in support, had none of the fun & got most uncomfortably shelled. In this we had bad luck as we had our officers hit – not as a rule badly but still we lost one or two. First the Colonel got one in the arm. As Burnett had gone to England on a course this put me in command. Then Petch got one in the leg – then others. So until some of them return we are quite short. Who we shall get to Command us I don’t know. Col. Wood ought to be back very soon – and it is just possible that they may leave me in charge until he comes, I hope they will. If we have some one new I shall have to stay on until he gets settled in, so leave is still a little distant. In any case with Burnett away, and Griffiths wounded I am almost certain to be 2nd in Command until Christmas, so you may yet see me coming on leave as a full blooded Major! Ashdowne is my Adjutant at present and will I think do very well. The real help though at Btn. HQ. is the Doctor – little Jack – a true philosopher and friend unruffled by shells and war alarms and just the man for a very young C.O. taking over a Btn on the night of a battle and expecting to be counter-attacked. Someday I shall be able to tell you all my experiences, there is a lot to tell but I cannot tell it in a letter. What they will do with us now I don’t know – perhaps a rest – perhaps not.