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.
Just a very hurried line scribbled at the bottom of a Boche dug—out – unshaved & unwashed for 3 days but feeling uncommonly fit. Moreover victorious as perhaps you have already gathered from the papers. The Btn has fought two battles in the last few days – in fact since I last wrote – and has done magnificently on both occasions. In the first, five platoons of ours – at the most 130 men – went clean through a village held by 3 Boche battalions, brought out some 150 prisoners , and killed most of the rest. I don’t believe any troops ever fought better; certainly none could have been in better spirits. They all enjoyed themselves. Even the wounded were yelling with delight and cheering others on. I never want to see better men. The second was a larger show, and is now history, so I need not tell you anything about it. Padre Buck was wonderful – led a large body of men who had gone astray in the fog, and got them into the fight in spite of a barrage – went off to rescue a man from a blazing tank, and got hit, died soon afterwards. He was one of the bravest men that I have ever met. Tomson I am afraid is also killed. Our casualties were very slight and we had our “tails well up”: no time for more – are working all of us with little sleep and lots of work.
Another lengthy epistle less period: this time there is an excuse. It may have been presumptuous on my part but I was foolish enough to imagine that I should be back in England before any letter I could write could reach you. However as often happens with sudden alarms it could not be manage when the time came, and I shall have to wait a few days – not more than a week or two at the most I hope. The magazines I sent you are not the outcome of this Division but another: I must say I think some of the articles very clever indeed. We have never run to anything of the sort though I dare say we could raise plenty of talent if we tried. I see Gaury is wounded again. I cannot find out how serious but hope he is not bad – it is about his fifth wound – or sixth, I am not sure which – he is a most unfortunate person. Banwell and Tomson are both back from leave looking very fit – the former has not completely recovered from his wound and is ready for anything. He really is a most splendid person. Our horses have been having rather a rough time lately and poor old Susan Jane, alias Hon. Sybil alias Lady Mary etc etc is somewhat dejected. She went about 32 miles in 8 hours yesterday, so is proboably hardly fit to ride today. However we shall see presently.
Very many thanks for two letters which arrived since I sent you my very hurriedly scribbled note and the few souvenirs. The weather is now simply lovely once more, we are a long way behind the line, I have a good tent and everything is most enjoyable. We ran into an old friend today. Tony who was “locum” Doctor when I bust my knee up – he is at a C.C.S. here and came over to see us – rather surprised I think to see so many that he knew: most Btns. have changed more than we have. Hopes of leave are distinctly good. Let me know when Dad returns from his holiday as I do not want to be arriving only to fine that he is away. The Americans seem to be doing well, I only wish we could join them.
Another week without writing, I am really becoming a bad lot. However we have fought a battle and won a great but bloodless victory during that time so have not done too badly. It was a good show and our only complaint is that the Boche ran so fast that we could not catch them. Everybody enjoyed themselves which is the great thing. We have a new general – Thwaites having been appointed to some job or other in the W.O. Boyd is his name, very young and I think a most excellent person, but time will show. We might do far worse than our former monocled one. We had a most tremendously exciting paper-chase yesterday afternoon on horseback. It was a very long run and the Major who led the hounds went much too fast for most of us. However I watch my opportunity and made one or two useful short cuts. Then we had a great moment when we ran smack into the hares in the middle of a village. We gave chase but the mare came down and rolled on me. I got off very luckily with two sprained fingers & a stiff wrist but the mare went lame with a cut knee so we walked home. Rotten bad luck just as we stood a very good chance of catching the hares. Leave prospects are distinctly brighter and I may get away before the middle of October. I shall of course take my turn as soon as it comes unless we are in the middle of a fight or likely to have one in a few days. I am so much part of the regiment that I won’t miss a battle even for leave – the latter can be postponed, & the former cannot. We were to have had a Brigade Ceremonial Church Parade today but fortunately it rained. I say fortunately because I don’t much care for lengthy ceremonials at Church Parade. It means usually standing about for hours and getting thoroughly bored.
Very many thanks for several letters, none of which I have had time to answer. We are not back in the line again after our “rest” so I have for the first moment got time to turn round and think. Griffiths is back from leave and in Command. Jack, the Doctor, is also back, and as usual, very cheery. Ashdowne has gone for a week to Paris Plage for a bit of a rest. I saw the Colonel in hospital 3 days ago. The operation had gone off very satisfactorily though they had to cut away a large piece of the back of his head. He has probably got to the Base by now and ought to be in England very soon. He was very cheerful and does not think he will be away more than a few weeks, thought with head wounds it is not easy to say anything for certain. The finals of the Bde boxing tournament went off extraordinarily well on Saturday. We tied with the 5th Lincolns at the end for 31 pts a piece. It was eventually decided by our best bruiser fighting their best bruiser in a third round. Our man won. The G.O.C. gave away the prizes. We carried off the open, middle, feather, and bantam weights – 1st & 2nd in the officers – the Bde Cup & the Sports Cup. This only left the heavy – light-heavy – and lightweights for the other two Regiments. The weather has changed somewhat suddenly and it is quite cold today – with a few showers and at intervals – quite wrong for September according to my way of thinking. It is very interesting and exhilarating to have the old Boche giving up the ground that cost him so much to win early in the year. All the time I have been in France until now, I have had to sit and look at his beastly line, & wonder whether I should ever see the other side of it – now at last we are able to walk over ground we have been looking at. Only a few days ago I was looking at the squashed remains of a room from which I wrote to you somewhere about the 1st or 2nd of December 1915! It looked somewhat different then.
It is, I know some days since I wrote but the fully old Boche having got tired of his surroundings in this part of the world has decided to go a little nearer home. This of course means that we have something more interesting than usual to do – and consequently not much time to do anything but work, eat and occasionally sleep. As the Colonel discourages letter –writing at meal times I am afraid I have rather neglected you. Many thanks for several letters which have arrived in the interim. Andrews intentions with regard to the Guards sound excellent, and if he is going into the Infantry he could not do better. But no matter what the Guardee may have said, I am certain that life is more expensive with them than with an ordinary line Btn. Andrew being a fairly careful lad might find no trouble in making his pay do all that was required – in France I should think without difficulty – but should he be stationed at home for a bit he might find it hard to live on 2nd Lieutnt pay. However there will be plenty of time to think things over. The weather for the past two or three days has been as hot as I have ever known it and the mosquitoes have consequently done their best to make life more of less unbearable. However the blackberries are lovely, and we are all enjoying life immensely.