Baker, James

Letter
Date:
May 26, 1940
To:
Dad
From:
Jim
Somewhere in England,
May 26th, 1940

Dear Dad:

Please excuse the long silence but I have just come back from a maneuver in Salisbury Plain and what a "holiday" it was. I can certainly see why you don't like bully beef. After living off the stuff for a week, I am sick whenever I think of it. And I used to like it so much too. Never could get enough of it, but at last I am satisfied.

Salisbury Plain must be exactly as you left them in the last war; chalk and more chalk. The soil is about one foot deep and then comes the chalk. Is it hard dogging? Well you should know. One day we had to put on a demonstration for the Brigadier to show him how well we could camouflage our trenches and was he ever pleased. Some brass hat from the War Dept. was there too and his complimentary remarks were like honey to us: "Marvelous!" "Wonderful!" "Outstanding!" etc., etc., etc. I suppose they'll show their appreciation by sending us to Dover to dig some more. We were rather proud of our achievement though, for when we came back two days later we had a dickens of a time finding them ourselves.

Boy what a week this has been! Cold, miserable, dirty, hungry all the time for five days. The boys were very angry and blue and so was I. We don't mind being hungry when we can see some cause for it, but when you consider we were only three miles from the kitchens where they could prepare hot meals all the time you can see there is no reason why we should live on sandwiches made of cheese or bully beef. And we only got three sandwiches a day at that - breakfast and dinner was three slabs of bread with a huge
hunk of cheese or bully beef in between. For supper we usually had luke warm mutton stew swimming in half congealed grease. But they never sent up enough for all of us so we were always hungry. On top of that we were only allowed one pint of water every twenty four hours; so we couldn't wash or shave. What a dirty, scraggly bunch of men we were when we came out! You should have seen my beard.

We were situated at a little town called Tilshead about sixteen miles from Salisbury. It is a quaint old place with no railway, running water, bus service or anything. It has remained practically the same for over a hundred years. All the cottages have thatched roofs, tiny leaded windows and crooked chimneys. The flower gardens were magnificent, all in full bloom: snap dragons, mums, holy hocks, rhododendrons. lilacs, daisies, pansies, mignonette - everything. There was one beautiful old church over six hundred years old. It was weather-beaten and stained. The walls were simply a mass of creeping ivy. Even the tower was covered right up to the top.

We went down to Salisbury by truck and bus. The whole second Brigade went. Our convoy was over eight miles long. It took us five hours to go the ninety odd miles and our officers thought it was a remarkably fast trip. We passed by Stonehenge and I must say I had no idea of the huge size till I saw it. The stones are over twenty feet high and are set in a perfect circle. How they were ever transported to their present position or where they came from I don't know because the only rock for miles around is chalk.

By the way, I got your letter of April 22nd on May 22nd; my birthday. It took exactly one month to get here. It was very peculiar to read your good wishes and know they had traveled over four thousand miles and got to me at just the right time. On top of that I had a very peculiar dream nearly three weeks ago that came true on my birthday. I dreamt I would spend my birthday in the trenches and as you see, I did.

Well I can't think of anything more. We are back in camp again awaiting disposal. All leave has been canceled which disappoints me very much. However if we are going to get action at last, it will compensate a little for it.

Love to you all as always

JIM

PS.
I may not be able to post this until the end of the month as for the first time since I came over here, I am broke. I have exactly one halfpenny in my pocket.

PPS.
In extreme haste. Have just been told we are on the move again. Start tonight. Destination unknown. May not be able to write for sometime, so please be patient.

Goodbye for now

Love as always

Jim

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