On Active Service
WITH THE BRITISH
The same place, 7 May, 1918, Tuesday
My dear father,
It is just 7.00pm and I have just had my breakfast some time ago altho' you are just getting up. I had quite an interesting time yesterday as you will see from the following:- I had breakfast at 6 o/c - bread, jam, fried bacon & tea, then a jolly good wash down and wrote the letter to mother. We then lined up and were marched to the other side of the camp to be medically examined. As usual, the MO just looked at us as he passed down the line, and we were all passed "fit". The medical exam concluded the business for which we were sent here, so that the Quartermaster in charge informed us that we should have nothing to do until we were posted to a Battalion. This may be tomorrow or in a fortnights time. I hope the latter. I had dinner at 1o/c - stewed beef, haricot beans, potatoe & rice pudding - a better ration than the day before. It seems to me that wherever I go there is always a queue to wait in. At dinner time, for instance, it is necessary to line up at 11.30 for dinner at 12 o/c and if you are late the wait may be anything up to an hour. I cannot say that I like the system of serving meals here; as soon as the first dining berth is emptied, the mess orderlies serve the dinner for the 2nd house and then on for the 3 and sometimes 4 houses. The dining hut holds 450 men when full. Thus there are queues to get into the canteen when they open for the day at 4.30pm. After dinner our platoon wandered over to the camp cinema and we had quite a good film lasting 1½ hours. At tea we were rather unlucky and had to wait half hour before being served but all this waiting helps pass away the time because we have absolutely nothing to do. I had a good tea consisting of bread, margarine, jam, cheese & tea and after a refreshing wash Stuart & I decided to go down to the town and explore a bit. A walk of 20 minutes brought us over the railway into the town. The houses are very old fashioned and dirty and seem to be built just where the builder thought he would put them up. Consequently the streets are narrow and winding and dirty and evil smelling. They are paved with cobbles over which the vehicles clatter and bump. The town can boast of a tramway of an antiquated design and I believe there is a tram every 80 minutes. There is a bridge over the river from which the water can be seen to be very dirty and sluggish on its way into the sea two miles away. We walked a little way down the bank and sat down for a rest where I wrote a p.c. to Mr. Waller. The country is rather bare here -undulating meadows with pine trees on a hill crest here and there. The earth is very sandy and in some places the hills resemble sand dunes. The houses on the road which follows the course of the river seem to specialize in fried fish, chips, eggs and chocolate and beer and our fellows seem to patronise them. The shops are old fashioned and merchandise seems very dear. Having concluded our tour of the town we retraced our steps to camp and called in at the Salvation Army hut and had a fine supper:- 2 fried eggs, chips, bread and tea - even better than "Blighty", I don't think! We were both very tired by this time and we went back to the tent, put down our beds and were soon fast asleep. It rained fast during the night and rather inconvenienced some of our boys. I have had a cold but it is much better now thanks to those pink pills. Good old Uncle Jack!
This camp resembles a Californian gold mining settlement and everything and everyone is most unconventional. Sundry articles of underwear hang on all the barbed wire to dry. Hair cuts are performed outside the tent. Many sleep out in the open all night and often pay for the privilege with a wet skin.
I managed to get newspapers a day late so that I am kept fairly up to date with the news. I wish I had a book to read but I doubt if I could carry more than I have got at present. Up till now I have managed to keep clean but when you know my permanent address I should like some Harrison's powder. If I remain here for a week or more you may be unable to get a letter to me so that I am sending my address Pte A.H.F, 53700, 15th London Rgt. "J" - I.B.D., A.P.O. 17, BEF, France. I hope you are keeping quite well; don't work too hard but get all the W.O. contracts you can. I am getting more used to this life and while I am here I shall have a fairly good time.
Give my fondest love to mother, Grandma and the boys. Don't have many letters sent here, the chances are that I shall not receive them and they will be returned to you. I am very glad that I took so much cash whilst I am here I shall need it. Now I must draw this to a close as I want a wash. I shall be writing tomorrow, so until then
au revoir, cheerio and the best of luck,
your loving son,