On Active Service
WITH THE BRITISH
France, Thursday 9 May, 1918
My dear dad,
My communiqué today falls to be addressed to you; but in reality I suppose I am writing for the information of all at home. I had a touch of diarrhea yesterday and consequently felt a bit of a "washout". I got up at 7o/c (instead of 5.30am) and managed to just get in for breakfast (cold ham, bread, margarine & tea). We were then told that we had to go for a route march in the morning in battle order. Accordingly we lined up on the parade ground and at 10 am marched off. The London Regiment's draft brought up the rear of the column which was nearly a mile long and looked like some gigantic snake as it would length up the side of a hill. We did not march far but the country through which we went was, to my surprise, very pretty indeed. As soon as the camp was left behind we entered a belt of well wooded country. The trees, which are mostly deciduous, looked beautiful and fresh in the glory of the spring time sun; while white blossom was breaking forth from large patches of bushes the like of which I have never seen before, but reminds me of orange blossom. We passed through a small village nestled among the trees on our way back. It was difficult to imagine that we were in France and that fifty miles away the war was raging with all its fury and horrors. There was a farmyard almost enclosed by white walled buildings which in times past might have been a monastery, in which pigs, chickens and sheep were running about in the straw which littered the ground. Further on we descended a steep slope and after a short rest arrived at the outermost part of the camp where some Canadians were busy getting dinner ready. It was not long before we were in our lines and having dinner too. Unfortunately I was not feeling up to the exercise or the march would have been very enjoyable as there was a light breeze blowing and the sunshine was glorious. Happily I feel very much better today so I shall be able to enjoy the fine weather (for it is just like summer now) to the full.
In the afternoon Stuart and I both felt very tired so after we had both written a letter or two in the YMCA hut we each took a book and wandered off into the woods to read. I only read for about 20 minutes when I could keep my eyes open no longer and fell asleep. It was tea time when I awoke so after waking up Stuart ( a matter of some difficulty) we lined up in the tea queue and before long were seated over a repast of bread, margarine (cheese spread), jam, cheese and tea.
A football match between our depot and the Canadians had been arranged for the evening the kick off being at 5.30pm. Stuart and I went to see it and quite enjoyed the fun. The game was a very fast one and both sides played well - too well, perhaps, as two men were carried off the field - and were well matched although the depot won 5-1. Walter would have enjoyed the game immensely.
For supper we shared a tin of fruit which went down A1 and then soon got into bed. I had not been in bed long when we hear the shout of "Under Fire" and getting up to see that the Canadian section was blazing away merrily. Somebody had evidently disobeyed the order that no naked light must be taken into a tent.
Now I must close with fondest love to mother, yourself and the boys.
Your affectionate son,