On Active Service
WITH THE BRITISH
France, 10 May, 1918
My dearest mother,
I awoke yesterday feeling very much better than the day before. As usual I had breakfast and wrote my daily letter home in time to catch the 10 am post. I had a good wash and made my way to a quiet spot in the woods where with Stuart and two other chaps I laid down in the shade and alternately read the paper and dozed. We thought to ourselves how very much more delightful it would have been if we were only in Blighty and near home. In the afternoon the Quartermaster in charge of our draft arranged for us to have a bath. Accordingly we lined up with towels etc at 1.30 and a party numbering about 50 marched over to the bath house. We were warned beforehand what form the bath was to take so that when we saw the place we were not very surprised. Having undressed we entered a steam chamber and soon there nearly suffocating while we sweated the dirt out of our bodies. We were only in this room five minutes and I can tell you it seemed like five hours. We then had a cold shower bath which took my breath away and the operation was finished, much to my relief. But during all this time something in the nature of a comedy was being enacted in the room where we undressed which ended so disastrously for Stuart and myself. In the corner of the room where Stuart and I undressed was a heap of clothes. Not dreaming of what was in the heap besides clothes we both placed our tunic, trousers and shirt on the heap (there being no better place to put them). My towel was also on the heap and going to pick that up as I was about to enter the steam chamber I noticed about fifty creeping insects on it. Immediately I drew Stuart's attention to the fact and simultaneously we came to the conclusion that these things were lice and that the heap upon which our clothes were resting was simply one mass of them. An involuntary laugh escaped my lips at the awfulness of our plight, which almost immediately turned to tears. As for Stuart he swore most horribly and cursed the negligent keeper of the bath house for leaving the filthy things. Of course we were greatly sympathised by the other chaps who considered the affair not so much a joke as a down right scandal. I was furious. Having dried myself with another chaps towel and taken a cursory glance at my shirt, trousers and socks, I put these on and went outside to complete more thoroughly the search and massacre of the lice. I killed about thirty on my towel and every time I had a fresh look I saw one or two more. I did not find any on my other things at the time and made my way to the tent where I covered hairy parts of my anatomy with some Harrison's powder that a Scotch chap had been so kind to lend me. After that I felt better but horribly itchy - most imaginary itches I believe. In the evening four of us went down to the town again for a stroll and on our way back had some refreshments at the Salvation Army hut. I tried to buy a new towel but none of the canteens seemed to have any; Palmer has been kind enough to lend me one as he has two. I managed to get to bed at 9 o/c and no sooner had I settled down than I began to itch first in one place and then in another as soon as I had scratched the first. I knew that I was not going to get much sleep which unhappily turned out to be the case. At one o'clock being able to stick it no longer I pulled out my "search light" and began "chatting" as the task of running lice to earth is called. I squashed two or three and further search being in vain I tried to go to sleep again. I was destined to have a sleepless night for the irritation did not abate and I was glad when morning came when I could carry on a more successful warfare and put on some clean clothes. I have heard fearful tales about lice and hope they won't be substantiated; however, unless I am very lucky I shall be "lousy" until I get back to Blighty - Oh Dear! What an outlook. Please send loads of Harrison's powder as soon as possible.
Four of us have passes to go to the small sea side place near here of which I have already made mention. I will send you some postcards of the place during the day.
Now I must get a wash and do some more "chatting" - can't you picture me? Give my love to Dad, the boys, Grandma and Flo.
With fondest love from
your ever lousy but very affectionate son
PS There is nothing to get the wind up about, I shall soon be A1 again