31 May, 1918 The same place
Friday evening Somewhere in France
My dear dad,
The post has not arrived today for some unknown reason so that I have no fresh letters from home to answer. As all pasture land has been placed out of bounds, I am unable to enjoy the quiet and comfort of the orchard and am writing this under a hedge in a neighbouring field. I suppose the grumpy old farmer who [?] them has been complaining that we tread down his grass. I'd like him to see who would tread down his grass if we were not here. Somehow or other everything seem to have gone wrong today. In the first place, reveille was at 6.00am, breakfast 6.30 - parade 7.20; it was just such rush as we had at Wimbledon only the washing facilities are nothing like as good. For the last three mornings I have washed out of mess tin; the two bowls we have usually being monopolised; [?] there is not any chance of getting fresh water in time. But then there seems no need for all this hurry in the morning. I get on parade so early. I believe that the idea is that we shall miss the heat of the day but seeing that we are [?] we don't miss much of it. Of course we have the afternoon off as a rule so I suppose we ought not to grumble.
This morning, training was continued as usual. We were marched to the training area - commonly known as the bull ring - which lies in a hollow about three miles away. The road to it lies through some of the [?] country I have seen around here and for the most part is sheltered from the sun by trees and hedges. Just before our destination is reached we descend a steep slope into a small village. As we marched through it we were able to just get a slight idea what it was like. It consists principally of a few little houses along the road [?] covered slopes behind them or either side. There are a few soldiers billeted there and we saw a camp - a glorified barn - and (great joy) a YMCA tent. Just behind the tent by the bull ring we [?] where we had an hour and a lot of jerks. We quite enjoyed the change as the "jerks" took the form of games and feats of strength, agility and quickness. The remainder of the morning was spent in wandering about - aimless tramping from one spot to another with a few rest in between - or so it seemed to us. At first we thought they were going to take us for a swim but no! Then we marched back to a rifle range in another direction altogether and found that already occupied. In the end, when we were all utterly fed up and tired and hot we marched back to our billet arriving about 1.15pm. This afternoon, Stuart and I decided to have a good wash somehow or other. I managed to get a biscuit tin from the cook house to get some water from the well; but no, it had got a hole in the bottom and did not prove of much use; but still it was the best we had. The well from which we get the ablution water is ever so deep - not far short of 150 feet - so that it took us about 20 minutes to get enough water to partly fill two bowls. We just thought how jolly fine it will be to be able to get a wash in such comfort as we could at home. I then had a clean change and took all my dirty stuff to a farm near by to be washed. I was told they would not be ready until [?] to hope I shan't be so unlucky as I was when I moved from the base. By this time tea was ready. You would be interested to see us at meals, sitting on the straw in the billet, balancing mugs of tea and [?] on our knees and hunting for knives, forks and spoons which have a nasty habit of losing themselves in the straw if put down. Poor old Stuart lost his some time ago and when I can't lend him mine he has to do the best he can with his jack knife and he gets in difficulties all times.
I have just been down to the canteen to get some biscuits but they have nothing to eat at all. As usual I am spending the remainder of the evening writing. I hope business is going well; thank Uncle John for his letter. No further developments [?] Give my love to all at home,
from your loving son
PS. Letter No 27 and 28