Behind the lines in France
Sunday, 14th July, 1918
My dear mother,
I hadn't heard from you for such a long time that when your two letters, written last Saturday and Sunday did arrive this am they were more welcome than ever and gave me great pleasure. You seem to have had a pleasant time at Westcliff; I can well remember seeing the scouts and other war craft from the end of the pier when we were at Westcliff a year ago. What a long time it took for that letter to be returned; please send it to me. I had a letter from Uncle John this morning in which he says he expects to have to join up and intends to take a holiday before doing so. What are things coming to? I should think that the Mess-O-Rama stunt was off [?] judged by his previous letter and your remarks - its what I thought would happen. Fancy Chris Gaborn in the Camerons and a captain too. Trench mortar section is not too bad; they usually are fairly well back and only come in for a warm time when a strafe is on; of course there is no over the top business attached to it and on that account the trench mortar section are better off then the Infantry. Yes, I expect my papers will take a good time to go through but all through the [?] Inland Revenue they haven't started yet. It is a nuisance and I particularly requested an early reply. I hope Dad went and stirred things up, although I don't suppose the delay is caused at Dalston. There is no doubt in my mind as to the issue, as that ought to give you some satisfaction. The post has been delayed for some reason or other and this morning I had quite a batch of letters and Auntie Jessie's parcel. It must have been rather depressing to hear old guns which never cease. But you must not think that the noise is the same all along the front as it is Flanders. There is not much doing at present on this sector behind which I am billeted to judge by the gunfire. I had a nice letter from Uncle Walter today; he told me about the explosion. Uncle Fred is quite safe, but he saw some horrible sights.
Yesterday reveille was at 8 o/clock and breakfast at 9 so that I was able to take things easily. I cooked two eggs on the fire to have with my bacon and quite enjoyed myself. I spent all the morning cleaning my rifle and a Lewis Gun; there was also half an hour's gas drill. I had another bath at 12 o/clock - I have had a fine lot of baths lately - and got a clean towel. It is such a small one though; and as I shan't be able to get another for some time I should be very glad if you could send me an old one - fairly small for preference - in a few days time.
After dinner I went over to Stuart's billet and spent the afternoon with him reading and sleeping. It rained on and off all day but in the evening it cleared up so we went for a stroll and I also wrote a letter to Mirrie. There is not the same quiet here that there was at the little village where I had such a pleasant rest because its impossible to get away from the war. This is where all the transports stop during the day and here and there are "heavies" artfully camouflaged to deceive Fritz's observers.
There was a little excitement in the evening when a daring Hun plane came over and managed to swoop down like a hawk on two of our observation balloons and shot them down in flames. Our guns of all sorts were on him in no time and I believe - but not certain - that he was brought down. It isn't often that Jerry comes over our lines in the daytime, although we are constantly observing his movements over his lines. In this respect we have him taped.
By way of a change, we had porridge and tea for supper last night which was quite "bon".
You ought to see how comfortable our billet looks at night time. The little room is lighted by candles and the red hot embers of the wood fire burn in the big fireplace. All round the walls the [?] Equipment hang on hooks and on the mantelpiece is the dial of a clock, a calendar and one or two pictures. There is no glass in the window so to prevent draught the shutters are closed. We sleep on the floor and when we are all tucked in, the floor is completely covered up. It is so jolly cosy that we are all asleep in no time and not even the roar and shudder of the "Jack Johnson" that thunders away periodically all through the night disturbs us in the least.
I do hope you and dad are quite well and also the boys, grandma and Cookey.
With fondest love and heaps of xxxxxxx