My dear Gertrude.
Here I am back in the war again. feeling very fit after a week's very enjoyable rest. Returned to find 3 letters from you and one from home wanting for me & yesterday your Port Elgin parcel arrived, have not opened it yet as I got in late from O.P. duty and it is just after breakfast at present. There were also two letters yesterday one from Hislop, one of the old Maresfield boys - and the other - a surprise one from old Mrs Thompson.
I don't know how much time I may have to-morrow as I am going up to the guns to-night, so I will get this letter well started to-day.
I spoke (or wrote) too soon. Found the Major was going up to the Battery early - we usually take over duty at night & I had to see about having my kit packed at once & get away. There have been big doings since I was away - so things are pretty busy - It is quite a big job building a battery position, the pits for the guns & dugouts for the gunmen & signalers & ourselves & of course it has to be done by the men who are supposed to be resting. For the past 2 months we have had plenty of it. A position which we were just finishing when I left & which was so far forward then that we thought we would be in it some time & which we put an unusual amount of work into to make it strong - has become in the meantime a very safe place & most of our guns have gone forward to a new battle position.
I had better get back to the weeks story although it is already beginning to feel quite a far away time. Monday, after the fine Sunday, came in dull & very windy. Played tennis in the morning & the sun coming out in the afternoon, 2 of us walked into the pine woods & lay down on a hillock covered with pine needles & read my book "White Wings" by Black, which I bought in Boulogne on the Saturday. An old friend of mine, Black's best I think. I am not sure that you have read it - fancy not although I believe Mrs Chapple once told me she had. If it is in any fit shape when I have read it, I may send it on to you, as it is not always easy to buy Black's tales these days they are usually out of print.
I had a swim as usual. After tea it was quite a strenuous affair, big breakers & a high & rather cool wind.
In Tuesday - a strong wind again decided [?] to give up tennis, but it was sunny & a good walking day, so we went along the beach to the fishing village of Equihem again but instead of returning by the coast stuck inland. I had a very pretty walk back although much longer than we expected. However we just landed in for lunch.
In the afternoon we read on the Dunes the usual swim after tea & a concert at the Recreation Hut after dinner.
Wednesday was our last day - excessively hot. We had to be at Boulogne station by 4 pm, a few of us stayed on for 12 lunch & caught the 1245 car to Boulogne. The train journey lasted from 4.58 & would have been very trying for the habit of trains have here of stopping for 20 minute intervals, rather frequently - when we could get out & cool ourselves.
It being too late to proceed from railhead, we all went up to the Officers Club & had dinner & stayed the night there - before one can do the latter, one has to see the Town major & get his authority.
We landed in for an air raid. It was a clear brilliant moonlit night & we could see the Bosche Machines plainly. We heard 3 bombs dropped fairly near.
After breakfast in the morning we prepared to go on our way by the general means of locomotion for officers & men, in the front area - what is known as lorry jumping. It was hotter if possible than Wednesday - & I had fairly heavy kit to carry.
Went to the City Hall Square - & found 3 lorries leaving for a place a few miles on our way, so got on board. The principal is to get a lorry as far as possible on ones way, get off it, & wait for another going further & so finally with luck get all ones way. I & an infantry fellow called Oddy were lucky to start with. We only waited a few minutes for our second & so got on another 3 miles to a place where I hoped to find our Ration Lorry. Waited for an hour for it, till 11.30 when we decided to wait no more. The next vehicle was an ambulance returning forward - that took Oddy 3 miles further & myself 5 miles but deposited me rather out of the line of much traffic. I started to walk to the next village but it was fearfully hot. Fortunately an R.E. horse drawn limber came along, & I got on it. Rather slower than motor lorries, in fact slower than walking but cooler. Then I got a motor lorry for Â¼ mile to some crossroads - another lorry to 1/3 mile from our rear billets & finished the journey, perched on the driving seat of a 4 horse service wagon. I half expected to find we had vacated our rear billets but fortunately found we were still there. It was not 2 when I arrived so I got some lunch.
Friday as I said I was observing - & yesterday I came here.
Now I had better deal with some letters. May Sibbald wrote me quite a long cheery letter - but little news of course was surprised to have a letter from Mrs Thompson. I think it is at most the 2nd or 3rd I have ever received. Must send it on to you when I have replied to it as it is very characteristic of her.
I will pass you on Mothers letter to day. I don't know what I can have sent to her to make her think I had been so much upset by the water. I believe you met Walter Roberts when you were over - he is one of the old Priory Place men - & a nearby neighbor of Mrs Stiles.
One of the 3 letters from you was a belated one for an early date in July.
Mrs Chapple will have been relieved to lose the competition next door. I am glad he was able to stay so long on Burjoine.
By the way - the parcel is still unpacked but I have had it sent up here. There is evidently the House of Quiet in it, which you mention in the second letter. I am afraid I never realized that I was carefully giving Mrs Chapple the love stories. In fact I can't remember any that I ever did give. This I will admit, I was always careful to give young lady friends unimportant Christmas presents, & therefore when people were so kind to me as yours were I usually gave a more important present to the head of the household - hot that I ever gave Mrs Chapple anything that could rightly be describes as important.
I am glad to hear that Campbell's work is appreciated by his people - it makes it so much easier & the result more effective.
Am writing this in the dug out - commenced outside but there is no shelter & found it rather hot in the sun. The dug out is what we call the B.C. (Battery Commander's) Post, from which the Battery is fought, all the maps & tables etc being in it & all the calculations made & orders given - by means of the telephone - a telephone exchange & a signaler being here also. It is practically underground - the ceiling on ground level, the roof of round iron corrugated sheets, covered with broken stone & bricks, sandbags for the side - trees & beams laid across over all & then more bricks etc on top. We have to work by candle light of course, a little hard on the eyes when there is a lot of accurate map reading to do. The telephone exchange connects us to the guns, to our other position, to the General & other higher commands, & also to our own wireless station which receives messages direct from Aeroplanes who do a lot of observing for us.
I will break off & unpack the parcel before finishing.
Have written to mother since & also opened the parcel. Thanks for its varied contents. The cookies have come in good condition - have just sent a consignment down to our mess for their tea. We have a motor dispatch rider who makes various trips round our different positions each day, who can perform such services.
Thanks also for the chocolates & the peanut butter. I don't know how the latter will go but will tell you later.
The bags are just right - made more carefully & of better stuff than I thought of.
& lastly the book - have already dipped into it & so far do not recall having read it before. I rather fancy it came out as a serial in the "Cornhill Magazine" & I read a few of the middle chapters. I will enjoy it think. Has taken me nearly 2 hours to write the last 2 pages - continuous interruptions on the telephone & people coming in.
A beautiful calm sunny evening & I was going to say not a sound of war on the land - but just then, the distant "whumph" of a shell came along.
I hope all goes well at "139" The exhibition will be over & you will have left summer being when you get this.
The war news keeps of the best here & hope it will keep actively so for the next ten weeks.
With all my love
I enclose a piece of purple heather that Mrs Thompson enclosed to me.