Dec 8 1915
My Dear Mother.
In case I did not tell you before, I want to say now, that I received your lovely socks. They are fine and a good fit. I have a pair of them on at the present time and am troubled no more with cold feet. Also I wrote Aunt Louisa and thanked her for her share of the booty. And I also received a parcel from Em via G. F. and Alf. They all had a hand in it apparently. The handkerchiefs are dandy, solid silk by Jove, and I am almost afraid to use them they are so good. Besides that they will be a novelty in these parts and I run a big chance of being waylaid and robbed. But thank Em very much and it was awfully good of you to think of it.
Also I had a letter from Belle not long ago. She said she was sending me some of her cake. I will be some 'con-i-sewer' of cake when I get what is on the way. Aunt Jean wrote to say that Uncle Bert was sending me a hamper from the London office. That sounds good to me. Please thank Father for sending paper. I think I have received all to date. This week the 'Saturday Post' arrived direct from publisher, and it had a card in it to say that my subscription ran out with that issue. I think they mean that it started for that is the first I had received from the publishing house. I do appreciate the papers, especially the 'Post'. We often go days now without a daily, but I don't mind that, as all there is in them is about the war and I see and hear of enough that.
I am glad that Uncle Wm. and Aunt Maggie are settled at last. What will be the fate of the Addisons? Will they carry on in the same house as before?
By the way Mother, I have one or two little things to send over but I am holding them up until after the Xmas rush. It is hard to get anything decent over here, and so the contribution will be rather small this year. I will try to make up next Xmas.
Oh yes I was going to tell you about my trip to the trenches. I had rather an interesting weekend. I started out from here on horseback on Saturday at 4:30 pm. But before I started I got specially dressed for the occasion. On Friday I told one of the quartermasters of my intention, so Friday night he landed down on the room with enough stuff to equip an arctic expedition. He had heavy woollen socks, long rubber boots, up to the hips and fastened on to my belt. One of the boots was an 8 while [the] other was a size 10. However I put on two extra socks on the ten foot and came out about even. Then he had a leather vest, fleece lined sheepskin over-vest, mitts and waterproof cape. I could not wear all the junk. I could not stand the smell of the sheepskin, so left it at home. However I managed to get into most of the stuff. Oh yes and Gov. underwear, which, by the way, I wear all the time now. I loaned all my own to officers in trenches, and one of them told me the other day that he had had "visitors" and had to throw my underwear away. He says, however, that he will get me some more aprï¿½s la guerre. So I have something to live for all the time.
Yes I started out ï¿½ cheval. It was some ride and I was glad I could ride, otherwise I should have had a very unpleasant time of it. As it was I was ditched several times, jammed between wagons, and that is where the heavy long rubber boots came in handy. We went a long way about and had the transport with us. It is certainly an experience to go along a narrow road, pitch dark, and meet all kinds of traffic. Wagons, guns, ambulances, lorries, and we passed hundreds of troops. And all in pitch dark as no lights are allowed on these roads leading to trenches. It is too dangerous as the road is often swept by German guns. At one place we helped to pull an ambulance, full of wounded men, out of the ditch. And we were held up dozens of times. After about two hours at two miles per hour we reached our first destination. That was as far as it was safe to go with a horse. I won't give any distances as they might be objected to but you can just figure it out for yourself.
Here I had tea with Col. S., as it was battalion headquarters. Then after tea I proceeded a little further on with the officer who had called to take me up. After a rest here we proceeded, about 11 pm, up to the trenches. And believe me it is some road to the trenches. Never in all my life have I seen such mud. You can scarcely imagine it unless you have been thru it. I went up in absolute darkness, which of course, did not make it any easier. Several times I went in up over my knees, and more than once the water came in over my hip boots. When you are going down you wonder when you will stop, then you wait for breath, and begin to pull yourself together again. Then too, at this point, immediately behind the trenches the bullets are flying overhead in all directions, which does not add much to your pleasure. However one is practically safe as they are all stray bullets. Nearest they came to me was some 10 - 12 feet when one landed plump into soft earth beside me.
After some puffing we arrived at front line trenches. They were quite a revelation to me. They should not be called trenches. Ditches, ravines or some such name would be more appropriate. Several have running water in them, and if one slips off the narrow sidewalk, good night, and it's up to the knees at least. However less said better, and I stayed there until 4 am. The dug outs are quite lively with rats and mice, and they are absolutely tame. I visited several dug outs while up there, and they are not any too choice.
At 4 am I returned and slept till 7 am. Then I got up and had breakfast at 8 am, and after a little rest proceeded to trenches again. This time I went through the battalion frontage from end to end. I did not finish up till about 3 pm. Had dinner in a dug out with five other officers and ate a terrible meal. Two different Xmas cakes, among other things, and while we were eating our trench was under heavy shell fire, which added to the amusement.
Altogether I had a very pleasant weekend and rode home on a limbered wagon. That really was the worst part of the outing as it shook me to pieces, and rained hard all the time. When I got home about 7 pm I was soaked to skin, of course, but I soon changed, and my man had a big hot dinner ready for me. I polished off two large tenderloins in very few minutes. Before I close I want to wish you all a merry, merry Xmas, and lots of love for all to go with it. I am feeling fine, couldn't very well be better. If you are all as well I will be delighted.
Hope I have not forgotten to acknowledge receipt of anything, but if I have I will try to get it next time. Lots of love for Father, Em, Alf, and heaps for self.
And best regards to Elizabeth. W. H. G.