May 4, 1916
Yesterday and the day before a great sheaf of home news came to hand - Father's of April 11, yours of the 9th & 10th, Marjorie & Mother's of the 16th. I am delighted to know that the moving was so successfully accomplished and that the new home is such a joy. No, I did not get any lettergram; but it was probably a satisfaction to the sender; and as I knew nothing about it, it was no disappointment to me.
I am delighted to learn of Rex's fellowship. It is certainly a splendid opportunity, and I hope he will be able to bring himself to accepted it. I am writing him, urging him strongly to do so. If Dr. Starr thinks he ought not to go, he should by all means take his word for it. If he were to pass before an ordinary army doctor in the rush of recruits, he could not be at all certain that he would not be passed, and then give out after a few weeks or months, and be left stranded with his opportunity lost - for the time being at least. As a sample of the way things are sometimes done, here is my own case. When I landed in Folkestone I was still wearing my foot strapped in adhesive. For examination we had, of course, to strip. The doctor was getting a bit impatient to be done by the time my turn came. He touched the stethoscope to my chest, looked me up and down - I distinctly saw the slight change of expression as he noticed the adhesive - but he did not even ask me what was the matter. In my case, of course, I expect it will be all right, but you can see the possible consequences of such procedure in a case like Rex's.
We are getting a chance to see the army from the inside, which I would not have missed, though the effect on one's patriotism is not always inspiring. but a private is not privileged to criticize the organization for which he is not responsible. when we become officers, if we do, we will have a chance to do our work without some of the shoddiness that infests the whole atmosphere of the army - at least this far from the front.
Don't imagine from the above that we are being ill-treated or anything of that sort. We are faring, on the whole, exceptionally well, and in actual physical energy and time expenditure are probably earning our $1.10 a day - though the result seems sometimes hardly an equivalent return to our country.
Tuesday and Wednesday we went out about 3 miles into the country to dig trenches. I carried sods for a revettment for an hour, and then wielded a shovel till dinner-time. We took lunch with us, and a damsel appeared with a little donkey-cart and bottled drinks at 2 1/2d. a shot. After dinner it rained, and we came home. Yesterday we went again and I tried my hand at picking for a while, then took a turn a gathering flints from the dirt thrown out - to be used in making drains, and ended up by trimming sods with a bill-hook. The pop girl was on hand again, and we had a rather enjoyable day.
To-day I was orderly (one of two) drew the bread, butter, and meat, and fetched the grub from the cook-house, washed up the mess-tions, swept out the tents, etc. The rest were pitching tents somewhere for somebody. To-morrow I am to be head bottle-washer - to-day I was merely assistant. We take our day as assistant, to learn duties and places for drawing rations, times of issue, places for disposal of refuse etc. Next day the assistant becomes the chief with a new underling. The duties start with drawing of meat at 7.00a.m. Then comes breakfast at 7.15, dishwashing, straightening up etc. till about 10.30. dinner at 12.30. Bread issue at 2.00. Butter at 3.00 - all from different stores. Supper at 5.15. On the whole it is a considerably easier day than for the fatigue gang.
May 5 Didn't have time to finish this last night. Have done up the morning's work, and have an hour and a half clear before dinner -duties begin. The gang are away again pitching tents and painting them green, for the reception of a new battalion which is marching in to-day. It is very warm & muggy to-day, and I am just as glad to be excused.
Well, I suppose the wedding is over and aunt Nan established in her new home. If I had her address I would write her myself; you must convey my felicitations to her for me. Grandmother I hope is still with you to take her share of the love conveyed in my letters. You must not fail to let me know when she leaves so that I can write her a word now and again.
Love to all,