Somewhere in Flanders
Sun May 7th 1916
My dearest Mother
At last I am able to get to my correspondence again where I have many things to acknowledge and thank you all for, but we will leave them for the present and enlighten you a little as to my surroundings and for a peep into one's doings is far more interesting to the reader of such a letter, than mere talk. I have realized this from Father's graphic accounts of home which I get every week. Bless him!
I returned from the line the night before last after sixteen long monotonous days there, eight in the front and eight in reserve. I now wish I wasn't so tall for my back is nearly broken bending about so much where parapets are low and can't be built higher. Percy would certainly have a tough time here for every inch makes a difference.
The camp life makes an agreeable change and it is now Sunday afternoon and being a showery Sunday Spring day. I am not writing out in the open as before but am in the YMCA Hut. The country now is lovely here now that every tree and bush is in it's rich green mantle and we only wish we could enjoy it with our civil freedom, but not yet! Now the day before I left the line I received your parcel and wasn't I glad of it - you can't imagine the delight it caused to have some sweet delicacy after so much flat army feed - Machonocie rations etc. Bye, the bye these last named rations are a tasty hash of beef beans and potatoes in a can, which just require warming and it's ready for consumption - undoubtedly a fine dinner but after a fortnight of such dinners it's apt to get tame. There's a joke attached to this identical ration named after the makers:
Sergeant. Six men fall out and draw Machonocie's rations!
Usual grumbler. Why the H….. Can't Machonocie draw his own rations!
The chocolate from Ena contained in the parcel was more than enjoyed when covering that horrible 9 mile walk back from the trenches. That walk is hated by all because after being cramped up in the trenches and having no exercise a walk through the night like that makes one "all in" in no time. There was just a small party of us and for a little distance we got a lift on a service wagon. We had just got in and were enjoying it when - brash! Some shrapnel burst over us. My! Didn't those six horses move with us in the wagon behind and weren't our insides nearly jerked out as we bounced and bumped over the shell holes in the road, but the chocolate calmed things down wonderfully for me. Thanks Ena. I'll tell you one day exactly the place I finished eating it at. It's interesting.
The next morning in camp I received your next parcel. It came so soon on the other one that at first I thought it must a delayed one but no! Didn't I enjoy that pudding whew! Send some more!
We got yesterday what we had eagerly awaited, dreamt of by the hour, thought of, talked of, and smacked our lips over for 16 days previously and the realization was even more enjoyable than the anticipation. We had a bath!
Now your letters: let me attend to them now that I have mentioned the parcels. I have two from you and one from Father, which he must forgive me for not answering it separately. The pictures you saw on Easter Monday of the trenches were evidently only too true from the description you give of them.
Anything you think I'd like in the way of "eats" put in the parcels, Ma, I say this because you have asked several times what I'd like. Don't trouble about eggs I can get them here - tea, sugar, milk - or coffee, sugar, milk - or sugar, milk tablets are very acceptable and convenient for a nice drink can you get me some please.
Just -a-bit while I have a cup of tea. These YMCA's are a boon over here.
A few words I put together, while doing duty in the Front Line some 30 yds from the Germans may be of interest to you.
Our Pal - the Sandbag
The sandbag is a wondrous thing
To us in France today
He's used for every kind of job
In every kind of way.
A suit of clothes he makes complete
When your uniform is wet
And if he's stuffed with dirt or sand
Makes a dandy parapet.
We use him every night, you know
To bring the rations up
And afterwards as tablecloth
On which to have our "sup".
If torn to shreds and greased a bit
With candle fat, He's fine
On which to boil a cup of tea,
A stove for any time.
He makes the dugout cosy
And soaks up all the damp
I've even seen him used as wick
Inside a handy lamp.
We use him as a dishcloth
To wipe our mess tins clean
And he makes the warmest stockings
That anyone has seen.
As blanket broom or brush
He's really very fine
Likewise as helmet trimming
To cover up the shine.
There's one I've always near me
Used as a refuse bin
I hope 'twill come in handy
To put the Kaizer in.
I shall be using a green envelope for this so it may be extra long on the road or it may not. Enclosed are some violets I've just picked in a wood nearby - real Belgium violets. Your last parcel and letter was only four days on the road - very quick. Now I think I must stop and write a line to Stan, which I'll use a white envelope for and see which gets home first.
So with very best love
Ever your very loving boy