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Date: March 24th 1916

Friday March 24th, 1916
My dearest Nance,

Once more I am in a position to take up my pencil. The last four days have been very strenuous ones. On Sunday night we marched from our camp en route for the trenches. We had to pass through an historic old town that has been blown to pieces. It was a never-to-be-forgotten sight in the moonlight, and one I have no doubt tourists will travel many miles to see when the war is over. It must have been a very picturesque town, and though I don't suppose there was a single unwrecked building, most of the walls were standing, and the houses looked like those dolls' houses whose front swings open and leaves the interior exposed. On reaching the trenches half of us bombers went to the front line and half stayed in supports. I was among the latter, and we had the usual tedious hours wait before the taking over process was finished and the men we were relieving got out of the way. I had my eye on one dug out, but I overheard one of the previous occupants say there were a main of dead rats under the floor, and it fair stank to beat anything he had met in a long and varied existence. Fortunately Jack called out to say he had discovered a little one he thought the two of us could get into. It certainly was tiny. We could not stretch out at full length or sit up. The most we could do was to recline on one elbow for all the world like that picture of Alice in Wonderland when she drank the contents of the little bottle. I woke up the next morning feeling that I could tell all my bones. I think when the war is over I shall have to start up as a contortionist. We had a fairly quiet time during our two days here, then we took our turn in the front line. It was rather different to our previous experiences, the trenches only averaging about 60 yards apart. The part where we bombers held they were about 25 yards apart. It was fatal to even show a hand, and as the trench was only about shoulder high, it meant continual watchfulness. There was a short gap from the German trench from which they could throw bombs into ours. Jack and I and two others were told off to crawl out during the night among the debris of an old stable. We spent our nights lying prone on the wet ground seven yards from the Huns. The idea was to take them by surprise if they came out to throw, but principally to discover what they were up to. They were always at work, we could hear their footsteps on the wooden bath mats and hear them talking and coughing. A good deal of hammering and sawing went on and there was a continuous sound like pumping. I think they must have been mining under us. It drizzled incessantly during the two days and nights, and there was no place to lie down in the day time. From the time we went in to the time we came out we all shook as though we had the ague. You wonder at the time how you are going to live through it, but still you do, and I have never yet heard of a case of pneumonia. I was wishing I had got the chili paste as I had much trouble to keep my wet feet from freezing. We had a bit of fun the first morning. Just as we were going to have breakfast, the Germans threw a bomb over. We asked for nothing better and were soon returning the compliment with interest. We threw them in volleys and we threw them independently until they had their fill and stopped. We found several of their bombs that had failed to go off afterwards. They were ones we had been instructed on, and I took the explosive out of one that fell near me. It would have made a nice souvenir, but I did not bother with it, as I should have to carry it round so long before getting leave. We bombers had two casualties. One chap shattered his hand throwing a live bomb out of the trench that fell near another fellow. The other casualty happened whilst we were sitting close together having dinner. There was a piece of corrugated iron above our heads and a German sniper hit it. The bullet glanced off and struck the man that was next but one to me killing him instantly. We got back to reserve dugouts about midnight last night. I don't think I ever felt more exhausted as I had not slept five minutes during the 48 hours. I took off my wet clothes and socks and had just got into my blanket, when our sergeant (God bless him) came round with a shot of rum. I lay down in a beautiful glow, went to sleep at once and woke up about 11 a.m. this morning, feeling stiff and sore but right as a trivet and ready for anything. There are quite a lot of hypocrites in Canada who would like to do away with the soldiers' rum ration. I should like to see them out here. I think they would alter their views considerably. We remain here four days and then go in again for four days. Dear Mother's letter arrived just as I started out for the trenches. Many thanks to her for it. Tell Olive I enjoyed reading the Bystander she sent. The silhouettes were very good, but they fail to reproduce the mudiness of everything. I have not got last week's parcel yet. I hear they are bringing them up tonight, so that will be jolly. It is snowing now. I do hope spring will return before our next tour. Leave started again yesterday and another of our men went. Well I must stop now old girl.

Much love to you all

Your affectionate brother