D. Co'y, 11th Leicesters (Midland Pioneers) B.E.F., France
December 29, 1916
My dear Marj,
"At present we are staying at a farm" - but not of the sort which Bairns father pictures. This is a real farm, with real beds in it - a very comfortable billet indeed; though not by any means exceptional, I am told, for our unit. You see, we are divisional troops; and while our work carries us right up into the front line, we are not, under normal conditions a fighting unit; and so it is the exception for us to have to live in trenches or dug-outs. My usual good fortune seems to have followed me even to France. Not that I want you to have too rosy a picture of a pioneer's life. So far things have been very quiet with us - the company is really having a rest indeed - but from what we hear, the battalion has seen some pretty lively times, and is likely to do so again. Trench repairing and consolidating after an attack isn't always a picnic. Most of the work, too, has to be done at night. But so far everything is hearsay. And now of all things I am ordered off to a course - for a week. You see each brigade etc. has to send so many officers to these courses every week; and they naturally pick on the junior officers. Nobody really wants to go. I shall have to take a party of men with me - its not many miles away - and my man, Bayley, will look after my kit. He will be along with me to keep me clean, etc. I daresay I shall have a very tolerable time.
The officers I have seen so far are quite agreeable chaps. In billets the companies mess separately, so we are only thrown intimately with our own company officers, of whom there are at present four - the others being away. One of the four is Underwood, who came over with me. In civil life he was a school master. Another, Meggitt, a very nice fellow just my own age was a demonstrator in zoology at Birmingham University. We three are all tee-totalers. The present O.C. Company, Bentley, was a rubber planter in the Malay States - a good officer, and a very pleasant chap. He shows signs, however, of the long strain of his work our here in a nervous tension that is affected by sometimes very insignificant things. At such times he swears a bit at the servants, and expresses his opinions of the C.O. and other interfering factors in language more forcible than elegant. It is so obviously, however, the result of nerves, that one can't blame him seriously. He is very considerate of his men and subordinates. The real O.C. Company is on leave, but expected back shortly.
I was very much interested in your letter of Dec. 3rd. - the dressmaking and parties, and marryings and what not. I certainly am surprised to learn the ages of the Dancket girls. I didn't think May was a bit more than 28, and I knew Jessie was the younger. They certainly are deceitful creatures.
Oceans of love to all,