I have intended to write you ever since I came back from London last Tuesday morning but owing to one of my periodical fits of disgust with life in general have kept putting it off. However I am sitting at a table in the [?]mitive Methodist Hut now and shall keep writing till it gets dark and then send off as much as I have got. It is half past seven in the evening and though it has been raining all day is quite bright now, so I think I have a clear hour at any rate.
For a week or so I got practically no mail but the last day or so it has all come in a bunch. I got a letter from you in which you advised me not to think so much! I only wish I had a chance to think a good deal more and not less. Then one from Marian & Dot Stewart, another from Haddow and two from Father, his ‘exter’ coming a few days before his regular. I also got a card from you today. I am very sorry to hear about your eyes. You mustn’t write if it hurts them.
When I got back to camp I found that a hundred of the company were to go on a long cycle ride to Bath and back, sleeping out two nights I, of course, was not chosen for the ride and neither was Farmer. Tuesday night, owing to the preparations for going away, I had to go on guard at half an hour’s notice after having been on drill all day. However I didn’t mind that much though I was very tired after getting only four hours sleep the night before. When I came off Wednesday evening I formed a curious resolve, which was to go to a civilian doctor in Swindon from whom one of the fellows had taken treatment and have a medical examination. Forthwith I carried out my project and was informed by the doctor that I had a slight enlargement of the heart – nothing serious of course but the doc told me that if I strained myself it might bring on valvular trouble. I got back to camp about half past nine and found the fellows all lined up ready to start on the ride. It started to rain but nothing daunted they rode off into the night and the down-pour. Next morning I paraded sick. The M.O. felt my pulse and put his hand on my heart but didn’t examine it. He advised me if I couldn’t keep up on the cycle rides to transfer to another regiment. I told him about my feet and he agreed that infantry would not suit me at all. He said that cycling would strengthen my feet and that I had better stick to it if I could: He thought that gradually I might become accustomed to it and be able to make the hills. Meanwhile he put me on three days light duty and told me to come back at the end of that time. I have been doing very little since. Yesterday morning I helped to scrub a tent with Cre[?] one of the fellows in it had managed to get frightfully lousy and we certainly didn’t want to get the bugs ‘all over the lousy place’. Of course we all immediately began to imagine that we had bugs, but thank goodness it has proved to be only imagination. I don’t exactly remember what I was doing yesterday afternoon, but I don’t think it could have been very much (don’t worry – I wasn’t drunk). However I know I was going to write a letter all afternoon but kept putting it off till it was too late. It was raining all day yesterday and has continued to to day. This morning we put up the tent and then I helped the orderly Cpl to write out the weekend passes. This afternoon I slept a bit and lay in the tent. I sleep near the door and my blankets got a bit wet but I have got accustomed to that kind of thing by this time (it is so dark I can’t see a word I think I’;; write some more to morrow as I haven’t got enough yet)
8.10 Sat Evening
It has been raining off and on all day and the camp is a sea of mud and water. At last I have started to write again when it is getting almost too late, but I have got a candle and shall continue by its light. This lying around in dirt is frightfully depressing. One needs to have something to do all the time or he gets paralysis of the will. Although this letter has been on my mind all afternoon I couldn’t lift a finger. Once started I can continue indefinitely.
The weather cleared for a few moments about six o’clock and then most beautiful rainbow I have ever seen appeared in the sky. It formed a perfect arch and was so vivid that you could easily distinguish the seven colors. There was another fainter bow above it in this fashion. I have just come back from a short walk with Farmer and am now sitting on the floor of our pig-pen. Farmer s reading, Cassell is writing a letter, the rest are away. Dorland is in Swindon on a week end pass. I am looking forward to to morrow because at noon to day I received a telegram from Bill saying he was coming up to morrow! It was sent from Paddington so I suppose he is on leave at last! I am awfully glad because he has had a very dreary hard time poor fellow – not getting the work he expected and not getting passes.
I had nearly finished the account of events since returning from London. Last evening about six o’clock the cyclists returned from Bath soaked with much and water but in fine spirits. Only two had dropped out. For two nights they had slept on the ground in the pouring rain. One of the fellows told me that the second night some of them woke up in two or three inches of water. It is extraordinary how you can get your clothes soaking wet, go around for days sleeping in them and never feel any effects! This morning I was again helping to write out the passes and railway vouchers and this afternoon, as I have already told you, I was afflicted with acute laziness.
I must tell you how they treat returned heroes in the army. The fortunate ones get put on permanent mess fatigue or something like that, but there was a very nice fellow of some refinement and sensitivities who came into our tent a few evenings ago. He had shrapnel wounds in the stomach and after a long period in the hospital had been discharged as fit for duty. The next day he went on parade and in going over the obstacle course he suddenly fell down in the greatest agony. He nearly fainted and the way he writhed on the ground was horrible. First, M’Armour, the officer in charge that day, meremly leaned on his cane and ordered to men to fall out and carry him away. If the poor chap had been a dog he might have got some pity, but being only an obedient private and a good soldier he was merely a piece of machinery. One thing I have learned from experience that the more you try to be a good soldier and obey all orders without complaint, the more they will but it over you! I tried it once and got all the rottenest fatigues in the camp for about a week. You see the officers take for granted that every man will on every possible occasion ‘swing the lead’ a technical phrase which means simply to fake or to shirk one’s duty. When this is the case the only way to get on is to ‘swing the lead’ a little better than somebody else. Of course you have to be very careful for the penalty for this sort of thing is severe, but its the only thing. “Pull” is the best thing to get you anywhere in the army but finishing that, “Bull” (i.e. Bluff) will go a long way.
To morrow I shall continue this letter in another instalment which will recount the happenings on my five days leave. I had a simply great time. I have grown to love London. It is an extremely fascinating city. Mrs Des Prieny and I agreed on that point. Then I had a five day in Cambridge and another at Folkstone with Bill. I got some beautiful photographic views of Cambridge and London which I am sending. I hope you are feeling well Mother and that you keep cheerful. You have no idea how encouraging are all the letters I get from home. They make you feel that there is somebody who knows what you really are and understands you. Much love to you all. Tell Father that his letters help to cheer and strengthen me immensely.