Chisledon Camp, Wilts, England
June 4, 1917
Monday evening and feeling very tired after a hard day’s work. But greatest of good fortune, I am expecting to get a weeks leave soon and then I’ll have a few days glorious freedom in the Isle of Bute and the Trossuchs – I’ve written to cousin Kate. Very hot lately and my blood has been boiling over into a great crop of hives and blotches, a state of affairs which has caused considerable nervousness and depression, better now, though and shall enjoy my leave tremendously and benefit from it.
After a two weeks interval I got four letters last Thursday. A fine, long letter from Haddow. If he has to join as a private the artillery will be the best, for he will have real work there and feel as though he is accomplishing something. Surprised to hear that Ronald is coming to war. He displays his shrewdness in his intention of coming in style. If I ever meet him in France, I’ll probably shoot him. This is not a war between nations. It is a war between officers and men. A person who has never been in the army doesn’t know anything about the real state of affairs. It is quite literally and without exaggeration a life of slavery, degradation, humiliation, and shame. If I had ever had an inkling of the true state of affairs, I shouldn’t have enlisted under any consideration. But I suppose that’s nonsense. It had to be done, and yet I’ll always look back on this period of my life as a period of shame and disgrace, as though I had had to do penal servitude for some crime. After the war the great problem of military service is going to confront us.
Whatever may finally be decided in regards to this, the army must be reformed. As a business, the lot of a soldier is only fit for a man of the most rudimentary intelligence - of the unskilled laborer class. But even if a man cannot use his intelligence he ought at least be able to keep his self respect and his personal freedom. It is a splendid thing for a man to be humble but not servile; and it is fine for a man to be duly modest about his abilities and to realize his limitations but surely it is necessary that it should be continually dinned into him and kicked into him that he is absolutely good for nothing until he begins to believe it himself and acts accordingly. When a man gets into that frame of mind then they begin to think that he has in him the makings of a soldier.
But I didn’t mean to animadvert at such a length. I have to check myself to keep from exposing the whole vile business. Try to keep from vegetating altogether by reading as much as possible – but owing to lack of privacy you can’t do any studying. Hoping that great things may come from the Stockholm Conference. It must be apparent to anyone that in the present state of affairs the Allies can never win a crushing victory within a hundred years. They’ll get beaten if they don’t look out and then things will be in a mess. The treat beauty of this war is that it is going to do absolutely no good, accomplish nothing whatever. And if that facet impresses itself upon the minds of people it will be worth the war.
From the letters I got I gathered that the previous mail must have gone astray as there were several rather [?] references and allusions in the last letter. Very sorry to hear about Aunt Mattie. Hope that by this time she may be perfectly recovered. Mother, that was awfully good of you to write me such a long letter but you mustn’t strain your eyes. I enjoyed your letter too Father and quite agree with all you say about the ideal and the practical. It is difficult to speak about such a sacred and personal thing as one’s Religion, especially to those whom you hold very dear and to whom you are anxious to avoid giving pain. I always thought it was rather an unreasonable and a foolish piece of advice to tell young people to always tell their parents and those whom they respect most highly and with whom they are most intimate everything they do think and say. For everybody does things of which he is ashamed and if he truly repents of these things and tries to do better, there is no use in burdening others with the sorrow and the shame. So when one’s religious beliefs change, what of course there is nothing to be ashamed of honestly holding any beliefs, yet I think it is very wrong and unwise to dry and give a clear account of beliefs or disbeliefs to those who have already found a faith which enables them to solve life’s difficulties and to develop a character for which you have the utmost honour and respect and in comparison with which you feel your own unworthiness. I have exposed myself very poorly and in muddled fashion. To tell the truth I’m not quite sure that the idea is right and I have a feeling of a certain dishonesty and evasion of the issue. But the lights have gone out, I’m writing in the dark and I’m nearly asleep so we’ll have to leave all these things for another time. What a lot there’ll be to talk about when I [?] and get home