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Date: November 5th 1915

Franco-Belgian Frontier,
Nov. 5th, 1915.

My dear Sis:

Just after coming out of trenches I received a letter from you and Nennie and an artistic effort in green pencil from Fernie, all in the same envelope. It was written on the night of dear Mother’s birthday and I am so glad you all had such a nice party with my little tribute no doubt in the centre of the table. I wrote to Tidy a couple of weeks beforehand, telling him to use his discretion and make up as nice a box as he could, and it is very pleasant to hear that Nennie and you all liked them, and that he did well for me. I was with you all, dear sister, in thought and spirit, and we drank Nennie’s health in the trenches in some tea and rum, which is the nearest we could come to champagne up there. Since then we have been out in support, in again, and just now are out again in Reserve. Back here there seems to be more activity up on the line than one notices when actually there. Then all that is interesting to us is what is actually screaming over our own heads, but here we get the roar of guns on either side as well as in front; we see the long lines of transport trucks plying up and down the roads; the great transport parks dotted here and there by the roadside; hundreds of draught and artillery horses tramping down the stone-cobbled roads two abreast with a rider on the near mount - out for their daily exercise no doubt - fine, mettlesome, splendidly groomed nags in spite of the terrible mud; every now and then a mounted officer and his orderly splashing smartly down the road, flecking great gobs of slimy mud onto indignant pedestrians and once in a while a long grey car with a couple of "red-breasts” - staff officers, whizzing along, followed by a wake of profanity from half drowned "gravel pounders"; and always running in and out of this ever changing kaleidoscope of war, those drab figures of Europe’s finest fighting men, smart in spite of their mud stains, smiling with a reckless cheerfulness, and finally dominating the clacking jumble with a constant calm and poise, symbolic of the far-seeing Intelligence which even in our most pessimistic moments we like to think is guiding it all; the great grey Observation Balloon tugs on its anchor chord a thousand feet above. Such is "the pomp and panoply of glorious war" in its more modern setting; an unstudied pomp, indeed, but none the less impressive on that account; a grim panoply, ’tis true, but all the more arresting to the eye of discernment from its very austerity.

While our first treck in after I arrived was very pleasant, this last one has been very miserable, rain off and on the whole time with frequent cave-ins as a result, and a cold penetrating atmosphere which made it very difficult to sleep. The night we came out it poured and teemed; the communication trenches, fields and roads were rivers of mud, but the boys swung out onto the fraive and off on their four mile tramp to billets with a long swing and a burst of song. Somebody started a mouth-organ and we managed to keep cheerful in spite of the weather and our heavy packs, except when four horses and a transport limber rattled past and edged us off the road into the ditch. We were plodding through the darkness so, me and my platoon, in single file on the right side of the road, when I discerned a team and tool-cart loom up ahead on the same side. On it came, and as the near horse walked all over me, an indignant, just out from England, never know, never learn voice from the top of the cart called out to me, "Keep to the left!" Then I rose in my wrath and hurled anathema’s and terrible curses, spluttered and roared through gobs of mud and slime. The boys took it up and by the time he got past us the poor fool, besides a complete "history of his family for forty generations back", had, I sincerely hope and trust, learned that in France they "keep to the right". However, we got back alright and I saw my men safely under canvas; splashed around until I discovered the officers’ mess in a pub in the village, partook of coffee and sandwiches with a grateful heart and an appreciative stomach, went back to the lines and issued a lot of rum all around to keep out the wet and cold, for which I was elected a V.C. by all, and ended up by toddling off with George to our own tent, where our excellent and invaluable batmen had our sleeping bags already laid out, divesting myself of all clothing for the first time in six days, and crawling in with a grateful peon of prayer and praise to Jehovah of the Thunders for once more bringing us safely within the folds of our comfy blankets.

Well, Mally dear, I must say I am casting furtive glances at those same blankets just now, as it is getting rather chillsome in this waterlogged tent. I was so glad to hear that you had been honoured by the old school with your Seniority.

Best love and a thousand kisses to you all, dear girl,
Your affectionate brother,

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