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Date: April 20th 1916

April 20th, 1916.

My darling Mother,-

It seems quite a long time since I have written any of you. I don’t remember when it was but it seems to me that I wrote shortly after we moved, wasn't it to Kae? One has such a hazy recollection of what happened the day before yesterday. One actually and literally seems to live and think only of the present and immediate future-- today and as far perhaps as the day after tomorrow. A day that has gone by,- well, bless your heart, you chalk up one more good mark too the credit of your guardian angel and think no more about it. Sometimes I can't remember what I did yesterday. A strangely gelatinous mental condition! The slightest shock of war causes the grey matter to quiver and assume a new shape.

Unfortunately I left your last letter in the trenches, safely tucked in under a rafter in my dugout with one or two others which I intended to answer when I had time. If they are still there when we go back to that same sector some thirty days hence I'll see if there is any thing special to reply to.

Under present arrangement of reliefs, we shift about quite a bit and aren't in the same sector twice in succession. This is the most infernal part of the line until you get to it. That is to say that once safely behind the remnants of the front line, life is quite bearable, even pleasant. But behind! - every square yard of some parts of the country has been searched with shells of all calibres. One may be going peaceably and unobtrusively along a road some mile or so in rear when suddenly with a rush and a roar a salvo of "five nines” whizz by and burst on the road behind you or a field battery sprinkles the odd shrapnel overhead or something equally pleasant. It's quite a change after the careless way we ambled about behind the support trenches in our old home. Then we went up to the front line prepared to step into a bomb and die nobly at any minute. Here we get up there and thank our lucky stars there is something more compact and solid in front of us than a row of trees. This is the artillery man's paradise and they snipe us with twelve-pounders instead of bullets as we go across the fields. All good gunners, I imagine, will go to the salient when they die. They can shoot to their heart's content here and only have to allow Fritz the privilege of doing likewise in return. He shoots pretty wild as a rule so they should worry. The odd shell-hole in front of the gun-pit is just so much more atmosphere. They are never allowed to forget that they are part of the war setting up in these  parts.

Just now we are comfortably billeted in a nice house in a rather pleasant old town which is only occasionally the recipient of Fritz's attentions, so are enjoying life--sitting tight and waiting for the fateful 22nd of April to pass. Strange coincidence that this fine old Brigade should be now in exactly the same situation as it was when the alarm sounded on that historic afternoon just a twelvemonth ago. Fritz has been very lively lately and we are wondering if once again we shall go up to tighten the line. Last night attacks were made on four places around us, little fellers you know, just to see what we had. Well, I hope Uncle William found out. None of them succeeded. The worst of it is Fritz can't seem to take a hint that he's not wanted and it would be just like him to butt right in on a nice hen-party in the Guards' trenches one of these fine afternoons.

You seem to be rather impatient, mother mine about the number of men who are still in training at home. Of course I know some of them are just sponging and I'm glad to hear that Sam Hughes is taking steps to clean out the accumulation of a year's rubbish at the Shorncliffe Camp, where a great collection of bomb-proofs were busy drawing their pay. Performances like; Reg. Pellatt's are a source of great amusement to the officers out here, so perhaps they administer to the success of the cause by keeping the troops in that merry, cynically humourous state which is more or less useful from a military point of view. However, things, you must remember, haven't begun yet from our point of view. Nobody who knows anything expects to get through with one wild rush to the fortresses of the Rhine and even when we get there, unless Germany collapses from internal disintegration, there is still much to be done before a satisfactory peace is possible. If this Corp., which will probably shortly be another division stronger, gets into the "big push" as it is almost certain to do, it is altogether probable that its casualties will be about 50% or more. Then if the advantage gained is to be followed up, we must have reinforcements at once. So you see, we are likely to need twenty or thirty thousand men almost at a crack. The principle of battle that a succession of oncoming waves is more formidable than one huge breaker is also, I imagine, the principle of war. So long as the reserves are there they are just as certainly our reserve waves as if they were eating their heads off on French soil, where it costs twice as much to keep them. Of course it is foolish to keep men training too long. They are far more useful in civil employment utilizing their productive capacity. A reserve sufficient to maintain the army for say nine months is all that should be kept mobilized and others called up as this reserve is depleted. The practise of dashing a man into khaki the moment he volunteers for fear he changes his mind, whether needed at the time or not, is foolish from an economic point of view and even from the military; for it is certain that in six months, under proper training, a man should be able to acquire the one habit he can acquire in barracks, the habit of discipline and coordinate effort.

You should see the change in our men since coming here. Association with and observation of that absolute precision, smartness and discipline which has made the Guards' Division the finest in France has bucked everyone tremendously. They are probably the most wonderful-looking body of men in Europe today, in spite of all conditions still smart and clean. Just to see them in a trench would be enough for Fritz I think. Howsomever, unfortunately, High Explosive is no respecter of persons and the bigger they are the harder they fall.

I had lunch with Captain Henry Platt of the 1st Coldstreams the other day. Big jolly fellow of the Lancashire textile family. They seemed quite a splendid lot of fellows with lots of swank but no side, if you understand. We arranged to have a Platt reunion after the war in London just as part of a month's peace festival (which he is promising himself). He was in the retreat from Mons and has been out ever since.

Tell Dad I have his letter and will write him sometime soon, if the war doesn't start. As I can’t buy anything here I am sending Mally a five-pound note for herself and Kae with many happy returns retrospectively for both of them. I am quite busy just now, dear heart, Intelligence officer they call me and insist on my living up to the name. Supposed to be a walking encyclopedia of military data. Last time in trenches I worked about 20 hours a day and now am busy in the daytime training scouts and observers and helping out the adjutant.

I hope mother mine you are all well and are not unset by the recent heavy losses of the Canadians. Mostly second division and our part of the line is comparatively quiet so far, although I believe it was the subject of some inquiry from the Bosche last night. I hope for the sake of our Corp. prestige that the 2nd comes out of this affair with credit in the end for the situation seems muddled to say the least. We are rated as second to none as a fighting unit and it would be a pity to fall down.

God bless you all and keep you well and happy.
Yours lovingly, dear mother,

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