15 July, ’17. (Sunday)
My dearest Lal: —
One thing I like about the Canuck papers — at least the Vancouver papers, I don’t know about the others — they print the officers’ and men’s names in the lists together. That’s just as it should be, of course. In England, some papers don’t even print the men’s names at all — only officers’. I guess the men don’t count over there. All the English periodicals, etc. deal exclusively with officers — the magazine pictures, even the blessed ads, all officers; they make me tired, those people. . . .
Well, as I said last night, we were billeted in evacuated houses. My place was up two flights of stairs, in the attic with two more other fellows. I was just nicely getting to sleep under my overcoat, when the old familiar screech came over, apparently rather close. It was followed by several more. They sound worse at night somehow, and I’m afraid I didn’t feel much like sleep. However, I wasn’t to have any apparently, as a man came chasing up the stairs looking for stretcher bearers with a flashlight. I had taken all my clothes off, rather foolishly, I guess; but we’d been “bomb proof” so long; I’d almost forgotten about the war. I had to laugh at myself as I hastily got into my boots, forgetting I hadn’t got my trousers on, and had to take ’em off and begin all over again. You couldn’t light a light, as there were holes in the roof, and then I couldn’t find my tin hat. However, I wasn’t really very long before I was out in the street and following an Imperial Artillery man to where a man lay who had been hit. I did what I could — it wasn’t much — a shell splinter had hit him in the stomach. As we bound it up, he was unconscious and getting cold. The man sleeping under the same blanket with him was untouched. I got four of his bunch to take him away on a stretcher to the advanced dressing station, wherever it was. They seemed to know.
On the way over, I had decided to locate a heap of bricks and mud or something in the street, and spend the rest of the night in the lee of that; but it came on to rain, so I abandoned the idea — I was only about fifty yards from the house — and as Fritz was now shelling another part of the town, I turned in in the attic once more. Again I was just going off to sleep when back came the shells to the old place and F——, who was sleeping next me, said, —
“What do you think we’d better do?”
“Get out of here, anyway,” I said.
So we came downstairs and went and laid in one of the dugouts I told you of, just in front of the house. I am there now.