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Date: October 1st 1916
Coningsby Dawson

October 1st, 1916.

My Dearest M.:

Sunday morning, your first back in Newark. You're not up yet owing to the difference in time—I can imagine the quiet house with the first of the morning stealing greyly in. You'll be presently going to church to sit in your old-fashioned mahogany pew. There's not much of Sunday in our atmosphere—only the little one can manage to keep in his heart. I shall share the echo of yours by remembering.

I'm waiting orders at the present moment to go forward with the Colonel and pick out a new gun position. You know I'm very happy—satisfied for the first time I'm doing something big enough to make me forget all failures and self-contempts. I know at last that I can measure up to the standard I have always coveted for myself. So don't worry yourselves about any note of hardship that you may interpret into my letters, for the deprivation is fully compensated for by the winged sense of exaltation one has.

Things have been a little warm round us lately. A gun to our right, another to our rear and another to our front were knocked out with direct hits. We've got some of the chaps taking their meals with us now because their mess was all shot to blazes. There was an officer who was with me at the 53rd blown thirty feet into the air while I was watching. He picked himself up and insisted on carrying on, although his face was a mass of bruises. I walked in on the biggest engagement of the entire war the moment I came out here. There was no gradual breaking-in for me. My first trip to the front line was into a trench full of dead.

Have you seen Lloyd George's great speech? I'm all with him. No matter what the cost and how many of us have to give our lives, this War must be so finished that war may be forever at an end. If the devils who plan wars could only see the abysmal result of their handiwork! Give them one day in the trenches under shell-fire when their lives aren't worth a five minutes' purchase—or one day carrying back the wounded through this tortured country, or one day in a Red Cross train. No one can imagine the damnable waste and Christlessness of this battering of human flesh. The only way that this War can be made holy is by making it so thorough that war will be finished for all time.

Papa at least will be awake by now. How familiar the old house seems to me—I can think of the place of every picture. Do you set the victrola going now-a-days? I bet you play Boys in Khaki, Boys in Blue.

Please send me anything in the way of eatables that the goodness of your hearts can imagine—also smokes.

I came back from the front-line all right and have since been hard at it firing. Your letters reached me in the midst of a bombardment—I read them in a kind of London fog of gunpowder smoke, with my steel helmet tilted back, in the interval of commanding my section through a megaphone.

Don't suppose that I'm in any way unhappy—I'm as cheerful as a cricket and do twice as much hopping—I have to. There's something extraordinarily bracing about taking risks and getting away with it—especially when you know that you're contributing your share to a far-reaching result. My mother is the mother of a soldier now, and soldiers' mothers don't lie awake at night imagining—they just say a prayer for their sons and leave everything in God's hands. I'm sure you'd far rather I died than not play the man to the fullest of my strength. It isn't when you die that matters—it's how. Not but what I intend to return to Newark and make the house reek of tobacco smoke before I've done.

We're continually in action now, and the casualty to B. has left us short-handed—moreover we're helping out another battery which has lost two officers. As you've seen by the papers, we've at last got the Hun on the run. Three hundred passed me the other day unescorted, coming in to give themselves up as prisoners. They're the dirtiest lot you ever set eyes on, and looked as though they hadn't eaten for months. I wish I could send you some souvenirs. But we can't send them out of France.

I'm scribbling by candlelight and everything's jumping with the stamping of the guns. I wear the locket and cross all the time.

Yours with much love.

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Original Scans