France (Vimy Ridge)
April 28, 1917
I'm awfully sorry to hear you had an attack of grippe. For the love of Mike beg, borrow or steal a half dozen bottles of old scotch and get rid of it.
I write this letter in a big cave, about seventy feet under ground. I and another fellow have our beds right under an air shaft, and it seems queer to look up it and see the amount of dirt over you. The cave accommodates two or three hundred men and is equipped with lights and water (classy, eh?).
The cave was a chalk quarry in by gone times. When you reach the top you stand in what was no man's land but a couple of weeks ago. Everywhere you look the eye sees shell holes, old shells, equipment, etc. Now light railways run all over the place and strings of pack horses pass by with stuff.
Some of the shell holes have chunks of human flesh, arms, head, legs, in them. On the whole, however, everything is fairly clean and tidy.
I received a letter from Miss Fooks yesterday and learnt from its contents that Adrian is in a hospital in Chelsea and doing well, lucky devil. Miss Fooks promised to send another parcel. She is a good sort.
Our C.M.R. draft is rapidly dwindling. Out of 150 (or 50?) sent to the seventh, only 14 I hear are left. The rest are on the casualty list.
I have often heard you say how you longed to be a soldier, old man. Well all I can tell you is that longing would surely fade away if you could see a battle field after an advance. Little heaps of blood and bones here and there, a shoulder and head there, a couple of legs somewhere else. Oh, it’s a cheerful sight, believe me.
Now Harry Batch wrote home telling Ernest not to join up. I do the same for Keith and ask you not to let him join, if he has to, as a private--anything but that.
With best love, old man,
I am your loving son,
[Editor’s note: Transcription provided by collection donor.]