c/o 220 Ind. Port Contr. Coy IE
ABPO 18 India
Sept 28th 1943
It is months and months since I heard from you, and almost as many months since I wrote, but you mustn’t think that it is because I have forgotten you or Jane or Stella, but boiled down to simple facts I suppose it is part laziness and part a constitutional inability to write letters that seems to be getting more marked as I get older. I write to Budge every week without fail and that effort seems to drain me. I know that she writes fairly often to you so that you are kept in touch and know where I am, and roughly what I am doing. The last letter I had from you was dated November ’42 but it arrived here in early June, nearly seven months on the way. This rather discouraged me, but Budge tells me that you got my letter from Ootacamund, so that apparently the mail service does work occasionally. I had better start from after Ootacamund and tell you what I have been doing since then. After leave I went back to the Company at that time stationed outside Bombay, and we remained there for another month. It was an ideal spot in which to be stationed, with broad clean sands, and a clear sea, and we spent a lot of time swimming and rowing as we had by then completed the job for which we had originally gone there. At the end of February we had to return to Bombay and spent an unpleasant month there. I hated the place, with no interesting work to do, and noisy dirty living quarters that forced one out in the evenings. I used to spend most evenings at the Bombay Yacht Club, of which I was a service member. The days were occupied in trying to keep the men employed, and as they can none of them be called natural soldiers, they soon became fed up with drill etc. they are all tradesmen, and recruited from all parts of India and when they are given an interesting job of work to do, they work like hell. But keeping them smart and clean on parade was heart-breaking, and I was never exactly proud of them, although we were adjudged the smartest Company in the Group, and given a small flag the size of a pocket handkerchief to tote around on parade. Our Havildar Major who is an ex-Regular Gurkha was disgusted when I made him carry it. After a bit I was ordered to send a draft to this part of the world, and although I was very disappointed that I could not come myself, I was glad in that it showed me that we should all be moving soon. The draft moved off while I was in bed with flu, and soon afterwards the rest of us were ordered to another place about 40 miles from Bombay, to build a wharf there.
We spent two very pleasant months there, completely on our own and undisturbed by anyone. We were under canvas, and I got used to sleeping in a 40lb tent that would just take my camp bed and nothing else. We had nearly finished our job when we got moving orders to come here. The peace of life was only marred by a most unpleasant C.R.E. to whose face and figure I took an instant dislike. He tried to charge me with some cement that got damaged in a rainstorm, which infuriated me, as having worked for Contractors for most of the time, I have a far better idea of the value of materials than he had, having slumbered through life in the M.E.S. I demanded a Court of Inquiry and got it, and came through an easy winner, with I believe remarks as to his behaviour and reliability attached. I was glad to see him later in Orders, that they had recognised his ability, and reverted him back to Major. Finally we had to move here, and it was rather a business, as there were only we two officers, the others being on the draft, and we had to move in two parties.
I hate the business of moving, as one cannot, as in the British Army leave everything to the R.S.M. and Q.M.S. Every little thing has to be supervised by an Officer, or something goes wrong. Everything went all right however, and after about four days travelling we arrived at our destination. I think I can tell you that it is in Eastern Bengal but the censor may cross that out. Now we are here, I expect we shall stay, and only move as we advance into Burma and perhaps further on.
I have been exceedingly busy, as at present I have no other officers with me, one being on leave, and the others scattered around with small detachments, so that I have had to carry the whole weight myself. Luckily, just before we came up here, which is considered a forward district I managed to obtain a couple of good B.O.R.s from a British company and am slowly getting rid of my previous Anglo Indian W.O.s When we first arrived we were sent up river about 8 miles from the Port and Base, to build jetties, bridges and roads. We stayed there nearly 3 months, and then I was sent for in a great hurry up here, in order virtually to rebuild a port. Everything is done in a great hurry in the Army, and starts off with a terrific amount of commotion and talk of priorities, and then everyone forgets about it, and things resume their normal course. Why they can’t foresee what is wanted on an L of C even just a few weeks before it is wanted, is beyond me, and it would make a great deal more efficiency. I have never regarded the R.E. as engineers, and my opinion of them now technically as civil engineers is even lower. I suppose it was all just the same in your day, but I don’t think I should be able to stick it in peacetime as you managed to. I am quite happy here, living in a comfortable bamboo hut, and don’t miss company at all. My years in the Sudan quite accustomed me to living by myself, and I never feel the need for anyone to talk to, except of course when I have Budge with me. She is the perfect wife and I keep on missing her terribly, it being over 18 months since we parted. I can think of no other ambition at present, than to have the War end so that I can rejoin her, and we have decided that we are going to take a very long holiday together. We may come out and see you, if communications are easy. Sue looks absolutely lovely to my eyes. I don’t know whether Budge has sent you any photos of her, but she is just my idea of what a child should be. It is six years since I saw Stella so I suppose that now she is quite big, and you are thinking of sending her to school. In your very much delayed letter you spoke of being rather worried by the fact that the Railway was to be taken over by Government. Has that happened yet? Surely the Directors will have to give you some pension after all you have been nearly 20 years with the Railway now. Anyway don’t worry too much about it. If Budge and I settle in England, or even in South Africa, we can always look after Mummy, and Dick will be getting at least a Major’s pay for the rest of his life, and will be able to subscribe something. Aunt Grace is a different matter, and I have always felt rather hard hearted about her, as she never seems to have contributed anything useful to the world. I really do feel that the best thing for her would be a place in a home for Aged Gentlewomen or some such thing.
Ruth tells me that Mummy has been working extremely hard for the whole war, and really it seems to have been just what she needed, and I am told that she is looking extremely well on it. Dick, I have heard very little about, except that he went to Staff College, but whether he passed out successfully I don’t know. I expect he is very much looking forward to some Active Service, as he has been in India or England for the whole war. I suppose he will get his chance soon, and is lucky not to be in this part of the World, as most other parts are preferable. I rather envy the chaps in S. Italy myself.
Oct. 7th I have left this letter for a bit in the hopes that something more of interest might turn up that I could tell you, and yesterday I got another letter from you dated March 8th and enclosing two photos, one of Stella and the other of your new house. Again the letter had taken seven months to come, although how it managed to take that time quite mystifies me, 3 to 4 should be sufficient. I also received an Air Card from Mummy who had been staying with the Chances. She tells me that Ruth, Betty and Nancy are all going to have children in December, and also that Dick is now G.S.O. II Southern Command. It strikes me that I am wasting my time in this jungle hole, with the highly placed relatives I have. Sir James Grigg the War Minister is a cousin of sorts of Budge’s. Joan seems to be the confidante and right hand woman of the Prime Minister, and now Dick with a gorgeous red arm band, and probably suede shoes.
I am not clear whether the new house is your own or rented, but it looks very pleasant, and of course I suppose there is no petrol rationing to stop you going into town by car. It sounds as if your groom should get the sack. What was the name of the one you had when I was with you? A man with large handlebar moustaches. I must stop now as I have to prepare to Court-Martial a man this afternoon, and I am not very well up in the legal side, and if one writes a word wrong in the proceedings the legal experts cancell the whole affair, and the punishment, and make one look a bit of a B.F.
Give my love to Stella and Jane. The former looks extremely well, and exactly like you. I am looking forward to seeing my Sue and introducing her to you all.