56th Field Coy R.E.
7th. Dec 1915
My dearest Barbara
Now I am at last in a small corner of Belgium near Ypres, if you look in the map you will see just behind Ypres a small place called Dickebusch; well I am within a few hundred yards of there. I had a beastly journey by train from Rouen 24 hours in a compartment without washing or other conveniences, and only a sandwich & a couple of eggs to eat the whole time; I was lucky enough to get a compartment to myself, while others shared one with two or three, so I was able to sleep at all events.
I had to ride on an old lame horse to this camp 6 1/2 miles, pitch dark and raining hard; my servant lost me in the dark & the wind prevented his hearing my shouts or I his and so I, knowing the way of horses gave my beast his head & and he brought me here straight across country and over the most terrible muddy fields. Oh my dear, you should see the mud, an ocean everywhere as far as the eye can see & and I stepped off the little plank path & was up to my knees at once. All night the big guns kept booming and this morning they have been going the whole time without stopping; they tell me that the camp is occasionally shelled; my predecessor has gone home with his leg splintered by a shell and so also has the O.C. A new O.C. joined this morning; he seems a decent sort though I only saw him for a quarter of an hour, his name is Francis, a Captain, the senior sub is a bit of a boy of about twenty & I believe the next is about the same age. I am the most junior except two; however it is all in the days work and probably my chance will come all the sooner by way of contrast. The Captain is the only regular officer. I go up to the trenches either tonight or tomorrow. It was great sport this morning watching our shells all bursting round a German aeroplane which came over our lines, it cleared for all it was worth.. The trenches they tell me are nothing but ditches of mud & we have to use gum boots which are served out to us; the dug outs however are more comfortable than this camp. It is perfectly beastly here, a tin shed with a thousand draughts & mud and dirt all over everything; the Mess God save the mark is a room in the same hut; the sleeping compartments are about the size of a train one & two of us share each, though it generally happens that one of the two is in the trenches at a time. Our guns are behind us and the continual roar & concussion shakes this hut like an earthquake. The horses are all round us, poor beasts, standing in mud over their fetlocks. I have been served out with two gas masks and two field dressings, one for shell wounds one for bullet & so am fully equipped for the fray. If I get away from here I shall not come back if I can possibly help it; at 38 1/2 years of age I think I can be sent to something cleaner & safer. I saw bits of boys all along the line of communications doing Railway Transport Officer jobs and if I were they I should be ashamed of myself, station masters they are & as safe as houses & living cleanly & comfortably. The Doctor in the Mess is a man about my own age , an Edinburgh man & he seems a good sort, he knows your cousin old Dr Peddie, so I shall have somebody to talk with occasionally, though the O.C. may turn out to be a congenial sort.
I am eagerly looking out for your first letter, which I dare say is following me up from Rouen. I hope you have been able to manage all right. I shall send you a 5/- cheque for Xmas & ask Cox to see it through. I hope Ted will continue the £10, as otherwise I don`t know what I shall do. I must write to B.A. & see what money I have in the London & R.P. Bank as I ought to have something there with the rents coming in from Asuncion. I was a fool to accept this instead of holding out & looking for something better; however three months & then leave & then at home I will arrange something, no more of this worrying as to what would happen to you if I got killed; it is on my mind the whole time. Kiss my dear babes & the same to you my dear wife.
Your loving husband
P.S. Do not send this letter to my mother or R & G.