220 Ind. Port Constr. Coy. IE
South East Asia Command
I have just had two letters from you, one written in January and one on March 14th. The latter arrived before the January one, and has therefore only taken six weeks, which is a bit of a change from the usual 3 to 6 months. You seem to be moving in high and mighty society nowadays, with the numerous ambassadors, ministers etc. I am rather surprised to hear that you are trying to sell your Cuernavaca house, as it was always such a retreat for you, but if the place is getting spoilt I don’t blame you, but mind you stick out for a handsome price for it. The odd dinners you attend make me a bit jealous as I have forgotten what good food tastes like. the British or Indian Armies haven’t changed their rations for the past fifty years, and all we get is bully beef, with rather scarce anaemic vegetables occasionally, and also a peculiar type of American sausage, which even animals refuse and which is called a Pork and Soya Link. I sometimes feel that someone in high authority, or on some purchasing commission must have substantial holdings in Bully, as no variation is ever served, not even Meat and Vegetable.
We are now in a comparatively rear area, about 20 miles from the nearest Jap, and have been here for the past two months. We were right forward at one time, and I in fact was the first person in to the village at which we were to work after it had been cleared by the infantry. We worked hard there, had grandstand views of battles two or three miles away, and at one time were cut off for a few days by the Japs who got across our L of C. Two years ago, that would meant a general retreat, but this time it only meant a period of suspense while they were cleared out. On one of my recce’s I motored slap bang into a battle in which our Tanks were taking part, and stayed to watch it for a few minutes before hurriedly turning the car and buzzing off. Life was interesting during those two months, and the last two months have been an anti-climax after them.
We are all rather bored now, and a bit fed up, and are looking forward to a complete change of the station for the monsoon which is just about to start. Most of us have got the 1939 – 43 Star out of the last few months, but as a man who has been sitting in Calcutta for that period also gets it, it doesn’t mean much to us. I do think that the Bengal –Burma border is probably one of the bloodiest spots on the face of the earth, as it is damned hot, very damp, very malarious, and has absolutely none of the amenities of civilisation. I have private grouse of my own in addition. It being, that some time ago, last Christmas to be precise, an Army Order was published stating that wives could now come to India from the Colonies and the U.K. I made my application to bring Budge out here and park her in a Hill Station, and it was refused on the grounds that I was in an operational area. The inference being that if I had a nice soft job in Delhi or Simla I could have her, but since I was B.F. enough to be near the fighting I couldn’t, I would dearly love to meet the man who made that decision. I have protested vigorously, but that was two months ago and there has been no reply. These statements in the paper that all men with 5 years service abroad have [to] be repatriated, are hardly accurate, as I have met several with more.
Another masterpiece from Delhi has also said that Indian Army officers will not be repatriated, and that no scheme for leave home is likely to be evolved. In fact, once in the Indian Army one is stuck here. Another letter was soon published saying that a leave scheme for I.A. officers would be evolved but would take time. The whole set up makes one feel very bolshie. Budgie is very well and so is Sue. She writes wonderful letters very regularly, and they are one of the joys which I look forward to. Another is the Reader’s Digect which I had all last year from you. You say you have continued the subscition and also added “Life”. I am very grateful and thoroughly enjoy them. “Life” has not yet started to arrive, but if you have either my Bank address, or the address at the top of this letter it will do so. Unfortunately there is a Major P.E. Holmes R.E. in this area, and he would get anything addressed to my old address c/o D.C.E., although I expect he would forward it. I have had a card from “Magazine Digest” saying that you had opened a subscription, and it went to him first. Nothing has arrived as yet. Could you get the address changed to c/o Imperial Bank Ltd., Bombay, as they will always know my latest? I am afraid this is rather a dull letter, but I can’t give you any news of my work as everything is censorable. I received the two photos of Jane and Stella. The latter has grown enormously and is more like you than ever. We Holmes certainly leave an unmistakeable imprint on our children. Give my best love to them both. Budge tells me that one of the Mitchell-Innes is going to divorce her husband. Anne I suppose. I am afraid I thought her husband was an absolute wash out.
By the way, your March letter was the first I had heard about your Insurance venture. I hope it is a success
All love to you