No 3 Same old hole
15th Jan. 1916
My dear Barbara
Ted has asked me to get 48 hours leave and run home to sign that transfer of the Mendoza property, and I have today applied for leave, so that if it is granted, I shall arrive at Victoria at 2.30 on Thursday afternoon. As I should to leave again on Friday, by about midday probably, I am afraid that I shall have to deny myself the happiness of seeing the babes, but you could, if you wished, run up to Town and we could have a few hours together.
I shall probably know on Monday and if I can get home I’ll wire Ted, asking him to advise you & then you could meet me at Victoria on arrival of the train, if you are able to run up. I have felt much better on the whole this week, though a bit “rheumaticky” the first few days out here. There is a good deal of night work to do now, the moon being bright and favourable for work and we hardly do anything during the day; three more days here & then back to billets, though the O.C. tells me there is as much to do there as here.
These dear old Generals who have as much idea of practical methods of work as they have of Chinese metaphysics, pile up work on work & then go back to their comfortable quarters thinking themselves wonderful fellows; the consequence is they get about half as much real work done as they might and only a fourth of that of practical value. If in peace time to liken a man to an old general is to mean an amiable old fellow of no practical value to his fellows, it takes a war to shew how true this generalisation is. I am irresistibly reminded of my boyhood’s conception of pantomime when I see a General strutting about with his obsequious staff in attendance a yard or two behind always; I suppose when a Royal Prince appears the staff fall behind & the General becomes as the staff are to him – a mixture of confidant & lackey. We English will never take a war seriously until we have to defend our own hills & valleys the enemy having landed and then how soon would all this frippery, gold lace, & hunting for favours go by the board; the real men would be pushed as leaders and war would be truly war. I cannot feel that anything is serious when so much importance is given to matters which cannot possibly have any bearing on the war. I am sure there has been nothing of this with old King Peter of Servia or with King Nicholas of Montenegro.
How I wish I could get out of this stupid routine, where all my experience & all that I have learnt is used for the purpose of draining ditches, putting stakes to hold up the sides,and then filling sandbags & placing them along the edge. That is the sum total of my work & it is for this that we gave up what we did. Muddle muddle everywhere and nobody in his right place. If it were not for our men, splendid fellows that they are in spite of the way they are wasted, the Huns would have eaten us up long ago.
The Huns must be feeling that their game is up; they never do anything except in retaliation; they are always content to let well alone, but our guns give them no rest night or day & incidentally give us no rest either. Between the guns and the signal service, which is the escape valve for the ideas which develop in the brains of the “Higher Authorities” after dinner we get no sleep; at two in the morning I am awakened by a telegram about some new method of catching rats in the trenches or of preventing frostbite or of some sham attack we are going to make perhaps 5 miles to my right or to my left; in fact telegrams about anything & everything except the things that matter, and on those there is a dignified silence.
However I suppose it will all end some day and then when one no longer has to suffer, we will have unending subjects for laughter; never will it be necessary to be melancholy again, one will only have to think of the incidents of this war.
I am rather expecting a letter from you tonight, and I am still anxiously looking forward to Photos of the babes. Hug them all for me, how I wish I could see them. And with much love to you my dear
Your affectionate husband