Wednesday 17th Feb. 1916 56th Field Coy
My dear Barbara
I have just got your letter of the 11th, six days on the way; its too bad to delay the post in this way.
Its’ good news to hear of your success as regards the house, that is, if your landlord will accept the two weeks notice; in any case I expect he will make you pay a months rent or rather an extra fortnights; these London business men are sharks and I think at times it would almost be a good thing were the Huns to get in and squeeze them dry.
We stay out here and fight their battles and get poorer every day while they make more money than ever from the war and live in security. I think there is much method in the good old Paraguayan system of periodical revolutions which levels things up every now and again when they get too unequal. I suppose you took a lot of trouble looking round for a house and so deserve to get one, whereas these other good ladies in the same position as yourself sit still and expect things to be done for them.
It is exceedingly nice here being ‘”on rest”; to live cleanly and decently , to sleep comfortably in bed, to be free of those constant alarms and noises, to have never a thought of a shell or rifle bullet, these are all Heaven after the front line. Of course we work hard; this is our programme: 7.45 to 8.15 drill, 8.15 to 9.15 breakfast, 9.15 to 9.45 drill, 10 to 12 Route march, 12.15 to 1.15 lectures to the men and inspections , 1.15 to 2.00 drill. Then the rest of the day is ones own to ride over the country or walk or to go anywhere or do anything. I now have a stove in my room and it is most comfortable; I only wish wives were allowed to come to France & I would get you over for these three weeks on a visit. Grace could go & look after the “babes” for that time. By the way has she been down to see you yet?, if she goes to the W.O. to take up this job she is keen on she will not be able to do so. Rachel tells me that she caught a bad cold in Town; mine got well almost immediately I arrived; I expect my voyage experience cured me.
We had a terrible fright to-day as we were ordered to get ready to move back to the Front at a moments notice and we packed up & got ready when the order came through cancelling it; we were sick as it is only now that we are beginning to feel the benefit of the change & the rest after those appalling trenches; the thought of that monotony again ahead makes me simply sick, but I drive away all thoughts of that and think that ” sufficient for the day is the evil thereof”; as a matter of fact once we are there and doing the work the time simply flies and we soon adapt ourselves; the human animal is a curious being.
My O.C. Capt Francis knows Capt McQueen quite well; he is somewhere near us I think. Do not send me the Bystander as one of the Mess gets it; I think I should I should like a magazine occasionally; Cornhill or any other you like yourself.
By the way do you mind looking amongst those books I left behind and you will find a small refill for a pocket book containing notes (amongst other things) on pontoons explosives; it is a tiny thing & I think I left it amongst the books though it may be somewhere else. Also send me one of those copies of Mr Stuart’s when he recommended me for the E.R. railways also a copy of Hessen—“s letter on my leaving the Paraguay Ry. to come to the war.
How is Ruth progressing at school?. I enjoy looking at the photo of the three of them; it stands together with yours on this table facing me. Has Pat said any more curious things lately? and dear little Dick, how is he?. Did you give that present to Ada for me? do tell me and ease my mind. I feel horrid not having given her anything, but i really could not offer her money; so if you have not done so , just buy something like a good girl & tell her you forgot to do it in London when I asked you to.
Francis came bask from leave yesterday morning looking as usual and he continues as usual; he is a merry chap, but I wish they would give him a job at home as I am afraid he will never stand a bad spell in the trenches; he looks so ill at times poor fellow. It has been raining & blowing a gale for the last 5 days here, though the rain stops a bit in the afternoons, and consequently the work outside is a bit unpleasant, but still we have our rooms to come to and change & sit down in, not like those beastly dug-outs. If only we had an advance and had some open fighting instead of this burrowing like rats. I look forward to being in one advance & then if I come through all right I think I shall be justified at my age & with four dependants on me, in asking to be transferred to a Works Company ; after all a Field Coy is meant for youngsters & my experience is thrown away in doing work any of these young subalterns a year or two from Woolwich can do quite as well & with a great deal more energy. I think however the men prefer being with an older officer, at least the class of men we have now in the Army, men of intelligence & education and drawn from a class a good deal superior to the old type of soldier.
Erskine is a fortunate fellow getting an Adjutancy he certainly has the knack of looking after himself, and I suppose it is a great advantage..I am afraid my dear you made a bad bargain when you married me; I have not enough push, nor can I shove myself forward & so you have to squeeze & scrape. Perhaps we shall come through the war & then things will be normal again. But “quien sabe”.
The Cure’s housekeeper jabbers at me every day & I am slowly beginning to understand her; I can make her understand all right in my mixture of Spanish-French; she has taught my servant to make excellent coffee & I have a large quantity brought to my bed in the morning.
Well good-bye old girl; kiss the babes for me and don’t let them forget me & love to yourself.