Letter 16

No 7 Stationary Hospital


12th March 1916

My dear Barbara

No letter came from you last evening so I am hoping there will be one tonight. I trust you are better and that the Doctor has been able to see what is the matter with you. I had a visitor this afternoon, Powell the Traffic man from Asuncion; you would never recognise him; he is enormously fat with rolls of chins and a big corporation; he has been here eight months as a Railway Transport officer, living on the fat of the land in comfort & cleanliness; in the summer he had glorious sea bathing & in the winter they seem to do themselves fairly well. However he must be a very useful man to them with his knowledge of railway traffic in contradistinction to the crowds of incompetents they have in these soft jobs. What a topsy turvy world it is; I am glad somehow I took the hard path & have seen the real thing, battle, murder & death and all the filth & hardship of the trenches, but I must confess I am now tired of it and would like a rest. I envied those young subalterns on the day of the attack going over the parapet with their men and fighting and my job seemed tame in comparison, waiting for the trench to be taken & then going forward with my men to build up the parapets & put out the wire; anyhow they had the excitement of battle whereas we had to work in cold blood with bullets & shells flying over us & round us

They (the young subalterns) seemed so excited as they came back every now & again & reported to the Colonel, with whom I was 11111111111111111111, how things were going, Once, one captain of about 24, reported that three fourths of his company were over and he believed casualties & that he had no other officers to send forward with more men to reinforce & continue the attack & I felt strangely tempted to offer my services, but I thought of you all & then again of my orders that my sappers were to be carefully held in reserve till the attack was over & the enemy trenches were taken, & then I had a fit of shyness, as I did not wish to appear heroic or anything of that sort & I might have been severely snubbed by the Colonel declining my services (you see the men were Highlanders & he would not like an Englishman come in) & so I sat still & said nothing; but you will believe me when I say that I was very unhappy over it all & that I wished I were as those gay young fellows coming in, one with his arm bound up another with a bandage on his head and another with his face bleeding.

My kit has not arrived yet and I feel so utterly miserable, as I simply cannot get out in these trench clothes, they are too conspicuously trench-like and today has been a glorious spring day. This morning I sneaked out with a Tommy’s great coat and went & sat on the beach for an hour, there was nobody there then, but this afternoon the band played and the whole of Boulogne went in its best clothes and so I stayed in,-and saw Powell

Looking out of my bedroom window , the scene has been very gay, as all the people have passed by on their way to the band; I am afraid the people who please me least are our own officers, they seem so “got up” for the occasion and have such a “foppery” look in contrast to the quiet looking French officers & men; of course there are lots of quiet good fellows amongst ours but the great majority are these new officers drawn from all sorts of places, and there is no doubt they are slightly above themselves; never in their lives did they imagine that they could ever be more than they were & here they strut about in a ridiculous fashion. I feel sure the French see through them & feel a certain contempt for them. They don’t even appear to notice them and pass them as if they were something they had to put up with for a time, & so it is not worth while worrying. It annoys me also to see staff & other officers (all with “embusque” jobs you may be sure) lolling back in Government motor cars & quite obviously out for joy rides. The French cannot but feel that we are not serious, and really I do not believe that we are as a nation yet. We have a long way to go before we win this war & then I believe it will be our Navy which will really decide matters. Certainly not this army unless great changes take place from the top downwards

This morning I saw lots of children playing on the beach & young mothers with them & I wondered if your beloved ones were doing the same. I wish I could have got home for even a week; I am sure it would have done me more good than staying here for a month.

So far I have not had any reply from the Ry. Construction people. So Portugal has joined in ; I wonder if Spain will; if so I shall try and get a job as an “officer de liaison”; it would be interesting whereas my job is as dull as ditchwater. When you are fit again you might send me my cigarette case, I think after all it would be very useful.

Well goodbye my dear, keep cheerful & carry out the doctors instructions carefully and you will soon be well again.

Much love to you & the babes from