56th Field Coy R.E.
16th Dec 1915
My dear Barbara
I have just received your long letter of the 4th re-addressed from Rouen. Well here I am up in the trenches this week about a mile & a half or two miles behind the fire trench, and am living in a little dug-out on the bank of a canal. It is filthy dirty, mud & slush everywhere & cold as the Arctic with green stagnant water 3 yards in front, and every morning & evening we are treated to half an hour of Hun “Hate”. Every kind of shell whizzes over & bursts just over the other side, but if ever one heavy shell by some chance comes on the dug-out & I am in it, well, my dear you will be a widow, & this happened in the other section’s dug-outs the other day and only fragments of the men inside could be recovered. But it is not probable as the shell would have to be a high trajectory one & it would have to be good shooting. Besides it is at some gun emplacements a hundred yards ahead that they are aiming at & not us. We can have no fires during the day & no men are allowed to shew themselves. From here we crawl out every morning through a tunnel and go to work in the communication trenches which are fairly safe if one keeps one’s head down; at night time we go up to the fire trenches and work there. Last night I had a hundred men working with me joining up two trenches; we had two bombing parties out in front to cover us in case of an attack and a listening post still further out. The Huns evidently suspected something as they were sending a large number of flares up over us but we all kept quite still each time & nothing happened. It was most exciting, but oh! so cold. I was up to my knees in mud & water, (I had waders on) & there we were slipping & sliding the whole time. I could see the Bosche parapets & every now & again the flash of their rifles, they were only 200 or 300 yards away.
I went in to our of our sniping out-posts & looked through a telescope at a couple of Huns who were standing up behind their trenches near some trees and then our sniper pulled the trigger & one of them fell like a log.
I am going out again tonight but intend coming home sooner than yesterday, as I was very done up this morning when I arrived back. I shall be glad of any socks you can send me.
I am so sorry you have had to go to that Fund, but it cannot be helped as it is certain that the pay they give me is not sufficient, & I could be earning 4 times as much, were I not serving. The worst of everything here is the damp & cold & dirt; no hot water available for want of fuel & because fires are dangerous or at least smoke is. The food is pretty scrappy & thrown at one. However that’s nothing, but it really annoys me to think of those two boys of 20 sitting safely & in comparative comfort at the billets far back, because they are senior & a man for my age out here. Never mind, three months will soon pass & wild horses won’t bring me back from England to this.
I’ll not continue serving with these Regulars who simply exploit us & get all the safe jobs for themselves; the more I see of them the more they excite my contempt, stupid,
ignorant, & with enormous conceit of themselves and oh! so childish & foolish.
It is most amusing what you tell me about Mrs. W & Mrs. C quarreling like dogs over a bone for a few pounds & yet looking down on honest tradesmen who would scorn to do such things. I think we do things better in Paraguay where we don’t talk about money matters between friends. How I long for the warmth of Paraguay, my feet are blocks of ice.
I am so glad you are happy in the new house and that the babes are well & cheery. Ruth need not console herself with the hope that I am at “the back of the war”, I wish I were. There is not an hour of the day or night that shells or rifle bullets do not fly over our heads, & I am very much at the front.
I like my O.C. he is a good chap & more intelligent & more a man of the world than the usual ornamental Regular one meets here; but he has been on the W, coast of Africa & alas has the usual infirmity of men who have been there long. I am afraid he will not last long; the cold hurts him.
Well goodbye my dear with love to you & the children