Letter 8

2nd Jan 1916 56th. Field Coy R.E.

B.E.F. France


My dear Barbara

I have not written to you for some days as I have never seemed to have time to sit down quietly & do so; I have only had a quarter of an hour at a time as it were and dashed off a few letter cards to Mother, R,& G. I got your parcel my dear & everything in it was excellent; the hot water bottle is a perfect godsend as I manage to get hot water now at about 9.30 p.m.& and I can get to sleep soon after instead of having to wait as before till my feet thawed.

By the way in the future the Division must not be put on our letters, so always write as above.

I have two more days in the dug-out when I return for a week to Hdqrs & a bath & rest.

The work here is extremely strenuous; I am out in the trenches for 6 to 8 hours every day and very often from 2 to 4 hours every night making reconnaissances for new trenches.

So you are having a hard time of it with the children; my poor girl! I know what it is with Ruth there, the boys get along all right. She is the “eternal feminine” which upsets everything. You will be glad when she can get back to school.

This is a pretty expensive mess I am in; I had to pay 125 francs in advance and then the charge is 3 francs a day which works to 6 francs really as we four section commanders are only a fortnight each month in Hdqrs. When I get home I shall move Heaven & Earth to get something else; this is not good enough doing the work of a boy of 20 at my age and you all having to pinch & scrape as you do. They must either give me something more or less on a par with my standing in normal times or let me go. Six months of this is enough for a man of my age to have done.

These Regulars simply exploit us and the R.E.’s are noted for it. In the Infantry or Cavalry they cannot do it as the Temporary people so greatly outnumber the Regulars & besides they have their own organisations. Had I joined the Cavalry it is quite possible I might have been a Major by now & in the Infantry certainly. The thing is topsy turvy & I am going to put an end to it as far as I am concerned. After all I gave three years of my youth to the Service of my country in the S.A. war & I am entitled to a certain amount of consideration now. To see a boy sitting quietly at Hdqrs doing nothing but riding about the country & living in comfort while we older men are here in the trenches doing the work they should be doing, makes me somewhat annoyed. Most of them would not be able to do the work of an apprentice engineer have certainly not had any sort of scientific or mathematical training; the older Regular R.E.’s are very little better, their professional education having stopped short when they left Chatham and one only has to talk of engineering works when one can notice their effort to understand. They are the frauds of the Army and how they have kept up the deception so long is an index of the general low standard of scientific knowledge. I used to hear the same thing in India from civilian members of the P.W.D. but thought it might have been due to jealousy, and later again in South Africa from engineers who had served with them, but now I see for myself.

So the Xmas tree went off all right & I suppose the babes hardly slept all night for excitement.

By the way I had forwarded from the Argentine Club a packet of Xmas cards from Miss Geeks & a note asking me to send them to the children; I sent them today.

I hope to have a nice long letter from you soon telling me all about everything; where is Erskine? did you post my letter on to him?

John’s letter was very interesting; I wrote him some days before; in fact I wrote about 15 letters last week at Hdqrs, including to the Girdlestones, Webb etc.etc, so presently I ought to get a crop of replies. By the way Miss Geeks said she was working for an exam as “Lady Dispenser”& hoped if she passed next month to get a job in one of the hospitals abroad. I am afraid the doctors would flurry her in the midst of a delicate prescription.

Have you heard again from Mrs Griffiths? what are the Newtons doing?

I enquired about the Lincolns & it is quite close to where they were badly cut up at the beginning of the war; they wandered into the Hun trenches & a large number were killed & and their bodies buried by the Huns probably all in one big grave, so young Peddie may have been one of these. I wish I had tried for the Indian Sappers & Miners, they have gone to another part of the world where I am sure it will be more interesting than here; in fact this may be a solution when I next get home, or garrison duty in India.

Are you having it very cold at L’hampton? Is Ruth as keen as ever on her lessons?& Dicky growing big & strong & the wee Patrick as broad as he is long. Hug them well for me & kiss them.

Well good-bye for the present my dear & many thanks for the parcel but you must spend no more money on these things. We are just going to have the cake for lunch.

Love from



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