In Billets 5 P.M.
Dec 4 1915
My Dear Mother and Father
At last I have an opportunity of writing to you in peace and quietness. You will see by the heading where we are, about two miles back of the line in a nice dry hut, although outside it rains continually the mud as usual is knee deep and things are almost the same as I have described to you in previous letters.
Out last stay in the trenches was more lively than usual and in a way I was glad to come out, even though it be for three days. Our guards were strict and a more thorough lookout had to be kept. A new order came out that no parcels be delivered in the front line so we find ourselves to-day eating candy nuts candy cake and smoking Canadian cigars and cigarettes, absolutely full up to the neck for what we cant eat must be left behind. I did not get up to-day no sickness or anything like that just having a good solid rest, in fact the seven of us in this tent did the same.
Yesterday I got a new outfit, trousers [?] new underwear, new shirt, put on the socks you sent, had a wash, shave, hair cut, brushed my teeth, trimmed my moustache, (hair on my upper lip) looked in the mirror and met an entirely different person from the day before, unshaven, unwashed mud in my hair, mud all over my clothes, that tired look very much in evidence, in fact an out and out bum. After getting cleaned up I went to a nearby village (X) called to see Orvil but he was out, went to a grocery store and bought two dozen eggs along with four other fellows in the section, took them to a cottage across the road where the lady of the house and her nephew, a boy of 12 or 14 who by the way is a refugee, speaks English, French, Belgique etc. (more about him later on) cooked them for us and served coffee and bread. The eggs were deliciously fresh and the five I had seemed like a sample only, but as our pocket money was scarce and the eggs cost 72 (cent sign) per doz we figured we had had enough.
In this village the Germans stopped 5 days where might be called the stemming of their great advance a year ago. The young lad was there at the time and told us how they were driven back. The English, Indian Lancers, and French from two different directions, riding so furiously with set lancers that many were killed by stumbling horses. The Germans sleeping on the road with black bread, champagne and cigars, hands and wrists covered with looted jewlery from a large town a few miles distant "Y" threw away everything and ran in great disorder, machine gun mounted motors played an important part here. In fact the boy had seen more of the war then any of us have or will for sometime. He had a German officers helmet, two golden eagles and the spike with two bullet holes through it but which was confiscated by a Belgian policeman. This relic coming from him could have been sold for hundreds of francs and he knew it too. He gave me a German button, but there is no printing on it, just plain brass. When the boy was telling of the Indian lancers he got very excited and made faces to impress upon us the fear they put into the Germans. His English was poor, having picked it up from the soldiers, mostly slang and swearing but by paying close attention to his facial expression one could gain a better impression of what he wanted to say than if he spoke English fluently. Altogether we spent a very enjoyable evening, at night the place is pitch black, impossible to see your hand before your face and you simply feel your way along beside passing transports, motors go along with lights out for the road is under shell fire at times and always within range.
Now I must acknowledge all your parcels. I believe everything has been received so far except the apples which by now I don't expect. Many of the rest of the boys had apples sent which were not received. Possibly they have been sent to hospitals etc, at which places they would do more good, I hope. Parcels are coming in here so fast that they will be wasted. Today I have received three, one cant eat all the good material sent and the rest are the same, so what are we to do. You cant carry it into the trenches for with our equipment and the gun etc the load is easily 100 to 120 pounds. However everything cant work out just as we expect it can it?
Mrs. [?] cap, Edna's cigarettes and Margaret's hanky are very much appreciated. I would like to write and than them all and if I spent much time away from the trench I would have time but when you stop to think that since we, that is the machine gun section, have been over here we have been away from the front line or immediately in rear of it not more than twelve days. I wish them all a very very Happy Christmas which I know you will convey to them, at the same time expressing my regret of my inability to thank them individually.
There is not much more to say now. I wish I could be transported to spend Christmas with you as this will be the first Christmas when we havenot all been home together, but I will be with you in mind, or spirit as some would say and although the distance separating us if great it will make no difference Christmas day for I will be thinking of you at home the whole day.
Your loving son