Somewhere in Mud,
Oct. 24, 1917
Do you recognize the address for it is our new one and never before have we had such reasons to use it, for now there is nothing in the world but mud - or perhaps I would rather say that the world's supply of mud has concentrated itself on this little bit of Belgium and that every other country under the sun is dry and beautiful. Since my last letter of the 16th we have moved from our comfortable little home. We pulled out about noon on the 18th, walked back a couple of miles, caught the motor lorries, and started. We travelled until about 6 o'clock, when we stopped in a little town for supper. At 7 we were away again. All night long the lorries bowled along and at 4 in the morning landed us in a little town about 20 kilometers behind our new position. I wish you could have seen us on that night trip. It was certainly amusing. Of course in true soldier fashion we started the trip singing and for a time all the old favorites could be heard ringing out along the road. But the boys had a busy day of it and were tired and about 9 o'clock the singing died down and we began to feel like sleeping.
There were fifteen of us in the lorry and we all had our great coats on so the cold did not worry us although it was a chilly night. We made ourselves as comfortable as possible by spreading our kits out level and getting in a reclining position on them. Soon we were dozing and for a little while all went well. By then our troubles began. The first and most important of these was the feet proposition. Either our feet were too big or else the space in the center was too small to make a rendezvous with fifteen pairs of Kitcheness (?) For one would slowly be brought to consciousness with a vague sensation of something hauling at his feet and would wake to find someone planting a pair of no.12's from the bottom of the heap. This would cause others to realize that their feet were asleep and there would be a general unlayering for a few minutes. Then somebody would discover that his neck was twisted or that his arm was asleep and so it went on through the night.
But the most amusing incident of all occurred in the morning. As I said we got to our destination about 4 a.m. No sooner had the lorries stopped than the majority of the fellows got out deciding that it was more comfortable to walk around until breakfast time than lay cramped up in the lorry. Those of us who remained stretched out for a good hour's sleep. I woke a little after five and not seeing anybody in the lorry except the two fellows beside me in the front stretched out my feet to get the cramped feeling out of my legs. This action was followed by the groan from somewhere in the center of the lorry. I saw one of our sergeants lying face downward with his ribs pushed a couple of inches nearer his heart by a pair of no. 8's. But this was not all. I woke Ben Conrad who was sleeping beside me and he repeated the performance only he took a turn at the sergeant's shoulder and arm. So much for the preliminary bombardment but the sergeant has yet to undergo something much more intense and he is not kept long waiting. The other
chap got up and standing to leave the lorry placed one of his no.9's between his unfortunate victim's shoulders. This time instead of a dull roar there was a distinct yell followed by quite audible mutters, which perhaps are better not put down on paper. C'est la guerre - such is war - and such incidents are a grain of spice to the monotony of everyday routine. Well we spent that day and the next in huts just outside the town, and on the 21st moved up to our new position which we took over from another battery.
We have had some 17 months in France, six on the Somme and eleven around Vimy and we have always wanted to come to Belgium and see some of the places made world-famous before the war. So when we heard that we were going to move, although we were loath to leave our splendid position, we were glad that it was to the north. Our first impression of Belgium is that it is a low flat country which will with any movements become a mire of mud., and that impression proved correct. I thought the Somme a bad place for mud but it was nothing compared to this. It is mud everywhere. Even one's blankets can after a couple of days show a generous daubing of it. Hence the heading of this letter, 'somewhere in mud'. However we only expect to be here a short time and no doubt by the time you get this letter we will be getting ready to move again to a better front. So no use worrying and after all it is worth a little siege of mud to see those historic Belgian towns now a mass of ruins.
The Belgian people from what we have seen of them are splendid, - generous, unassuming, and hospitable. They all speak more or less English - many of the younger generation speak if perfectly. They have picked up wonderfully, for they tell me that before the war hardly anybody understood a word of English and whatever knowledge they have of the language they have picked up from soldiers.
I received your letter of September 26 last night. Am glad you got the views of Versailles and the others should go all right. I sent you a little box of souvenirs on the 17th. They do not amount to much, just a few trinkets which I picked up here and there. I hope you get them all right. I will send something better later on.
Was pleased to hear that Mrs. Henlie was better again. You speak of Mrs. Clark being on the Island to see her father. He must be getting quite old now. I would like to run around to see him. He and I used to be great friends when I was in P.W.C.. I used to go down almost every Sunday to see him, usually went down after Sunday School and stayed until tea-time.
Am glad that the autos are getting a foothold on the Island for it is not before time. It is a pity some of the kickers couldn't see the work that the auto and motor truck are doing out here and they would change their views too. Now I must ring on as it is breakfast time. Please excuse paper as it is all that I have with me in the exchange. Will write again in a few days. All well and happy
Love to all, Harold