My dear Gertrude.
Received your first direct B.E.F. letter last-night, you were still in Burgoine.
I must say you don't seem to have had much of a holiday, you seem to have been busier with balmes if possible than at home. You will have to take a holiday free from Miss Joy later. Am glad your weather was summerlike on the whole & also that Mr Chapple was persuaded to extend his holiday. I suppose Spender & Jenny were enjoying having things to themselves in Parkdale.
I am writing this a little under difficulties, on my knee in the open in a strong wind.
You would appreciate the good cream supply at Burjoine. Drinks as usual, continue to be our great problem, water being a very uncertain commodity over here. Where our guns are at present the water is very bad, & it is nothing to talk about at our rear billets. It is fairly safe with lime juice which we have had a regular supply of for sometime, but it has run out this week. Tea remains the really safest drink. Our milk is naturally the tinned variety.
You ask me some questions about Battery work - I think I have probably supplied most of the information already.
I don't think I will be giving any censorable information in saying that a Battery has usually 4 or 6 guns, 2 guns going to a section - & a Batter having 2 or 3 sections. However with the heaviest guns there are often only 2 to a Battery - one in each section. A lieutenant nominally commands a section. Very approximately there are 500 men in a battery of course not all on the guns - motor men for the transports - signalers - cooks etc
It was a good job I wrote to you on Saturday as I went forward very suddenly in the evening & of course did not get back till late on Monday. Mother's Sunday letter did not get written till Tuesday. Yesterday I was on observation duty - dawn to dusk is already a quickly diminishing period - no car to take us part of the way - so two long tramps & found your letter waiting me.
Soon after I got in, the telephone rang & a message came that one of our officers was to go on leave today. It is 8 Â½ months since we landed but as there has been practically no leave since April, my turn ought to come sooner. Also the have altered the minimum period of qualifying service for officers from 7 months to 5 months again. Macleod - the stowaway boy has gone. My turn may quite possibly come by Christmas if things continue to go well & I could certainly get it before then for any very special reason.
Never heard of the cream envelopes you mention for officers instead of the green ones the men get. I don't see what use they could be as the government would never surrender the right of censoring any letter altogether & our letters are only dealt with like the men's green ones - that is a fixed proportion - 1 in a 1000 or so are opened. The only thing I can think of would be that it might ensure them being censored in Canada instead of England. I would distinctly prefer the latter - people are more likely to know one or know people that one knows, in Ottawa, not that I often write anything I should worry about others chancing to see. You might send me on one of Jenny's envelopes to see sometime.
I met a Montreal man yesterday belonging to the British R.E. who has been over for four years - came with the 1st contingent having transferred he had not had the 3 months leave the 1st contingent got. He belonged to the Field Survey Company - who make all the maps we use & keep them up to date & make maps of the new enemy country when advances take place by taking the old French government survey maps & correcting them & bringing them up to date from photographs taken by our air men. It takes of course all kinds of corps & departments to make up an army & a great many men & officers are little more than civil servants in khaki.
Had letters from Mother & Aunty Kate on Monday & a P.C. from Berk also "Globes" from you for the latter half of June. I think it is fairly certain that a lot you send do not get through. Thanks very much for these.
Will enclose Mother's letter, Guy Robinson is the En-Canadian office who was goosed. He has evidently got into a fairly decent post.
I expect the parcels mentioned are still on their way.
Of the Morton's mentioned, the only son was Rob's busom friend- known in our household by the not very flattering or pretty nickname of "Fusty Mutton" - his name Herbert. Like Rob, he is in a Colliery Company - rheumatism has kept him from the army - & Rob & he were planning to go into business as coal agents together.
The Bob Marsh mentioned is a Curate - a very ernest & hardworking fellow but also one of the type that is caricatured so much.
I must close on this sheet. Hope you are very well.
With all my love