Your letter of Feby 4th came tonight with the first mail I have had for weeks. Believe me I was glad to hear from you and am sorry that I am so busy I cannot write you all more often. But if you were here for a short time you would understand. Until recently we have been doing tours of somewhere about 20 days at a time. During this time we can not find the necessary time or convenience for writing.
Poor Old Wess Erskin got a severe cold whilst we were on the Somme and went to Hospital. He was so bad that he was finally shipped to England and is just now getting out of Hospital. I got a letter from Lin[?] tonight in which he says that Dr McKenzie is offering him a commission and it seems as tho it will go through.
Just for your information - we have had the most interesting time in the last three weeks that we have had since we arrived in France. On the Somme and before & since we did a lot of beastly hard nasty muddy work and suffered badly in doing it. But we got a chance at Line twice within the last two weeks. On the 19th February we raided his trenches and blew up a mine bombed his dugouts and killed quite a bunch of them and while we had a few casualties it showed us what we could do and how much more fun it was fighting than sitting still and taking his guff. So we went at Line again on the 22nd. This time I applied for permission to go over in charge of one party and got it. Our object was to wreck a Sap and kill off the garrison. A Sap is a short trench dug out forward from the front line trench to obtain better observation of the enemies trenches or as a place for sniping and Machine guns or Bombers . The sap I was after had bothered us in our first raid. We started at 5.30 P.M. and the artillery fire was great. I hardly realize yet how we got over without being touched but I arrived and found I could not get in on account of Barbed wire. So I bombed the sap and then stepped up to the wire & threw a 10 Ilb chart of Ammonal on it. It was touch & go to get away from that place in time. After the explosion I went back and found a big hole in the wire & got in. After a few minutes looking around I left another charge and beat it down & into a crater. You should have seen the sand bags and timbers flying. We made an awful mess of that sap. Then slowly made our way back. Meanwhile the artillery was banging away in lovely style and kept it up until 5.50 On the way back we searched several shell holes for some men who were supposed to be there but could only fin d one quite dead. One of my men got hit so we had to carry him in and he was an awful weight. By the time we got in we found it so dark that you could not see your hand 6 inches from your nose and we had to carry our wounded men down. It was some job I'll tell you. The poor chap died that night. Two others were slightly wounded by shrapnel. The Brigadier General, Major General & Corp Commander were all very eulogistic in their praise of our two raids. Probably you will see something in the papers about it as the O.C. has spoken to the Battalion about sending copies of the messages of congratulation home.
I hear from my old Batman Court. He was wounded on the somme. I was most fortunate on that occasion. Three wounded and one killed within a radius of ten yards of me and I hardly knew there had been a shell near us I was so busy.
My goodness what a tale I could tell if I could only see you for a few days.
We are undergoing a transitory stage of the nature of the fighting. All winter we have been raiding the enemies trenches every day or so and sometimes two or three in a day. This was done with a two fold object - first, of getting information and second of demoralizing the Germans. We have them so frightened or as we say - their wind is up all the time that they frequently open up an artillery straff when there is absolutely nothing doing. We put over gas on him a day or so ago. The gas is said to be noiseless on leaving the cylinder and colorless so that you cannot see it coming. But our artillery takes the cake. On one of these raids we fire more artillery ammunition than was used in S.A. War. so you can imagine what a din it makes when you realize they only last half an hour.
Believe me I do take good care of myself. No more exposure than is absolutely necessary. Even then a fellow gets his if it is coming to him. For instance - one day I was observing through a periscope from away down behind the parapet. Old Heiner started to straff almost straight overhead. I paid no attention but noticed that he was shortening his range on each shot. Finally his 8th shell struck the parapet about two feet from my head and knocked the sand bags out. Fortunately it was only a whizbang (15 pounder) and the force of the explosion was taken up by moving the sand-bags. So that no explosive effect was felt in the trench. But all this goes to show that its all a matter of luck or Gods Providence.
Tell Mother and the Sisters both I will write them a personal letter tomorrow night and try to keep them from worrying.
As ever Dear Dad