NOEUX LES MINES
January 7, 1918
Budsie My Darling:
I received a letter from you yesterday that was written on November 24th '17 so you can see how long the letters take now, to come over, and that was the first letter for over 4 weeks. So you can see now Dear that neither of us are to blame for the irregularity of the mail. I write every week, and I know you do the same, but the letters evidently don't reach their destinations. I have not yet received the other parcel from you, nor the one from Tommy, or the gloves from Nine, and I wanted those in the worst way.
Buds, I was hurt very much indeed by your careless little remark, where you mentioned that you had been comparing my letters with those written a year previous at the time. You say there is a vast difference in the style and the length. I tried hard not to think you were scolding Dear, but the only conclusion that I can arrive at is that you are making a slight insinuation that on account of a prolonged separation, it's getting to be a case of "out of sight, out of mind". It is NOT so Budsie! As sure as there is a God in Heaven. I think of you a dozen times a day, and when I don't get letters from you, I am just as miserable as can be. Why do you think I'm getting reconciled to the separation Dear? Do you mean by that, that I am satisfied with things as they are? Do you think that I am contented with my lot now, and because I have been away from you so long that I am getting along just as well without you? Your faith and trust in me must be wavering, or you would never allow yourself to think such things, let alone say them to me. I've never needed you more in our whole married life than I do right now. I've forgotten what it is like to have somebody show some affection, or worry their head in any way about me. Like so many of the boys out here, I feel I am here for one purpose only - to do my duty and expect nothing for it in return. One is just a unit in the vast numbers out here, and naturally passes unnoticed. You are here to perform such duty as you are told to do, and you go on performing that duty. If you live, you are not noticed. If you are killed, you are buried - that's all - somebody else takes your place, and everything carries on as before. It sounds hard and callous, but "C'est La Guerre".
Now, Budsie, do you think can understand how lonely a man feels out here? How small his chances are of returning? Don't you understand that it would be impossible for any man to live this life for two long years and not change in his ways, and thoughts? And yet, those at home are always thinking - Oh, he doesn't think of me anymore, he forgets the lonely life I'm leading because he is always surrounded with companions, and is seeing different country and sights each day. But listen girlie, that may have answered for the first few months, but after that the excitement wears off, and has now become a life of unbearable monotony. Apart from the monotony of the daily existance, think of the constatnt strain on the nerves. For two months at a time, and sometimes more, you are within the danger zone.
Any moment, you are liable to undergo a severe shelling or bombing from the enemy. It's bound to tell on a man - I don't care who says differently. Your nerves simply cannot stand the strain. To back my statements up, I'll give you just a little personal instance.
We took over a new part of the line a few weeks ago and were supposed to be in a quiet and cushy spot. The first day in our billet we were hit with a piece of shell ( next bit censored) There were about 8 of us the billet at the time, and we had no idea shells ever fell that in the village, it being almost 9 miles from ther front line. The roof was smashed in, and the floor was as well - it was just a one ply wooden hut. And all the following week we were subjected to shelling all day, and bombing raids at night from aeroplanes. There are lots of civilians in the village and we have helped them extract bodies from the fallen debris. We have also carried many civilians and have been hit. The last was a woman and her boy, aged three. She was badly hit, and the baby had a head wound. Such sights at that take more guts out of a man than anything I can think of. It makes one think of home, and wonder how you would feel to have your own dear one struck down in that way.
For the last two days I have been at the advanced dressing station with an ambulance. This post is not more than a mile from the Fritz front line, and all roads are under perfect observation and therefore they can only be used at night, unless an emergency case comes in. Then, we have to take the chance. This has only happened once, and on that occasion we were shelled from the time we hit the main road. In three quarters of a mile, 7 or 8 shells fell, but only a few small bits of shrapnel went through the car and nobody was hurt.
Last night after dark, I made 5 trips from here to the main dressing station, about 6 miles each way. It was so darn cold, I could hardly sit at the wheel. Today, we have been unable to get any sleep at all because Fritz is searching for a battery and is mixing a few gas shells with the others, and they are falling very close to the station. So, we have to keep awake and on the alert. We are going down tonight for 4 days, and then we come again for two. While we are down the line we are carrying the sick and wounded to other hospitals further down the line. So we are often driving all day, and get called out of bed at all hours of the night.
Now, I think I've said enough on this matter Dear, so I'll dry up. But the reason I've written all this is to give you an idea that, if you think I've changed, you can see the reasons why. Two years of this would make a hardened sinner out of a Bishop! But please don't think that it has changed me in regard to my affections for you. I love you more and more every day, and there is only one thing I want and pray to God for, and that is he will spare me to come back to you to prove it. Don't scold me anymore my Sweetheart. Try and be patient with your Boy. I know you have had a long, miserable and lonely wait, but I am proud of the way you have stood up to it and pray God you will have the courage to endure it 'til we meet again.
And then wait and see if your Boy doesn't love you as much as he did on the day he left you.
It's too bad about poor Tommy. Please offer her my deepest sympathy. Did you father ever write with reference to Heck's death?
We're crowded out in the dugout now. Fritz has started up his nonsense and has been dropping them pretty close. He has put the candles out twice with the concussion of exploding shells. But we have a fairly bomb-proof dugout so let him go to it and waste his ammunition.
Never mind about the photograph then Dear. The only reason I've asked for it so much is I long to see your chubby little face again. You see the last picture I received was July 1916 - over a year and a half ago. Yes, send snapshots Dear, I love to get them. I received a parcel of B.C. apples from Bob yesterday. I saw in one of the B.C. papers where his wife was going to speak at a political meeting for the Unionist Government.
This is all the paper I have up here, so must quit. Write as often as you can Darling. I long for your letters. Kiss the little man for me. God bless you and take every care of you until I return.
All my love to you Budsie little sweetheart. I send you one long kiss - you know the kind.
Ever your own Boy,