On Active Service
WITH THE BRITISH
Monday, 6 May, 1918
Letter No 2
My dearest mother,
I hope that by the time this reaches you, my first letter has already been received. I am numbering my letters to home so that you will know how many go astray. What a strange Sunday I spent! And how I missed the journey to and from Wimbledon, the Sunday dinner, the old "Quad" and above all the company of all at home! On the whole I did not have such a bad time however, as you will see by the following account of all that happened:- After breakfast I wrote my first letter home and had a good wash. The washing facilities are not bad here, somewhat after the style of Wimbledon only there are fewer bowls. By the time I had finished the letter, dinner was ready at 11.30am when I had stewed beef, potatoes, hard biscuits and boiled rice with raisins. The food was well cooked, but I could have eaten more. After dinner we lined up with our gas masks and waterproof groundsheets and capes and marched about 2½ miles through the camp to the anti gas-area. I was thus able to get a slight idea of the size of this base and was very surprised to find it so large. There is a very large hospital camp here, so that there are, perhaps, about 100,000 troops here. The town is situated on the other side of estuary of the river which empties itself into the Channel near here, and like all small French towns is old fashioned and dirty. We had a lecture before going through gas describing the stuff that "Jerry" uses against us - and what we use against him. I should just think he is sorry he ever used gas. The weather is quite warm out here but all day we had heavy showers of rain when the capes proved very handy. We had tea at about 5.30 - bread, margarine, jam and tea. The bread ration is rather small but the white bread seems much more filling and sustaining than the stuff eaten at home. There is plenty of jam however; 1 lb pot per meal between 8 men. In the evening Stuart and I went to the church camp and enjoyed the service very much. The service was CofE but that didn't matter much. The church is a very large one and is capable of holding about 1,000 men; there is an organ. We both had supper at the canteen - a tin of apricots and biscuits, both fairly cheap out here, and then wandered back to bed. Being very tired it was not long before I was comfortably tucked up and having said my prayers fell fast asleep [?] yesterday. On the whole I must say that I thought this part of France would be a much worse place than it really is and up till now I have not had much to grumble at. In fact, up here, I cannot believe that I am in France, except when we occasionally come across French people and refugees.
Give my very best wishes to Mr. Waller and let him know how I am going on when you see him.
I have to go on parade for medical inspection in a minute or two so I must finish this letter. I will write each day if this is possible.
With fondest love from your very affectionate son, Bert