In the line
Fri. 4am. June 9th 1916
My dearest Mother
My last letter told of my being back at camp and just as I had finished and sent it I was informed of an order to prepare at once to go up the line again. Well we prepared, and after the usual three hours walk we reached trench headquarters and awaited further instructions. In due course several others and myself found ourselves back in a ruined city, with no place to sleep, as all dugouts were full. We were then told the best thing we could do (was the most obvious also) was to get what sleep we could among the wreck-strewn floor of any ruined house that wasn't likely to cave in on us. So we hunted about (20 of us) for a while but at last flung our weary carcases (things that are always in the way) on the plaster and brick strewn floor of one of these shell smashed piles of brick. I, here, failed to sleep so for a time gave it up and got myself some breakfast. The sun was now up being about 4am so I sought a patch of grass in the vicinity and there slept for a matter of 4 hours, but was awakened by that rude fellow Fritz who persisted in bursting shrapnel quite near my resting place and when I became aware of the unhealthiness of my position I lost no time in "beating it" to elsewhere. This "elsewhere" wasn't easy to find for I wanted to sleep and there was no place to do so. At last I stretched myself out in the street where I slept for 2 hours more. When I awoke my pals informed me that had found a "regular home" so I gathered my junk (usually called equipment) and followed them down a brick and tile strewn alley to a back kitchen of one house (I mean ½ a one) which they had cleaned and made decent for it was in a fair state of preservation. They had also brought a stove from another ruin and some ceiling laths for firewood and before I had been there long a good fire was burning to heat some water in a "shell" motor spirit can for making tea sufficient for all the bunch. We also found some chairs in the back yard and a table was fetched from next door and our "home" was complete with the exception of a piano. After our meal, we rustled up some sandbags (we always "rustle up" things you know, but in reality we "pinch" them) and some straw and by a quick-change movement we all had mattresses to sleep on. So now to use the new expression we were "jake".
About 10pm the sergeant appeared from headquarters and seeing he never appears except when we all have to move everybody at once found themselves sound asleep. He announced he only wanted 2 men (we all breathed and woke up again). The first one was picked and then he turned in my direction and I knew he wanted me although I was so sound asleep that I snored, but it had no effect; Suds must go to reinforce the team he came from. I "woke" and departed to reach a place outside the doubtful safety of this city's old ramparts and to a place, which was quite easy to find if you knew where it was, but I didn't although I knew its immediate vicinity. I tramped on in the pouring wet and black darkness until I thought I'd got the spot. I shouted for a reply from the sentry but no response. Up and down, in and out, I tramped shouting without result (usually my shout coincided with a gun or shell report and was thus made useless) - (my luck all over). After a time I gave it up and decided to return and obtain a guide who knew the exact spot so I started but thought I'd give it one more bellow for luck. I did, then from another bush just 2 yards from me came "Allo, that you Suds?" Yes! It undoubtedly was, so I also got under the bush and found myself in a bit of a trench. The sentry, an old pal of mine, then told me that the rest were "down there" and I perceived the entrance to an underground passage at his back. So taking off my pack I stooped down and started with the rest of me (equipment, rifle etc, etc) to take the "underground" making sure my shrapnel helmet was protecting my "bean" (otherwise called a head) from unkindly low crossbeams. In the distance I saw a light and soon reached it where I looked round for anything like a dugout but not seeing one I shouted back to the sentry - well where are they? "Oh!" he replied, "you're only at half way light, keep on going, you'll get there". At last I reached a fair size dugout and a smaller one adjoining it. In the centre was a coke brazier giving out a splendid heat, which dispelled all damp underground smells and gave the place an inviting and comfortable appearance. "Well just look what we've got here," exclaimed Captain Knock-out Joe as he set eyes on me. "Glad its you and not a stranger-but it's only 11 o'clock and we didn't expect anybody before two, anyhow as you've come in time for supper you better have it. There's plenty to eat in the pantry". The pantry was a shelf in the corner of the small dugout or anti room. I thereupon had supper and told all the latest news of the vicissitudes of our battle, of the loss of Kitchener and the naval victory, for although this news was days old to me it was all new news to them. Such is "battle isolation".
I have now given you a fair idea of a bit of life here connected with myself and as it is 4am I'll "lay me down to rest" awhile so Good morning!!
Yours very lovingly
Percy and Ray might like to see this so will you please let them see it.