France July 5/17
My Dear Betty & Kiddies:
It is about 11 am and I am sitting in the dugout writing this – Pryor is also writing, I wish you could see us in our hole in the ground – in all our dirt etc – etc. We are having a rather cool spell of weather just now so this morning I got busy & made a fire-place in the side of our living – I then got and old biscuit tin to hold the fire & a couple of 3” shell cases which had been fired, to set it on & now we have quite a comfortable home, it is just large enough for two – I also have your pictures sitting on an improvised shelf – just as I write Fritz is dropping a few shell arround but we are quite safe unless one drops right on top of our dugout, then it would be “nappoo” “finish” for Willy. We are still in supports & having a fairly quiet time, though we may be going up into the front line [censored] I got your letter No7 yesterday, that leaves No’s 5 & 6 still to come – you had better address my letters Cpl after this & not Serg’t. I gather from you No 7 that Smalley have invited you there for a while, it would have been nice to have gone for a short visit, in view of the understanding that is between us – however you know best. I was ammused at the cable from East Africa I wonder who it could have been meant out for?
At the present time we are on a part of a battlefield which will be for ever famous in British history, & which will stand out as among the bloodiest of the whole war – France – our Imperial Army & Canada have each sacrificed many of their bravest & best here, & Germany also had paid an awful price for her unholy ambition. In my spare time I have braved the occasional bursting shells which Fritz throws over once in a while to let us know that he is still in the vicinity, & wandered over the scene, it is an old German position, one of the strongest they held – considered almost impregnable they say that France alone [censored] of her [censored] take it – It is a high ridge running for miles & which commands a splendid view of the country in every direction, an ideal place for defence. The Germans had literally tunelled it hollow, while the face of the slopes was criss-crossed in every direction with well constructed trenches – great & tremendously strong gun emplacements had been built here & there & I have been down old dugouts , which have have been 50 & Goft down in the earth - we have had to go down 60 steps & then not been at the bottom - & over the face of the ground everywhere a bewildering maze of barbed wire & pointed iron stakes – it seems almost impossible that men could have fought their ways through such a tangle. The place itself now, looks as though there had been some gigantic upheavals of nature – the trenches almost battered out of exsistance beneath our artillery fire – dugouts broken in burrying their occupants alive & along the top of the ridge there are immense craters, some of them you could put Eaton’s Block in – this is where out men had tunnels under the ground from their own lines & laid mines filled with high explosives right under the Germans, & there at the proper time exploded them – thousands of Germans must have been burried under the debris as I wandered among the rack & ruin of it all I came across more than one pile of bones with grining skull, which told their significant & pitiful story – The shell torn ground is littered with every conceivable kind of war material & over all a tangled harvest of thistles – mustard – blood red poppies & strange to say “Batchelor Buttons” are growing, South Africa was nothing to this, & the horror of it all can never be described, its worse than hell. Its only a matter of time before the end comes – longer or shorter, & sometimes I think it will not be very much longer, Fritz is going back all the time, & if you could hear our artillery & see our shells bursting in & behind his lines, you would indeed wonder how he could stand up under it all. I believe we put 30 shells over for every one that he sends. We are hoping that its true that Russia is commencing again. About parcels – If you send cocoa – tea – a little sugar, chewing gum they would be very acceptable don’t send the prepared cocoa, just Van Houtens with some sugar, & don’t bother about tobacco or socks – the shortbread & cake will be acceptable but don’t out soap in parcel, I have lots anyway – I would not bother about sending any more papers except the Tribune Fiction Magazine.
Tell Shirley & Billy that I will not be able to send any more cards for a while – but if I can, I will bring them some German cartridges & perhaps a German helmet – there are all kinds of them here but we cannot load ourselves with them I am in the very best of health, & hope you are feeling better. Remember me to Thorey & Guns, with best love & lots of hugs & kisses to my little son & daughter & wife God bless & keep you.
Your loving Daddy