October 25, 1944
Speaking of weather, it is raining again tonight. We were rather more fortunate than usual and managed to get a room in a Wop farm for my gun sub. This sort of luck isn’t usually our lot, so you see I am taking full advantage of the situation. At the moment, I am lying on my tummy on the floor (stone) with a greatcoat under me and a candle for illumination. The roof is quite dry and the windows well screened so, tonight, I feel it isn’t such a tough war after all.
I spent the better part of yesterday digging my tank (S.P.) out of the mud. If I compare this mud with Peace River gumbo, I think you will understand (or at least Dad will). The S.P. weighs about twenty-two tons and is powered with a four-hundred-and-fifty horsepower motor, and believe me, we can take almost any kind of country in our stride. However, this was one of the other times, and down we went. If you can picture a vehicle with tracks sunk in the mud until the hull is resting and a huge mound of dirt shoving in front, you have the general idea. We tried to back up, same result, until finally we couldn’t move more than six inches either way.
The mud is of the consistency of plasticine and sticks like glue to a shovel and has to be scraped off or removed with your hands. I mention all this so you will understand why we are not racing ahead as our brother Division did in France. There is a redeeming feature of the mud though, Mom, and that is that many of us owe our lives to it. On several occasions, enemy shells have landed close enough to blow us into St. Peter’s waiting arms, but, due to the mud, the shell sank before it could explode and the shrapnel was either dissipated in the muck or went straight up in a cone shape rather than splatter in all directions, as it would were the ground hard. So you see, even the mud is not without its points. I will however be very thankful when it’s all over here.
The news of the Russian offensive is very cheering, isn’t it? I often wonder how much more the Germans will stand before they call it quits. You really have to give them credit for their fighting qualities. Every time the sun shines our air force is out in strength and all day long – it is one attack after another. I have quit making any prediction on the War’s end, but I think I am safe in saying it won’t be too long now. Kay tells me that, contrary to the general belief outside of England, the Doodle Bugs are still coming over the London area. One passed over Mill Hill so low that the house shook like jelly and landed in Edgeware doing considerable damage. -----------
It is nearly a year since I left England and believe me it seems much more. It makes me sorry for some of the boys who haven’t seen their wives and youngsters for nearly five years. -----
Mr. Ralston paid us a visit recently on what he called a “fact finding tour.” From our point of view, he might as well have saved the taxpayers the expense of the trip. His answers to all questions were typically evasive and only added fuel to the existing fire. From what I gather, some of the meetings got slightly out of hand and left much to be desired both from the Minister’s and the troops point of view. He did, however, assure us that we were not forgotten and even went so far as to state that fighting on the Italian front was the most severe that he had seen (believe me, he wasn’t fooling). -------- I do sometimes wonder how many chaps lost their lives because there were not enough reinforcements available.
I am glad to hear that Alan has got his crop all cut, I hope that the fair weather holds until it is threshed. It makes my blood boil when I think of all those “Zombies” loafing around their comfortable barracks, while the poor farmers struggle with their heavy crops and an acute labour shortage. It doesn’t make sense to say the very least. -------
Do you remember how I used to sneak off early in the morning with my shotgun and return after school had gone in? And how, in spite of all threats to the contrary, you always furnished the necessary “excuse” when I went back to school? When I get back I will take time to smarten up those ducks with a real “blitz” if you will promise to cook them as of old. I really did have a pretty good boyhood, Mom, and thanks, though I might have been further ahead had I kept my eye on the books instead of the ducks. -------
Do you suppose you could send me little parcels from time to time containing these unobtainable articles such as handkerchiefs (khaki), packages of soups, homemade candy (sugar permitting), cookies and any other article of food which is compact? You see, Mom, our army fare is very dreary and, on the guns, you are up half the night every night. We dig a shelter in the ground and those not on duty make tea and these snacks supplement the rations and save our lives (almost). You have no idea how hungry a guy can get when his feet are stuck in the mud all day long and your sleep is interrupted every night. Our meals are served three times a day and the last meal is usually at four-thirty. So you can see what a long drag it is between supper and breakfast.