December 16, 1944
Received your airmail of Nov. 28th today. I’m glad my letters reach you eventually, tho’ I can’t understand why my airmail should be so slow. We are still in action and, in all probability, will spend Xmas in the line. The weather has been better than we dared expect, though the nights are raw and cold. I don’t really mind the cold though, because it is far better than the warmer, wet weather. Due largely to the mud, we don’t move as often as in the Fall campaign, which is a relief. This makes it possible to dig a decent dug-out and get a stove together.
Our present “Stand Easy” is quite the last word in Front Line comfort. We dig down three feet then, by filling wooden ammunition boxes with earth, added a further two feet of protection. Over this we draped a large tarp and banked more earth around. The stove I mentioned is of the “Ortona” variety. The firebox is made from a metal ammo box, and the stovepipe we have Gerry to thank for as it consists of three eighty-eight cartridges with the base cut off. One of the crew of three stays on the S.P. to listen for the speaker on the Command Post, should fire orders come through. The other two men, including myself, make tea and toast or read, write or catch forty winks. I have divided my crew of eight into two shifts, I taking one, the Bdr. the other. Each shift does six hours and is relieved. By using three men at a time, I am able to allow two men off every night. So you see, Mom, it isn’t too bad if you are willing to go to a little extra trouble.
We had one close call on the present position during our first night here. We arrived after dark, too late to dig our “Stand Easy,” so the first shift spent their six hours inside the tank. Around 11 p.m. a stray “88” landed fifteen feet from the gun, making a nice hole where we later made our dug-out. No one was hurt, though it shook the 22-ton S.P. like jelly. You can be very grateful that the High Command saw fit to make the 8th Field into an S.P. regiment, because it takes a direct hit in the fighting compartment to get us.
It was sweet of Alan to think of his semi-Canadian niece and Phyllis and the rest of you too. Actually, I think Kay would enjoy a stay in the country after five years in battle-torn London. Winning the M.M. gives me two extra points in the scheme of home leave. The thought of seeing you all again is so close to Heaven that I dare not let myself think too much about it. I got my confirmation of rank from the C.O.C., thanks to the medal, so my permanent military address is as above as I have no ambition to go higher.
P.S. The acute shortage of wildfowl will be remedied next Fall when I unlimber my double-barrel shotgun again.