July 22, 1917
My Dear Dave,
Were I to give full vent to my feelings just at present you would probably wear a squelched look for some days to come and also come to the conclusion that “The morale of our troops is not very good.” But I’ll sweeten up toward 3 as my sleepiness will wear off a bit by then.
At present we are “staying at a farm” (see Bairnsfather) which used to be of some prominence similar to MacDonald on a small scale. It’s worth has been changed considerably by the well-nigh omnipotent Mars during the past three years. Its beautiful green fields are now cut up by old disused trenches, overland routes, shell holes and crossed and recrossed both above and below ground by numberless telegraph and telephone wires. Its exports and imports have narrowed down to one thing – men. We live in dugouts, corrugated iron shacks, tents, bivouacs – in fact any sort of habitation to be found or erected, and are very comfortable for with a little more time than usual on our hands we can make things so. There is a Y.M. near and the canteen is fair while there is a chance that we may have a go at a good tennis court over there today.
Near the last camp we were in there was a good Y.M. with 2 marquees and a big concert hall besides two courts. We had two good hours on one of them and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly for the feeling inspired by the racquet in my hand was somewhat homelike – summer 1914. Gar[?] wasn’t far away then: he was over on the basketball ground trying his hand at his favourite.
We had a few good concerts down there by different companies – P.P.’s 4th Div. Concert Party, and some Imperials, and all of them good. The Y. does all it can to promote amusement and recreation for the troops whenever they go and it is hard to find a place back of the line where one is out of touch with “the Y”. Down there they had a good hall and a fair stage, electric light, a source for cinema and outdoors the grounds for many acres about were marked out and numbered for all kinds of sports.
Our concert party comedian informed us that Iceland was surrounded by red tape and was therefore an island (by kind permission of the British Government) and that it was separated from England by St. Georges channel and the gulf of misunderstanding: that the principal imports of France were biscuits and bully beef (agreed) and the principal exports cases for Blighty and officers going on leave (ditto): that the automobile horn was first invented in China, in a place named “Hong-Kong”. But there! What can you expect but a falsetto voice from a girl with false teeth.
The last letters I had from from home reported you in the R.J.[?]N. firm temporarily: doubtless you wished he’d stay away indefinitely. “Now Dave, behave. “
Night time , where the phones are quiet is, perhaps, the best time for one to think because, in my case, the main duty is to sit awake and stare most of the time into the lone candle and toss over and over in my head the events of the distant past, eventful present or promising future.
I have just finished reading the “Clansman” and if I remember any of the book whatever it will be four words “Extra! Extra! Peace! Victory!” The question pushes itself forward obstinately: - “What will be the events of events of the day when the people of London hear that cry or when we get the magic message over the wire? “What a dream! But it has to come sometime. Then what will we do? Lose, utterly, the control of ourselves or take it quietly?
The question has been pounded out flat numberless times but no sensible conclusion could ever be reached: someone always cans the argument with “I’ll keep my head low, be coldfooted and won’t go within half a mile of a dud” Laughter.
And that is only one topic I’ve mentioned: In the cold nights of January I sat many an hour by a phone and a candle on a box trying to warm my hands on the light (our station was made of corrugated iron) and wondering what our friendly enemies at home – slackers – would think if they could but picture conditions out here. Would they say “Let’s finish it.” or back down and let us stay another winter. The whole feeling of the armies is “We’ll stick it to a successful finish but, the sooner the end comes, the better.”
But I’d better change the subject or you will be publishing this as a recruiting speech.
Would you mind sending Miss Mills $40. by money order for me? This to come out of my assignment; I don’t think I’ll draw on it again for a while. Her address – Miss Winnie Mills, 20 Leaside Ave., Muswell Hill, London N. Eng. I have hopes of going on leave in France – probably to Nice if in the near future, but to Paris, if I can manage it with a little longer wait.
Two nights ago Bob Mac.[?] came into the dugout and told me to come out to see “a couple of fellows”. Who were they but Martie Urquhart & Dave Cresswell along with Bernie Sullivan. We had quite a parlez about old times and as they live about a mile from us they will be over again. Both look very well and Bernie, whom we see more frequently, is the same on Bern.
3:30 Dave, I must write to Web and give him my budget.
With love to all
Your affectionate bro