Evening, Friday, 25 August, ’16.
It’s raining and one can feel autumn coming on. The nights are pretty cool, and darker earlier. A month today, it’s your birthday. Maybe I’ll be up at Bailleul — I hear they have aeroplane fights there every day. It’s a headquarters for some sort of ’planes, and as soon as Fritz comes sailing into view, up whirls one of ours and a scrap ensues. Must be a great sight, eh? I’ve seen lots of German aeroplanes and watched the shooting at them by the French anti-aircraft guns. It’s exciting, but I guess the other is more so.
Last night, they put the lights out about nine P.M. A Zepp. was over the sea; but, as she headed for England, they switched ’em on again in about half an hour. Doesn’t it seem remarkable how they follow them along, and time them to a second? The wonder is more are not brought down. The war news today is nothing startling.
Today is the day we receive the wounded from these first big counter attacks Fritz is making — and there are not a few. Guess I’ve got an all-night session ahead. I took one fellow to a ward, who had been buried two days and blown out again by a shell. He says Fritz is surrendering very freely because they are going to make one tremendous counter attack and get back all the lost ground. This wonderful act is going to take place in about seven days, I hear, and evidently one or two of ’em have heard the slogan “safety first” (Oh, by the way, you may not have heard it, yet, though) and decided our English prison camp looks good to ’em. Don’t blame ’em.
Did you read of Fritz shelling the hospital at Bethune? It’s quite true; a lot of doctors went from here to take the places of those killed. One fellow who was wounded is here. A shell actually dropped in an operating room, and killed doctors, Sisters and patients.
Altogether Fritz is fighting very “dirty” just now — very. All are agreed on that. All those tales you read about their dugouts are true. They have electric lights and everything, and have undoubtedly figured on their line being impregnable. However, it isn’t, by a long way. All the boys are agreed that the Germans, taken on the average, will not stand up when it comes to a show-down; though they are tremendously clever with artillery and have unlimited ammunition and machine guns.
I see you got a letter from little B——. He says we had good times together? Well, I’m glad he enjoyed ’em. I never saw him after he left the hospital, and I rather think his times with the girls are imaginary, as I heard he went up the line almost immediately. As a matter of fact, girls in France don’t have much to do with the English soldiers. It would be hard for you to realize, living where you can go where you like, do what you like, etc., that neither the French people nor we can do anything or go anywhere without permission. For instance, there are no autos other than military, and a few taxis. You can’t go for a walk or a drive — civilians or military. Every few streets has its barrier with the sign “Arrete” and two French soldiers with fixed bayonets. Every one must have a pass to go anywhere. You can’t take a room, or go to an hotel, without the Secret Service are on you right away, and require your complete history. You cannot enter France at all, without all kinds of passports — but harder again is it to get out. There is no such thing as a man or woman taking a trip to a near-by town, or going on a holiday, or anything like that. Everything gives place to the war, and the French, to my mind, have this business of running a town under military law to a science. You cannot stand a moment on a bridge, you must be off the streets at 8.30 P.M. The docks and all stores and so forth are surrounded with barbed wire and French and English police with revolvers or fixed bayonets, and the place is alive with plain clothes secret service men. Active service is ruthless, and there is no consideration.