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Date: January 31st 1917
Beulah Bahnsen (wife)
Ralph Watson

31 January, ’17.

My dearest Lal:

Conditions are just the same, only a trifle more so. I’m writing this, sitting almost plumb on top of the wee stove we have, and I am freezing to death, at that. It doesn’t even improve when it’s bedtime. Two blankets in this are just about as much use as none at all. To give you an idea: last night I don’t suppose the stove went out till about twelve, yet at six this morning, a mess tin of water left on it over night was frozen solid.

When I look back on conditions as they were here when I first came, and now, I am very impressed with the change. Every day seems to add something to our already splendid organization. Every now and then we put up a bombardment which must be an eye-opener to Fritz. To give you some comparison to go by, I’m told by one who was there, that last year at Ypres nothing like the amount of shells were put over by us. At that time, of course, Ypres was the most important point of the British line. This point is hardly ever mentioned in the communiques, yet we can now bombard more on an insignificant front than we could last year on the most important. You remember I told you Fritz never retaliates in either shells or planes. That is changed. He is quite frequently over us now; but not in any strength, never more than two planes at once. Also he throws an odd shell over now and then; but nothing to matter, anyway not near our billets.

You don’t think that I spend my time picking rats out of my clothes and skipping out of the way of Fritz’s shells; do you? Not a blooming shell has fallen within a mile of me as yet. I wish it would; I want to see one bust. I’m far safer than I should be helping you to light the furnace at 77 ——

I’m worried, too, terribly worried. It’s whether my turn for leave will come before it shuts down for good. Believe me that’s some worry to pack around. The thing I chiefly long for on leave — or things, I should say — are unlimited hot baths, meals brought to me by somebody else, no reveille, and lots of good shows. Do you realize the fact, when I tell you I haven’t been inside a bath for thirteen months, only stood in drafty thin huts under a shower, a very poor substitute indeed. I think you will faintly imagine the luxury of sitting in hot water, with a cigarette and an evening paper. I intend — should luck favour me — to spend considerable of my leave sitting in a bath. And eats! I haven’t really had a decent feed for a year. But most, I think is the longing for one short spell away from military discipline. My God, how I hate it!

There is a concert here every Wednesday; but it’s held in an old marquee, and the weather doesn’t make me feel much like going to ’em. Also, every Saturday, there’s a boxing tournament open to the whole division, but I don’t go to them for the same reason. I never go to the Y., because it’s too far away, and there’s nothing there anyway — I mean not a sort of club, like the Boulogne one was. Up here, war is a business, and you have to be on the job. Down at the base, it’s a sort of glorified picnic.

I mentioned at the beginning of this about the cold, and spoke of it in the past tense. Tonight again it settled down in a regular Canadian freeze.

I am sitting right on top of the stove, with my candle propped on somebody’s parcels beside me. One side is cold, the other twenty-five degrees colder. It’s rotten weather. We have lots and lots to strafe it for.

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