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Date: February 17th 1917
Beulah Bahnsen (wife)
Ralph Watson

17 February, ’17.

The time for our battalion to send up a draft has come at last. I suppose I shouldn’t write you tonight till I’m sure they won’t want me; but I am pretty sure, not on this one. I think, when my name comes up, “not available” will be the order; I hope so anyhow. There’s lots of time yet, lots of it.

We are of course interested in this move on the Somme; but no one seems to be enthusiastic because no one seems to quite understand it. The general opinion seems to be that Fritz has something up his sleeve; we seem to be suspicious of “retirements”; we only understand complete annihilation by big gun fire. We hear now and then weird stories of a new and powerful shell, but nothing definite. One thing, however, I can vouch for. I have seen a copy of a German officer’s (captured) report to his headquarters, mentioning our using a new and terrible explosive. However, he may have been a green hand and got over-excited. A few days after I saw this, it appeared in the English papers — the copy of the captain’s report, I mean. You can guess whether these communiques are interesting or not. I can’t tell you of them, of course; but I may say that we know the names of the company commanders in front of us on each sector of practically every relief; we know what regiments are in front; where they came from last; in what strength they are, and all about them; we know when they commence a new trench or sap, where it runs, when (if) it’s finished, and also all about it and many, many other things. How is it done? There you’ve got me. I dunno’; but I do know it is done, because I see it. If any one says to you we haven’t got an Intelligence Staff, you can afford to smile. . . .

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