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Date: March 29th 1917
Beulah Bahnsen (wife)
Ralph Watson

29 March, ’17.

I didn’t finish my letter last night, I was too cold. This morning is the wildest day we’ve had for a month, a tremendous wind, and rain and cold. There certainly won’t be many planes up today; they couldn’t last a second.

The other night, after I had finished writing you and was just off to sleep, all of a sudden what sounded like all the guns in the world opened up at once, and sleep was out of the question. I always wish, when I hear or see anything so magnificent, so powerful as that, that you could be with me for a while. Here is like having a front seat out of danger. I read somewhere that to imagine a modern bombardment, you must think of the greatest thunderstorm you have heard and then compare it with a little boy beating a drum; and I guess that’s about right. Myself, I never can help thinking of all the ground and stuff being churned up, where the shells are all bursting. It’s undoubtedly awe-inspiring and magnificent. It’s unimaginable how anything could possibly live in the face of it. We all thought that the big strafe had begun; but evidently it wasn’t so.

I think that Fritz will have his hands full to hold the Arras-Cambrae-St. Quentin line, and I believe he thinks that the time we shall take coming up and attacking him can be utilized by him on another front, say the Russian front.

But I believe we intend to fool him. I think we are going to drive him on this front, beyond any thing that has happened on the so-called Somme front.

We may even take Lens and Lille; we may do anything.

One thing I can assure you of positively; that the Somme front is not to be the only one where we shall have big battles.

Whether we can win this year or not, I cannot think.

America coming in, which now seems certain, is bound to make a difference; but all our efforts might be cancelled, at least in part, if Austria had big successes in Italy, or Russia could not make good.    

Chances of revolution in Germany seem to me to be too remote to entertain seriously. There is no doubt in my mind that Canada is going to take a larger part in this coming battle. It is really up to us. We didn’t take the worst end at the Somme, last year; the Australians are there again, as you will know, so I guess we cannot kick.

We’ll hope it won’t be so bad. I hear it on an eye witness’s authority that a gun in this scrap will only have to play on four yards of Fritz’s front.

Life is just living. I mean eating and sleeping and “getting by” — if you understand. Meals are eaten standing up; an old gasoline can as a seat by the stove is a lucky grab off, as there’s such a crowd. For instance, bunks are in three tiers. That means nine men in a space about four feet broad. You eat off your mess tin, and wade through the mud to the cookhouse for your grub. As a matter of fact, I am now just an animal, a tiny unit for use in this vast scheme, or a tiny bit of machinery, to be kept alive — only just alive and useful at the least possible expense and room. That of course is war; I thoroughly understand it. It’s quite alright, and the proper thing. I have no kick. But I want you to grasp all that, so you can understand my letters. The trenches are full of mud and water, and my life by comparison is positive luxury.

The rations are not so bad. I’ll tell you what we get exactly. In the morning, about a pint of tea — (good and strong as a rule) either beans — (two to a can) or a rasher of bacon. At dinner, a spoonful of jam, and a hunk of cheese and tea. Supper, tea again — and stew, or mulligan as the army calls it, and the twenty-four hours’ bread ration, usually a third of a loaf. Sometimes there is an extra, though seldom; a kind of date paste; one day there were oranges. But of course by the time they get as far up as this, the various “cease fire” outfits they have passed through only leave enough for a ration of three men to one orange, which is what we got. It doesn’t sound very re-markable, but it’s enough to keep you fit; it does me anyway. In the line, the bread mostly has to give way to biscuits; but when “out” eats are again good. A parcel is naturally an event of great importance.

I have been given another party again today, making three in all. I have to handle all the sick reports for each party, and fix up all the trivial cuts and bruises, and medicines. In addition, there are various parties without any “Croix Rouge” man attached, such as Isolated Machine Gun Companies and odd parties from heavy batteries, who are wise to my being here. Of course I fix up any of them who come, am very glad to. I like the work; it interests me. It is, too, undoubtedly necessary work, and I must say I prefer work which seems to be real — and worth-while.

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