April, Morning of the 22nd, “Out.”
My dearest Kiddie: —
As soon as ever you see this paper you’ll say all is K.O. and not only we are out safely, but I have got your parcels as well. Certainly nothing could possibly have been more cheery and ripping altogether than to have got them when I did. It was a direct hand-clasp from you, and I needed it, as you will guess. I was about all in physically, and getting to be something of a nervous wreck, too. But Oh! dearie, you cannot realize the wonderful change in everything now. Everyone positively radiates good fellowship. Already I have friends and am with a good clique. But even so, happiness — lazy, good-natured, carefree happiness — seems to have electrified the air. The sun shines. We have mail from home, hot tea, two blankets, newspaper — and up to last night we had nothing. I don’t want to sound melodramatic, but you know death is in the air and all round, and though no one mentions it, even when some one suddenly goes West, it’s with us alright. I know it is with me. Fritz gave us hell yesterday afternoon, and fairly sprayed our parapet and parados with shells. Our company, we now know, suffered most. At dusk, all were actively preparing for the relief, and wondering just whether Fritz would happen to choose the identical moment for a strafe. The relief was a trifle late, and the waiting, to us, trying. It was my first experience. Eventually the relieving platoon from the particular Battn. arrived, and came in the trench, and away we went across the dark plain in single file. — I say dark. It was never dark. Fritzie’s flares are up, all the time. We got well away the first two miles, and then seemed to fairly walk into bursting shells. We made a tremendous pace, but somehow could not seem to get away from the screaming rush and Rrrr — up, as they burst around. However, eventually we did get away, and at dawn pulled into our rest camp, a new city of tents, ’way in advance of our last resting place. The cook wagons had hot tea and bacon and bread and “mush” and jam, and we just flopped, and ate, and felt good-natured. Our bunch are not in tents, but under spread tarpaulins. It’s alright — everything’s alright. Later, we got two blankets and Cpl. R.K. and I doubled up and slept. Later, I borrowed a Gillette and shaved and washed in a shell hole half full of water; then we bought canned fruit and biscuits, and just lay around. Then we got mail — as I told you — and the world is good. Somewhere even, the Battn. band is playing, aeroplanes are aloft, our biggest heavies bark away; but Fritz doesn’t send any over.
There is a fly in the amber — a big ’un. We go back in the line as supports to the attacks — they say tomorrow night; and we had counted on six days. Let’s hope supports are well back and won’t be needed. It seems to me there must be a divisional rest soon. The men are not at their best — it’s a fact.
But of course the aspect of the war has changed now. It’s of no use getting Heinie on the run, if we don’t keep him there; is it? There are even rumors Fritz is beating it further back.
Don’t worry about me. Think, as I try so hard to do, “it is written.” Not many get killed outright, and by far the most get nice soft Blightys. Maybe I may be one of these. . . .
Remember this is the only place for a Britisher who is fit and well. That thought should be with you always.
You are always with me here, wishing me luck, and helping me to fight it out —
God bless you, Lal!