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Date: July 9th 1917
Beulah Bahnsen (wife)
Ralph Watson

Next day, 9 July, ’17.

I put in a most delicious night, we pulled down our tarpaulin cover and made a proper “bivvy” out of it; banked up the sides and covered the ends, fifteen of us. Most of us had parcels. No one had candles, though; but I came along with those. Some one had café au lait. We made a little cooker. (I’m an expert, now, turning a bully beef can, a bit of sandbag, and a candle into a cooking stove. I used them right in the front line.) Every one had a cake, and cigarettes, and all; we were a happy bunch. I guess the front-line boys will make the closest fraternity ever seen, after the war; you get to know a fellow through and through in half an hour. But it is just as I thought: only the men who go in and actually do the scrapping know anything of the war. Any one can work; but when you work, and while working every second stand a chance of a sudden death, it’s that that seems to count, and I guess it’s only right it should. Today we have parades, parades, trying to get the mud off: the first at ten, another at two. It takes two or three days to get the mud off.

It’s glorious sunshiny weather. This afternoon, there may be a pay parade. Up the line there is no regular pay-day; you may get three a month, you may get only one. There is no town here; but Y.M. tents and our own canteen, where you can get canned goods. The boys generally spend the whole works at once, and have one good feed. I guess it’s the only way. . . .

The standard of duty, conscientious duty in the line, at any rate in this Battn. is very high.

I told you I was a stretcher bearer. The vacancy occurred in the big scrap Easter Monday. A fellow called C., an original man, through all the scraps had the place I now fill. It is not a sinecure, but its dangers and hardships are lifted in a different plane from mere work.

When my Company took its objective that day — the point was the brim of a ridge — they went a few yards too far. The Bosch was running, and they followed. C. had been very busy up till then; but his big effort was to come over the brow. The Germans had some batteries — what we call whizz-bang guns (about fifteen pounders). These were not all out of action; but when the gunners saw our boys coming over the edge they saw all was up, and decided to die game; so, instead of shooting over away back, they turned the guns direct at a few yards’ range pointblank on our boys. Many were hit. It was “Stretcher Bearer on the double!” from point to point. Poor C. did what he could; he dressed a few. It was finished, anyway; no one could live, and he was killed. He might have got a medal! He did good work in the Somme, too. One or two very brave acts don’t win medals now; consistent good work, backed by a conspicuous act, may.

It’s all in the game. There is no time for reports. You just hear, “C. did good work”; that’s all. Every day, it is some one. A man cannot hesitate when he sees to do a thing is certain death; it is his luck, he must do it, and do it on the run. My only fear is I may hesitate a second. I hope not, a thousand times. No one is safe. . . .

. . . K. has made himself understand that the shell you hear coming is not yours, because the shell is ahead of the noise. I haven’t got this yet, though I have tried hard. This is a good place to find out about yourself. I know that I am not naturally brave; in fact, far from it. But there is one thing I am counting on to help me out: I cannot naturally see any one suffer pain and not go out to give a hand, at least not in this, so I am hoping I shan’t make any bad breaks. . . .

Did I tell you I broke the nice pipe; the amber was bound to go out here sooner or later. I found another on “The Ridge” though, so I am not without; and, as I write, laid down in my “Bivvy”, I am smoking your Imperial. Another thing! don’t send any more socks. It’s the limit, the way the Daughters of the Empire of B.C. and other B.C. outfits send socks to this Batt’n. I have a lovely thick snow white pair on right now. We even get clean ones right up in the front line — nearly a pair a day. Our feet are considered very important, and whale oil has to be rubbed in frequently; an officer stands over you while you do it.

Plain chocolate, cakes, anything sweet is what we love. The two parcels I got were perfect. I could kiss you very heartily for ’em.

. . . Dearie, you must know that I am with you and Billie every hour of every day. You are never from my thoughts. I cannot write of it much, not now, but you must know it is there.

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