March, 18th, 1915.
I have been getting so many letters lately that I hardly know where to start. We have been in action for some time now and have been under fire. It is a queer feeling but when one sees what little damage a shell does and how many hundreds of shells and bullets are fired without hurting any one it chances the aspect.
Our battery is in an orchard off a road in gun emplacements made of sand bags, earth, branches, timber and sods. One can quite easily pass within 100 yards of it and know nothing of it untill a gun goes off. It is quite funny to at times be riding down the road to see the farmers ploughing and the people going about their daily work and all of a sudden to hear a gun go off right beside you.
The men are all in billets and the horses in barns. Elliot and I are up stairs here in a semi hay loft. The Major sleeps down stairs in a big wooden bed with the telephone at his elbow.
We take turns of 48 hours in the forward observing station. We have a small deserted shack within a short distance of the trenches, in which we sleep with two signallers, one, on duty at the telephone all the time. It is like camping up at the shanty on Wolf Lake when Fred and I used to go up together. We cook our own meals, chop wood and take it easy. T he birds sing merrily and every few minutes one hears the sharp report of a bullet hitting the walls nearby of a ruined house. This continues day and night but no one ever seems to get hit even when the Bosches old machine gun opens up in the evenings.
They try to catch our ration parties coming up in the evenings. Flares are thrown up and the machine guns start in to sweep the roads, sometimes they pop a few shells over too.
During the day whoever is the F.O.O. (forward observing officer) goes into the trenchs by dodging stray bullets across the field behind the trenches and stays there observing for the battery shooting by telephone. It is better to use a periscope when possible as they have snipers busy all the time.
Sometimes they shell the trenches and it gets quite hot. The other day when I was in a shell burst on the roof of our shelter but did'nt hurt any one and they seem all to have a much worse "bark" than "bite". They really sound wicket and you duck your head involuntarily. The sound is like this swi-------sh. Bang! fueesh gr-gr-gr—as the case sails away.
One came through the far end of our observing hut the other day when we were up there with the telescope. That was too close so we climbed down and sat behind the wall across the road. The next one slid up our alleyway. That was much too close we "beat it" into the dugout. After that they moved farther away. I dont mind shells as much as those blooming little bullets. They go off like a pistol shot right beside your ear when they come close and you cant hear them till after they have passed. Shells make quite a noise going through the air.
The men call the big ones sailing slowly over the trenches on their way back to the billets and roads, "Freight trains" from the noise they make. The little ones are "whispering Willies".
There is an old lady who lives right up where they shell every day regularly at 7 A.M. 2 P.M. and 5 P.M. and when they come too near she moves on up the road and when they stop she comes back again to sell her eggs to the soldiers and cook her dinner.
We keep moving about occasionally and when we do it is an all night job in the dark getting in and digging. The men in the trenches are very happy. They cook and sleep quite comfortably It was amusing the other day to see the men pick the mud out of their soup after a shell had burst about ten feet away, and when one upsets the soup there is an awful howl of good natured disappointment. The Bavarians came in the other night and seem a much decenter sort of Hun than the others. We had an exchange of shells and then of songs. We gave them the "Maple Leaf" and they all cheered. Then at daylight the snipers started sniping again. It is the funniest war on record when there is no move on.
Here we are, Elliot, the Major and I sitting at a table in a French village with a map and protractor and the guns ready to fire at a moments notice.