20 Station Road
June 21st 1917
My dear Mr Sladden
I was very glad to find a letter from Cyril, at breakfast yesterday morning. It was written on April 15th and 17th. I will give you one or two extracts but as a good deal of it is about matters which just concern our two selves I’m afraid there’ll not be much to interest you. He begins:
We have had very few chances to write a letter lately. The Turks have been wandering down from the hills into territory which we appear to consider our preserve, so we have had to set to work to send him back to his hills again. He is well on the way, and I shall be very pleased if he will take the common sense view of the matter and go quietly without having to be pushed – a process convenient to both of us.
17th – That was a very poor effort at starting a letter. However having got another two moves – both short luckily – completed I can continue. We have been doing all sorts of odd things lately and scarcely anybody can fathom quite what we are up to. The heat is too close upon us to allow extensive operations to be undertaken, and it is pretty certain therefore that we must soon settle down somewhere to summer quarters. We have had one or two heavy days lately but only one day of fighting when this regiment never got very far into it, though we got shelled a good deal for a short time in the open, and caught a fair number of long range bullets. It was a pretty heavy day in other ways as we had marched all night, and got into the scrap during the morning, and then the men had to dig in twice during the heat of the afternoon, and it was one of the hottest days we have yet had.
Next day was if anything hotter, and as we had no shelter there were several collapses from sun after the previous strain. Apart from this the weather has scarcely been unpleasantly hot and there has generally been a good breeze.
The last day or two has been cloudy with threats of thunderstorms which never came to much; but today it is nearly cloudless again. We are quite near the foothills, and a breeze from them is always cooling.
The great topic of interest is of course leave. I think leave to India will be freely given but leave to England is a doubtful prospect for anybody. In any case my claims are pretty hopeless – not more than 10% will be allowed to go at the most, and our strength of officers after 4 months fighting (of course we have had reinforcements) is not very large. Also it is laid down that first preference is to be given to those with longest continuous service out here, so that those who went through last summer and are still hanging on get the first claim. Of our people, Holmden left New Zealand in Sept. 1914, and has served since, first as a Sergt in the N.Z. forces in Egypt and as an officer with us since Sept 1915, having been wounded on April 5th last year when he went only to Amara and returned on the 22nd. Inwood has served without a break since we left England.
Both incidentally show many signs of being very badly in need of a thorough good holiday. Then there is Lake, now in charge of C Company who has been with us just short of a year now, except for a short spell of illness after Xmas which took him to Amara. He left England about the beginning of 1916, being in Egypt for a time, and on the strength of continuous service he beats me. My case and Col. Gibbons come pretty well balanced. He reached Basra in June, so really has better claim. Especially as regards Indian leave, but he allows that I have the better moral claim for England as he was at home (chiefly in hospital though) for about six months.
Other regiments have nothing like such a list of good claims, but that is the luck of things. It is just possible that if the leave comes off the officers may be considered by brigades to equalize things a bit, but I doubt if this will be done, in any case it is not very likely to help me. One possibility is that leave will be very much restricted, and only granted upon special application and the urging of exceptional private affairs etc.
Perhaps this might be my last hope, and I don’t see why I should not try my luck on the plea of wishing to get married; presumably it would not cut anyone else out.
I believe in such circumstances Colonel Faviell (if he is back, as he is probably will be very soon) would forward such a claim on my behalf; I don’t think Col: Gibbon (who is a bachelor!) would regard the suggestion as favourably.
I cannot find any details about prohibition of women travelling by sea, but I fancy you could not get to India if you tried. The danger does not seem to be very great, but I suppose general shipping shortage makes them anxious to minimize the number of passengers.
We are just getting the splendid news from France of our latest successes; the capture of Lens was announced this morning.
There is a mail in and being sorted while I write. It is ages since we had any, the 26th of last month. Most of that time we’ve been busy. Mails take about 2 months now.
Later. The mail brought me yours posted Feb 7th and 21st (there must be several to come) also two from Father and one from May of intermediate dates. In your later one you had just got back to Badsey. I am glad to think you had started another rest.
Have just heard that leave to England is only to be granted for “urgent private affairs”.
I hear letters are going now so I can only add this note.
- - - - - -
I imagine Boo failed to get leave to England or else he would not have wired me to join him if possible.
We are hoping to get into our own little house next week if only the workmen will hurry up.
You know what the British workman is like! It is a charmingly built bungalow. Attractively situated.
You must come and see it some day. I’ll tell you more about it another time.
The survivors of the Cameronia (minus Wilfred) were on their way to India on the Transylvania when she torpedoed. So Wilfred’s attack of measles saved him from this awful experience.
Heaps of love to you all.
Your ever affectionate