6 Mch 1915
My dear little Mother
When the Army does things it always does them suddenly, hurriedly and almost without warning. Yesterday morning the prevailing impression was that we should not be moving much before the end of the month. Everything was quiet and peaceful. Rumours were at a greater discount than they have ever been since the beginning of the war. Suddenly at 7 pm last night, in strolled a messenger from the Orderly Room: three waggons wanted at once to go to St Albans and draw various stores. Only that; still no rumours. But the unusual urgency of the business seemed remarkable. With as little delay as possible I salved three drivers from the various spare-time haunts (for, of course, 7 pm is after duty and nearly everybody is out at that time) and pulled out on the road at 7.30. Arrived at St Albans, the town was thick with rumours. We were off on Monday – on Tuesday – on Wednesday – next week – this week – last week – not at all – al capo! da fino! Prestissimo! I smiled and said that probably all these tales were incorrect; that in any case Monday was quite improbable. But when we got back here (at 1.15 am) I found that the whisper of ‘Monday’ was becoming a shout; that the rumour was crystallising into a fact. And this morning it is definitely given as an Order that all men must be recalled from leave by telegraph and that we hold ourselves ready to move to France tomorrow. At present we have not started the actual rush of movement; no definitely timed orders are yet to hand. But any moment the first movement order may arrive and from that time I expect no rest or sleep, except in snatches, until we get to our billets on the other side. I am making the best of my opportunity to write a few letters before things begin to move.
Wasn’t I lucky to get my leave in the nick of time! A great many men have had none at all. But there is no down-heartedness about it. We have been straining upon the start so long that everybody is willing to give up anything in order to get over water. We are all gloriously cheerful. The golden opinions we have won here as a well-conducted battalion will be wrecked in heaps; for the universal ambition seems to be to express our joy in the breakage of anything that comes handy. This billet looks awful already and unless continuous fatiguing work soon intervenes the place will be a scrap heap by tomorrow morning.
If our move had been delayed longer I should, of course have wanted to get home again if possible; but now, it is only yesterday, as it were, that I was with you; so I don’t at all feel that I ought to have had a chance to go home again. Indeed I think myself extraordinarily lucky in my plans having worked out so neatly.
I shall –
I wrote the last two words at about 11.20 am. This remainder is written at 11.20 pm. The interval was filled with very strenuous work; and I now forget what was the promise I was about to make. Never mind.
In the interval, also, your letter to me has arrived. I am so glad you are much better. You must go on behaving well and then I will endeavour to convey forbidden items of interesting news, darkly cloaked, from wherever we go. If we go to France it will not be safe to assume that we are sent to operate on the present British front. It is strongly rumoured that British forces may be sent to other, in fact any parts of the French line. I will write at the first opportunity giving further news, and address.
Well, goodbye, little Ma! Wish me luck as of course you do. Much love to you all.
Your affectionate son