No 14 General Hospital
No 4 Garage
26 April 1915
My dear Kathleen
It is a long while since I wrote but the reason is a good one – to wit measles, which I have had now for a week. I developed it just after moving up with the Battalion yet again to our third billet a bit nearer the firing line than the second one. It is disappointing to be shelved at this moment when it is evident that big affairs have begun their progress. I am glad there was time for me to see just a little of things before I fell a victim to this complaint. I went up to the trenches three times, and though things were quiet I have at least been under mild fire. I am glad of that, not because it is a thing in itself to engender feelings of joy and happiness – quite the reverse in fact – but because the boys up there will be case-hardened veterans when I see them again at the end of the month or so; and it would be humiliating to have to join them an utter greenhorn. A march up to the trenches is a strange experience. The country for the last few miles is scarred and desolate; almost every building bears the mark of shell fire, some slightly while many are mere wrecks. Yet nothing seems sufficient to drive out the last remnant of local inhabitants. Here and there a peasant goes about his business in the fields heedless of the whistle of stray bullets, and this presence denotes a wife and children somewhere at hand who, if seen, appear quite unperturbed and the children play undisturbed by sound of guns or thought of shells that burst almost every day somewhere near their house. Everywhere the old telegraph lines with the poles hacked through are replaced by light military lines and pontoon bridges cross streams and canals at many unexpected places. On the railway sidings are mixed varieties of rolling stock, French box-cars, German oil tanks and perhaps a British armoured train mounting guns duly labelled with nicknames – Little Willie, George V and Albert I. As one goes up a few stray bullets wail overhead or fall plop in the adjacent canal. Suddenly a field away on one side is disturbed by a dull explosion. A gun? No, for the dirt flies about stirred by some force – shrapnel. Other shells follow, nearer or further. It is evident that they are directed at a road a little way away and we give thanks that it is not ours instead. Close to the trenches the road is artificially screened where necessary from German observation. Here and there are the cuttings giving access to our trenches, or roadside positions for machine guns which would look from the German lines like innocent lumps in the ground. The striking feature is that there is practically nothing doing with practically nobody to do it. The only change when something is doing is that there is absolutely nobody to do it.
I must finish. In letter writing, as in war operations cannot be carried on if ammunitions runs short. Please thank Jack for his letter of some time ago.
Love from your affectionate brother