16 Feb 1917
My dear Betty
You wrote me a letter when you were enjoying a quiet stay at Addlestone after your exam. That and a previous one have each had no reply: it broke me to buckle-to. I would have written to bid you good luck in Matric, but one thing and another intervened. You will hear the result soon, won’t you? I hope you won’t find that you have floored the maths but duffed the Greek this time - the sort of annoying way that exams have. It is restless work waiting for a result when one knows it is a borderline affair.
What about National Service? Have you considered the question of volunteering and putting off the university till après la guerre? There seems to be some demand for women, though I don’t quite know how much. I should rather like to know. I advised Rosie, some time ago, to stay where she is. But if there is a real demand for women and if Mr Chamberlain and the Government generally indicate that the cotton trade is one that must be cut down, I shall advise her to put her name of the Register. I don’t think it is wise for people to shift from jobs they know to jobs they don’t know unless there is some clear indication that it is necessary. There was a great deal too much of that early in the War; simply resulting in loss of effectiveness. There must still be a large number of unemployed women; they will probably be enough (if they come forward) to meet requirements. In your situation I think it would be worth while discussing the matter with Father if you have not already done so. How about undertaking the cultivation of vegetables in the home garden and the management of the cows and the orchards so as to release Brailsford for general work on the land. With Father’s able guidance you ought to be able to do really good work in producing every ounce of vegetables that the garden would grow. And that would be very practical, for you would have a good area to deal with in the whole of the kitchen garden, from which you could clear all unnecessary things and plunge them in a corner; and it is good prepared soil that would produce a genuine and considerable crop. With that and the cows and orchards and maybe a pig or two your time would be fully occupied. What do you think of it?
Today is just a year since I last left England. Leave not in sight and I have ceased to worry. Indeed it seems to me that England from now onwards should have no room for anybody but workers - not even soldiers on leave - until we have done the trick. A combined shove by everybody without any exception for about six months ought to do the trick; it is worth while giving up things like leave when the end looms so clear.
Have you read Douglas Haig’s statement (pace the newspapers we do not call him Duggie) about the coming campaign? He snuffs the battle from afar like Job’s war-horse. “Prave orto” for a canny Scot to use: canny Scots, mark you! Do not use such words unless there is a bed-rock bottom for them. Last year the C in C set out to kill all the Germans possible and to “put the wind up” the rest - and he did it thoroughly. This year he promises us the rout and destruction of the German armies. The British Army puts its tongue in its cheek because such is the habit of the British Army. But in its soul the British Army confidently takes his word for it and is much uplifted by the challenge.
Glorious weather now. Slight night frosts, dry sunny days. How I hope that this year will be generally fine, as to aid operations to the utmost. I see that we have got the measure of the Turks at Kut. I hope Boo’s battalion have had a relief after their fighting that he described in his letter to you. What an interesting letter!
Should not be surprised if we get relieved soon for a rest. The Division has been “in” for a long while; it has been possible, owing to good stretches of reserve billet duty, to keep it in action for longer than used to be the case when there was much work in front line and support and only short periods in reserve.
Much love to all from