22 June 1917
My dear Father
I hope this will reach you on your birthday, so that my best wishes won’t be missing on your threescore and tenth anniversary. I hope you feel proud of still being at work and hearty at seventy. David would hardly have approved of it; but I think David must have had a large circle of agricultural friends who wore out quickly under the strain of field-work, like our old gaffers. Pruning for a living instead of a hobby must have an ageing effect. I always used to think of a pruning-hook as some kind of sickle on the end of a pole, used for pruning roses without bending being necessary. I imagine David’s friends gave up knives at seventy and took to pruning-hooks instead: though the roses must have suffered: I hope you won’t want to take on the pruning-hook for many years.
We are again at ease after our labours. But it is raining every day at present and we are not so comfortable as we should like to be. Still, rest is a great pleasure when work is not too severe, as is the case at present.
I received a parcel from Ethel the other day. Will you thank her and say I will write in a few days. She mentioned that Bernard has now arrived out here with a draft and gone up to the line. Can you tell me his unit? I should like to look him up if I get the chance.
I have heard vivid tales of the big air raid on London from the Corporal in charge of water arrangements in the Battalion who has just returned from leave. A very bad affair it seems to have been. This Corporal was actually going to visit his mother, who is mistress at the Stepney school which was hit, when the bombs were thrown. He was within a few hundred yards of the school when it was hit and he assisted, of course, in the rescue work. One bomb did all the damage – seventy casualties. Five others dropped close by, wrecking twelve houses and a church without causing a single casualty; I hope the cry for reprisals will die down. To my mind, reprisals in kind would be a misapplication of force. Aircraft can do more to win the War on this front than they could do anywhere else. But the Man in the Street seems very anxious for us to carry out raids on towns; and if he shouts loud enough I expect he will get his way.
I received Cyril’s most interesting and audacious letter; but I won’t send it on for a day or two until I have had time to read it again once or twice. The operations are interesting reading: not at all unlike mobile operations here, I think – except for the fact that they were penetrating unmapped, unphotographed country. I gather from this fact that their aeroplane service was limited in size. Otherwise they would have known every inch of that ground from photos.
Glad to hear that Mary and Dorothy are coming to visit you again. I might, with luck, see my god-daughter during my next leave.
Love to all from