Saturday, March 16, 2013

10 November 1915 Somewhere in Belgium

Dear Mother,

Received your welcome letter of Oct. 24 on Sunday and was very glad to get it. On Monday I got one from Vern and was glad to hear from him also. Write often Vern and Norma and tell me all about what is going on at school etc.

I have been getting my letters fairly regularly but a parcel that Mae sent from Eaton’s has not arrived. She said it was sent the same day as the letter that she mentioned it in. I got the letter nearly 2 weeks ago. Also I have not received any Teeswater papers for nearly 3 weeks or those magazines you spoke of sending. Several other fellows have been having the same trouble so I guess the mail must be congested and they will be along in good order some of these days. If parcels are being held up now I wonder what it will be like at Xmas.

The address of Mrs. A. Jeffs is 34 Dalebury Rd., Wandsworth Common, Upper Tooting, London, S.W. Bill has the address and you can get it from him if you lose this.

(This pen needs a good cleaning out so excuse any extra blots. )

There has not been very much doing on the line for several weeks now and it is just a case of stay here and put in time for the field ambulances.

The rain that we have been getting lately has caused quite a bit of trouble in the front line trenches both on ours and the enemy’s. The fellows brought in from these trenches say the walls are so soft that they are coming in and all they get to do is to repair them.

We expected to take over the hospital last week, but it didn’t come off. I think probably it will be this Saturday instead. I wish we were there now for I am awfully sick of hanging around putting in time and not doing anything. It would not be so bad if it did not get dark so early. The sun sets here about 4 o’clock now and by 5 it is too dark to be outside and so it makes the evening pretty long. We must be inside at 8:30 and lights out at 9:30. We are nearly always in bed long before that time though, but when we do so little we do not feel much like sleeping. We cannot go more than 400 yards away from the hospital without a pass and there is roll call at 6:30 am, 11 am and 3 pm to see that we are all here and also to hand out small jobs.

On Sat. last we had  our first bath in 2 weeks. A bath out here is a very momentous occasion and even if it is done in record time and in a place where mud is the most predominant thing, we generally feel a little more like human beings. A new bath house is being constructed, and while it is being built, the only place that could be gotten anywhere near were some tents. There were 4 tubs in a bell tent and when a pail full of hot water was put into each tub it made so much steam that we could hardly see anything.

After we got our duds off and were into the tub, a man came around to the tents and collected all our dirty underwear and gave us clean in its place. After we were through, or rather after the attendants thought we ought to be through, the tubs were dumped right on the ground and we had to get dressed without getting any mud on us as best we could. Of course it was about as impossible as to walk on eggs without breaking them.

Say wasn’t that a great piece of work by the P. Society on Trafalgar Day. Teeswater did splendidly considering what she has been doing right along. The million that the Province raised will come in fine before the winter is over.

We have been issued with capes (waterproof) & sweaters. Also we expect to get long boots & waterproof coverings for our tops. I have never been bothered by the cold yet or the rain either, for that matter, as we have not had to be out in it very much.

Our grub is not too bad just now. If we manage properly and do not get too greedy, we can generally have butter for every meal and we get lots of jam and bread and biscuits. Fried meat comes nearly as often as stew now and by boiling the bacon instead of frying it, we can get a bigger piece each & it is better than being all shriveled up.

Well how does Bill like it in barracks? What part of the Ex. are they in? Do they have permanent passes? I guess he will be writing soon and telling me all about it. What do the people over there think of the Balkan situation? We do not get the papers regularly enough to follow things. When Kitchener gets over there he will likely start things moving in the right direction.

I had to stop this last night as my candle got too low and I want to get this finished before noon so that it will go on today’s mail. They have a new system now for outgoing mail. It is collected at 12 noon instead of 4 pm. By doing it like that, it can be censored in the afternoon and sent away to the rail-head the same day. It saves 24 hrs. by the new system.

It is a fine clear day and there are a lot of airplanes up this morning. Favourable weather is so scarce now that they have to make the best use of any day that the clouds are not too low. We got another one the other day - Taube I mean.

The sky had been very dull and dark all day but about 3 or 4 it cleared up rather suddenly. Almost immediately airplanes from both sides were busy. I counted 7 all in a very small area. They had several machine gun duels and the bur-rrrrrr of the machine guns could be heard distinctly. We did not lose any machine guns but the Germans had one of theirs winged.

I am on barrack room fatigue and have been nearly all morning sweeping and cleaning up. We can go over the floor every hour and get about a peck of mud. It is a day’s work and a different man is appointed each day. 

Well it is mail time so I will have to get this into the box. I am real well and trust you are the same. Send this on as I have not got any more green envelopes so will have to economize. I got 4 or 5 extra ones at the chateau and along with our own issue I have been pretty well supplied.

Your loving son,

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