Saturday, July 9, 2016

15 or 16 August 1916 France

* Bolded text was blacked out by the censors

Dear folks,

This is Sat. night and I am up the line again writing this outside my dugout. There is a party of 50 up here from our unit making a big dugout to be used as a dressing station and to quarter the personnel of the medical units. We are working in 3 shifts of 8 hours each and mine is from midnight to 8 am. We have to extend a galley along a tunnel and it is a pretty tiresome job. There are several shafts bored in and some are not too bad to work in but the one where I am is pretty damp and there is a long narrow tunnel where we carry the earth out after we have shovelled it into sandbags,  that has about an inch of water in it by morning after being cleaned out before we go on duty. We call it "Rheumatic Alley". The dugouts are good and deep and will be safe against shell fire if they are ever finished.

We are always pretty tired when we come off duty in the morning and pike it to bed just as soon as our breakfast is over. It is pretty hard to get a good sleep in the daytime for our bunks are in one of the tunnels that is still being worked and the men have to carry the sandbags along through the aisle between the rows of bunks so there is always more or less noise going on.

It is a good change to be up here after being so long at the D.R.S. but I don't think I would like this work all the time. it is the worst shift we are on too because it means an 8-hour shift without a break. All the other shifts have a meal at about half time but there is no such luck for us at 4 a.m.

I got your letter yesterday and was glad to know that everyone was well and having a good time during the holidays. It is too bad that Orville could not have stayed longer. Tell Mae I got her birthday parcel. It came on the right day alright and one from Bill on the next. Those strawberries sure were great. They had not leaked a bit. I was wishing it had have been a half gallon jar. We must be thankful for small mercies though. The maple butter and fudge was good too and all the other things came in handy too. Thanks ever so much.

I am having a fine time sitting here watching one side of an artillery duel. Fritz is trying to find one of our batteries but apparently can't do it for it for it still keeps sending a salvo for every one it gets. Shells from both batteries pass right over my head and occasionally a "weary willie" hums over labelled for some place away back behind the lines.

There is not much news to tell just now so I will ring off and get some more of the letters written. I want to write to Bill and Gert. Say, one of the letters enclosed in the letter you sent was one of my own. I guess you had intended sending it somewhere else and got it in the wrong envelope. There was nothing much in it anyway. It was dated May 28 I think.

Love to all,

Harold Skilling

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