As you know I have been in action ever since I left England and am still. I’ve lived in various extemporised dwellings and am at present writing from an eight foot deep hole dug in the ground and covered over with galvanised iron and sand-bags. We have made ourselves very comfortable, and a fire is burning—I correct that—comfortable until it rains, I should say, when the water finds its own level. We have just finished with two days of penetrating rain and mist—in the trenches the mud was up to my knees, so you can imagine the joy of wading down these shell-torn tunnels. Good thick socks have been priceless.
You’ll be pleased to hear that two days ago I was made Right Section Commander—which is fairly rapid promotion. It means a good deal more work and responsibility, but it gives me a contact with the men which I like.
I don’t know when I’ll get leave—not for another two months anyway. It would be ripping if I had word in time for you to run over to England for the brief nine days.
I plan novels galore and wonder whether I shall ever write them the way I see them now. My imagination is to an extent crushed by the stupendousness of reality. I think I am changed in some stern spiritual way—stripped of flabbiness. I am perhaps harder—I can’t say. That I should be a novelist seems unreasonable—it’s so long since I had my own way in the world and met any one on artistic terms. But I have enough ego left to be very interested in my book. And by the way, when we’re out at the front and the battery wants us to come in they simply phone up the password, “Slaves of Freedom,” the meaning of which we all understand.
You are ever in my thoughts, and I pray the day may not be far distant when we meet again.
October 27th, 1916.
All to-day I’ve been busy registering our guns. There is little chance of rest—one would suppose that we intended to end the war by spring.
Two new officers joined our battery from England, which makes the work lighter. One of them brings the news that D., one of the two officers who crossed over from England with me and wandered through France with me in search of our Division, is already dead. He was a corking fellow, and I’m very sorry. He was caught by a shell in the head and legs.
I am still living in a sand-bagged shell-hole eight feet beneath the level of the ground. I have a sleeping bag with an eider-down inside it, for my bed; it is laid on a stretcher, which is placed in a roofed-in trench. For meals, when there isn’t a block on the roads, we do very well; we subscribe pretty heavily to the mess, and have an officer back at the wagon-lines to do our purchasing. When we move forward into a new position, however, we go pretty short, as roads have to be built for the throng of traffic. Most of what we eat is tinned—and