We’re still hard at it and have given up all idea of a rest—the only way we’ll get one is with a blighty. You say how often you tell yourselves that the same moon looks down on me; it does, but on a scene how different! We advance over old battlefields—everything is blasted. If you start digging, you turn up what’s left of something human. If there were any grounds for superstition, surely the places in which I have been should be ghost-haunted. One never thinks about it. For myself I have increasingly the feeling that I am protected by your prayers; I tell myself so when I am in danger.
Here I sit in an old sweater and muddy breeches, the very reverse of your picture of a soldier, and I imagine to myself your receipt of this. Our chief interest is to enquire whether milk, jam and mail have come up from the wagon-lines; it seems a faery-tale that there are places where milk and jam can be had for the buying. See how simple we become.
Poor little house at Kootenay! I hate to think of it empty. We had such good times there twelve months ago. They have a song here to a nursery rhyme lilt, Apres le Guerre Finis; it goes on to tell of all the good times we’ll have when the war is ended. Every night I invent a new story of my own celebration of the event, usually, as when I was a kiddie, just before I fall asleep—only it doesn’t seem possible that the war will ever end.
I hear from the boys very regularly. There’s just the chance that I may get leave to London in the New Year and meet them before they set out. I always picture you with your heads high in the air. I’m glad to think of you as proud because of the pain we’ve made you suffer.
Once again I shall think of you on Papa’s birthday. I don’t think this will be the saddest he will have to remember. It might have been if we three boys had still all been with him. If I were a father, I would prefer at all costs that my sons should be men. What good comrades we’ve always been, and what long years of happy times we have in memory—all the way down from a little boy in a sailor-suit to Kootenay!
I fell asleep in the midst of this. I’ve now got to go out and start the other gun firing. With very much love.
November 1st, 1916.
My Dearest M.:
Peace after a storm! Your letter was not brought up by the water-wagon this evening, but by an orderly—the mud prevented wheel-traffic. I was just sitting down to read it when Fritz began to pay us too much attention. I put down your letter, grabbed my steel helmet, rushed out to see where the shells were falling, and then cleared my men to a safer area. (By the way, did I tell you that I had been made Right Section Commander?) After about half an hour I came back and settled down by a fire made of smashed ammunition boxes in a stove borrowed from a ruined cottage.