September 4th, 1915.
TO HIS FATHER.
We get hardly any news up here, so please kindly continue your function of war correspondent whenever you have time, and especially mention any casualties which affect me.
One of the few bits of news which have reached us is a report of a speech of yours in which you mention that Milner’s Committee recommended the Government to guarantee 45s. a year for four years, but the Government wouldn’t. Reuter deduces from this that we have found a way of keeping the whip hand of submarines: but it looks to me much more like Free Trade shibboleths + the fact that there has already been a 30% increase in the area under wheat. I hope you will have written me something about this.
Now for the military news. This battalion, when we arrived here, was nominally nearly 300 strong, but actually it could hardly have paraded 100. This reduction is nearly all due to sickness. The deaths from all causes only total between forty and fifty, out of the original 800: and of these about twenty-five, I think, were killed in action. But there has been an enormous amount of sickness during the hot weather, four-fifths of which has been heat-stroke and malaria. There have been a few cases of enteric and a certain number of dysentery; but next to heat and malaria more men have been knocked out by sores and boils than by any disease. It takes ages for the smallest sore to heal.
Of the original thirty officers, eight are left here, Major Stillwell, who is C.O., one Captain, Page-Roberts, a particularly nice fellow, and five subalterns, named Harris, Forbes, Burrell, Bucknill and Chitty: (Chitty is in hospital): and Jones, the M.O., also a very nice man and a pretty good M.O. too. The new Adjutant is a Captain from 2nd Norfolks named Floyd: he is also nice and seems good: was on Willingdon’s staff and knows Jimmy.
In honour of our arrival, they have adopted Double Company system. I am posted to “A” Double Company, of which the Company Commander and only other officer is Harris, aet. 19. So I am second in command and four platoon commanders at once, besides having charge of the machine-guns (not that I am ever to parade with them) while Chitty is sick. It sounds a lot, but with next to no men about, the work is lessened. On paper, “A” D.C was seventy-two strong, which, with my fifty, makes 122: but in fact, of these 122, twenty-five are sick and sixteen detached permanently for duties at headquarters and so on, leaving eighty-one. And these eighty-one are being daily more and more absorbed into fatigues of various kinds and less and less available for parade. In a day or two we shall be the only English battalion remaining here, so that all the duties which can’t be entrusted to Indian troops will fall on us.