After a lapse of a month we have once more got a belated mail. One arrived 2 days ago, and in it I got 2 letters from you for which many thanks. Your letters were dated 30 Jan & Feb 5, but I believe there are mails of a much later date in the country somewhere and they may turn up at any minute.
A good deal has happened to me since I last scrawled a few lines during & after the Khan Baghdadi fighting. I have’nt told you much about it I’m afraid. Truth to tell there is’nt very much to say about it. Besides when one reads of all this terrific fighting in France our rotten little side shows seem so absurd as to be hardly worth mentioning.
Of course the whole topic of our thoughts & conversations for the whole of the past 4 or 5 weeks has been the Western Front. It seems useless to comment on it, except to read with pride & amazement of the wonderful things the British Army has once more done. What terribly anxious & critical times these have been lately, and of course we are by no means out of the wood yet. But at the time of writing there is a lull, preparatory only of course to further terrific attacks. But the general situation – whatever it may be when you get this – would seem to be satisfactory. After all the German plan was immediate & rapid success, the breaking of the line, and the dividing of the French & British armies, none of which things he has accomplished.
But what a terrible time the army must have been through. We hear a great deal about the German losses, which have no doubt been almost incredibly big, but we hear nothing of ours, or of our loss of guns and material of all sorts. I simply can’t write much about all this, but please don’t think I’m dismissing the subject lightly. We are all of us deeply concerned and I’m afraid a little worried at times. It comes I fancy from a feeling of absolute impotence, of “not-being-there” sort of feeling; not from any pessimism or lack of confidence in those wonderful troops who are going through it all. One feels so absolutely helpless, so powerless to help out here. We all know & realise it must fall to some one’s lot to serve in these parts, & that in reality we are serving our country just as much out here as anywhere, but it is very very hard to get rid of the feeling that the Western Front is where men are wanted, & the Western Front is where we all would be if we had our wish.
I hope & think you will understand what I mean. It is no desire to appear as desperate ‘fire-eaters’, so to speak, but just the feeling that it seems wrong somehow that so many of us should sit by & watch while poor old England is getting hammered so. I know it’s unavoidable, but so too is the feeling of helplessness. I personally have long since ceased to worry about missing any little “show” there may be out here, but this of course is something far more critical & important, & after all we all like to help in the most practical way possible.
I have been given a job for the hot weather, instructor at an officers’ school, sort of teaching young officers & getting them in touch with the latest ideas. I did not apply for it but they just ordered me to come & take up the appointment. It is only temporary of course, for about 4 months I suppose. We are in Baghdad, or about 2 miles from it; in a house with electric light & fans, so we ought to be fairly comfy for the summer anyhow. I think I told you to address c/o Cox Bombay sometime ago; if not will you please do so, as once one gets on these uncertain & temporary jobs away from the regiment I think it’s better to do so. It means I get my letters a wee bit later perhaps, but it makes very little difference in the long run.
My other news is that my leave has been refused, as so very few are being given home leave this year, except on very urgent affairs. Mere marriage apparently does not come under this head, so poor old Nell & I must possess ourselves in patience for a little longer. Poor child, I feel so frightfully sorry for her, & somehow it seems to be all my fault for coming out to this rotten country & getting stuck here. As it is I don’t think I shall bother about taking leave to India this year, even if I could get it, which seems doubtful now that I have got the job.
I hope to meet Jim in a day or two. He is on his way up river from the base, & should be here shortly. I got a wire from him at Amara 2 days ago saying he might be arriving by train yesterday, but he did’nt know that the railway is temporarily bust up here owing to floods, so he must come by boat the whole journey. I shall be jolly glad to see a member of the family again, as Jim has seen you all much later than I have, even though he must have been away more than a year.
Of course the chief item of news in your letter is dear old Ben’s engagement. I wrote of course and told you how genuinely delighted I was to hear the news. I can’t think why she thought it would be a shock to me; I was surprised of course, as not being on the spot so to speak I was’nt in touch with the latest developments. But ‘pleased’ is hardly the word to express my feelings, it’s really one of the best bits of news I’ve heard for a long long time. However all this is ancient history now of course & they are married and settled down an’ all. It’s the very best thing possible that could have happened to Ben, & she thoroughly deserves it, and I’m so glad she’s been so sensible an’ all, as of course we all knew she would be.
Your letters too are full of Paul’s wedding which seems to have gone off with a bang eventually, after having been put off many times. I have’nt had a word from either him or Nance, though I sent them something, or they chose something. Anyhow I have paid the bill! & Ben said my present was a very nice one, though I have’nt the vaguest idea what it was! But nowadays letters so often go astray that I’m not worrying about it. For heaven’s sake don’t tell them this, by the way. I’m sure to hear sooner or later, if it’s not been sunk or lost.
The weather out here is incredible. We had 7 hard days’ marching down the “front” and then I came in here. Those 7 days consisted of different samples, cold, heat, rain, wind, dust, mud and ordinary, sometimes all at once & sometimes singly or in pairs. And it’s so wonderfully cool. I see this time last year in Basra it was 110° or so in our tents, but really up here it’s no worse than an April day at home! Lovely cool days, with frequent rain showers, and very cold nights still. The temperature can’t have touched 90° in the shade yet, or anywhere near it. Today is cloudy & showery with a south wind which always brings rain, but otherwise nothing to complain of.
Your list of prices at home is most alarming and indeed the meat ration is very low. What a thousand pities as you say we were’nt all put on rations a year or more ago; as it is I suppose all are suffering alike thanks to the self-indulgence and unpatriotic motives (for that’s really what it amounts to) of a few. Of course it’s the munition makers and such like that can afford these high prices nowadays, but with rationing in full swing matters ought to adjust themselves sooner or later. I think it’s wonderful how all you people at home carry on despite all these trying conditions with not over-much excitement to keep you going.
What a mercy there is lots of work for everyone just to keep mind & body employed, though from what one hears & reads there are still many idle hands in the country. All the same there’s not much wrong with old England, & there’s nothing like a crisis to make people pull themselves together. The war was rapidly becoming a part of their daily lives & being treated as such, & I think these anxious times are all for the good in the long run.
I have’nt got any papers or anything yet by post, so have’nt seen the account of Paul’s wedding. But my move down here has temporarily disjointed the mail service as far as I am concerned, & I may get a batch of letters & papers any day now. By the way, on my way down here from the regiment to the rail head I stopped at the letter place one night with a pal who was in charge of all our stores, tents, etc which of course we could’nt get up during the active operations. He was busy sending up as much as he could every day to the regiment up the line as soon as we had come back, and of course a good many things had accumulated there.
I asked him at once if there was a Fortnum & Mason box for the mess there, & he said “Oh yes, I sent it up today!” So I must have actually passed it on the road the very day I left the regiment! So it’s taken all this time to reach us! Doubtless you will get a scrawl from the mess president about it, but I’m afraid I’ve missed all the good things by coming here. However as long as it’s turned up safely that’s the main thing. You were answering letters of mine in the last mail dated last November!
I must really start learning up some of the subjects I’m supposed to teach the class. Please apologise to the others for my not writing but really the excuse “no time” is genuine this time. I can’t remember if I’ve written since I heard of Jinny’s engagement. Anyhow I’m jolly glad to hear it & I’m longing to hear who he is & all about him, as at present he is a mere name to me. Anyhow it’s splendid news, & my advice to them is to get married at once. I’ve tried waiting & it’s not a success!
Best love to all
yr loving son