Thanks most awfully for your letter which I got in the middle of last night! Well, at last we have reached the front. We left [Orleans] on the 26th I think, did a 2 days train journey, marched 10 miles one day, billeted in a village on 28th, marched 8 miles on 29th & relieved a regiment here in the trenches in the night. And we’ve been in the trenches ever since, night & day. The Germans have made lots of attacks on us, & all along the line, but – tap wood – as far as we are concerned have not been successful. We have had few casualties. Anyhow I am all right. Being adjutant I have to be at Bn: Hd quarters with the CO, receive & write messages etc, & generally be in a central position so that all may know where we are & can communicate with us.
All day long incessant artillery & rifle fire goes on between the two forces, & the first 3 nights we were here we were attacked each night, one night we had 5 separate attacks! at 6, 9, 1, 3 & 5; but only two of them were heavy & we managed to keep them off. Lord what a noise goes on on these occasions. Banging & banging, bullets whisking about, & shells bursting, you never heard such a noise. It seems as if there were people firing all round you. Then the attack dies down, & only intermittent rifle fire goes on; but it is incessant. Some of these German heavy shells are real jam, “Black Maria” is a beauty, you can hear her coming for miles, & she falls with an enorm bang, & as the papers say makes a hole big enough to put 3 horses in! And planes buzz about all day; I of course am Mr Stare-Stare, as I’ve never seen one before!
Cold at all, I should think so, & we all dressed in thin khaki drill, Is’nt it wicked, I shiver all night. You see we came in here as I say on 29th (having left our kit & heavy baggage – if you can call 35 lbs heavy baggage! – behind as usual to come on later) in just what we stood up in, & thats what we’ve been in ever since, & are likely to be in for some time, as there seems no chance of getting our kit up. So we’ve all been eating drinking sleeping in our kit as we are, & I have’nt taken a single thing off for 6-7 days, and dirty, well, we are all black! Our headqrs are in a farm here, & the colonel & I live in a little funk-hole underground, out of the way of Maria & J. Johnson & Co. Today is a lovely day, & they are fairly quiet, so we are sitting out in the garden under a haystack out of sight, but the men are all in the trenches ready for anything.
Your parcel came last night too, but I could’nt possibly open it here, so sent it back to my kit; it sounds lovely, & I am longing to open it. All very well here, & things in general are going on all right. Our heavy guns have just started again. Tell Ben the blue jersey has saved my life, I’ve had it on continuously – there goes Maria again! – for a week now. I got a letter from her, postmarked 23rd. I must end now. Best love to all
Yr loving son
‘Jack Johnson’ was slang for artillery shells.