Dear Jinny – sporting effort-
Thanks most awfully for your letter which I got last night. I am I should think the dirtiest man in Europe, filthy, have’nt washed or changed my clothes for a week, & probably won’t do so for another week! Thanks awfully far sending along some cigarettes, I’m sure they’ll be much appreciated. An enorm parcel arrived last night, but I could’nt possibly open it here, but hope to do so when we retrieve our baggage. We came into these trenches just as we stood, and are still in the same condition. My word it is cold at nights, last night we were expecting an attack, so had to keep awake, but I got fed up towards morning & went off to sleep, or tried to, but it was too darned cold. And the enemy never fired a shot, so I was had all round.
The first night we got here I was taking about 40 men from one trench to another smaller one, which we had to enlarge (you have to do most of the digging by night, as they spot you & pip you if they see you by day, snipers all over the place) when suddenly a furious fire opened on our right. We fairly flung ourselves down into this teeny little trench & the fun was fast & furious for about five minutes. Luckily we had no one hit, though they had maxims on us, which make a most horribly alarming noise. The colonel & I have our head quarters in a hole in the ground in a farm yard, supposed to be bomb proof, though nothing is proof against Black Maria, from whom we have had several visits, but she has’nt hit us yet, tap wood.
Tell Ben we are all still in thin Indian khaki, so I leave you to imagine the cold, especially as we have no kit at all, only what we have got on. I’m sorry I can’t tell you where we are, but it’s not allowed. You should see me staring at aeroplanes; Mr Stare has never seen one before, & the first one I saw just dropped a bomb on the station we detrained at, but missed luckily –
We have been congratulated – the 20th Bde I mean – by General Willcocks on our resistance, as these damned Germans have attacked us several times, but we have managed to keep them off so far; also Sir John French has sent his congrats & gratitude to the Indian troops as a whole. So let’s hope we keep it up. I’m doing the real heavy soldier, sitting on an ammunition box, & writing on the lid! Well Jinny I will write again when I can. No more now. Yr loving brother
Written on a scrap of paper.
‘Jack Johnson’ was slang for artillery shells.