Original Letter

France

27th Oct. 1917.

My Dearest Maidie:–

Communication with the outside world is established properly now for the mail to-day had two letters for me. I think it pretty wonderful myself and am elated to pieces. I fell on them today when they arrived – yesterday there was no mail you see and I was famishing for those letters – and I almost let my fire out while I was reading them. I held my breath when you tumbled down the steps with the baby – (but unlike you my fear was for you) I sat on the steps with you – breathless and I smacked my lips when you drank the brandy. You must be careful, Dear, really you must. You’ll scare me to death one day, I know. Things that happen here make shivers run up my spine occasionally, but nothing to equal the scare I get when I read that you have fallen from a train bumped your head, hurt your leg or fallen downstairs. The ‘sweats’ here do not talk of having “shivers” its “He made me suck hole” It sounds coarse but it is really very apt. The verb to suckhole means to be scared to the point of taking cover – ducking one’s head and so on – and it is the popular pastime. Tommy Morrison, a C.S.M. who has been “rooming” with Dalrymple, Turkey and me is enormously funny. He is long – very long – and very boyish. He has been here since the beginning of things – Aug. ’16 – and has had all kinds of experiences, wounded three times. Last night he told me of lots of occasions when he suckholed – the one that tickled us both most was the description of once when under heavy shell fire he took cover behind three little bushes – mere twigs about two feet high.

To-morrow we do another short shift but it will not dislocate our correspondence as we will be much nearer our Post Office than we are here. It is a succession of shifts here and they are all interesting  But I like best when we go where we have to salvage to make a home  It is very fascinating salvaging. Everything is useful. One starts out with the intention of getting, say, a piece of tin for a stove pipe. There lies a perfectly good piece of board, just the thing for a table – there is another piece to match in that rubbish where the shack is going to be. Good. it goes on your back. There is a petrol tin – mighty handy for a wash basin. It goes along as well. Here is the old family axe. The handle is cracked and it hasn’t been honed since Mons but it’s a treasure for with an axe all sorts of carpentering feats are possible. A bayonet is useful but its possibilities are limited. And so on until finally one is back laden down with a dozen gifts of junk. And it’s a habit that forms quickly for already I find myself quite as a matter of course picking up bits of stuff and lugging them home. In front of our door there is the greatest collection I ever saw – tiles, bee hives, an old bicycle, a scythe, a broken down grind stone, a machine evidently used for cutting up turnips the remains of a spring bed, a heap of broken bricks, chunks of harness, just dozens of things – all, of course, all smashed up. I often try to imagine what the people were like who lived here, how long it is since they left and where they are now. From the ruins I should imagine that it was once a fairly large farmhouse but it is quite impossible to tell how big or what this part was or that… But one thing is certain I should hate to be around when the refugees come back to their home. War to my way of thinking – as you know – is a dreadful thing, a horrible, wasteful sacrilegious thing but one doesn’t realise it fully until one sees the town, villages and farmhouses absolutely battered out of existence, the trees mutilated and ruined and the landscape pockmarked and horribly torn. The “pomp and panoply of war” well there is no such bird and when I am home again I know that if I ever see the volunteers on parade I shall be enormously sick – probably cat.

So Larry has a touch of malaria  Isn’t he the lovely old liar? But he is very funny with it all and interesting with his stories of flying, skiing, tent pegging and yachting.

Now, my Dear, I have been writing for ever so long a rare lot of bunk I know. I wouldn’t dare read it over. But its only occasionally I get a chance to write undisturbed and nobody has been in bothering me – a most unusual thing for generally this is a rendezvous for every body. But the really important news I haven’t told you yet and that is that I am madly in love with you to-day, just ever so much. And it gets more intense every minute. And I do want to take you and baby you because you fell down the steps and skinned your hand, you poor Sweetheart. I should never be away from you, I know. But perhaps I’ll be with you soon.

Au revoir Dearest, with oceans of love

Your own Ross

War Diary

In Support. Heavy shelling of the area by enemy artillery and much aerial activity throughout the day. Men employed in cleaning up area. Tump liners went forward with L.G. Magazines to 44th Battalion and stretcher bearer party of 1 Officer and 40 Other Ranks detailed to clear wounded. ... Men very done up owing to mud, cold and exposure.

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Map

  • Location: Boethoek Farm
  • Battalion role: Support

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