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Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Leter Home (Bee) - 25th March, 1917

15th Battery, RFA
25th March, 1917

Dear Mother and Father,

I am afraid I have missed the mail, but have sent a postcard, which I hope you got. Mum, I received the scarf, mitts and balaclava cap, which were splendid – lovely soft wool. I also got a pair of socks a few weeks before. You keep me well supplied and you always send some along as others are wearing out. I still have some left which your girls sent me, when I was at Vimy last June.

I must try to tell you what has happened. We have been hearing about a lot. On the 11th March, I was at the wagon line, we had been storing up ammunition at our guns. Just to give you some idea, we alone had to have some 7000 shells and ammunition, which, of course, did not walk there. It was a bit of a job getting this along through the mud, mostly drawn by packhorse and two-wheeled vehicles. The latter only carried 40 rounds and took six horses to pool.

The same day we had a bit of a show at the trench called Grevillers and Loupart. They were supposed to be rather strongly held. We captured it and got a good many prisoners. This same night the Colonel asked me if I would go as his adjutant, (sort of secretary). You know my capabilities at book work so wrote stating my case and he let me off. He was rather surprised, as it is supposed to be rather a soft job for any ordinary individual, but I should sooner be in the firing line any day. There is more paper used in the Army than anywhere I have been, but it was rather a compliment to be asked by the Colonel. We were both asked some time agoif  we would go into the horse artillery where, of course, all the nuts are, but we refused that, so they will be getting a bit sick of us I expect. Anyway, I'm glad the Colonel has found out that my character is not as bad as my friend the major made out when I first arrived in France.

On sixteenth of March the frost started again. This was greatly in our favour as it allowed our transport to move more easily. After a show on Grevillers and Loupar,t things began to move. The Hun has been moving or preparing for months and evidently thought he would catch us napping but got a bit of a surprise. Of course, when you are on the spot, everything is very uncertain. Our guns were very soon out of range. The road over this country, which has been badly shelled, has no solid bottom to it.

I heard tonight that I had to be prepared to move the wagon line. The same day I went for a joy ride over the country we were fighting on last year at the beginning of the Somme show and could hardly believe my eyes. Troneswood was a rest camp for infantry and all the roads had been made first class. Railway trains ran to Delville Wood which is ahead of Trones. The Anzacs held this area and I was very much amused at their sign posts. They call all the used-to-be towns by Australian names, such as Bendigo, late so-and-so. Of course, at the present moment, there is nothing to mark the place where these towns stood, not even brick dust. This has been used for roadmaking. To make a road you first of all have to lay timber. They generally use about 6-inch through and you can imagine the quantity needed. Then 6-inches of metal on top, but even this does not last very long. The traffic is enormous.

On 18th we moved our wagon line six miles forward. We had got established, horses unharnessed and fed, when we got orders to move again, another 8 miles further on. Our line of march was along what is known as the main Albert-Baupaume Road. The old front line used to run across this road. The Hun blew it up in three places between the front line and Baupaume, a distance of three miles. We had to go through a good part of Baupaume Junction. Here he had made a good mess of the roads, blowing up every track, the guns and vehicles bumping over the rails and sleepers being a very good test for our vehicles. We only managed to smash one, which was lucky. We finally finished up at the village called Bufillers, on country where grass was growing, and it was a joyous feeling. We arrived at our destination late at night and were glad to find the Hun had left us a tin shed which we camped in. It snowed hard all night so it came in very handy. Our men were into Baupaume shortly after the infantry and had to cut the wire across the road. The town, of course, is flat. They have blown it up and then set it alight. We were never allowed to shoot at it as the French thought they would leave it undamaged. We stayed there two nights and then came back to Albert. It was a long trek and bitterly cold. The traffic by this time was tremendous and we were held up for 8 hours by Lesars as two caterpillar engines bogged on the road, which stopped all traffic. We stopped three nights in Albert and heard we were going out to rest to be fattened up for another part of the line.

The Anzacs run a theatre in Albert, which we went to, and they gave a very good show. One man recited bits out of the Sentimental Bloke and Ginger Mick. I like both those books enormously. This show is very popular and makes a lot of money for the Australian Comforts Fund. We started on our march to rest yesterday, after having a day's rest today. It is a five days march, up into the country where we first joined the battery. I hope to see Jack, as he is up that way.

You have been asking in your last letters what has happened to Mr Gilliard. He is still in the land of the living and we always see him when on leave, busier than ever and now we are known at the War Office as Gilliard's six, being the first he had any dealing with.

I hope you will be able to wade through this. We are both splendid. The British Army has quite changed. Any fears they had of the Hun having the upper hand are quite gone and we are all in great spirits. The Hun does not know what a tonic his move back has been to us.

Very best love,
from your loving son,

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