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Sunday, 1 May 2011

Letter Home - 1st May, 1916

Dear Father,

Before I forget, I must tell you how splendid your glasses are. They knock spots off anything I have ever seen out here and anybody who uses them remarks on their fine quality.

Things have been what you might call rather restless just north and south of us this week and, as most of the attacks have been made at dawn or in the early morning, there has not been much rest. I think it was on Tuesday night the division on our left started cutting wire to make some raids and, after heavy firing through the day, they kept the ball rolling through the greater part of the night to stop the Bosch from rewiring his front line. Well, Fritz, feeling rather annoyed about it, sent over some gas and I believe got out of his trenches to follow it up, but our fire was too much for him and he thought discretion the better part of valour. More shooting went on on Wednesday night, but I don't think they sent over any gas. On Thursday they did some heavy firing to our south but never heard what it was all about. On Friday night there was a north-east wind blowing but a very slight one and, although the Bosch let off the gas well north of us, it drifted down behind our lines and I think frightened a lot of people. It was my day for observing and on going down the street from my billet to the Mess at five am I tried to pull a man up on a horse who was galloping down on me but he waved a gas helmet in my face and said, 'Gas'. Well, I could not nose any so went to breakfast and while there saw two other Tommies riding along with gas helmets on. Well, I never thought much about it till passing through a valley on the way to the observation station there was a peculiar haze hanging about and a funny sort of sweet smell, which was I thought an ordinary French village odour. Later, when I and my signaller got to the OP, I noticed my buttons were very black, like gun metal, likewise my signaller's and it dawned on me we had had a faint whiff of it in the valley. Some of the batteries in our brigade got a good quantity of it and it made them very ill for the rest of the day. They felt like vomiting and felt pains in their stomachs. The only effect it had on me was to give me a slight pain.

Meade our attached subaltern returned on Friday. He has been on an infantry course, the same show as Bee and I were on, only it is a three-week business now. It is good to have another man as when one is off duty if there is any shooting during the night it worries you and you think you ought to be up having a nose around and the consequence is one does not sleep much. On Thursday we fired sixty rounds with aeroplane obsrvation but the whole to my mind was a farce and a waste of ammunition, as although we started with may[sic] range and line and were fairly close to the target the chap dropped and dropped until he was about 500 yards short.

It was rather amusing last night when going to the Mess for dinner - the streets were full of Tommies and civilians when there was a terrific crump over the town, one of our 8-inch hows had had a premature. It cleared the streets pretty quickly.

I was in the town yesterday and rode about eight miles, mainly to get a haircut and some money to replenish the Mess funds but, as it was Sunday, there was nothing doing.

No more news. I hope to get your mail tonight.

Your affectionate son


PS I hope my next birthday will be spent far away from gas and in quieter times at home once more.

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