1st December 1915
Arthur’s busy schedule means he has been unable to write to Dollie; a trip into Lillers to stock up on stationary and winter clothing; watching the Guard there brings back happy memories of Malta; a welcome chance to change from boots into slippers is cut short by the issuing of orders; an early start in the pouring rain for the Division route march, ending at temporarily near Ham.
Arthur to Dollie
Wednes. even: 6.40pm
…I’m awfully sorry I couldn’t get a letter off last night. Owing to to-day’s trek, the Post Corporal came round last night and I had only time to write a field service postcard. Yesterday was quite fine. We had the usual parades after breakfast i.e. from 9.30 – 12. At first – that is until 10 – owing to various duties, there were only 18 of my Company (or rather half-battalion) on parade!
After lunch Wilcox & I rode into Lilliers. I wanted to buy a writing block. I bought this; it has a wonderful bright green cover intitled [sic] IMPRIMERIE / CALLIERET-RENAULT/ LILLERS: BLOC: CORRESPONDANCE MILITAIRES. And it is now proving its use. I also bought some postcards, and Wilcox, some gloves. We watched the guard mount in the Grand Place. There are some 4 battalions that furnish guards each of about 40 men. “Retreat” is blown & a band plays the Evening Hymn. It reminded me so much of Malta, dear, & the happy days we two spent there together in each other’s company.
Wilcox & I then had tea. We met Rice there & Henri & the Doc. After we rode back in the dark & got in just before six. I found a message there from the CO “would I go over to HQ”. I went over and found that some of to-days orders for the trek were in, & that the CO wanted me to help him with the map. I was there till about 7: then made my way back across the “green” (a sea of mud) to our mess room. I changed my boots & put on slippers; but in a few minutes a message came from the Orderly Room. I went down & found John back from the Brigade. He gave me a short resume of what the orders were. By the time I got back to the Mess it was dinner time. After dinner dear, I was busy getting my kit together & the Post Corporal rather surprised me – for I thought he’d be coming in the morning in the usual way.
This morning up at half past 6 – it was a most depressing morning, pouring with rain. However later on it cleared DG. & turned into a ripping day. Valises were packed & loaded by 7. We left most of the heavy stuff behind under charge of one of the servants. Breakfast at 7.20. Parade at 8.45.
The ‘starting point’ of the Brigade was on the road in front of the billets. Brigade HQ filed past at 9.33, we followed on, then behind us the remainder of the Brigade. The other two Brigades of the Division were ahead of us. Our Brigade HQ leading us tried to catch them up: we went off at an awful pace, & finally did catch them up. But the rest of the Brigade couldn’t keep up & dropped to about a mile behind us. So we had to wait for them. After that the pace was a little better. At half-past 11 we halted for an hour in a place called Norrent-Fontes. Soon after we passed the GOC Division. We branched off after leaving Norrent & cut across a long ridge running down S. of Aire. Further down was Ham where we stayed on our way up in February & from where Harry [Pulman] had his leave…