24th December 1915
Arthur thanks Dollie for all her letters and parcels; he is still upset he and his men are with the 23rd Londons in Sailly – and on half an hour’s notice to move back to the front line; champagne and a turkey from his old CO of the 1/3rds and champagne from his new CO of the 23rds; Arthur is busy sourcing Christmas provisions for the men – including roast pork; Christmas mail from the family, including the Pater, and sisters Mabel [Arrigo] and Connie [King]; last night the British blew up a counter-mine in the Hohenzollern, & all were afraid lest the Germans pushed forward; the Germans shelled the outskirts of Sailly in the morning & again in the afternoon.
Arthur to Dollie
In billets, Christmas Eve 10pm
I’ve lots of things to say that I find difficult to express, & lots to thank you for. I’ve letters of the 19th & 20th & altogether three parcels, of which two by their labels came from you, dear. One came a few days ago, another to-night, with a pudding &c and the note case from your Mater, God bless her. It has arrived very opportunely, for the ribbon of the other broke to-day. A third parcel also came with a box of crackers & a Buszard cake. [Famous London manufacturers of wedding cake], who from I don’t know! Anyway thanks awfully dear heart of mine; you are awfully generous…
Let me give you my news, little one. Yesterday we were relieved by the London Irish – the 18th Londons – in the morning. Each platoon marched back independently. I myself reached here, at Sailly, at 11: just in time to see the last of our HQ go off to Vaudricourt. We had a little difficulty settling down, finding billets. However, we’ve got a fairly decent mess room. I have a bed in the same house. We are at half-an-hours readiness to move off. In the afternoon Rice & I drove over to Vaudricourt. There were several things I wanted to see the CO about. The weather broke & the drive, in an open cart, wasn’t very bright.
However, I found them all very fit & cheery over there – Lucky beggars to be out of it all. The CO was awfully kind. The other day, when he came round the trenches, he saw I wasn’t feeling very fit, so he sent up two bottles of champagne.
On getting back last night there were your two dear letters of the 19th & 20th also letters from the Pater, Connie [King] & Mabel [Arrigo] & a postcard from Lloyd. He should have returned last night, but the mails have been very irregular for the last day or two. For instance there was no mail to-day and it looks as if the Channel crossing had been interrupted.
Last night we were kept in a state of readiness. We blew up a counter-mine in the Hohenzollern, & they were rather afraid lest the Germans pushed forward. However, dear, the Germans seemed more apprehensive even than we were. They shelled the outskirts of this place this morning & again this afternoon.
We have been busy to-day trying to fix up something for the men to-morrow, buying pigs (as pork) & all manner of provisions. For ourselves, the CO tried to have us all together, but we are too close to the Hun to be spare from here. So he has sent us a turkey & six bottle of fizz – very decent of him.
I had hoped to get to Midnight Mass to-night, dear. It appeared in Orders, but some time ago I got a note to say it was off. Mass is at 9am to-morrow at La Bourse about 1 ½ miles away. You may be sure that I shall have a big place for you, dear, in my prayers. Do you remember last year – Mass in the Cathedral at Citta Vecchia!