31st December 1915
An explosive end to the old year for Arthur as the Germans blow up a mine and seize the head of a double sap; a muddled time under bombardment, with trenches being flattened and several dead require burial; in all the chaos Arthur manages to lose and find his fountain pen; Arthur’s fervent New Year wish is that he will be able to have more home leave – he has only seen Dollie for 3 weeks this year; and a final request – for some new nail scissors.
Arthur to Dollie
New Years Eve, Friday 8.30pm
The last two days have indeed been days of alarms & fatigue for us here. Yesterday we were more or less comfortably settled in Vermelles. Relief was to take place about midnight last night.
Everything was pretty quiet when just at dusk, about twenty minutes past 4, the Germans blew up a mine and seized the head of a double sap of ours. At the same time, they bombarded our trenches heavily in the neighbourhood. Our gunners replied for all they were worth and for a bit there was quite a young scrap. Our brigade casualties were pretty heavy. We stood too in Vermelles for about a couple of hours, then stood by & carried rations up for the Companies in front. (Hurray! I thought I’d lost my fountain pen – but it has been found!)
To continue – As a lot of companies & C had gone up to reinforce, the brigade cancelled the relief. Then finding that one battalion had suffered rather & was a bit shaky, asked the 23rd (including us) to relieve them. So about 3am we started up to try & find our way. Fearful maze of trenches, however we managed to get up to our places in support – though it wasn’t until after 8 that we managed to settle down. Even so dear, things were very muddled and there was no shelter for the men. Lloyd & I are sharing a dug-out with the MO & Signalling Officer. They shelled us intermittently all the way up & all day long. Yesterday they absolutely flattened the trench in parts & there are several dead that require burial.
But away with all this. I want to wish you, darling, an awfully HAPPY New Year. This last year, dearest, we hav’n’t seen much of one another, have we? Please God, next year, it will be reversed & instead of my only having had 3 weeks at home & 49 at the front – I shall have only 3 weeks here & 49 with you. But that, alas, is much too good to be true! Anyway, dear heart, you know I love you, more & more always. God bless you & keep you always happy.
Well, little lover, its nearly 10 & I haven’t slept for a long time…. I wonder, dear if you would get me a pair of nail scissors, please not a folding pair necessarily as long as they have a cover for the point…