12th January 1916
The cloudy weather has brought a return to the intense bombardment from the Germans as the British planes can no longer operate effectively; the trenches are “blown all over the place”, but fortunately there are not many casualties; a calm frosty starlit night, and (standing on a slag heap) Arthur’s thoughts turn to journeys taken with Dollie in a “carrozino” – as they returned to Citta Vecchia from the Opera in Valletta.
Arthur to Dollie
In a dug-out, Wed. 3.30pm
Thanks a thousand times for your dear letter of the 7th. God bless you, little one. I’m glad your Thursday was a success both with the wounded & with the others in the evening.
Yesterday passed fairly quietly. We were busy getting used to this position & settling down generally. There was no mail – I was very disappointed. To-day was very fine in the morning, but it has clouded over since. I’m sorry, for while the sun was out our aeroplanes were active and the German batteries quiet. This afternoon however it clouded over & they have strafed us like …. and blown our trenches all over the place. Fortunately there were not many casualties. But we’ve a most unpleasant hour and a half – for they threw all sorts of things at us from Crumps (which is a 5.9” howitzer shell full of High Explosive – H.E. for short) to Minnies – which are bombs the size of rum jars about a foot in diameter by 2 feet high, with 80 pounds of H.E. in them. Cheery birds! They make a noise like a house falling in and a flame like a flame in h-ll.
Last night was a beautiful night; wonderfully calm with that quiet that a touch of frost always brings with it – for it froze last night. There was a young [moon] & millions of stars, wonderfully radiant & silvery. The crack of an occasional sniper’s shot only seemed to accentuate the intense stillness. I stood up on the slag heap & thought so much of you, dear heart of mine. We are in a bit of a valley here & behind us lies the little mining village of M. on the further slopes. At night it looks to one standing here, just like Citta Vecchia did from Valetta as one drove back in those absurd carrozino from the Opera. Only now the dome of the old cathedral is a steel pithead; & those towering city walls a cluster of shattered mine cottages on one side and an old slagheap on the other. And I alas instead of being with you, beloved, am alone …