28th February 1916
A detailed description of the appearance of the “Jovilians” concert party; an exhausting walk through the snow from Airaines to new billets at St Ouen – the countryside is marshy and hard going, with many a slip in the snow. The new billets are comparatively comfortable and the locals pleasant; Arthur reassures Dollie that he is in frequent contact with her brothers although the Company Messes are separate.
Arthur to Dollie
In billets, St Ouen, Monday even 8.45pm
It seems years since last I wrote to you & yet it is only the day before yesterday: since then I have had three dear letters from you – Thursday’s, Friday’s & one of Saturday morning. Thanks a thousandfold for them, dear: they are such a help & comfort…
Let me give you my news before I answer yours dear. On Saturday evening the “Jovilians” gave us another show. This time our mess Corporal, Fox by name, had joined them. Their get-up now consists of white sand-shoes, white linen coats & trousers, the former with blue lapels & buttons, the latter with a blue stripe (all made by Serj. Beattie), blue cumberbunds (sic), white shirts, butterfly collars & evening ties & an eyeglass! Wonderful improvisation! They weren’t at all bad. I enclose a programme that was more or less (rather less than more) adhered to. In the interval, we not only had banjo selections but the 8th Middlesex Glee Singers “obliged”. They were very good.
Next morning, that is yesterday, dear, we had breakfast at 7 and paraded at 8. We left Airaines about twenty past and marched to L-ngpre (where I detrained coming back off leave) & there picked up the remainder of the Brigade. We then marched on as a Brigade till we reached here about 1 o’clock. We all walked for the roads were cruel on the horses. The going was very bad for the roads were covered with half-thawed snow that not only wet our feet very thoroughly but caused us to slip at every step that we took. From A- to L- the road ran down the side of a valley – in the centre of which ran the stream & marshes. At L- the stream ran into the S- & here we crossed the railway. The river here runs on the east side of the main valley: on the west of the river the marshes extend, over a mile broad. Once over the railway we traversed a causeway that ran through the marshes: so over the river and along its right bank, till we came to a fairly big place at the junction of the river & a stream that runs down from the east.
We turned up along this stream, past a very fine chateau & some factories until we arrived at this place. The country looked very cold & desolate in the snow. This place is a manufacturing village & as such rather grubby: but we are very comfortably billeted. We were supposed to have continued our trek today but it has been put off for a day or two, and to-morrow we are to be inspected by the Brigadier.
Yesterday we were pretty busy settling down, especially as owing to the state of the roads, part of our stuff had to be left behind. To-day we have been on parade this morning: this afternoon I have been pretty busy on Company matters. The weather is still inhospitable & bleak: unlike the local inhabitants who are very kind & pleasant. To-night as a matter of fact it is raining: which threatens to make a worse mess than ever of the ground. We (that is “B” Coy officers) have part of an empty house to ourselves: quite comfortable. I’ve a bed (no sheets…).
So let me answer all your dear questions. First about the boys. I don’t see much of them; as each Coy messes by itself. Edouard is with D Coy, Evie with C. (Christmas has A). Still we meet sometimes: I see Evie pretty frequently. They both seem fit. Edouard is very fat, & full of himself, as usual. Gilbert was sent down to this Base job as an excuse to get rid of him. He wasn’t very happy. I don’t think his nerves are strong. Sammy thanked me to-day for having had the photos sent to his wife (a million thanks to you, dear heart, for doing it). Edouard has got a pair of corduroys!
Leave &c goes via Havre, dear, for the 3rd Army, in which we now are. It means longer travelling, but they are more generous & give one an extra day which means practically 7 clear days at home. Well, dear heart, its 10 o’clock. Edouard has just been in with Garrard & two or three others, which rather interrupted…