13th March 1916
A long letter today – Arthur and the Brigade have been on the move – this time as far as Beauval; a long description of yesterday’s march through undulating countryside; the weather was fine and hot and they arrived exhausted at the village; their original officers billet was unsatisfactory but Arthur finds a much better place kept by “two dear old women” who “cannot do enough for us”; a post card from the family celebrating at Scotts – signed by them all: Pater, & Mater, Joe & Maggie, Alfred, Edgar & Daisy; after a relatively restful day they receive orders to move again tomorrow.
Arthur to Dollie
…I was interrupted last night, dear, so missed the post. To-day alas, there was no letter from you. The mails since we have been down here have been rotten. The letters arrive in batches on odd dates. I have not yet received last week’s papers from Wards, either. Yesterday I had a postcard from Scotts signed by them all: Pater, & Mater, Joe & Maggie, Alfred, Edgar & Daisy.
Let me give you my news, dear. Yesterday we got up at 6: parade was at 8.30. We reached here [Beauval] about 1.30. The weather was very dull and misty as we started, but it soon cleared. For about the first half of the way we were marching up the valley to its head. The hills on either side grew steeper, the road running along the south side – in the middle of the valley the railway & stream. We passed by two villages: the third lay at the head of the valley. Here the stream divided into three, each with its own lesser valley. Between them ran the ridges gradually growing more wooded.
We climbed a very steep hill which brought us on to the ridge between the northern & centre streams. It was a pull-up but my men marched like heroes. Thence we marched across a high and open plateau. In the centre of it lay an awfully pretty village, surrounded by trees. A few miles further on the ground begins to fall to the east. The plateau forms a watershed.
Where the ground falls lies rather a big village or little town which is our present temporary home. There is rather a fine church with a great flight of steps leading to it. We arrived rather hot and weary: got the men settled down. Then found that for our (B Coy officers) billet we only had one rather small room with one bed. No mess room. Our billeting area is rather small but after a lot of searching we found a place kept by two dear old women. A room for our mess with a big open fireplace (wood-fires and old fire dogs): a place for the servants to cook in; a barn with bunks for them to sleep in & three rooms each with a bed for us. Simply tophole, dear: I wish you were here to see it & the two dear old women, who cannot do enough for us.
Anyway, dear heart, after we had found this place we went down to the local hotel (!) “L’Hotel du Sable d’Or” where we had lunch of an omelette & steak – not bad. Then a visit to Church. We spent most of the rest of the remainder of the day settling down & early to bed. To-day is a day of blazing heat. We have been sitting around in our shirt sleeves basking. We had breakfast just after 8 & paraded at 9. Up on the hills for drill – it was glorious in the sun. We came in at 12. This afternoon kit inspection at 2.
As I sit writing here, the sun is shining full in my face. I have your dear miniature in front of me. I feel I am not really here; I am by your side. I am with you, & you are with me…. This morning I heard the peal of the church bells. It brought back so vividly our days in Citta Vecchia, as we walked together in the sunlight & listened to the great bells of the Cathedral clashing above us.
PS I’ve just heard we’re to trek again to-morrow – brrr!