20th March 1916

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20th March 1916

Letters from the Pater and brother Dick; Arthur assures Dollie they are a long way from the front and expects to stay where they are for the next few weeks at least; German accounts of the progress of the war mention blowing up the old “Ducks Bill” where Arthur was previously, at Neuve Chapelle; more trouble too in the “Hohenzollern”, where Arthur was before Christmas; today he and his Company are involved in Brigade practise attacks – it is very rough going – through thick woods and up and down deep clefts in the local hillsides.

Arthur to Dollie

Billets, France, Monday even. 5.45pm

…Your dear letter of Saturday came to-day: thanks awfully for it, dear. Pater wrote to me yesterday, a very bright & cheery letter. I also had a short one from Dick with two photos that I am sending on.

The weather DG is pretty good still; it hasn’t rained for some little time, except for a shower on Saturday afternoon, & there have been gloriously fine days. No dear, we are not back at Neuve Chapelle, nor Loos: but much further south – our Corps front runs round about the biggest city near here, that begins with the same letter as my name. I wonder if you can guess: or whether you will be able to get hold of Lloyd, through the family. We are still a long way from the front, though in the very far distance we can see the “sausages” (balloons) over the line & an occasional “Archibald” (anti-aircraft) show. We are likely to be here for some little time further, say a fortnight.

By the way, dear, did you see a German communiqué the other day saying that they had blown up an advanced post near Neuve Chapelle – it must be the old “Ducks Bill” at last! Also that there was more trouble in the “Hohenzollern”. It takes me back to a night before Christmas when I was up there in charge & the Sapper fellows told me that the Huns were under us!

… Some few days ago I spoke about field glasses to Lloyd. So he wrote to their Marine Superintendent : & he got me a pair from the War Office. They arrived last night: & are pretty good. A pair of Ross glasses – 6 magnifications. Their cost I’m not quite sure but I think about £8. I am very pleased with them, and they have already been very useful.

To-day we’ve had rather a tiring day to-day dear. This morning we paraded at 8.45 & did an advance over about 3 ½ miles of country, 3 attacks – all under Brigade arrangements. The Brigadier was there & the Brigade staff. It was very rough going. The country is very rolling & woody. Every here & there there are very deep dongas [a narrow steep-sided ravine (African term)] – kind of clefts in the hillside, some about 40-60 feet deep & generally full of trees & brushwood; the sides very steep. We crossed 3 or 4 of these, and a very thick wood. So that by the time we finished & got back, it was 2pm & we were pretty tired. We had lunch: then a pow-wow from 3 – 3.45. Then I confess I slept till 5: had tea and at a quarter past had a pow-wow with the NCOs. So you see, dear, our life is not altogether a life of ease!