4th December 1916
Dollie has had the idea of Arthur applying for Christmas leave in Paris and he will ask fellow officer Davis how to apply. More importantly Arthur may qualify for a whole month’s leave soon. Dollie is tasked with shopping for Christmas presents for the Agius family and Arthur sends a cheque to help with expenses. Alfred has returned from Army School. A rather frank appraisal of his former CO, Howell, whom Arthur has a great deal of respect for, and a less flattering appraisal of some of his former colleagues. A wonderfully poetic description of the early morning countryside around their billets, but the mood was later spoilt by the approaching rain: “Everything was so clean and fresh – & this abominated war seemed miles away”.
Arthur to Dollie
Mon. even. 4.30pm
Your letter of Wednes. came yesterday: thanks a thousand times, dear heart. I just love to have your news. I shall most certainly apply for leave to Paris, dear, at Christmas. I’ve sent a note to Davis to find out how he worded his application: & when I get his answer I shall send mine in. At the same time, dear, I confess I think it rather an off-chance for it has to go through the Corps. The latest is that 12 months continuous service at the front, entitles one to a month’s leave, when one’s turn next comes round. Alfred came back last night & apparently it is another order just out; its simply tophole, isn’t it dear. I dare scarce think about it; and can only hope they won’t change their minds before my next leave is due.
Alfred is looking very, very pink & fit. I took him round part of my line last night. Minshull has gone to the Army school; Crompton – who was Adj. to the 2 / 3rd is acting in his place & Rochford is in charge of “A” Coy – much to his disgust – for his old Company was “C”. The CO I believe goes on leave next Saturday.
You are a darling to say that you will get presents for the folk, dear; it is a difficult job. How about money – I am enclosing a cheque for £10.0.0 in case. I don’t know quite what to suggest for Joe & Maggie, except something for their house; About the boys, they may want something, otherwise what about smokes, pipes or a pouch?
You ask about Howell, dear. I think he’s straight. He’s got rather a strange character, I think. I’m not altogether sure that I understand him. But it seemed to me that there were two ways of getting into his good books: one by simply doing one’s job for all one’s worth & being loyal and straight; & the other by rather “toadying” – a thing for which we have an unpleasant name for out here, & I most certainly [think] that some in the latter class deceived the CO & won his good graces rather, I imagine, at the loss of their self respect – if they ever had any.
It froze last night, dear, and for a short time this morning we had a wonderful sky. Way over to the E. along the horizon was a grey wall of cloud, clean & sheer, like the Great Ice Barrier: and the light behind was a clear deep pink, that gradually lightened till overhead it faded into pale grey which deepened again behind us. Everything was so clean and fresh – & this abominated war seemed miles away. But later on the wind rose rather & freshened: the sky grew sulky and brought a few drops of rain with it. To-night it is better again.