4th March 1916
Parade is cancelled due to more wind and snow, so Arthur lectures his Sergeants on map reading; a hair cut and promise of a welcome bath later in the day; the post finally arrives and Arthur is delighted to unwrap chocolates, cake and most prized of all – mittens from Dollie; brother Alfred sends him the papers and sister Daisy a parcel for the men; Dollie’s cake is soon demolished at tea; the first anniversary of friend Harry Pulman’s death (at Neuve Chapelle) is drawing near and Arthur promises to write to widow Rosa.
Arthur to Dollie
Billets, Saturday aft: 3.15pm
… No news again to-day, so far: though there are rumours of a mail. Please heaven, its true for I am just longing to hear from you dear. I’ve delayed writing in hopes of a letter, but the mail is very late. Probably the weather is partly responsible for it; last night was a wild night. To-day we have a mixture of snow, sleet & rain. As a result this morning’s parade was cancelled. I lectured my Serjeants on “Map reading”: Lloyd & Thomas lectured the men on our work. This afternoon I’ve been busy, reading & getting up a competition to take place on Monday DV. This evening Lloyd & I & Davis are going to mess with Christmas (“Gallipolli (sic) Bill”) & Minshull.
This morning, dear, just before lunch I had my hair cut by the battalion barber – one of the stretcher bearers. After tea I am going to Confession; the first opportunity I’ve had since leave. At 4 we are going over to the factory for a bath – in tubs! Lewis has fixed things up for us.
Well, dear, I’ve fired off a lot of news at your dear little head, very disjointed & disconnected I’m afraid. I’ve just seen the mail come in – fearful excitement. So just a minute dear…
… three dear letters & a parcel, a parcel for the men from Daisy and the usual papers from Alfred. Thanks awfully sweet heart – they were Tuesday’s, Wednesday’s & Thursday. The cake was appreciated by all – we had it for tea. Sammy came in & thought it awfully good. What I loved best was the chocolate & the mittens (that are priceless) & the chocolate & the muscatels – all awfully good choice & awfully generous of you. Best of all were the hug & the kiss that you sent with them! And which are heartily reciprocated. Please thank your Mater too – it was very decent of her, dear old soul.
Just as the mail came in the others went out for their baths. My servant, rather intelligently had prepared mine for me upstairs. So I went up and had a priceless one. Then came down to tea: where, as I said, your cake was welcomed & half finished – proof of its popularity. After tea I went up to church to Confession & have only been back a few minutes. Mass to-morrow at 9.
Darling, I am so sorry you were so worried last week about our move. We didn’t know the reason – all we knew that we were, apparently, moving in a great hurry. We also knew of the German thrust at Verdun. It seemed natural to connect the two in one way or another. As it was, of course, it was due to defective signal work, and our alarm was without any reason. We are just going on with our training & recuperating programme here.
I sha’n’t forget to write to Rosa, dear; it scarcely seems only a year ago. The last year has been a strenuous one, if you like, dear, & it seems hardly credible that this time last year, we scarcely knew the plans for the fight.
Of course, little one, it’s all right to wire Alfred [Agius] on the 11th. Probably overwhelm him! …