Letter Friday 30th October: Ypres
I am sorry I have not had time to answer your letter sooner but as you will know we just have to write when we get the chance and that is not often but as I wrote to Jim Pye about a week ago you will have heard all the news from him.
I told him about coming up from the Aisne up to Belgium and as the Division that landed at Ostend had joined forces; we advanced till we came to the town of Ypres; then we were up against the enemy again.
That was on the 19th and we have been here ever since (31st). I had to stop writing yesterday as we had to go out and collect wounded and we were out almost all night and have been loading the Wagons all day. We have not got a few minutes to spare till the Wagons come back from the train, and then we will have to load up again. We have loaded about 1000 wounded out of this hospital (or place we made into a hospital) in three days.
We have got it very hot since we came up here. I thought nothing could be worse than the battle of the Aisne but our troops are getting IT HOT UP HERE. The shrapnel is playing havoc with us and our Ambulances have caught it too. We were about a quarter of a mile from the trenches two days ago and we had sheltered in some houses on the roadside.
Three of our chaps were in a room cooking some food, till we could get a chance to go out to the trenches when a shell came right through the door and burst in the room. One was killed on the spot and the other two were wounded but both died that night.
That is 5 men we have had killed in our Ambulance and 9 wounded since we came out. So you see we are up against it too. We are out almost every night in the trenches and sometimes through the day and we are sniped at every time. The other night we were out and were just getting our last lot of patients out of the trenches when the enemy let us have a volley. We had to get down into the trench and take our wounded with us and lie there for an hour or two till it got a bit quieter. That has happened very often but I have escaped so far though you never know your luck.
One time we are out collecting wounded the next time we are burying the dead, next we are loading the Wagons and packing the wounded off home. So you see we are getting plenty to do.
The enemy has made some desperate attempts to get through here but we have always driven them back and word has just come in that they have retired. Our troops are sticking it fine.
One day I went out to the trenches. We got to about the second line of trenches when the Germans advanced. There were so many of them that they practically shoved the Guards out of the first line of trenches but the Glosters, who were in the second line, charged and drove them back. The shells were dropping round us like hail so we went back as it was impossible to get the wounded away then. We got them away at night alright.
There will be a lot of widows in Britain after this war but I hope Mrs. McFarlane won’t be one of them.
The Germans are bad brutes! They kick our wounded that are lying out in front of their trenches and very often shove the bayonet through them. One German who spoke English told us that they had been told by their Officers that the English shoot all their prisoners; so they were told not to surrender. We had a job to make them believe that we did not shoot our prisoners (but our Troops are so wild that they will hardly take any prisoners.)
It is getting very cold at night out here now but we get plenty of shot and shell to keep us warm; but Roll on Bonnie Scotland!
I will write more in my next letter when we get to Germany.