Letter 20th April: Richebourg St. Vaast
Just a few lines to let you know I received your welcome letter of the 15th. I see by it you received the German shells, picked up by me at Neuve Chapelle, and cartridges inside both; also a French dart is in one of them. I would have sent them together only they were too heavy. I am also sorry they were sent off without me paying for them (as I intended to do) but the Sergeant who takes the letters to the Post took them away when I was absent. I didn’t know they were away until it was too late.
I am also sorry you did not receive my last letter. I intended to include it in one of the shells after the Officer had inspected it, but the Sergeant taking them away I did not get the chance. So I sent it home with one of the wounded as I wished to let you know where I picked up the shells I could not put the letter through the office as they would not have allowed it to go. We are not allowed to state where we have been, or where we are, which I think is all rot.
I stated in that letter that I had received your parcel, for which I return my best thanks, but I wish to say first that you might get the letter I sent home any day, you might not get it till after this one, but I think you will get it all right.
You see Tom, if a man is wounded, and is feeling weak, he might be kept for a week or so at a Base Hospital till he regains his strength a bit before being sent home. So the one I gave the letter to might have had to stay at the Base for a day or two before getting to England.
He said he would post it in England whenever he landed, if he got the chance. He might have forgotten and may come across it in his pocket, or you may even have got it now. So you see the wounded do not go straight home, while others are home two days after receiving their wounds.
I do not think I will start and write what I said in that letter all over again as I will trust to your getting it, but in case you don’t, I wish to thank you all for your kindness.
I have had some bad news from home. My second boy (Abel) is in hospital with Scarlet Fever and the wife and remainder of the family are in the reception house. It makes one a little downhearted when there is trouble at home and one can’t get near to cheer them up.
But I had another letter today from the wife and she says he is getting on fine. I only hope none of the rest will take it.
The warm weather has started here and there will soon be plenty of disease. One may dodge shells and bullets but it is not so easy to dodge disease. I can tell you, Tom, there is going to be plenty of it; in fact, it cannot be prevented. We have all been anockulated (I don’t think that is right spelled) but even that won’t save us. The smell even now is awful, but everybody is trying their best to keep it down.
We are going to have our hands full. We were back in Bethune for about four days since I wrote that last letter and we are now back in the firing line again. About a mile or a mile and a half from the last place we were in. We are clearing the wounded from in front of Richebourg St. Vaast-a village almost as bad as Neuve Chapelle itself, the church is a sight to see. Things are very quiet considering the good weather we are having but one of the Artillery Sergeants was telling me there is going to be another bombardment in 4 or 5 days from now. They are getting everything ready.
As I write this one of our daring airmen (everyone one of them deserves a V.C.) is flying along in front of the German lines and they are firing at him as hard as they can. He is only playing with them. It is not an easy job to bring down an aeroplane- though the papers bring them down every day.
I am glad to see by your letter that Jack McDonald is still to the fore. I only hope he will come through it safe and sound.
I was very sorry to hear about Mr Allan’s loss. I hope the trip to India will do Martin a lot of good.
I don’t know if I have any more to say just now, except I have heard the 1st Division is going back to Ypres. I don’t know if it is true but will let you know.
Tell all the boys I was asking for them. Hope you receive this all right.
Your old pal, J. McF.