A good supply of bonza socks

France, April 8th, 1916

Just a few lines to let you know I am well and having a fairly good time, although somewhat close to the fireworks once again. We spent a little over a week in Roquetoire, a suburb of Aire, then one fine afternoon we walked ten miles, got billeted again, asked the lady of the house how many eggs she had and told her to boil the lot- sixty, there were, three and a bit each – slept there, haversaque or something, the name of the place was, then on the following morning started on a little stroll of eighteen miles, still closer to the show we finished up Estaire, which at one time was in the hands of the Germans, in fact, the loft were fifty of us slept once housed Germans. They held all this part for months in the early stages of the war. A funny thing happened whilst in the loft. I twigged a case that looked somewhat like a music case of some sort of instrument and when I got it down, I found that it was a really good solid leather clarinette case, as good as new. My old one was sadly dilapidated so it was luck. There was a brand on it – 19BN D.L.I. Some English Tommy must have left it and now this morning after coming right into the fourth line, after a five mile march last night I'm blessed if I did not find a tutor, and although it is written in French, I can get most of it. That's a coincidence isn't it? When we get into the front line trench I expect to get the clarinette. We are just behind the trenches,billeted in an old bake house and it would surprise you, the number of people still living here.

I don't believe that there can be more than about 10 per cent who have fled even though the place gets shelled every day. Our place is about three hundred yards outside the village and tonight the Germs are strafing the place and it would break your heart to see little girls leading their younger brothers and sisters (mere babies) out of the place into safety and all of them wear their respirators in case of a gas attack and while they were belting into the town I watched some villagers walking into the place to do their shopping. They are some braver than your truly. I'm not stopping here because I like it and if I were them, I'd be miles away.

There was a magnificent church here, now blown to atoms. The cemetery in the old church yard is a picture, vaults blown open, tombs smashed to atoms, the whole place a mass of ruin and many a recent burial showing the effect of the bombardment. There are dozens of houses just a mere shell and still the people stop here.

The Tommies reckon that it is perfectly safe in the trenches and say that it is a real home. Anyhow, it is nothing to Gallipoli and we are looking forward to the rest. I suppose it's the rest they promised us when we evacuated.

France is a great place – for mud. I wouldn't be here in the winter for a pension. Cripes! It's cold some too but heaven I've got a mother that had knitted me a good supply of Bonza socks. I've got enough now to last me for two or three more wars as I take care of them, and although I don't pose as an expert knitter or darner I should say yet my efforts serve the purpose and thanks to you I'll have any amount to see me through right to the end.

So please don't waste any more time over this chap. I expect you will have Bill on your hands to make more worry by now

Please forgive me but I forgot to thank you in my last (which I have not been able to post yet) for the lovely pair of socks and the huge tin of welcome chocolate. I am wearing the former and enjoyed the later. Thank you ever so much.

Ralph wants me to ask you to get his mater to send over his Save Brown Belt and attachments please. Mrs Mitchell will understand what is required. Ralph is looking as if a soldiers life is agreeing with him in fact, his mother would hardly recognise him, he has filled out so and Ernie likewise, and also this what's writing.

The Germans have just sent some shells filled with TNT onto our trenches despite that fact that it is past nine o'clock at night and although my socks are so thick, I can feel the cold getting to them.

I'm just wondering did I answer your letters that came early last week or had I already written my weekly mail when they arrived. I must look. “Haha” as the villain always says when he enters, I find I have not. I'm sorry the mail had been held up for you, but I'm afraid the Australians have done sillier things than that since the war started and are still doing them.

You gave me a surprise when you told that Alf Osborne's name was amongst the sick. We knew nothing about it. We get no news at all of other units and never see anything of them. I expect that long before this reaches you, you will have been told we are in France. At present things are at a standstill but we have thousands of Tommies here – far more than they know what to do with, all waiting for “the push” which we expect will come off very soon. I think things will take a decisive turn within the next couple of months and I won't be sorry to see the last of it, to get back home once more.

I must close now with love to all the youngkers who I will write as soon as possible, yourself and Dad.

Your affectionate son.

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