I played the Marseillaise.... she asked me what it was
France 23rd April 1916
Just a few lines. I've been waiting for the mail to come in, and although I've had a few letters, so far yours have not arrived, although when in the trenches I got one from Bruvver Bill. He's not having a bad time is he? I hope he stops there. Tell Miss Ricketts that you don't want him to go, here the A.M.C. are four miles away so they are pretty safe.
We go in again tonight after being out five days. There are two aerial guns close to us and I have just come back from watching them strafing a couple of Taubes. It's fine sport but the report nearly knocks you down when standing right behind the gun. They brought down one yesterday. I think it is an interesting game – more so than Infantry. I don't think I'll join the foot sloggers next war.
We managed to get into Armentieres last Thursday and had a good look round. It's a fine place, about the size of Melbourne, only of course the buildings are a different type altogether, although they have beauties, but for the most part they are just two or three stories high and, of course, business is at a standstill. There are just a few shops open (about 5%) and they consist mainly of provender shops. Nearly every one of them shows signs of shells, many of them burnt down, although the place hasn't the wrecked appearance that some of the towns have.
We went inside three lovely big Churches, almost Cathedrals (for the French take a great pride in their church) and each had huge gaping holes in the roof and corresponding holes in the floor. It was Adoration Day for the Catholics and the churches all contained a large number of folk, considering the place is almost deserted. There is no doubt that the R.C's can be very sincere, yet I've only struck one chap who is really sincere and that is the fellow I shared the dug out with. He is a school teacher from some Catholic College in Malvern, also choir master for the church there, and he has principles that would do credit to a parson. He is the only R.R. I've taken a liking to, although the chap I like next in the Band is a R.C. Too. Hugh Massie is the former and Gerald (Jerry) Monaghan is the other bloke. Stan Fletcher is still with us , but wants a “coal box” to burst under him to wake him up. Norm Allen is also here, as fussy and important as ever, but he is a good sort – comes from Portarlington.
We have had two lovely days – the first for a fortnight anyhow and the Spring days here are simply great. A feature of the place is the twilight, which is remarkably long. The sun sets soon after six and it is close on eight before it is dark. I don't know how long it will take in the Summer.
It was funny for when we went into the trenches every hedge was bare and when we came out after only six days everything is green and looking just it.
Good Friday passed off very quietly. I went to Service in the morning and stayed in on account of the rain all afternoon.
On Saturday we were taken for a hot bath and this time received a complete change of under clothes, and we were not sorry to hand our own dirty and vermin infested togs in to be washed. It's absolutely the best institution I've yet struck in connection with the Army – couldn't be better. Aren't I an awful grumbler most times? I must have thought I was coming to a Sunday School picnic or a tea meeting or something, but what makes my blood boil is the the Red Tape and the awful muddling that goes on to our discomfort.
They have just brought down a Taube (Pilot killed, Observer wounded).
Yesterday a couple of us took a stroll to Erguingheur. We had a peep in the church and heard the organ then took a stroll round, and afterward, and afterward we were in a small shop, and heard a small organ going, so of course, old Sticky must go into the parlour to see where the music is coming from and found the surpliced organist of the big church in there practising the next set of chants etc. He had ducked out during the sermon, not bad was it? Soon he hurriedly left for the church again, and of course, Tuck must invite himself to play and put in a good half hour. The lady asked me if I was a Cat'lic but I shook my head then she said “Prot -os-ong?” “Oui” says I. Hugh Massie was there (also Ernie) so Hughie sang a couple of ditties in Latin, which smoothed her over. Later I played “The Watch on the Rhine”. “Bon, Bon” she said. Then she asked for The Russ. Afterward I played the Marseillaise and after I had finished she asked me what it was, so I thought it was time to get.
I don't know if I asked you before, but while the piano is not being played with the organ, it will be far better to have it taken down again instead of being up to concert pitch. It would not hurt to have it taken down a full tone, and will put years onto it's life. Please charge to my account.
I am sending home some of the Egyptian films, also Dards, and if the prints have not reached you, which I sent months ago, or if they are not good, Kodaks or any photographer will do them for you very cheaply. Kodak would be fairly dear I think, although the best. I will send some each mail. I am enclosing a letter to William, but if he has left, Dad can commandeer it.
Now, what I want to know is, why Ernie Smart can get letters from you and I can't, but will expect mine will come to light tonight.
It will soon be a year since we sailed and it seems years. I reckon it's about time we got back, don't you? It makes a chap homesick to go in and out of French homes continually. Oh well, we will know how to appreciate home when we et back. I hope you are all well and not worrying, for your boy who is quite well and bullet proof.
With love from your affectionate son.