"Lilac scented Death"

France Supports 15th June 1916

Just a few lines, I would have written before but there is no news, just the usual daily round. We are back in the trenches again with the 23rd in, and us in support with change about every six days, but the weather has been very miserable lately so nothing much is doing. By one of your letters you were anticipating big things to happen here last month. I too thought there would be something happening, but so far things are very quiet. Occasionally we hear plenty of noise up towards the Canadians and also down La Basse way. The Russians though see, to be putting in good work and we hear they are still advancing although we haven't seen a paper since coming to the trenches again.

We have a fine roomy dugout – the best I've been in, but the rats – crikey! There's millions of them. They aren't a bit frightened and walk out right under your very nose. Norm has a little automatic with which he has settled a few and at times we have very exciting chases with sticks, stones and bayonets. They are very musical also, and chirrup just like little birds. At night time they run all over you. Ernie likes them – I don't think. He's camping with us. The latest thing they've tackled is a cake of carbolic soap.

Ernie T is attached to our Brigade for a few days, may be longer. They don't know themselves, so I've seen a lot of him lately. He's looking well and having a good time.

Our trench runs through somebody's back yard, or front yard, the French are not particular. The old gate is still standing and part of a wall with the pump hanging on it, but that is all that remains of a pretty decent French house beyond piles of bricks, plaster, wallpaper, but I mustn't forget to mention the cherry trees, which are just outside our dugout, the fruit of which is just about ripe. I've had some. Just twenty five yards to our left runs the railway line to Lille, passing straight through our trench over to Fritzs. I wonder when the trains will be running along it again.

Thanks very much for the “Globes”. They contain some fine articles at times, although we have had many a laugh at the number of men who were the last to leave Anzac and who were responsible for the success of the show and so forth, whose photos and letters have been published in the paper. Talk about skite, self opinion! The worst offenders are the Lance Corporals, but really, some of the articles are very funny to read. We who were there understand the things better than those at home can.

I was on No. 10 post until 11pm Sunday night and I wasn't sorry to leave. It was quite late enough. There was one article about gas that was very interesting. We have had to test our new gas helmets by passing through a trench filled with gas, right up to where it was issuing from the cylinder, but with our new helmets all you can taste is the chemicals. But there is one gas the “Globe” called “Lilac scented Death”. It is the fumes from a lacrymatory shell they have just exploded, a couple of small bombs, hardly larger than a cartridge, to let us know the smell, in case we got any such shells from Fritz. We didn't have our goggles or anything on and a first you smell a lovely scent and nothings happens, then your eyes are so bad that you can't see. In fact, can't open them at all and the pain is pretty severe. So what must a couple of dozen 8-2s filled with the liquid or whatever it is, be like, but we have special goggles and of course, as soon as we smell the stuff we would clap them on and await the coming of Fritz with pleasure, but without the goggles we would be entirely at his mercy.

You mention that you expect that I've got a young Museum of Curios in my bag, but you are quite wrong. I have a 75 cap and a shrapnel time fuse and a couple more driving bands – that is all. The caps are nothing to look at and anyhow, our kits are miles away, and we won't get them until after the war. Also I very much doubt if they will be there in the end. While here there is nothing to collect. I picked up a good shrapnel fuse cap, but they weigh half a ton more of less, and our packs are quite heavy enough without carting around scrap iron.

It is another bleak, windy, drizzly day and I'm near frozen, especially my little feet, so I think I'll close hoping you are well.

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