one long nightmare, but horribly real

FRANCE 4th July, 1916

Dear Dad,

I have just received your welcome epistle of 1st May 1916, glad to know all is well. I was very interested in the cuttings which you were thoughtful enough to send. I was amused at Fritzs' opinions of the Australians – doesn't half crack us up does he? So, I'm a descendant of criminals, that's praising you up some also. Anyhow, he's had some hurry up lately from them. In a very short space of time we transformed the quietest part of the line into a very warm spot, what with bombardments at all hours of the night, and raids along our front. He developed nerves pretty badly, not that he didn't retaliate - he did. He's tremendously strong and has very powerful artillery, but he got by far the worst of the deal. We and N.Z.'s held many raids. They are very daring and dangerous, but only on two occasions did Fritz get the better of the raiding party, whom in the minority of cases, came back without a casualty on our side.

Our own 6th Brigade affair was also a great success, although it came very near the last of the series and so stood much less chance of a success.

There will be some decorations come out of it. I believe we already have several D.C.M.s, M.C.s in our Battalion, but so far, no V.C.

We are just having a spell after a strenuous ten mile march from the trenches. A good warm bath, a square meal and my little bed at 64 would do me just grand, and I'd be as fit as a fiddle tomorrow morning. We've had no sleep since the night before last, as we couldn't leave the trenches on time owing to heavy bombardment and thus arriving at our billets very late today. This is only a stage, for we going well back this time. In fact, even now, we can only very dimly hear the guns of larger calibre firing occasionally. None of us were sorry to say goodbye to our particular portion of the line. For the last ten days it was one long nightmare, but horribly real. In fact, the 23rd came and did the three days overtime (which would have fallen to our lot on account of some hitch in the relieving Brigades arrangements) because we had such a rough time of it. Where we were, almost in the apex of the Salient, we could hear Fritz laughing and talking if things were quiet. One chap there had a very bad cough also. It was a very lively place for bombs of all sizes, up to 120 pounds - “Minnies” we used to call them, short for Minnaworfer (or some name like that). They were beasts but I will be able to tell all about them when they have the goodness to drop us back at Port Melbourne.

Some of the ANZAC speeches were very fine, weren't they? I'm glad that you (or Mother)sent them to me - “The Age” of that date.

The English folk have been taking a great interest in the Australians and N.Z.'s. It's nothing but Anzac everywhere until the men have been commenting on the injustice of it. What of the Englishmen who landed at Cape Helles? I know Anzac pretty well but have only seen Helles from a distance, but I believe it was every bit as terrible there as for our own chaps, yet not a mention of them appears even in the English papers.

We Second Division fellows don't even claim to be Anzacs in the true sense of the word, for we had none of the wild charges and deadly battles of the First Division. We were there of course for sixteen weeks and did everything asked of us, and would have shown that we were Australians had anything happened. But it didn't of course, but got plenty of bombard and the usual incidents peculiar to warfare, more or less unhealthy (mostly more) but that was all. But to return to the subject, I personally, along with many others would like to see our Tommies get their share of the praise due to them. Suvla, of course, was messed absolutely – worse by far than the other two places, but it was not the men's fault. There were many desperate battles fought there also.

The Tommies are doing great work now down on the Somme. We who are here know exactly what things will be like down there. The papers reports don't convey much to the lay mind. They report “Artillery activity etc”. We know what that means.

Ernie is well and is always as hungry as a hunter. You never run across him unless he's wondering how long before tea, or whatever the next meal will be, so you can judge as to the state of his health, not that the Army rations always satisfies us. It would if we got it, but we generally only receive part of it and none of us are liable to boils through its richness.

I have just spoken to a Corporal (Willoughby). He's just joined up again – has been home on furlough after an illness. Says he saw you in Bourke Street in March. At least he's is not sure who he saw for he wanted the clarinet player that comes from Brunswick by the name of Tucker, but from his description (rather vague) I took it to be you. Do you remember the incident? He told me everything was A1 etc. I was very glad to see him though, but wish that it had been me who'd had the interview.

Oh well, there's a good time coming, must close now.

From your affectionate son.

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