give me the farmyard melody

FRANCE THURSDAY JULY 13 1916

I guess this is a long while after Sunday to start my epistle, but, to say the least of it, it's not always convenient to write in the Army. For instance, we put in last Sunday by marching 15 miles, so you can imagine under the circs a feller doesn't develop journalistic propensities and, as we have been traveling ever since until Tuesday night, I haven't had much time to myself, but we seem as if we are in this possie for a couple of days. So I'm putting in my dinner hour writing before we get on the road again. By the way, there is a route march on this afternoon with full packs up. We don't get enough marching so we have to practice in our spare time. We have been on the road now for over a week. It's pretty solid work when you have to carry all your possessions on your back. About fifteen miles is the most we've done in our day, although it came out in yesterday's “Orders” that we were complimented on the way we marched twenty miles on the previous day, but I fancy it must be a mistake – twenty kilometers would about do it – twelve and a half miles, and quite far enough. We also had an eight hour journey in the Puff Puff – the first for many a long day. We thought we were bound for Blighty when we came to Calais, but we shunted then and great was the disappointment thereof. We saw the sea for a long time after that and passed through Boulogne en route, and now we are miles, miles and miles away from the war. In fact, it's hard to believe that there is a war on. One day you are in the middle of it and you feel like a railway accident, then you find yourself out in an old rusty barn among the cows and other things appertaining to the agricultural industry ( all in one breath too) and you can't hear a sound bar the old fowls swanking around and kicking up a row because they have laid an egg and a cow or three trying to sing grand opera. But give me the farmyard melody any time. I'm a peaceful citizen and I like music, even if the bantam does break down every time he tries to do a cadenza.

We passed through one town on our tour, Hazebruick, where the people were very good to us and brought out a dozen big boxes of cakes, treated the boys to free beer and gave us soup and all sorts of things. We were the ones with them, but I think we were the first Australians they had seen, for as a rule, as soon as we come near a village, up go the prices 100%, for aren't the Australians the best paid Army in the world, and don't the Tommies roar, for they don't get enough to feed a church mouse, and they are always glad when we shift so as they can buy something again.

This town or village (it has no name that I know) is the most dead and alive hole I've ever struck – can't even buy a feed – even bread is “non est”. So what we poor soldiers will do if we stop here long I don't know.

My word, Bill used his nut, and if he's got more brains than his brother, he will stop where he is and be thankful. If he wants to swap I'm on – would jump at the chance. Rather too much honour and glory in this game and very little anything else. We don't even need blankets now as it is summer and gets quite warm, often especially at night, quite warm as July in Australia. I use my overcoat and tunic pinned together as a blanket. You wouldn't think I had brains to look at me would you, but I does cover me of a night time, but a fellow doesn't take off too many clothes. Oh, but it is a great life, very large at times.

It will be a pity when the war is over, for we will have to go back to work and won't have so many walking tours, however pleasant, on 5/- a day.

I got letters from Mabel, Olive and Lester last week, the first for a long time and I'll answer them almost immediately, although there is no mail leaving us for a while until we get settled.

The scenery around these parts is lovely. We are in very hilly country and in amongst the corn and the multitudes of poppies and cornflowers and they look great. Our Battalion's colours they are too. There's a lovely river just below us with beautiful trees and walks along its banks. We had a bathing parade this morning and enjoyed it although the weather is cold and the water ditto.

Ernie is here in the same barn and as well as I am, so he's pretty good. I've had no word and can get no tidings of lucky Ralph. He may have got himself transferred to some other mob, although I don't think that likely. His prospects were pretty good with us.

Well Mother, I must close. Don't forget the fatted fowl for Christmas will you? I'm looking forward to it. For second course we'll have bully and biscuits, with bread and cheese to finish up with. So goodbye, hoping you are well. Your affectionate son Charles.

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