Wednesday, November 7, 2007

A Soldier to his Mother

B.E.F., [June] 10th. [1916]

My darling Mother,

As I told you in my last letter we are now resting, and we are doing it very vigorously indeed. There are two kinds of rest for Infantry in the British Army, and they are (1) A good rest, and (2) a thoroughly good rest. A good rest is when your brigade is in the trenches, and your battalion or unit is out. Then between shells in the trenches you rest. You begin the cure at 7-0 in the morning, if you are lucky, and continue it all day and all night on working parties.When you are having a thoroughly good rest you rise at 6-0 a.m., parade at 6-45 every day, and charge across country, practicing the assault for the day that has always been coming (is always in a fortnight) and never comes off--the great Spring Offensive. That's what we have been doing the last few days, walking five or six miles out, then walking two miles or so across country, and then marching home. Every day we receive orders in the afternoon that the brigade will go somewhere, to the trenches or to some other village, but they are always cancelled in the evening. Fortunately, to-morrow is Sunday, and we are to have a day's rest. I hope it will not be cancelled.

Last night I had dinner with "C" Company, my old Company; we had a wonderful dinner. This evening we went to our brigade theatre. It is an old barn, and we all sit on the floor--Colonels, Majors, Subalterns and privates. There are cinematograph films, songs, &c., and it is very cheering; Kitty, Dougal and I went together to-night. The chief talk is all about leave, everyone being in hopes of it, and all except the staff being put off from week to week until you almost despair of it. Dougal is just talking about hopping into a big hot bath and a feather bed, but if we had never done without them we should not value them quite as we do now.

Wednesday, 14th. The Day of Days, the heaven of every British soldier. Leave, that Will-o'-the-Wisp which everyone possesses, but which evades all but the staff, and the very lucky. A long journey from Mericourt, starting at 9-30 to Havre. Lunch of omelette and coffee during an hour's halt in the dignified perambulations of a French train at Bouchie. At Havre we rushed to get cabins, but found plenty,and we soon went to bed--Payne and I (Bernard Thompson on the same boat)--and we slept until wakened one hour out of Southampton. Breakfast off a cup of coffee, and then train again. Winnie met me at Waterloo, or rather I met her, gazing forlornly at streams of strange soldiers. All morning at Harold's offices and shopping, lunching at the Criterion, &c. Then on to Win's to tea and back in bare time to the Savoy to change for dinner. Then to "To-night's the night"--topping seats and a good show.

The writer of these letters arrived in England June 15th, 1916, and returned to France June 22nd. The Spring Offensive, of which he wrote, was launched at 7-30 on July 1st, 1916, and on that day he was killed near La Boiselle--"A corner of a foreign field that is for ever England."

-from Letters From France by Isaac Alexander Mack, Lieutenant of the 11th Suffolk Regiment, and later the Captain of the 101st Trench Mortar Battery. Privately Printed.

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