My Dearest Olive,
Last night, I received your letter dated 28/3 in which you start off by saying, “Many, many congratulations”. In a sense, you seemed more pleased than the first time and, in some ways, I was also. Not quite an inwardly excited perhaps and naturally very much more used to wearing it and being referred to as “Major” but I was very pleased because the competition was much greater on this occasion, as so many fairly senior people had arrived in recent months and that as a Captain there was only one other junior to me, so I jumped over the heads of a number of people and I certainly did not anticipate being promoted before Neville Chance. I am told he went very white when he was told of my promotion and retired to rest but, in all fairness, he congratulated me very warmly the following day. It is only natural that it must have been a rather bitter blow for him as a regular of some years’ service and he is by no means inefficient. I think he is very much better in every way than Collis and we get on very well together. Actually, as far as I can judge, my promotion does not appear to arouse any jealousy, and everyone is always very friends towards me and I get on extremely well with people in the battalion.
Yes, I am very keen on the battalion and think the first just does it. In fact, it was quite a joke that they could not even persuade me to go on leave. My Company is a very good one with a fine spirit, and I still have a very soft spot for ‘B’ Coy and a warm affection for the men of that Company, but I am very pleased with ‘C’ Coy. One of ‘B’ Coy said to me in a very plaintive voice that it seemed all wrong to see me cheering on ‘C’ Coy at football and Fellowes tells me that many still cherish a hope that I will return but I would not change now even if the opportunity occurred because they are a young and enthusiastic crowd in this Coy, who seem to like me and I consider myself very fortunate in having officers like Douglas, Dicky and Pat Howard.
Had rather a bust up with Collis recently. A patrol of mine that goes out near his area has to report to his Coy HQ and, the other night, when it was commanded by a Corporal it reported first to a platoon of his and then the patrol commander went on to see Collis. He promptly got the most violent abuse for not coming directly with his patrol which was utterly absurd as the platoon lay on the route. He was cursed up hill and down dale. I was absolutely furious when I heard about it and promptly told the CO I was not pleased to have my NCOs treated in such a manner – patrols are not particularly pleasant jobs, and everyone is naturally a trifle keyed up and to be abused just before entering No Man’s Land is not the greatest encouragement and shows a complete lack of imagination on the part of the individual concerned. The CO agreed with me that even if the NCO had made a mistake that was completely the wrong time to speak to him about it and in any case he did not see how he had made a mistake. The upshot was that he promised to investigate the matter and the next thing was that orders were issued that there was no need for my patrol to report to his Coy HQ – all they need do was to report to the nearest platoon and then proceed on their way. Collis and I don’t hit it off very well as it is, so I doubt if this will improve relations.
Incidents that live in the memory. One night some little time ago three of us listened to the 9 o’clock BBC News in a small ruined hut. The announcer was speaking of the bitter fighting at Cassino and I thought of you very probably also listening in and outside was the tremendous roar and thunder of our guns and the darkness was punctured with flashes of light as tracer bullets winged their way. And through the roar of artillery, came the rat tap tap of British and German machine guns and the sound of explosions. I listened to the news and I thought of you sitting quietly at home with Valerie probably sleeping and it seemed strange indeed that the same voice was probably speaking to both of us and how different were our surroundings. Out here, it seemed a grim and terrible night with death on every hand and I thought it would be very nice sitting at home with you by a comfortable fire.
Did I tell you that Tony Pierce is back in England? Apparently, his wound did not heal very well and he was evacuated home. You remember Desmond Fitzpatrick? He went on a draft from the 6th to the 2nd, but I hope he did not reach them in time. Several of my old Coy in the 30th are with me here and, talking with a couple, we were recalling the days at Mourne Park a year ago. Very happy times they were too, darling, and I am extremely glad you were able to come there with me and we had such a pleasant finish to our stay in Ireland. The only consolation at the moment is that our bank balance is in considerably better shape than it was then. Algy is a Brigadier in Abyssinia and McCarthy just commands a Coy in a drafting battalion of the Skins.
Heaps of love to you and Valerie, my own dearest most precious of wives.
All my love and kisses,