8th January 1944

My Dearest Olive,

Today has been something of a ‘red letter’ day – after about 10 days, our first lot of mail arrived. I received three letters from you: dated 19/12, 21/12 & 23/12, two from Jim and Jenny, one from Pat Vaile, one from Myrtle, two from Muriel Glennie, one from Mrs. Glennie, and 200 cigarettes from Susan. Only yesterday, I had written a surface letter to Susan, so when you write to her, you might say I received and am very grateful for the cigarettes, especially as we are very short of them at present. We went 3 days without any at all.

Myrtle gave me news of various people and Jim gave me some of the latest political news. Muriel writes to me every week, I appreciate it a lot – she writes very good letters and seems a fine type with much the same practical outlook as John had. I hope by this time you have written to them – she says in all her letters that she is thinking of you and knows how anxious you must feel. With you gift for letter writing, it ought not to be too difficult especially now that the first awful shock is over. I am glad you understood and felt you would have liked John. I know his amazing vitality, so strong that it kept him alive for 1 1/2 hours after fearful wounds. His gaiety and quick vivid intelligence would have attracted you very much. He is one of many thousands but it does seem an awful tragedy and even now I still feel it terribly. I am grateful at least for having had those few months with him.

You ask about the ‘old crowd’. The only people you would know here are Dennis Dawson, Magginis, Edward, Douglas Room, and ‘Pixie’ Brown and among the runners Frank, Porter, Hartshorn and Williams. Turner has just come back from the brigade and is in my Company. A lot of the men remember you (and the dogs), but I doubt if you would know their names. My present Sergeant Major was CQMS Wilson of No 2 Coy at Ballykinler. Frank is now a Sergeant. I had a very straight talk to him when he came to the Company, telling him that I had one vacancy for a Sergeant and it should be his by right of seniority and experience, but I would not promote him unless I was satisfied he would do the job properly and show real fighting spirit.

I said it was ‘life or death’ out here and I had no time to indulge in sentiment or experiments. He was certainly shaken by my remarks, but I must say he pulled himself together and put up a show that fully justified his promotion and since he became a Sergeant, he has done excellent work. In all fairness, there must be a certain amount in him.  He is popular both in the Company and Battalion and the CO was quite keen to see him when I told him Frank had returned, telling me to bring him to the Orderly Room and approved of his promotion as did the Adjutant who said to me: ‘He is rather good, is he not?’  I like him without any of the violent enthusiasm of bygone days.

Did I tell you I got a letter from Mrs Slowley? Apparently Reg was not very successful after I left and eventually lost his stripe. She was very worried about him going downhill and the foolish woman wrote to Colonel Heard complaining about the injustice. Somewhat needless to say, she did not get a reply. He used to say that everything went wrong after I left Omagh.

The weather has been bitterly cold and we have had a good deal more snow but I am feeling very fit, better than anything since I arrived out here. I hope Valerie’s photos arrive soon. I dearly wish I could see her again, and I wonder if Sadi and Silva will remember me.

All my love and kisses, most precious wife


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