My Dearest Olive,
At long last a letter has arrived from you – the airgraph you sent in immediate reply to my first letter from this battalion. I cannot say how pleased I was to receive it, although I would dearly have loved to have had more news than could be put in an airgraph. I hope you will send an airmail letter every few days as they seem to be the best means and can contain quite a lot of news. There are still dozens of things I want to know – how you fixed up things regarding Charmouth Road, as apparently you have not gone to the Vailes and numerous other items of news which I hope will arrive in time although it will probably be a long time before the letters addressed to North Africa turn up – that seems to be the usual fate. If I have read your letter once, I must have read it twenty times.
You will be pleased to hear that my Captaincy has been back dated to Sept 6th, the day I joined the battalion, which is most satisfactory and very decent of the CO. He seems to rather like me. It means an extra £6 10/- which is all to the good although don’t go rushing along and cashing a cheque on the strength of the entire amount because it will probably be months before Lloyd’s start crediting my Captain’s pay – the other people tell me that is the usual fate as there seems to be a long time lag before they are informed. However, it will all be there eventually and I am very anxious we should have a really good balance when I return. So far since I left home, I have only drawn £4 10/- and of that I still have £2 10/- left.
We are up in a defensive position and Coy HQ is in an old cowshed. The first night, we were absolutely bitten alive by fleas, although we were exhausted after the battle and, in any case, Dennis Dunn and I had to be awake half the night as we just could not sleep. They crawled over us in their thousands and became so fat on our blood that catching and killing them became the simplest matter as they did not even have the energy to jump away. Still, they had plenty of reinforcements. The following day by the most liberal use of “Flit” and by way of completely cleaning the stable we managed to improve matters somewhat and are able to get some sleep.
We have been subjected to intermittent shelling but one soon learns when a shell is coming close and it is necessary to “duck” or when it is going further away. The Brigadier asked me how I enjoyed my first battle – he is very “cock-a-hoop” over yet another great success for the Irish Brigade.
I like this Company very much and get on very well with Dennis Dunn. John Glennie, who has been with the Company since he arrived with the battalion, told me that I have made a very good impression with the men. He said the sergeant told him that the manner in which I extracted them from the nasty position the other day and stayed behind to the last myself was very favourably commented upon and I have certainly noticed an atmosphere of good will towards myself.
So my dear little Valerie is 19 months tomorrow. I am very glad she is making good progress and although it is probably trying at times, it is good to know that she has a will of her own. I was amused to read that she is even trying to put on her own shoes. How I wish I could see you both again. It would be much more pleasant than this Sunday morning with flies crawling everywhere and a strong stench.
Still we keep cheerful and have some good laughs.
All my love, my darling little wife.