Nov 3 1917
My dear cousin
Just a few lines from me that you may know that this old frame has still got a kick left in it in spite of the ups and downs of a soldiers life out here especially lately in that part of the Western front where the NZ Div has again been ( I suppose according to N.Z papers) upholding the glorious traditions of the past and facing the destroyers of this world’s peace in the good old British way. The papers will I suppose have given you are more or less glowing account of it all and I suppose Malcom Ross will have used his pen to the best advantage but even his pen could not give you a true idea of it all so what is the use of me trying and besides I must consider the censor I suppose. However someday I hope to be able to tell you all about it for writing is too inadequate to describe it all.
At present I am sitting in the Sergeant’s mess in a French house in a quiet little French valley where the guns are not heard and it’s a perfect [???] of heaven in spite of the fact that the weather is wet and cold. But the comforts are luxurious compared to the discomforts where Fritz’s angels sing in the air.
I have not heard from you for over a month. Your last letter I read in the line the night before we made out attack against the Hun. Probably you wrote that letter in your drawing room in bonnie NZ amid all the comfort and pleasure that a good home can give. I read it sitting in a shell hole on a wet and windy day on the Western Front to the tune of Hun shells bursting, the roar of our guns and the shirr of our planes overhead. After you had written it you probably thought of a comfortable bed and a good night’s sleep to wake to a day of happiness and I read it with a thought of a night in a wet shell hole with a cold chilling wind blowing carrying with it the horrible odour of a battlefield and of a morn of hard fighting with the prospect of a [???] in the air with a shell or a smack in the “tummy” by a Hun bullet. Such is the difference in our conditions of living but still I am content here and I hope you are there. You may wonder what my thoughts were as I [?? ??] the order to advance. “Was I scared?” “Did I see my past life come before me?” “ Did I repent of many sins committed?”
As I waited there in the darkness before the hour of dawn on that morning I had a strange feeling of perfect confidence that I would be safe. I’d watched and wondered why Fritz was shelling so hard – a thin he had not done for some days. I saw the occasional [??] of our guns lighting the sky. The guns I knew were there by hundreds but they were ominously silent but the men were there by them and the ammunition was there and Fritz was to get it soon, very soon.
At 5:55 am the word came” get ready!”. Just once I looked at my loaded rifle. Just once I thought of home. Just once I wondered how the day would go and, with a terrific roar that was appalling, our massed guns broke out. The scene as we moved forward was awful but magnificent. I shall never forget it. Of all that happened then for a while I have only a hazy recollection but I was mad and out to kill. More than one German paid the price of poor old Wilke’s life that day and it was with a feeling of fiendish joy that I used that rifle and bayonet. All primitive instincts were on top but I thought it was a glorious morning.
There was one incident that I saw that I will never forget. A Hun of about 19 years of age lay on the ground and one of our boys stood over him with the point of his bayonet on the Hun’s stomach and he was saying “I am going to kill you, you @#$%”. The look of terror on that boy’s face was awful and he was screaming for mercy.
I could not see him killed. It was too much like murder. I knocked the NZ bayonet to the side and dragged the Hun to his feet. That incident I will never to my dying day forget but I suppose it is one of many in this lad where human life is so cheap. But enough of war. Tis Bad enough at times to see it without writing about it so I will ring off.
I saw Bert Meadway here two days ago. Laurie has just joined up but was unlucky enough to get the measles.
Well Amy I suppose you will be preparing for Christmas now. White dresses and shoes and tennis will be all the go and summer days and summer nights will add to the pleasure of it all. However I am sure I hope you all do your best to enjoy yourselves and I hope your Christmas will be as bright as it ever was
The brightest scene, the sweetest song,
The [??] test shall be
Only to help the hour along
From now to victory
Remember me to all and please accept my best wishes for a happy Christmas and drink my health in sherry on Christmas night.
Love from your affectionate cousin