29, Gold Street, Saffron Walden, Essex
How many days does a letter take to reach you from here ?
My Dear Mother,
A bright, cold, dry morning greeted me as I opened the little cottage door and stepped down the clean & spacious Gold Street. “Breakfast ready?”, said I when I peeped into the ‘Cook Hus’ Yard & saw the dishes all in a row on the bricked up fire. “Not ready yet”, replied the cook & so up I trotted to billets again with jug in hand, from trot to run almost, even with my ‘feet’(1), for it really was a sharp air. “Beginning to have Christmas weather”, I said on seeing the landlady. “Parade 9 for Church”, I shouted to the others, for I was first this morning again.
The march up to the Church was bright and cheery and on entering the Parish Church again the sun was shining through the windows & the pillars, shining up the white stone & making the whole interior so lovely and clear. The Church was soon full of soldiers & I saw that we had one of our men as organist. The service was beautiful again, more so with having our own Brigade Major (2) read the lesson. To see him in his khaki with scarlet shoulder badges mount up the lectern to read was very peculiar. A very nicely spoken man is our Brig. Major. He has a very fresh complexion and looked so handsome. What oh!
… I have just come back from evening service. You would have loved to see the processional, the white line of choristers, with the Ministers at the back showing their red and black hoods. Hymns for the evening were – processional ‘Through the night of doubt and sorrow, onward goes the pilgrim band’, 2. ’Praise to the holiest in the height’ 3. ‘How sweet the name ‘ 4. ‘Onward Christian soldiers’. Morning we had ‘Through the night of doubt’ again, ‘When I survey’ and ‘For all the saints who from their labours rest’ (3).
On Saturday night I met our dear old friend – who do you believe it was ? – why our long-lost chum Ball* (4) So what do you think were my last words to him ? I told him to come in some time and have a chat with us. I said Syd was in – but Ball said he was very busy & would call another time. He came in this Sunday afternoon while we were round the front room fire. Syd was lying full length asleep one side of the fireplace, while Vernon E. was at the other and I was seated on a chair. In came the robust gentleman soldier & we had a right good fireside chat.
We showed him the shells Mrs Penning’s son (5) had brought home at one time & he knew all about them & explained the way they are exploded. They were just liked those fired at Whitby and Scarborough (6).
I shall have to get him to tea at Christmas – although he’s in ‘C’ Coy & has arranged Christmas dinner with a few others of his Coy. He is billeted in our street. How funny that I did not see him till I bumped into him on Saturday.
Cresswell* (7), a United Counties Bank clerk, who joined the O.T.C. with us & was 1st in the Gun Section, is now on Secret Service and wears mufti. Well I will stop now, else I shall not be able to write one of my Christmas letters which will exceed ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? pages!
We are all keeping in good health and happiness. Vernon sais I am much fatter than when I first joined and ‘Ike’ (8) the secretary, who puts all our doings in the Walsall Papers , sais I’ve grown somewhat, so I’m all very well, there’s no fear.
Fond love to all. Remember me to Dodger. I expect a few lines from him at Christmas.
Yours ever affec.
(1) Bertie’s feet seems never to have had time to heal. (2) Brigade Major (info. pending). (3) Hymns for Advent & Wartime. No celebration of Christmas before 24th Dec. in 1914. (4) Pte Ball*. (5) Arthur Penning*. (6)German Raid:16th Dec. 1914: . (7) Cresswell*, (8) Pte Isaac Boulton*.
NB * Starred Names: See Updated S. Staffs Soldiers Page.
NEXT POSTS: Loose Sheets 20th Dec. 1914; Letter to Dad Arthur Hibbett, 24th Dec. 1914.