17th -18th Nov: Brigade Reserve as on 15/11/15. (Pte Bertie on Bombing Course).
Thursday Nov 18/ 15
My Very Dear Mother,
I had the letter of the 11th when I returned from the Bombing Course for the last time, tonight & I have read Sydney’s dear letter of Nov 2nd & will send it back to you in this. Also read Dodger’s small, but welcome letter & quite understand his circumstances (1).
Have now Mother’s letter at hand for reference. Sorry I cannot say as much as you or I could wish to say owing to the limit of my stock of paper. This I have had just from old Vernon in the trenches – Vernon of course, he is again squatting by me in this dugout & we are both writing Home & exchanging wishes.
Vernon thanks you for your kind Remembrance. He had the reward of his patient waiting last night, 17 th, by receiving, bringing into the dugout two huge parcels & a small one on the top of them, which were almost as big as the dugout itself & he had a good spread. I would insist on refusing & telling him I would not have anything, but the result was that he got awfully huffy & cross & so I gave in, after much persuasion on his part, to have a little of the Wedding Cake (2) – the last bit his people had saved.
Yes, the large Hudson Soap Box parcel with the towel, hankies & eggs etc came, or could not have come at a more acceptable time, in the trenches. I could not say whether I was favoured or what, but it was the only one that came that day to a platoon in the firing line. I have not ’arf relished the apples you have sent lately – what beauties.
Some NCO said there was a letter for me from Sydney, but Vernon looked after my letters while I was away today & I have not yet heard from him by letter, just a PC saying ‘am quite well’ so what can his temperature be eh! – a problem for you.
Shall I tell you what I should like in a parcel at this time of year? Why some more sugar, but ’tis dear isn’t it Mum, some of that brown you sent? You see I am on the que vive, the alert for something HOT.
Other things are: – another of those fine batches of currant bread, and another of those pats of butter & could Harold send me a bottle of Horlick’s Malted Milk in powdered form, it just wants HOT water adding & makes a nourishing drink (3). The sugar is to go with cocoa or coffee, which friends send & don’t think of the sweetening.
Miss Foster* sent a delightful little parcel for Sydney to share in as well. I have told her where he is & given her the address, thank you for it. Just another article to make the parcel complete – some St Ivel cheese or cream cheese, if you do not think me extravagant. Another pencil & paper etc. That’s all.
So grateful to you, Mum, for the Helmet that is on the make.
Good wishes to Basil & all.
PS I shall have to write my PS on the back of Dodger’s letter.
I meant to tell you that Vernon had sent to him a patent stove for making a handy drink HOT or frying cheese & ration of bacon. Do you think you could send me one & it would do for Sydney (when he comes back) – they are in the shape of a Boot Polish tin & contain a certain composition which, when lit, goes liquid & gives off heat of course & turns solid when cold. Just handy. So it will alter my next parcel.
I will put what I want plainly here:- 1. Stove. 2. Batch of currant bread. 3. Pat of butter. 4. Horlick’s Milk (powder form). 5. Sugar. 6. St Ivel Cheese.
Pte Bertie’s longing for something hot to drink & warm to wear reflects the bitter cold & wet Tommies had to endure in the winter of 1915 -16.
(1) Basil’s Letter of 11th Nov. 1915 requesting information about 19 yr old Serj.Tom Fenton, missing since 13th Oct.1915.
(2) Norman Evans’ Wedding, Walsall.
(3) Horlicks Malted Milk created by James & William Horlick, Chicago. USA. c. 1875. A safe, easily digested milk powder for children & invalids; widely used as a nourishing drink in WW1, on the Front & at Home.
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