BATTALION TRAINING: RUE DES VACHES.
6th Dec. Mon: Platoon and Company Training. 7th Dec. Tue -18th Dec. Sat: Ditto.
Tuesday. Dec 7/ 15
My Dear Mother & Father,
Since Saturday, we have been very busy & on the move. Your welcome parcel came last night when we were all busy cleaning our equipment for the Gen. Inspection which was this morning. Just returned & this is the first opportunity I have had for answering all you want to know.
You have jumped down my throat with regard to the Com: I don’t feel at all eligible for one. Today is Brewin’s* Day; he is supposed to go for a month’s training & is tidying himself up now. As for Serg. Sanger* I believe he goes too about now (1). He will be glad to see you he said to me in the trenches, some weeks ago, & wishes to be remembered to you both.
With regard to that vacancy at DHQ’s orderly room clerk, nothing yet has been said (2).
I did enjoy Ida’s scones & the cheese. Vernon too said they were very nice. His voice has improved a little, but unfortunately he has now got a sore and swollen foot (3).
The general idea in the Batt. is that we shall not see these trenches in this part of the country again.
I have your letter enclosed in the parcel for reference & am answering each question as I read on. I am hoping to see you, by the way matters are shaping out, I hope to be Home by the end of Jan/16. (4).
I do not see Allen*much because the billets are so far between (5) . I do not know Sydney’s address for certain at present. His last letter was Z Company, 5th South Staffs Con. Camp Rouen. I sent him an FPC & had it returned. I wish he was with me as far as advice with regard to the Com.
I shall not need any more Porridge in future parcels as I told you before. I thought we should be in the trenches by now for we all understood we were in that part of the line till Dec. 27. I have arranged with the cooks to make me some porridge for tonight – so twill be all very well.
I meant to tell you before that the parcels came with the tag attached, good idea.
Best love, Bertie.
Pte Bertie has reservations about applying for a Commission as a ‘Temporary Officer’. He was ‘eligible’ in that he had attended QMS, a minor public school and had been four years in its O.T.C. but it was not in my father’s nature to push himself forward. That he did not feel ‘at all eligible‘ may indicate his lack of confidence in his health & physical strength at this time. He would have appreciated the privileges & better accommodation enjoyed by officers – and he knew that was what his parents wanted for him. On the other hand he must have been aware, as perhaps his parents were not, that the average life of a Junior Officer at the Front was very short, a matter of a few weeks.
(1) Officer Training for A.E. Brown* (Brewin, QMS) and Sanger*: one month at Sandhurst would mean a chance of Home Leave. cf Letter 5th Dec.
(2) Divisional Head Quarters Orderly Room Clerk would involve administration of divisional orders & discipline/ more of a desk job with lots of paper work. More suitable for Pte Bertie with his poor feet, than a commission?
(3) Pte Vernon Evans’ feet were worse after a gruelling 6 hours trudge over 6 miles of rough waterlogged ground to Rue des Vaches. (Thankfully neither he nor Pte Bertie had feet quite as bad as they might have been according to some on-line images!). See previous Letter 5th Dec.1915.
(4) Eastern Front Rumours? Pte Bertie hints that 1/5th Staffords could be on their way to warmer climes where Home gifts of porridge & warm clothes might not be needed.
(5) Serjeant Herbert Allen* QMS friend of Sydneys? (2nd Lieut H. Allen. Killed in Action, Gommecourt/ Fonquevillers: 1st July 1916. Battle of Somme).
NEXT POST: 8th Dec. 1915. Serjeant Sydney’s whereabouts revealed.