A few more lines once again. No mail came during the week, but we think one is due. It is a lovely, mild, sunny day and having finished our mornings toil, am sitting out having a sun bath. Things are very quiet – a few big guns booming, a few Hun's shells bursting now very near us, an old rooster strutting round making the air hideous with his efforts to crow. Perhaps he's crowing in French, I don't know. “No Compare” as the Frenchies say when you ask them anything, either in English or French, more, especially the later. Anyhow, I think the old chook has something wrong with his throat, wants it cut I fancy. A bit of fowl wouldn't be too bad at all. We had boiled beef and tea for dinner. It's either that or stew – we prefer the stew.
We have had a very quiet week. They've been giving us a spell but the old stint is starting again.
I've answered all the letters I owed, and if people say they have not had letters, well, I haven't received their letters. At least I owe Dad one, but will wait till the next mail comes in, for I'll be sure to get one from him and thus kill two birds.
A mail, I've just learned, is at Brigade office and will get the start of it tomorrow.
I got fossicking around towards Bac-a-maus a few days ago and struck a Y.M.C.A. With a notice up “Look out for Gipsy Smiths meetings”. My word, I'd like to be here when he comes. I have read a lot about him, but we don't know how long we will be here, and the place is a couple of miles from us.
(The Padre has just sent his orderly down to see if I will go with him to the trench mortar battery and play the organ for the Service there in an hour's time). Anyhow, I'd chance a lot to hear Gipsy Smith.
I was in a shop the other evening, when the little girl of the house entered, dragging her Papa, and she was talking nineteen to the dozen. He was a soldier home on leave, and wasn't there rejoicing and yummy, yum yum stakes. The French are very demonstrative. It looked all right. I'm glad I'd been served else I would have been there still. I wouldn't mind if we were close enough to get leave home.
Of, course, the French soldier was from Verdun. Every solder you see on leave will tell you that he has come straight from Verdun, as if there was not 400 miles of frontier besides that particular spot, and if you speak to any of the townspeople here of their husbands and sons they will tell you that they are down at Verdun. Anyhow, I'm not anxious to beat them out of their position. This place will do, and I'm not here because it's healthy.
We were turning out of bye-bye a couple of morns ago, at least we were thinking about it. Ernie had just borrowed our washing bowl (an old horse bucket) when whiz, bang and a shell blew off the corner of the house three yards away. “That's the first” say I and grabbed my pants and ducked, the others following suit. Ernie got a good start as he was outside, but how he missed getting a trip I don't know, but it was the quickest Reveille I've done since I joined this mob, which someone has been pleased to call the A.I.F. It was only an overshot at an aeroplane, which had failed to explode, and fell close to us, exploding on impact with the house. A chap might come to a dozen wars and never have that happen to him again. I thought that they had dropped to our billet and had started to shell it, but it was a chance shot – one in a thousand.
We had a smoke night in our billet last Thursday. Crikey! It was a funny turn out – beer and ham sandwiches. I had to wind the remains of a little John Morgan. Fellows would volunteer to sing, come up to me, sing some tunes or other to see if I knew it – 10 to 1 I wouldn't. Any how, they'd start up, sometimes I'd be on the black notes, then on the white notes, change to black and white, but for the most part, I think they must have been singing in between the cracks, but they seemed satisfied and everyone was happy. One serious looking Sergeant asked me to play “The Holy City” “Cripes” I said “What do you take me for – a phonograph?” “Oh, you'll be all right. Give us a start and we started and I nearly fainted when I found that he wasn't singing The Holy City at all, but some parody, the chorus of which came in “Yer losing them, yer losing them etc instead of Jerusalem, but everyone seemed to be having a good time. It's the first of this kind of thing we have had, and this was held in a big, bare barn with the rain teeming down outside.
The Officers were there and proposed some toasts and once I beefed in with “They are Jolly Good Fellows” in the wrong place, but we managed to rub it out. We finally got to bunk at about 10 o'clock, which is very late for soldiers, 8.30 being our usual time.
I've been along to the trench mortar battery and played for the Service, and a very nice one it was. There were about fifty bombers there, and we held Service in the open, it being such a beautiful afternoon. Five of our aeroplanes were floating above, amid sundry shots. Fritz seldom comes over us and only when the coast is clear, our fellows have them bluffed but a funny thing, as soon as I started to write this little bit about aeros our own anti-aero guns have begun to bark – the first time for two or three days, but when the Hun plane does come over, he is so high that it's almost impossible to see him at all and they only stop a couple of minutes. I expect that Germany is putting all her efforts in Zeppelins and letting the planes rip to a certain extent.
I have just got word that I am to accompany a night party. That means we won't get home till morning. It's a brute, but it's got to be done. We are laying telephone wire lines six feet in the earth so as shells can't smash them up. Yesterday some of our chaps were on a rotten job – digging graves for another Australian Brigade that is in at present and got smashed up with bombardment.
I don't think we will be going into the trenches any more, as we are the working Brigade to the 2nd Division, so there's no need to worry at all.
I guess I have had a good say and it's time I gave someone else the opportunity, so I'll say Goodbye.