We have had two days of fine weather. My word, France is a cheerful place when it rains, and although it is mid summer, it can be as cold as a South Pole expedition. I think I'll have to get a trip before winter sets in, but I don't think they will keep us here then, but send us either down to the Base at Marseilles to do transport and unloading there, or back to “Si-eda Land”. I might say that Si-eda or Saieda is Egyptian for Good Day, and thus all the Gypos are called Siedas by the A.I.F. In any case we will be home for Christmas dinner (year unknown).
Yesterday we saw a sight that was good oh. We saw an aeroplane battle. It was not a duel for there were six machines engaged and it was marvellous the way the planes curled around each other, firing all the while with their Lewis machine guns. Then one would swoop down on to the other with lightning speed, just stand straight up and dive. It was marvellous the way they manoeuvered. Anyhow, in the end, two German machines swooped to earth and didn't appear again. I don't know how many Taubes there were, but before the fight started there were just two British planes patrolling over enemy lines and then, all of a sudden, the place seemed alive with them. Anyhow, as soon as the Taubes or Fokkers fell, the Huns began to pepper our machines with shrapnel and high explosives as there weren't any of Fritzs' left. You will probably read about the scrap in the papers. We can see most of the air fights between St. Eloii and downward toward La Basse, as we are right between the two places at Armentieres. We are not in the same possie as previously but outside the City South East. We were South West before.
We relieved the 7th Brigade just after their raid on the Huns. There was a big account of it in one of the English papers headed “Anzacs successful raid at Boise-Grenier” No doubt you have read the account of that also. By the way, The New Zealanders did the same thing last Friday night, but when the artillery had finished and they reached the Germs' trenches there was nothing left. The trenches were in shambles, full of buried men, and the remaining whole ones had ducked to the third line and taken their machine guns and trench mortars with them, but their artillery always replies a treat, and they gave them a fierce bombardment, and, as there was a favourable wind for gas, they turned it on and twice during the night we had a “stand to” with our “gaspirators” on. Didn't we bless them? You ought to hear the bells, whistles and horns going when there is a gas attack on so as to give ample warning to all the soldiers and civilians. Everybody carries their gas helmets here, from little children to old men and women.
We are back in the support trench. We expect to go in and relieve the 2rd last Friday, but so far nothing has happened, and the last Furphys say that we are moving shortly to back up the Canadians round about Ypres (pronounced by the Tommies “Wipers”, by the French Eepes or Ipay and by some Belgian refugees in Erquinhau Eep – I'm neutral) and that, they say, is the reason that we haven't carried out the six days in and six days out business, as we are awaiting orders any minute to move to that district, and another Furph says the mysterious 8th Brigade is here and going to relieve us. We've heard about this fine body of men but have never seen them, except a few Ismalia when we first lobbed back from the Dards. By the way, we saw a fine letter written by one of the 8th Brigade, a Geelong boy, Norm Allen knows him well, and in it he was saying that they had been in the trenches for a fortnight on the Suez Canal and that “he didn't feel a bit nervous”. This letter appeared in the “News of the Week”, a Geelong and Portarlington paper, and was sent to Norm Allen. Crikey! Talk about a laugh – we couldn't help it – they were fixing up the inner defences right on the Canal whilst us poor unfortunates were resting ten miles out in front of them digging new trenches. Why they were not sent out in the desert, and we who had just come off the Peninsula, left to do the inner line, when we could get plenty of water and swim etc. we never found out and it will always remain a sore point with the members of the Sixth who always speak of them as “Tivvey's mob”.
We had a fairly easy time of it the last week. The Companies have had a bit of fatigue to do, but Headquarters have had nil, but we're not growling about that, but for the most part it has been too wet and miserable to put your nose outside the dugout door. Our two recreations, other than reading, are ratting which at times gets wildly exciting and playing “Cat”. If you don't remember that game Lester will be able to inform you how it it is played, and we do look a lot of kids I can tell you, hitting a little piece wood with big, thick sticks and chasing it all over the place. Even a game of “allies” wouldn't go bad, now and then. In fact, any little diversion relieves the stagnation of the trenches, but there is one thing we look forward to, and that is our mail, and there is one overdue now, which we are expecting any day. In fact, some of the chaps have already received letters dated May 1st., but the mail, like everything else Australian is bungled.
I have seen Ernie again during the week. I haven't seen Cyril at all since coming to these parts although we exchange notes occasionally.
Stan Bingham sent me a message saying that he would pay me a visit in the trenches one day, as he would like to see what they look like and what they really are.
My word, the A.M.C. Have a good time and no mistake. It's us poor beggars that do the work and they get the credit. By the way, the first bandsman in the Brigade to get wounded got hit with a bomb, and of course he must be a solo cornet, “Paddy Parcel” of the 23rd. All the other chaps to be sent away have been ill. He was the mainstay of their band, got his right wrist and right eye “done in”, will never play again, so they are beginning to have some back luck as we've been having, but they tell us that our 9th reinforcements contain some players, two cornets amongst them, so we may be able to scrape up a fair band to come home with. All we want will be a decent Bandmaster.
Ernie. S. Is writing to Dad at my side. He wrote to Bill a few days ago, but I doubt it will reach him. I may write to min again after I see how things are going by the next mail.
We had stewed cherries yesterday. There is an orchard just outside, or the remains of one, so we made hay while the sun shone, stripped the tree and stewed them. We had no sugar jut jam came to our aid once again. Everybody said they weren't too bad, but nobody enthused extra much. I guess I've finished. Hoping you are well, with love to the kiddies. Your loving son.