Gunner Bert Cox
January 10, 1918
My Dear Carl,
I was awfully pleased to receive your letter of Dec. 10th along with Mabel's, yesterday. I've had more letters from you since being in uniform than ever before, and they are greatly appreciated. I went to hospital on New Year's Day with a bad cold for a few days, and on my return to the Battery, I found a bunch of letters for me. Among them was yours and one from Herbert and Murrill.
Xmas Day was a rotter to the core. (Note: Battle of Lens and Loos) I was on guard on Xmas Eve, and Battery Runner ( taking messages between the guns and horse lines, about 6 miles) on Xmas Day. We moved into action on that day in a new position, and I had a terrible time finding it. Wandered all over an open field in full view of the enemy, but they evidently let me live because it was Xmas Day! ( out skirts of Lens)
At 5 PM the Army gave us a very good dinner of turkey and plum pudding, raisins , nuts and cigarettes, beer etc. but the room which we borrowed for the occasion was bitterly cold. We have no mess room; line up for meals outside and eat them on the ground or take them into the billet. We are billeted with the French civilians, about 10 to a family. The stables are in between the houses.
I've certainly been a lucky boy for receiving parcels this Xmas. Besides Mabel's and Mildred's and Herbert's, I received cigarettes from Murrill and my friend in Godalming. A box of eatables from Victor Waith's mother. The same from Mrs. Mc Fadden, the lady I boarded with in Sherbrooke, Quebec. And also enclosed were socks and candy from my bank manager's mother. A cake and fudge from a girl in the bank in Winnipeg, who's now a teller in the main office. Candy and cigarettes from a girl who worked next to me at Portage Ave. W'pg…..
Had to leave you there, for a few minutes, to make a mess of some transports, observed behind the German lines.
So now to go back to the Xmas parcels : Handkerchiefs from one of the girls in the Superintendent's Dept. I received parcels from all these girls last year (1916) but we only correspond at Xmas time. Awfully decent of them isn't it? Had a letter from Jones and Swan of B'does, my old employers, saying a parcel was on the way for me. Murrill said he sent me a box of candy but it has not arrived yet, neither has the one from home.
All the boys have been receiving likewise so we have not been living only on army rations for the past few weeks. Say, if anybody ever offers me bully beef (canned corned beef), cheese or jam when I get out of the army, I'll bean them.
We've been having some awfully cold days lately. No weather for this business, I assure you. We are fairly comfortable in this position ( our 5th since September) Sleep in a cellar of a blown down house and have a nice fire going all the time. No scarcity of wood, all we have to do is to take the roof or side of somebody's ruined house.
I saw the anti-aircraft bring down a Fritz plane this morning. Their average is about 1 in every 35,000 shots fired. It's only luck when they get one. Their idea is to keep him up very high so that he can't take photographs. I saw the German anti-aircraft shoot at one of our planes one day for 3/4 of an hour and our airman never took the least bit of notice he just kept on agoing and the sky was just full of little puffs of smoke, and they never touched him.
No.1 and No.2 guns are away from the other 4 guns of the Battery. We do the sniping and are kept busy all day. Our fire is observed and directed by an officer at the O.P. Old Fritz is raising Hell with bombs on these towns, Pretty nearly dropped one on our horse lines a few nights ago. Kill civilians every night.
I received a letter from Norman this morning. He had a quiet voyage over…also from Mamma and Ina a few days ago.
Three of our fellows were lucky enough to get a 14 day Xmas pass to Blighty. They were drawn for. We drew for passes last week I got 117 out of about 200. It's 14 dear days in England. Mine should figure out about May or June.
Say, don't you believe anyone who tells you that he wants to sleep out in blankets on the top of a roof when on leave..the good old linen sheets in a warm room would look awful good to me tonight.
So far we've only had 1 killed and 3 wounded, several sick, and 2 or 3 lucky beggars back in Blighty with broken arms and legs etc.
We all enjoy life much better at the guns than at the wagon lines and are sorry when our 2 weeks are up and have to go down for same. The grub is much better up here and we buy pickles and milk etc.from the YMCA canteen which is quite close to the guns. We get about 1/2 glass of rum per man, issued every night.
(note: The following sentences are in answer to Carl's questions)
No, I never had a thing wrong with me in November. Enjoyed the best of health. Did the spirits say I was sick? (I believe that Mabel attended Spiritualist seances)
The Infantry very seldom take prisoners. They just line them up and turn a machine gun on them.
I wish you had given me a list of Barbadian casualties. I never have a paper. I believe Shadow Boyce is killed and I know both of Alfred Brown's sons, Tweedledum and Tweedledee. None of your letters have been censored so far. "Thank God, we have a Navy", has become quite a common expression over here.
Have been spending about 4 francs per day on eggs and French fried potatoes, down at the wagon lines ( 1 franc = 20 cents). Money goes awful fast down there.
Mabel says that she is coming over to see us march back Victorious. Ask her if she doesn't think she'll be too old to travel when the time comes? If it is a march back this year or next, it won't be Victorious, be quite sure on that point.
Well, I must close off this epistle, as I have to write Murrill and have just written Herbert.
Lots of love for Mabel, Piggott and self and write soon again to your affectionate brother,
(note: Old Miss Piggott, a Barbadian, lived with Carl and Mabel for years and years. She was affectionately known as 'Piggott'.)