25th January 1916

At Queensferry. Received the “Sunday Edition” from you. On first opening the letter I was rather surprised to find that there were only two sheets, but on further inspection I found that you had written on both sides, so the temporary wave of disappointment was soon overcome. I admit I have no grounds to feel disappointed even if you had only sent two sheets written on one side only, since I send only one miserable sheet myself, but I wish I were free to send more.

As I expected and noted on Sunday you have made mention about that day twelve months ago. Events move so quickly these days that we should have been pardoned if amidst all the rush of these times we had forgotten our meeting of so long ago. However that time stands out with greater conspiction than those longer periods we had together at later periods. Absence had made the heart warmer and we were both out to have a good old time together, and we did. The result was that what remained of the “iceberg” was completely thawed by the “sun” that shone rather strongly on you from No. 19. Yes we made greater strides in those few days than some couples make in months. The result was a happy one for us both and has been decidedly comforting during our separations.

You inform me that Mother expects to move out to Desboro’ Rd on Wednesday (tomorrow in fact). This is the first information I have had to this effect, but I hope it will prove correct for I want Mother to get properly settled down. I expect Ma intends to give me a surprise by writing from Desboro’ Rd, but the surprise will have been robbed of its effect by your information.

You also tell me that Nina has decided to go home, no doubt in response to the wishes (unspoken I think but hinted) of her Mother. Her Mother is not very thoughtful of Nina’s health, for by writing as she does about herself, it is only natural that Nina should want to go home. A return home at this time of the year is in direct opposition to the advice of the specialist whom Nina consulted. It is her husband’s wish too that she should stop, and after what he has done for Aunt Jennie to try and make her comfortable, I hardly think it is playing the game. Nina has no wish to return I’m pretty sure, since so much benefit has been derived by herself and Freddy, but of course she is not the sort of woman to remain away from where she thinks she is needed. One can’t help admiring her unselfishness.

In writing like this I have allowed no thoughts of what loss will be suffered by my Mother and you if Nina returns soon. No I should be the last to write a word of dissent if I thought and knew that she ought to go to her Mother’s aid, but I cannot help thinking that Aunt Jennie is acting selfishly.

The green-eyed monster is at work Mabs. I’m jealous. Can I be otherwise when you inform me that a dark-haired boy, wearing uniform and spending his leave at your home, comes to meet you evenings and wishes you to write to him. But there is another string to the bow, for on North Rd Station you make the acquaintance of an old school chum also in uniform. You seem to be awfully fond of uniform, for I can name another be-uniformed acquaintance of yours – but I don’t mind you meeting him as often as you like. There is no doubt you are becoming a flirt Mabs and no wonder your shop-mates have something to say on the matter. I wonder if you blush at such times – guilty conscience will do you know. Thank goodness I can trust you though and feel content with the knowledge that you are as faithful and as true as steel. It would break me if I ever knew that otherwise was the case, but I don’t think it is possible.

Like most women you delight in a P.S. and in this case it is the only mention you make about your “bumps”. They are still with you I am told. They know a good thing when they are on it eh! You must be having a most uncomfortable time old girl and I do wish the nasty things would take a change of air and give you a rest. However there seems to be some good coming from such an evil, for under the doctor’s care you are feeling better in yourself and your Dad says you are fuller in the face than you have been for a long time. Such news is some consolation anyhow.

This evening Sergt. Baker lectured to the Ship’s Company about his experiences in France. I was present most of the time he lectured. Well I was surprised not so much by what he told us, but by his powers of observation and ability to hold his audience. He made the lecture most interesting and being a natural comedian of course he made room for some wit and humour. He was speaking for 2 hours and at no time did the interest attached to his lecture lag. He spent 48 hours in the trenches at Loos and three other days visiting various parts of the British and French lines, also the hospitals behind the lines. Two of the party who went out with him – a Gunnery Instructor from the Bellerophon and a Ship’s Corpl. from the New Zealand – were in the trenches near Hulluch when the Germans let off five mines simultaneously, killing some of the troops in the first line trenches. It was left to those two and a few others of the “visiting party” to withstand an attack by the Germans.

The two ratings above mentioned found a British maxim gun with the crew dead. They manned the gun and kept it firing for 24 hours, when reinforcements came up and relieved them. They were taken before the General and he said he would recommend them for the D.C.M. and mention the other men of the party in despatches. In the paper a few days ago the names of these two men appeared as having been awarded the D.S.M. Their action must have given the soldiers something to think about and let them know that the Navy has some good men in its service.

Baker told us what he had been told about the Battle of Loos. It is rather a long story and I will give it to you orally. Suffice it to say that through slackness in getting up reserves we lost a gain of something like 40 miles. Anyhow three German machine guns kept 150 of our troops from advancing and if this obstacle had been passed, nothing stood in the way of a very great advance. It is a sure thing that the Germans lost 8,000 killed that day, and there are known to be many more. Loos was entered on three sides by our troops and the Germans were found walking about as if nothing had been taking place. A thousand men were taken prisoners in Loos before they could make any attempt at defence.

Another revelation was the fact that we have five 15″ guns manned in each case by 24 R.M. Artillerymen who had to receive special training at Coventry. This gun fires a shell over 1400 lbs in weight, can be dismounted in 3 1/2 hours and mounted in 4 hours. It is fired by electricity.It is fixed into the ground and not mounted on wheels. It can fire with accuracy at 26 miles. It is only used on special occasions and three rounds generally suffice for the exact range to be ascertained. Guess we have not heard anything about this weapon before and I’m wondering how the German forts would fare against such a terrible weapon.

The means by which the range of an object is determined is very fine and almost infallible. It is done by a map which is divided into squares. Each square represents about 50 yards of ground, so anything in the square aimed at comes in for a nasty time once an aeroplane has spotted it and given a battery commander the range, by wireless.

Baker told us about dug-outs, billets, spies, food in the trenches, periscopes, sentries, No Man’s Land, stories from the trenches, etc. He also shew us some curios consisting of an anti-gas helmet (a gruesome affair), fuses from various shells used by the Germans, a parachute to which a light is attached at night and sent up to throw a light on the trenches of the enemy, a maxim-gun belt captured from the Huns, shrapnel case and bullet, emergency ration. He did have a German helmet but got fed up with carrying it about and threw it away. The collection is a most envious one to have anyhow.

The lecture was I think the most interesting I have ever heard, apart from the Chaplain’s of course. Most of the men were surprised at the manner in which Baker obtained his notes and the way he delivered his lecture. I don’t think a better man could have been sent. Observation was his whole thought throughout his visit I should think, and he couldn’t have wasted any time.

For the first time for many months (except during refits) we have no bed cases and only two on the Sick List. This won’t last for long though. There have been strong rumours (of which for obvious reasons I have taken no notice) about our going to refit on the 27th of this month and I am wondering whether that accounts for the small sick list. Rather a coincidence anyhow.

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