No. 7925934. Sgt. Greenwood, R.T.
9th Battn. R.T.R.
Jess dear, What to write about… that is the problem just now. I will have to commence with the weather – a well-worn topic, but one which does not seem to offend the censor. We have had winter with a vengeance for the last fortnight or so. It started by being bitterly cold, freezing night and day. The countryside which had formerly been a squelchy mass of mud, became as hard as stone overnight. And after a few days of this, we had a little snow, and it became warmer. But the frost soon reappeared, and so the snow became ice, making the roads slippery and dangerous. And last night… the snow returned with a vengeance. It came down practically all night: this morning, we are almost snowed up: there is an average of 6 or 8 inches everywhere, with snowdrifts 2 or 3 feet deep at all street corners etc… thanks to a biting wind which accompanied the snow. And still the troops are fighting in the German salient… that’s what amazes me.
It is very cold today Jess:- the snowfall has ceased, but we still have that cold wind. We have done practically nothing but remain indoors trying to keep warm. Food supplies have already been disorganised, due to the conditions of the roads… and I feel certain that our mail will be held up too: there has been none today or yesterday… And now you will be wondering how we manage to keep warm under these conditions. Well, for a start, we remain indoors as much as possible, but when we have to go out, we are quite well clad. I told you some time ago about the excellent “over-suits” we now wear… a waterproof overall, with ‘fleecy’ lining, and zip fasteners all over the place. These are very warm, and even afford protection for our faces when we pull the hood over our heads. But now that the snow has arrived, we have been issued with rubber ‘gum’ boots, and thick woollen stockings to wear with them. These stockings are so made that we can wear them over our normal socks, and over our trouser legs… the top of the stocking being folded back over the leg part of the boot. We have also been issued with leather jerkins… a loose fitting, sleeveless leather jacket… lined with a fleecy fabric. They are warm for the upper part of the body, and very useful as a substitute for an overcoat as they are not so heavy and leave our arms perfectly free. Another item is an extra pair of woollen gloves and a woollen scarf… these being from a ‘comforts’ organisation in England.
We had a free issue of cigarettes the other day from some organisation in Peru “The British Commonwealth Society of Peru ‘Patriotic Fund’ Lima”. I also had some ciggys from a Miss Madeline M Mackern of Buenos Aires – Argentina. They were all English ciggys, presumably paid for by the Peruvians and Argentinians. Incidentally, we have had a few of these gift cigarettes fron time to time… even from English schoolchildren… and they invariably seem to be “Martins Navy Cut Medium”… a lousy cigarette. I’m sure the people who subscribe to these charities have no idea that their money is being spent on cigarettes which we ourselves would certainly refuse to purchase. Another favourite brand for these charitable gifts is a cigarette known as “Plane”. I wonder why this should be so-?
I have received three of your letters today, Jess, so the weather conditions haven’t caused the delay I feared. One of them is dated the 5th… with a footnote written on the 6th:- as today is only the 10th, it has come through with remarkable speed – for a change-!
We have had a beautiful winter’s day today… damnably cold, but the sky has been cloudless and there have been a few hours’ sunshine. The wind too has disappeared, and so it has been possible to get warm by walking briskly. During the afternoon we have seen another of those amazing processions of bombing planes. They stood out quite clearly in the cloudless sky, each plane trailing its tail of vapour… like some fantastic form of celestial tadpole. Later, I learned that eleven hundred American bombers raided Germany during the day.
During the last three or four days, there has been a partial lull in the flying bomb business. I like to think that we have bombed the launching sites to smithereens… but I fear the weather supplies the true answer.
Life here continues to be pretty uneventful for us. But a few entertainments have appeared… to provide a diversion. We had a visit from a divisional concert party three or four days ago. It was a good effort, and attended by lots of local civilians, as well as soldiers. They laughed uproariously with the rest of us, but I’m damned sure most of the show was unintelligible to them: it was mostly ‘talking’ and all of it in English.
Last evening, we had a ‘brains trust’. It went down very well, and provided some good fun. The “brains” were provided by our second in command, Capt. Link, as question master… two other officers, both extremely good and one of them a veritable encyclopaedia, a teacher, I believe… two troopers… one corporal, Sammy Stubbs, whom I have spoken of before… and one sergeant, myself. There were one or two frivolous questions, but most of them were good… far better than I expected… and I think most of us learned quite a lot during the evening. As the evening was quite a success, I imagine there will be a repeat performance before long… probably with different ‘brains’.
Tomorrow evening, there will be a concert, a squadron effort with our own artists. The officers are putting on a sketch of some sort… and if it is as crazy as their former efforts, it should provide plenty of fun. The sergeants are also doing a turn… something in the nature of ‘slapstick’ comedy. I have a very minor part… that of walking on the stage as the colonel, and taking a certain seat: I am supposed to resemble him slightly. There will be several other items… singing, impersonating, piano playing, and some conjuring by Tom Hamnett. I always enjoy his efforts. It should be a good show, and I am looking forward to it. Oh – I forgot to mention that we also held a squadron dance on Monday evening. I did not attend myself, but believe it was quite successful.
Unfortunately, these functions take up much of my writing time… (I do most of it in the evenings) and so I have less time for writing to you. I will have to try and re-organise myself, and try daytime writing: there are occasional half hours in this house when we are not being barged around for floor washing, or baking, or cooking, or clothes washing… or one of several other things!
I would like to comment upon the letters I have received from you today, but circumstances prevent me from doing so just now… In my next letter, probably…
Must leave you now Jess.
Au revoir, my dear