No. 7925934. Sgt. Greenwood, R.T.
9th Battn. R.T.R.
Jess Darling: I am not in a letter writing mood… that is obvious. It has taken me ages to settle down here with this pad… and even now, I am at a loss for something to say to you… something worth-while I mean. I seem to be in the midst of one of those periods of mental stagnation when my mind refuses to concentrate on anything. Even reading seems futile: I pick up a book… and soon put it down again. I listen to a wireless set… and find it tiresome. I join in some conversation… and find myself at cross-purposes with everybody. The only thing I can do really well just now is to sit, or lie, and think about you and Barry. I can do that for hours on end.
I was interrupted by Maria, the daughter of the house… and have been listening to another recital of the difficulties of the Dutch people under Nazi rule. There is a similarity about all these accounts, and they are inclined to become a bit boring… although their similarity does tend to confirm their truth. One little item of ‘news’ imparted by this young lady… she is about 18 years old… is that the local priest has warned all the girls here against ‘going out’ with soldiers. It is a very strong R.C. area, (all southern Holland is R.C: The Protestant area has not yet been liberated) and the priest’s word is law.
For once, I find myself in sympathy with the viewpoint of the R.C. priest. I don’t think he intended any affront to we soldiers but was merely warning the girls against deserting the ‘substance for the shadow’. I suppose we ‘liberating’ troops have a certain amount of glamour where many of the young girls are concerned, and the latter are inclined to lose their heads very easily. They do not realise that the average soldier is after one thing… and one thing alone. I have heard of numerous cases of broken courtships and engagements between Dutch boys and girls through the intervention of an Allied soldier. I think the girls are very foolish: they don’t seem to realise that the soldier is only a bird of passage… and a very sex-starved one at that. I think the priest’s intentions were good, although I fear the average English soldier has a different opinion. This week incidentally is a special one in local religious circles (and that includes all the civilians). Everyone is attending church daily – in some cases several times daily, and in the evenings too. What a life!
Speaking of religion reminds me of our parade tomorrow. The whole battalion will be involved in a ‘march past’, complete with military band, I believe… and then there will be an open air religious service. But I will ‘fall out’ before the service, together with all O.D’s and R.C’s. It will be a C. of E. service… and ‘other denominations’ are therefore exempt. The irony of the whole business is the fact that all local churches are R.C. and so the C. of E. service has to be held out in a field somewhere. Do they both worship the same god, or don’t they? Today there has been a fair amount of preparation for this parade – including belt scrubbing, polishing, and clothing exchanges etc. I shouldn’t mind if we were preparing for a victory parade, but under present circumstances it all seems rather ridiculous. However… I suppose any life is better than that of the front line.
And now darling… to change the subject… I am going to ask you to send me something, whenever you can conveniently do so. First of all… blacking… or boot polish, or whatever it is called nowadays. One tin will suffice darling. We don’t need it often, but I do like to clean my boots sometimes, particularly when we return to ‘civilised’ areas, as at present. Secondly… lighter flints. Could you send me about a dozen: they can’t be bought out here:- also one lighter wick. Thirdly… a couple of packets of saccharins. And lastly… and most important of all, I want a ‘photo of my sweetheart, and one of Barry… our little ‘Poppet’. I don’t mind how long I have to wait dear. I know it is difficult for you to get things, particularly boot polish, so please don’t make any special shopping expeditions on my account. Regarding the ‘photos… well, I know you have the matter in hand, so will just keep on hoping.
Will have to leave you now dear… The foregoing has taken a long time to write owing to the arrival of three young Dutch lads who have been practising their English on me. And it is now nearing 10.30 pm:- the time when all electric lighting is switched off at the local generating station – this is just one of the many fuel-saving measures out here.
Good-night, my love, my Jess