No. 7925934. Sgt. Greenwood, R.T.
9th Battn. R.T.R.
Jessie Mine: Here I am… sitting beside the river in the delicious warmth of a beautiful spring morning. In the woods beside me, the birds are singing lustily… and even the nightingale, who sings so persistently during the night, is still obliging with a few final items from her repertoire… The tranquillity and beauty of these surroundings seem almost too good to be true: it is not easy to re-adapt oneself to such conditions after the recent past. It makes such a difference, Jess, when one is able to relax and really enjoy the beauties of nature, without the constant fear of battle to cloud one’s mind.
To make my happiness complete, you would have to be with me… but even in your absence, I have my thoughts and dreams… and they are far more real under these conditions.
The weather is again perfect…for the third successive day… and so I do not want to return to the billets at Sch… It is so much more restful here… away from the dust and noise of army convoys etc.
At the moment some of the lads are fishing at the foot of the weir just in front of me:- others are rowing on the river – others are tinkering with a motor-boat… And all of them are semi-naked… just wearing short pants so that they can pop into the water for a swim whenever they feel like it.
I made a mistake yesterday – and slipped into the water wearing my trousers: it was at the edge – where the mud and slime is very deep. I dragged myself out – a mass of slime from feet to backside: I stank something shocking. Needless to say, I got little sympathy – only great roars of laughter from everyone. Unfortunately, I have not got my second suit with me, nor have I any bathing trunks, so had to spend the rest of the day in my short under pants and shirt… a rather undignified sort of spectacle. I washed my trousers… and now they are alright again:- I’m keeping away from the slimy parts in future.
Each day whilst we have been here, there have been a fair number of German civilians bathing in the river… and many of these civilians are very attractive looking young ladies. Their gay costumes and obvious enjoyment, only help to add to the happy atmosphere of the place… But… according to authority, it is essential for all of us to look upon these girls more or less as serpents in our temporary paradise: we must not fraternise…
To me, this is an easy order to obey… but there are lads here, Jess, who… well, they are only human… and apart from being sex-starved, most of them have hardly spoken to a female in weeks… I think they would be sub-human if they were not attracted by such obvious feminine beauty. So far, they have behaved reasonably well, and I have not seen any real fraternising… if you exclude pleasant “good mornings”, and sly grins and admiring glances.
And then there is the ferry… a rowing boat which is perpetually manned by our lads… It is used a lot by civilians… and our lads row them across the river… always assisting the ladies, especially when the latter have bicycles to stow on the boat. This may be ‘fraternising’… but to me it is just ‘correct’ behaviour:- with perhaps a spot of chivalry thrown in… It is a difficult problem, Jess…
Atrocities must be remembered and condemned, but it is impossible to feel hatred towards anyone when peace and beauty combine in their magic… And these girls… typical of our own English girls, and apparently as free from brutality and beastliness… were they the fiends who administered the concentration camps? Yes, I know the answers, and the arguments… but youngsters of twenty and thereabouts are not concerned with logic. They are ruled more by passion than reason… If you try and reason with them, and explain the situation, they listen alright… and that’s about all. As I said before dear, it is a difficult problem: it cannot be anything else when young men are ordered to suppress their most unsuppressible instinct, and against their own inclinations. As you may have guessed… I don’t feel too confident about the future of “non-fraternisation”.
Jess… I have been sitting in the open… in the early morning sunshine, but now I am roasting… I must go and remove some clothes and find some ‘coolth’… Be with you again later.
It is now evening… and still very warm, in spite of a light breeze which has just sprung up. My only work today consisted of installing a wireless set in the camp:- And now I hope to hear Churchill broadcast this evening…
There have been a lot of visitors to this place today, darling… scores and scores of them, with the usual bevy of young feminine beauty… mostly in bathing costumes… And yet, I have seen no evidence of real fraternising… but this is a long river, and many of the lads seem to spend their time either up or down stream: they make the journey in rowing boats which we have temporarily commandeered…
I haven’t had a letter for two or three days now… but that is not your fault. Perhaps the V.E. day celebrations and holiday at home are responsible. I shall probably receive two or three letters tomorrow… so I hope it comes soon…
There have been lots of little toddlers around here today with their parents. And even though they are Germans, they have reminded me so much of Barry… To see them scampering in the water… and the younger ones learning to paddle, has been like a glimpse of the future for me… Oh, Jess… it is nice to have so much happiness to look forward to… To think that I have you both for keeps: that I am actually coming home to live with my sweetheart and our little son… to be out of the army and all that it stands for… to be free once again and able to enjoy the exquisite presence and companionship of my love… It is all so much like a fantastic dream coming true.
I cannot say when I will be home, dear… but I have seen a press report hinting that the first eleven groups will be demobilised in about 6 weeks… The succeeding eleven groups will include me, but there is no telling yet how many groups will be affected each time. However, I think it is possible that I will be home in three months or so… But this is only a ‘hunch’ of my own: it is not based on any ‘inside’ information. I may even be home much sooner… but I prefer to expect the longer wait… to avoid disappointment.
And now my pad is finished… But I will have another tomorrow.
Dear Jess… my heart aches for you…
I do so love you…
Good night, darling