No. 7925934. Sgt. Greenwood, R.T.
9th Battn. R.T.R.
Jess darling, I think this letter will be a disappointment to you… The envelope will be fairly fat, but the contents will not be all for you. That is because I am enclosing a letter for Mr. McGuinness in order to save using two green envelopes. I started his letter on Monday, but have only finished it this evening. When you have read it (as you must) please seal the envelope and deliver it to No. 15.
I received two of your letters yesterday… I wish every day was like yesterday.
There is one question to which you must have an answer… it concerns our pet hen!! Well… I think you last heard about it when we had that weird blonde on board… somewhere in the Somme estuary. From there we travelled some distance and finally harboured about 30 miles from Calais… and there we remained for about three days, during which the hen behaved very well and rarely strayed far from the tank. Our next ‘hop’ lasted three days: a long journey into Belgium on “transporters”. The crew sat on the back of the tank for this journey… and the hen sat with them, with a yard or two of string tied to its leg to prevent it flying away. It caused quite a commotion in Brussels: for some unknown reason… perhaps because of the crowds… it became a sort of feathered ballet dancer and did some queer stunts: even the crew had to laugh.
Finally, two or three days after Brussels, we found ourselves in Eindhoven, Holland and were told to prepare for immediate action. What about the hen? She couldn’t go into action. The problem was solved by handing her over to a fellow on B. Echelon. He was remaining in Eindhoven and promised to look after it. But our return to Eindhoven was delayed several days… And in the meantime, the hen became too much of a liability to its temporary keeper, and he gave it away to a civvy. I like to think of that bird as still enjoying life, but I cannot be certain. We had some fun out of it.
One of yesterday’s letters is dated Tues 24/10/44 and finished on Friday when you posted it. It must have been delayed in post, because the other letter is dated 2/11/44. In the earlier one you tell me about Rene’s visit… and the behaviour of little Poppet. He must be an interesting little chap, Jess. How else can you account for the attention paid to him by window cleaners and other strangers in the street? It must be that bashful little smile you speak of so often. It is hard for me to imagine it, but it must be something very delightful. Do you think you could capture it for me in a photo? Would you like to try, dear? It would be a lovely souvenir for me.
One thing I would like to know… what is the precise colour of his hair now that his chameleon like changes can be assumed to have ceased? Is he fair or dark… or in between? How about sending me a few wisps of hair from his little head? Or would that cause him to catch cold? Please answer me some way, darling.
I did no writing at all yesterday… not even to my sweetheart, I regret to say. Instead, I went out in a passion truck… to Antwerp. It was a long journey, about 30 miles, but I wanted to see the place, and perhaps buy one or two things.
Antwerp is very much the same as any English city: There are similar shops, even to replicas of Lewis’s or Marks and Spencers, and but for the unusual names, I could easily have imagined myself back in England. The city has suffered no damage so far as I could see… altho a few houses in the outskirts have obviously been hit by something hard. I had a glimpse of the dock area too, and it appeared to be very tidy and completely free from wreckage of any sort. But I am told that Jerry is now sending flying bombs into the place, so it may yet receive a few scars.
I was surprised to find all the shops open… and there appeared to be little shortage of anything… altho it is possible that window dressing may have created a false impression. Luxury articles like fountain pens, cosmetics, photographic supplies etc. are definitely available… tons of them. And so are toys, but at fabulous prices. Everything, in fact, is very dear… and certainly beyond the means of the average working man. I cannot speak about the food situation in the city, but I imagine it must be pretty lousy, apart from fruit, of which there is plenty. I saw several restaurants, but there were very few people dining in them. Troops, incidentally, are not allowed in the restaurants: they would deprive the inhabitants of much needed food. And yet, in the midst of all this apparent food shortage, we were able to buy fancy cakes ad lib at a shop something like Marks and Spencers. It seems years since I saw such an array of fancies… cream buns, custards, vanillas… any and every variety of sweet cake. We bought some and ate them on the spot… plenty of them. They cost 5 francs each… about 7d or 8d, but why worry about a few coppers when our pockets were bulging with thousands of notes, mostly of ridiculously low denomination. We also had ice cream! How crazy of these people to allow ice cream to be made under present circumstances.
We had tea in a special canteen for sergeants. There was tea with plenty of milk and sugar, a little bread and butter and jam (very little!), and one biscuit each. It was a snack and quite welcome, especially the tea. No more could be had owing to rationing, so we visited the place twice and had two snacks!
I went to a large store with Dicky Hall and one or two others… and found a wee present for our Poppet. I will send it home, together with a tiny birthday present for my sweetheart. Present buying is so difficult, dear Jess. I could only get cosmetics and hope you will be able to make use of them. Incidentally, the scent is from Antwerp, and the powder from Roosendaal.
And now I must finish because my hands are freezing… and I don’t think I have any feet left. Yes… it is cold today, but we are still thankful to be under cover, in spite of the gaping windows.
Good night, Jessie Mine.
Always and always I dream about you… my beautiful and much loved wife.