C Sqdn, 9th Battn R.T.R.
My Darling: I feel a bit tongue-tied somehow. It is always the same after I have been on leave… it takes a few days to re-accustom myself to letter writing: but it is nice to know that this is the last time I will be afflicted with this post-leave inertia. Just think, Jess – I will never again have to bid you farewell: no more of those wretched partings. And soon we will be together again for good… you and me and Barry. It has been a long five years – but we have much to be thankful for – including the grandest little pest who ever toddled on two fat little legs and wet his nappies ad infinitum. He is a fine little chap, Jess: you have done a marvellous job, and I’m intensely proud of both of you. But I think I have told you all this before… You will be wanting to know something about my activities…
I returned to find the unit still in the same place – and doing the same work – i.e. handling de-mobbed ex-prisoners. But this job has now come to an end and C squadron returned yesterday from their final shift at the P.O.W. camp. And now we are awaiting further news of a proposed move to the Brunswick area where we are supposed to be scheduled for patrol duties on the ‘frontier’ between the British and Russian armies. I believe it is not yet definitely decided that we will make this move, but it seems to be a probability, and will be confirmed within the next few days. Personally, I would much rather travel west, away from Germany… but wherever we go, I know I will only be there for about a couple of months, so am not greatly worried.
In anticipation of this move, and our new job, the squadron is being re-organised and divided up into five ‘troops’… not six troops such as we had in battle. And so, I now find myself as the sergeant in H.Q. troop… in charge of transport. I told you that I expected to be given this job, but now that we are likely to go on patrol duties, I think I prefer the transport job: the word ‘patrol’ sounds a bit messy to me… and seems to foreshadow night guards etc. and possible frontier ‘incidents’. I will be exempt from such duties on transport. Capt. Morgan gave me a brief summary of the transport N.C.O.’s duties this morning, and I don’t think I shall have much to worry about. Anyhow, I’m not worrying: I’ve made it pretty clear that my main concern now is to get out of the army, and I can’t pretend to put my heart and soul into any new job.
My dear – I’m being a terrible husband: I commenced this letter with the intention of having a long chat with you… but was tempted to join a party of sergeants going to the circus at Hanover. And so, instead of talking to my love, I have been watching prancing horses and trapeze artists, and clowns – and all the usual colourful variety of a first class circus. The circus is now in its third week, and has been specially ‘laid on’ for the troops – altho German civvies are permitted to see it each Sunday. It was a good show, Jess: and included many good laughs: I’m now living for the day when you and I will be taking our little Poppet to see his first circus. That’s a treat in store for us.
And I was out ‘gallivanting’ last evening too! We had a batch of reserved seats at a Hanover theatre – and I saw a play by Somerset Maugham called “The Circle”. It was good: a first class production and well acted. You may be wondering how on earth these shows are arranged in the rubbish heap which was Hanover… And the answer is that the circus was held in a huge tent:- the usual circus marquee – and the play was held in a cinema which was built in the basement of a huge building. The building has been damaged, but the cinema suffered very little: just a few chunks out of the ceiling.
Speaking of damage – I had a stroll around a residential portion of the city this evening – a district where there were formerly many avenues and roads of tall multi-storied houses: I imagine it must have been a fairly well-to-do area… but now-! God! It’s ghastly. I strolled around the roads in the moonlight – picking my way along the narrow ‘lanes’ bordered by heaps of rubble. And against the sky-line, in all directions, were the tall and gaunt remains of buildings: desolation – a waste land – Jess – it’s horrible: there cannot have been anything like it in England.
It doesn’t make me feel sorry for the Germans – it has a far larger significance – a dreadful indictment of our so-called civilisation. And amongst all this wreckage, there are civilians… living in holes in the ground… cellars beneath the rubble. No doubt they count themselves as fortunate. They have a ‘roof’- a home of sorts. There are millions of people in the world today who are not so lucky. And some of these civilians make a practice of accosting passers by… we soldiers… They emerge from the ruins like ghosts… timidly, and subservient… and always it is the same request – cigarettes. It is sickening to see such mass human degradation. Och! I want to get away from it all…
I go to bed now, my sweetheart… And I have many nice things to think about before going to sleep… I experienced so many nice things on my leave… thanks to my own dear wife.
Au revoir, Jess dear,