No. 7925934. Sgt. Greenwood, R.T.
9th Battn. R.T.R.
Jess dear, I am still temporarily detached from the unit and so am not receiving your letters. But I should be back within the next 24 hours and am looking forward to a large mail. The last letter I received told me of your journey to Reddish, but that is a comparatively long time ago… and there must be a lot of news for me somewhere.
You will know from the general news reports that this is now a war of movement instead of a sort of semi-stalemate, and we are in consequence having less time for rest. That is why my letters have been rather scarce and meagre lately. But if I get a chance I will write a real newsy letter by way of compensation. Meanwhile, my main concern is to let you know that I am well… in spite of torrential rain, blazing sunshine, dust by the ton… and mosquitoes by the umpteen million. In fact, our conditions seem to have become a mixture of desert, monsoon and equatorial weather. But I can stand all this: it is ‘polar’ conditions I am dreading.
I have seen many groups of returning refugees lately: their horse drawn vehicles are, in fact, quite a problem at times on these narrow and congested roads. Last night, for instance, I was travelling in my vehicle on a certain main road, but was compelled to halt for every refugee cart to prevent the horse from stampeding. I omitted to do so on two occasions: the first time, there were two cows tied to the rear of the cart… they nearly went crazy and so did the horse. The result was a struggling mass of animals in the roadway, with an entire French family frantically trying to restore order and gesticulating and cackling like a flock of geese.
On the second occasion, a horse drawn trap was coming towards us with the owner sitting proudly on his pile of household goods. Suddenly, the horse turned to the right and bolted off the road and through the hedgerow. You should have seen that Frenchman come to life! Perhaps it was fortunate that the cart itself got stuck in the three foot ditch, otherwise that horse may still have been travelling. We lent a hand, and soon had the vehicle in the field… and bid au-revoir to a now smiling Frenchie.
Many refugees seem to carry their worldly goods on bicycles. And those bicycles are certainly proving a good investment. They carry enormous loads… often with an adult and child into the bargain. And then there are the foot-sloggers: refugees who appear to have no transport. They carry suit cases, haversacks, valises etc. Many of them look very weary, especially in this heat, but they seem cheerful enough.
The news has been very heartening lately… I have heard of the ‘fall of Paris’ (for the second time!)… of Marseilles… Lyons… Vichy… etc. And now Rumania has capitulated… with perhaps Bulgaria following her example. And Finland seems to be tottering… and Hungary. How the “new order” is crumbling! How much longer, I wonder…
Au revoir, dear Jess,