No. 7925934. Sgt. Greenwood, R.T.
9th Battn. R.T.R.
Jess Darling, I have already mentioned that I have been temporarily detached from the unit… and I am still in the same position. The drawback to this arrangement is that I am not receiving any mail… and this is a serious matter to me, as you can imagine. But I keep hoping… and am expecting a fine pile of letters any time now.
You asked me recently whether I had been able to exercise my minute knowledge of the French language… And the answer is yes. In fact, we are all struggling to make ourselves understood… rather unsuccessfully, I’m afraid. Most of the local youngsters are also doing their bit with the English language. Even the tiniest toddler now knows how to ask for chocolate and cigarettes. For the latter they hold out their hand and say “ceegarette for papa”. I used to always oblige, but having seen a few youngsters of 9 or 10 years immediately commence to smoke the “ceegarette for papa”… I am becoming more discreet.
The other day we were harboured in a lovely little orchard in a valley… taking life easy. There was only my vehicle and crew about at the time. Four youngsters appeared… two under five… and the other two about seven years. We heard the usual “ceegarette for papa”, but no-one bothered. And then one of my colleagues caught the word “oeufs”. “Aren’t ‘oeufs’ eggs?” he asked: we all thought they were. And then commenced a real pantomime of bartering. We all joined in and finally did a deal… five cigarettes for every egg… the eggs to be provided before we parted with any cigarettes. This seemed to satisfy the youngsters and off they toddled, up the hill and away to their farm. Later, they returned with four eggs… all they had available, and we paid 20 ciggys. I lost interest in the proceedings here, but not so my crew: they wanted all they could get… particularly fresh milk… and a spot of wine. I left them to it.
About an hour later, I beheld a procession coming down the hillside. What the hell! There were now twice as many youngsters… all of them laden with stuff. One little toddler… he must have been under four years… was dragging a large blue-enamelled jug and having a hell of a struggle with it. When they arrived, I found the jug full of cider, about a gallon of the stuff. Others had brought bottles of cider… bottles of milk… bottles of cream… apples… pears. What in Heaven’s name had happened? We didn’t want the stuff:- we had nowhere to put it for one thing. But those poor kids had had a hell of a journey and it seemed heartless to send them back. And so we started more ‘arguing’:- ourselves gesticulating and behaving like clowns: the youngsters gabbling away like lightning. They didn’t want money: “ceegarettes” seemed to be their main desire, but we also had a good use for ciggys. We finally solved the problem by loading them up with tins of food… stuff we were tired of, such as sardines, meat and veg, tinned potatoes, bully-beef etc. We did attempt to explain how to ‘cook’ the meat and veg etc… but had to give it up.
Anyhow, everyone seemed quite satisfied and they all departed with handshakes and many “au revoir messieurs”. But we still had the problem of disposal. the cider was partly drunk and partly thrown away. I believe all the milk was consumed… and the cream was tried in tea. This made at least one of my colleagues violently sick.
As a result, I have had to stipulate that future ‘bargains’ are properly understood… with myself as ‘consultant’ in case of difficulty-!!
Jess… I fear you will have been worrying lately because of the scarcity of my letters. I too have been worried about my inability to write to you. Unfortunately, our free time has been very scarce during the last 2 or 3 weeks and writing has been a problem: we have even had difficulty in despatching letters once or twice… owing to the speed of our movements.
I do not know how long these conditions will last, but I want to ask you not to worry on my account. So far, I am absolutely O.K… and taking as many precautions as possible… as I have before assured you.
At the moment, I am some distance from the front line and it is quite a treat to be able to relax and forget all about being mortared and diving into holes etc. But I think I would prefer the mortars if I could receive your letters. it is awful being out of touch with you like this. Just think – Barry is already a fortnight older since your last letter… And Jess? What has my love been doing apart from the hundred and one things which take up so much of your time? You will have returned to Hazel Grove… And has your mum – and the boys been staying with you during the past week? Did you visit Bramhall Hall? Are you well, my darling? Is Barry alright? Is he showing any signs of teething yet? Is he really as lop-sided as your recent sketch indicated? It gave me an awful shock. Please tell me more about it Jess, – and whether it is very noticeable. Do you think you ought to see the doctor about him?
There are so many things I could talk to you about… so much I want to say to you, my darling… If only I could get home… to Jess… my love.
But I mustn’t be despondent. The war seems to be going very well, and it must be drawing to a close. Even our generals are optimistic-!
Ah well… war or no war… I love you Jess: I have your love: we both have our little son… and I know that there is much happiness for all of us in the future.
Au revoir, my dear –