No. 7925934. Sgt. Greenwood, R.T.
9th Battn. R.T.R.
Jess Darling: I hate making prophecies or even hinting, about future events… but at the moment I feel justified in saying that I expect to have an easier time for the next week or so… with perhaps a little more free time. Therefore, unless I am sadly mistaken, I hope to write a little more regularly for at least a few days. Since my leave I seem to have written very little indeed… but I know you will understand that the trouble has been elsewhere: conditions have forced me to neglect other things as well… less important than letters, but really quite necessary. I have not, for instance, had a bath since I left home: I hope to have one tomorrow. Also, I have slept fully dressed on all but about four occasions since my return. As for normal daily ‘ablutions’… well, we have had occasional spasms when a wash has been possible, but on the whole, we have resembled a hoard of hairy black gorillas for about a fortnight. It has been usual to do without washing or shaving for three or four days at a time.
You will gather that we have been living “rough”… a little too rough for my liking:- especially when it comes to living with rats. I can stand dirt… most men seem to adapt themselves to it… but I can’t stand rats. Unfortunately, we recently spent about five days in a place which was infested with the damned things. It was horrible at night listening to them scampering about both above us in the ‘loft’ and below our floor boards. I spent hours listening to them chewing away at floor boards and Heaven knows what else. Normally I would have preferred sleeping in the tank… in spite of the cold and discomfort… but we had already been forced to live for three or four days and nights in the vehicles, and I simply had to have a change… if only to stretch my legs. So I slept on a long wooden form in this barn-like billet… with three chairs placed alongside to give extra width. I have known more comfortable beds, but I preferred this method of sleeping to lying on the floor boards, particularly after finding one of my colleagues missing one morning. He had disappeared during the night… complete with bed and baggage! We found him later in his tank. He had transferred in the small hours… after being awakened by rats running over his face!
But in spite of everything, there has been much sunshine because your letters have come through regularly. Almost every day, the post has brought me one of the precious envelopes… and my heart has danced again. I have not been able to reply to, or even acknowledge, these letters, but I don’t think I need ask you to forgive me. Such apparent neglect of my sweetheart is due to factors over which I have no control.
At the moment, I am living in luxury… very great luxury by comparison. I am in a typical Dutch working class home with two other members of my crew. And we are being very well treated by the husband and wife… and their grown up son and daughter. We have electric light, a comfortable living room, fire and warmth, and decent sleeping quarters. We also have ‘laid on’ water from a tap… and are provided with hot water for washing. We seem to have returned to another world: it seems hard to realise that there are so many people enjoying these civilised amenities, even in battle scarred Holland.
It is nice, too, to be back amongst ‘friends’… Civilians who welcome us and with whom we can talk and behave normally. It is so different in Germany because no matter how docile the civilians, there is always that lurking fear that they would perhaps willingly exterminate us, given half a chance. They have been taught to hate us, and I’m sure they still do, even in the conquered areas where we find so many self-confessed “anti-Nazis” mouthing hatred of Hitler. These people are too numerous for their sentiments to be genuine, but they are good actors. Your letter today recounts the story of the little boy who shot the Canadian… It was true alright: we had it from official sources as a warning.
And now, I fear, you will be worried to death because of my assistance to the German woman with the large basket. Yes… I s’pose she could have shot us in that dark cellar… but I didn’t think she would… and I too was armed. I felt pretty convinced that her grief was genuine… and the local conditions… the utter chaos and destruction of the previous day or two confirmed her story. I don’t think our behaviour was foolish. But in case you have any doubt, dear Jess, please remember that my only wish, my perpetual dream is to return home to you and our little Barry: I have far too much at stake to run any needless risks and am always careful.
Before I finish, (my time just now is nearly up). I must mention the enclosed Qui S’y Frotte card. I became a member of this regimental association (it is solely for 9th members) when it was formed in Dec. last. Please retain this card in case you ever have need to take advantage of the association… I hope you won’t, needless to say!
Good night, my Darling
Always – in love