No. 7925934. Sgt. Greenwood, R.T.
9th Battn. R.T.R.
Jess Darling, I had a shock this afternoon when five of your letters were handed to me. But four of them were written before my leave and dated Feby. 7th, 12th, 14th and 16th… the fifth is dated Thurs 1.3.45… so it has travelled very quickly, unlike the others.
I wasn’t able to get very far with my writing last evening… but let’s hope for better luck this time. I haven’t any exciting news, Jess: things are pretty quiet at the moment, although we always have to be ready to move at a moment’s notice. Yesterday I paid a visit to a nearby Dutch village, and found it completely deserted: it was even devoid of troops… a very unusual state of affairs. This village had been partly inundated by the recent floods and this may have been the reason for the complete absence of life. It was a depressing place. The houses had been badly battered and all were damaged and hardly habitable. I went into several houses… and found the usual scenes of chaos and wreckage. The former inhabitants must have left hurriedly because there was much clothing and personal belongings littered about. The smell of decaying food was very noticeable too… and in one or two houses, the smell of Jerries. This latter smell is hard to define, but we are all familiar with it over here. I think we first noticed it in the evacuated enemy dug-outs in Normandy. Since then, it has become very familiar, particularly when we are handling groups of prisoners. It is a peculiarly pungent odour… something like the smell of certain curry powder: or like the stale after-smell of tobacco. I don’t really know what causes it, but have wondered whether it is, in fact, the smell of the weird ersatz tobaccos used by the Germans. Some say it is caused by the anti-vermin powder with which German uniforms are impregnated, but I don’t know whether this is so. I was glad to get away from this particular village. It was altogether too lifeless… too full of ghosts, for my liking.
I am enclosing a cutting from last Sunday’s ‘People’. It deals with the food situation in the recently occupied parts of Germany. From what I have seen so far, I can say that this article is absolutely correct. Needless to say, this apparent abundance of food has surprised me. Whether the rest of Germany is as well off, remains to be seen. But I have my doubts. I think it is more than likely that the Germany west of the Rhine may be likened to the France of Normandy. It is certainly an agricultural and semi-peasant area from what I have seen of it. Another thing, it lies next door to Holland… and I think it is highly probable that much of the loot from Holland never got as far as the Rhine. We have found some evidence of this: Lots of houses ‘looted’ by our fellows have had ample reserves of new clothing and linen… much of it brand new and bearing Dutch labels. Another thing has surprised me: in several small villages in Germany, I have noticed small groups of young men in civilian clothing. Most of them appear to be about 30 years of age and one would have expected them to be in the German army. How they have avoided military service I cannot say, but there is a suspicion that they may have deserted from the army and been furnished with civvy clothes by the local inhabitants. It is not our business to enquire into the histories of these people… that will be done later… but I would like to know the answer to this little mystery.
The war seems to be going pretty well over here, doesn’t it. But judging by wireless reports, I fear that Gen. Eisenhower’s hopes of crushing Germany’s western armies this side of the Rhine will not be fulfilled… or only partly so. This is a great pity, but I don’t think anyone can be blamed. Our strategy seems to have been good… but the weather has been against us. These wretched rainy days, with mist and low lying clouds do not give our tactical air force a chance to do much, although they have made the most of their few opportunities. The strategic bombing of Germany is in a different category, and not so dependent upon clear weather. I heard yesterday that the twin steeples of Cologne cathedral are still standing. This seems amazing in view of the heavy raids. Aren’t they rather enormous in height, Jess? I have a suspicion that they are higher than Blackpool tower… but I may be a bit mixed up. Perhaps I will see them some day.
During my leave, the second issue of our News-Letter was published: I have not been able to find a clean copy, but am enclosing a soiled one: it is just about readable, and may interest you.
I was glad to hear of the great improvement in Barry’s cold. I hope the little chap is now quite normal again. I do like him, Jess. He is a little treat, even though he is obstreperous about his pot. I am now awaiting Jess Aldcroft’s opinion of him. I like hearing what other people have to say, especially sensible people like Jess.
And now I must leave you… but I hope for more free time later in the day… and will then be with you again.
Au revoir, my darling