No. 7925934. Sgt. Greenwood, R.T.
9th Battn. R.T.R.
Jessie Mine – One interesting little item of news today reveals that unit censorship is now abolished, but letters are still liable to scrutiny at base. This is a considerable help: it means that green envelopes are no longer necessary as a safeguard against scrutiny by our own officers.
Another concession is that we can now reveal our actual location… So I will try and tell you where I am. The nearest village to this ‘baronial hall’ is called Bentheim… about nine miles east of the Dutch border… Oh damn! I have just realised that I have no map in this new billet, and am hanged if I can remember our precise wherabouts-! What a fool I am! Anyhow… Oldenzaal is about 10 miles due west – just in Holland and in the province of Geldenland, I think. Three or four miles to the east is Schüttorf… where we were billeted for three or four weeks in the home of the prosperous Nazi sympathiser: it was there that we started our ‘photo lab. And that’s all I can tell you until I can find a map. But you will now know that I am only a few miles inside Germany. At one time, and whilst we were billeted at Schüttorf, half of the squadron spent a week under canvas on the Dortmund-Ems canal. This was before the German capitulation and at a time when deserters from the Wehrmacht were sneaking back home in ‘civvies’. Our lads arrested a few of them at the canal.
Later, and since V.E. day, the remaining half of the squadron, including my troop, went to a lovely spot on the Ems river about twelve miles from Schüttorf. We were officially ‘patrolling’ the area and confiscating rowing boats etc., but it was really a glorious little camping holiday in perfect weather. We left the river a few days ago… just in time to miss one or two wet days… and moved to this mansion a day or so later. I have no idea how long we are likely to remain, Jess… but meanwhile we are making the most of the place, and already have a comfortable mess. I have been in the garden this evening gathering flowers… and now we have a huge vase full of gladioli and other flowers on the dining room table.
I saw the M.O. again this morning, Jess. I feel almost normal again now, but the M.O. told me to take it easy for a day or two… So I have done little work… apart from installing a few more lights.
I received Kath’s parcel today… 500 Churchman’s for my birthday… They are very welcome at the moment because we have had little to smoke but Woodbines and Piccadillys lately. I have already written thanking her for them.
I have told you a little about the damaged interior of this new billet of ours, and I fear I may have given you the impression that everything has been destroyed. This is not really so: there is still a good deal left, and today I have been rummaging around the library and one or two odd store rooms for lumber etc. The latter contain dozens of very old books – some of them 340 years old, but printed in German unfortunately. There are also stacks of old documents and letters… some of the latter comparatively modern. I don’t normally make a habit of reading other people’s letters, but it is part of our job nowadays to look for incriminating letters… particularly where Nazi-ism is suspected, and so my conscience is not particularly uneasy.
So far as the former inhabitants of this place are concerned, it seems to me that they were as much English as German. The library is certainly well stocked with English books… and there is much correspondence in English. One princess Sofia appears to have been fond of our language… and she must have been a prolific writer… judging by the number of her letters kicking around… letters which would perhaps be a godsend to a blackmailer. I noticed one yesterday, dated 1921… which refers to the ‘Queen-mother’ as an “old cat”… and to her two daughters as ‘docile creatures’. The same letter also refers to her association with King Alfonso XIII and the gossip caused thereby… And to her hatred of German men as husbands. It seems strange to have such access to the intimate thoughts and opinions of the ‘ruling caste’… and to find the existence of ‘cattishness’ of the worst order so flagrantly expressed in some letters… Perhaps it is not surprising.
Jess… did I acknowledge receipt of Mrs. Parry’s letters?.. I can’t remember. Anyhow, I will keep them and will certainly try and find the Gotleibs if ever I get anywhere near Rotterdam. I feel very doubtful now about ever seeing the place. I thought at one time – after we crossed the Rhine and entered northern Holland… that we may have been used for liberating Amsterdam and Rotterdam, but the flooding of the Zuyder Zee area probably interfered with the plans. And now that the whole area is free, and presumably under Canadian jurisdiction, I can’t imagine Churchills being required.
Thanks for the enclosure about your pay, darling. I have given it to the S.Q.M.S. and am leaving him to sort it out with Bradford. If there is any mistake, it is their fault, not ours.
Your mother appears to be developing into one of your major problems… judging by your numerous references to her. It does surprise me to learn that she is so apparently indifferent to the extra work and worry her visits cause you. It would almost appear that she is deliberately taking advantage of your tolerance as a means of obtaining some reward for “all” she has done for you in the past: Or perhaps she regards her work in our garden as ample compensation for you. I wish we hadn’t got the damned garden. It was nothing but a worry to you when Ross was attending to it. And your mother’s speech-! I don’t want to be unkind, dear… but your comments make me wonder how Barry is going to be affected by such slovenly speech. If your mum, with John and Stan, are going to be frequent visitors when Barry is learning to talk, it will become a problem. I do so want him to speak well Jess… it is a terrible handicap for any child to speak badly.
You ask “how did I grow up, Trev?”.. And when you ask me a question, I like to try and provide an answer… But this particular question is something of a conundrum… although to me it is not difficult to find an answer, because I know you so much better than anyone else… yes, including yourself-!! Unfortunately, it would take me a long time to give you my answer, so you will have to remain in ignorance… secure in the knowledge that you did grow up, and that you became a very beautiful and clever young lady… and subsequently married a young man who is sort of fond of you…
Must leave you now, my darling…
Will be writing again tomorrow
Good night, Jess…
Always – I love you