Neil – Mother: 29 Apr 1918

Dear Mother,
I am writing this from a park on the edge of a cliff overlooking the channel from about 500 ft up. Vic will know it well. I suppose it isn’t far from where he used to hang out here. Its very pretty, but I’ll leave him to tell you what it is like. When I get some money I’ll get some cards and send them in case he doesn’t make a good job of it. We got a half dollar and a bob on Friday – I mean each, not among the lot of us. I hit the officer up for some more but there was nothing doing. He was very decent about it and called me “old chap” and the milk of human kindness being strong within me owing to the fact that I had a 1/2 crown and shilling for my very own, I did not resent his familiarity. It is easier to write on my pocket book with the paper this way. This is not my old pocket book. It is one I won in a second chess tournament at Cayeux that I forgot to tell you about – strangely absent minded of me. This is only Monday. Ive spent all my 3/6 on cleaning gear etc and have 5d left out of a borrowed 6d. Our pay officer is Grierson the chap there was a big enquiry about in NZ – German descent sedition utterances alleged – W’llyton boarding house – do you remember? He is very decent and is making an attempt to get us paid 14/- a week. I hope before long though that that £20 will arive from NZ. I don’t know whether I told you that I sent the cable in my last – I had to pay 2/8 a word for it though – it cost 26/8 of my credit in my book. New Zealand went as one word. I took for granted that you had received an Army cable telling you I was in England. I didn’t waste money telling you I was alright – a request for £20 sort of indicates that leave is well in view. I’ll bank over here what is left of it as a standby for my next leave or when I get sick again or wounded. If it shd happen that you receive my cable before the Army’s you’ll probably be a bit suspicious of its genuininess; but there is never any danger in sending money through the bank of NZ, because they require all sorts of proofs of identity before delivering it. I sent the cable to you under the impression that the bank of NZ sent the money over free as they used to a year ago. But a chap here tells me it cost 10/- to get £10 sent and another tells me it doesn’t cost anything. I don’t know which is right. By the way I had a letter from Beatrice Bluck about seven weeks ago and replied to it. I am going to write to Reggies (he has a staff job at Brocton) sometime when I find something to say.

A letter from Ella came among all the rest today. It was written while Gorrie was at Omaha on his holiday. This is the first mention I have made of the fact that I received a small budget of letters to day dated (from memory) from about 15-2-18 to 3-3-18. I cant take them out here to reply to them – it is rather windy. The period about 17-1-18 to 15-2-18 has produced no letters yet. They have probably gone to France. My parcels that have gone to France don’t come back – they are used there for hospital comforts. That makes me particularly anxious to get Vic’s. Trot over in France will be getting his own alright so he’ll not have as good a claim on Vic’s as I have. I have not got any yet. but I am living in hopes. The tucker here is not as good as it was at first. The place is alright but the life is nothing great. There is no one here that I’ve taken any fancy to – no soldier I mean of course. They are mostly hard cases who think of nothing but beer, or melons who think of nothing at all. I prefer the former class myself, but as I couldn’t earn a salary if I got a 1/2 sov. a time for drinking glasses of beer I’m afraid I’d make a rather poor sort of “boon companion”. So I’m being an “unsociable devil” to use Vic’s phrase and keeping to myself. I hope I strike someone decent to go on leave with. I am not inclined to be annoyed at all over Bedford’s misapplied insistence . I don’t think it is at all certain that I shall return to Grammar. I don’t feel a bit like taking up the old threads again and sitting for my degree. I may do like Trot and take a couple of schools in the country. I could get a fiver a week out of the Education board easy enough, and besides, I think I just about know now how to get the maximum result out of a country school with a minimum of labour. I don’t care much what I have to do when I get back so long as I don’t have to work for my living. The Govt. will have to make some arrangement about keeping me. There seem to be very few chaps with any brains in England from Lloyd George and Horatio Bottomley upwards. I think it would be easy enough to make money here where there is so little real competition. I have quite made up my mind that if I ever get any money it will be made – not earned. I, like 60,000 more NZers here, have made up my mind never to do another avoidable tap. Watkin is very fed up with A.G.S. I think he will have left it by the time you get this.

It is annoying those Jan mails from France being sunk. I wrote several quite long letters that month if I remember rightly. I don’t really know what I shall do with my leave. I’ll go out of England to get out of the rationed area.

30-4-18 At that point I woke up to the fact that the rest of the squad had gone home and had seemingly been gone some time. I didn’t meet any MPs on the way back on my own and had to come into camp the back way. Otherwise I’de have got leave stopped or something. It would have sounded distinctly thin to tell the O.C. that I hadn’t noticed the others fall in and return.

The first letter I take out is your latest 3-3-18. I met Bagnall who was wounded in Cayeux. If Roy comes voluntarily to France he’ll deserves all he gets. Tell him France rubbed the enthusiasm off Leaming, Platt & Reynolds. Also tell him to keep the fact to himself and not mention it at College. What does he want to come for! Tell him if he’s thinking of the rights of small nations and all that rot that the Belgians as a rule seem to be regarded as spies until they prove themselves anti German and that the French show their appreciation of “L’entente cordiate” by charging 10 for filling your water bottle. There was one old Froggie who had a house with a good well near a munition dump. He used to draw all the water he wanted and then remove the handle of the pump to prevent the English getting any. One evening it was nearly dark – he was a bit later than usual the sentry on the dump challenged the necessary twice in such a way as to give no chance for a reply – “Halt who goes there? HaltwhogoesthereBang!“and that night there was no one to remove the handle from the pump, and the troops had a free run with the water. No wonder the Froggies love us. The names they use for us among themselves are incapable of English rendering. The ideas Roy has probably got of the treatment of English by the French from reading books like the “Retreat from Mons” will suffer a rude shock when he comes here. There is very little glory left in it now. There are notices up such as No99999, Pvt Atkins AB was tried by general court martial and shot at day break 4-11-17 for some offence or other, that might easily be the result of fed up ness Roy ought to have a bit of sense and stick out of it as long as he can. It might easily last another five years.

The next home letter I pick out is Dads of 24-2-18 Ben will have opportunities of developing his views on the side displayed by sub Lts. later. I suppose the Omaha one is really an extremely mild speciman. Another from Dad dated 17-2-18 (and you say too in another letter) that you have been bottling fruit. That settles it. I reckon its up to them to finish the war this spring. I have forgotten the look of a peach pie to say nothing of the taste. One from you 17-2-18. That 7/6 Bedford’s successor was confused about is probably the 7/6 I paid Dr Pope (at Bedfords) for attention during Final Leave. I received no receipt for it as far as I remember. I just handed the money over. Roy Matheson seems to have a bit more common sense than our Roy. If our Roy goes on as he is going he’ll end up like another chap I know – an old French woman went round her field with a bucket collecting most of him for fear the bits of him that had been charred and discoloured by the shell might poison her dog. Tell Roy to turn round and have a look at himself and resign his commission.