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  Carry On Coningsby Dawson

Letter IX

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September 8th, 1916.


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I'm sending this to meet you on your return from Kootenay. I left England on September 1st and had a night at my point of disembarkation, and then set off on a wandering adventure in search of my division. I'm sure you'll understand that I cannot enter into any details--I can only give you general and purely personal impressions. There were two other officers with me, both from Montreal. We had to picnic on chocolate and wine for twenty-four hours through our lack of forethought in not supplying ourselves with food for the trip. I shaved the first morning with water from the exhaust of a railroad engine, having first balanced my mirror on the step. The engineer was fascinated with my safety razor. There were Tommies from the trenches in another train, muddied to the eyes--who showed themselves much more resourceful. They cooked themselves quite admirable meals as they squatted on the rails, over little fires on which they perched tomato cans. Sunday evening we saw our first German prisoners--a young and degenerate-looking lot. Sunday evening we got off at a station in the rain, and shouldered our own luggage. Our luggage, by the way, consists of a sleeping bag, in which much of our stuff is packed, and a kit sack--for an immediate change and toilet articles one carries a haversack hung across the shoulder. Well, as I say, we alighted and coaxed a military wagon to come to our rescue. As we set off through a drizzling rain, trudging behind the cart, a double rainbow shone, which I took for an omen. Presently we came to a rest camp, where we told our sad story of empty tummies, and were put up for the night. A Jock--all Highlanders are called Jock--looked after us. Next morning we started out afresh in a motor lorry and finished at a Y.M.C.A. tent, where we stayed two nights. On Wednesday we met the General in Command of our Division, who posted me to the battery, which is said to be the best in the best brigade in the best division--so you may see I'm in luck. I found the battery just having come out of action--we expect to go back again in a day or two. Major B. is the O.C.--a fine man. The lieutenant who shares my tent won the Military Cross at Ypres last Spring. I'm very happy--which will make you happy--and longing for my first taste of real war.

How strangely far away I am from you--all the experiences so unshared and different. Long before this reaches you I shall have been in action several times. This time three years ago my streak of luck came to me and I was prancing round New York. To-day I am much more genuinely happy in mind, for I feel, as I never felt when I was only writing, that I am doing something difficult which has no element of self in it. If I come back, life will be a much less restless affair.

This letter! I can imagine it being delivered and the shout from whoever takes it and the comments. I make the contrast in my mind--this little lean-to spread of canvas about four feet high, the horse-lines, guns, sentries going up and down--and then the dear home and the well-loved faces.

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Carry On
Coningsby Dawson

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