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Carry On Coningsby Dawson

Letter XXIV


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October 31st, 1916.
Hallowe'en.

Dearest People:

Once more I'm taking the night-firing and so have a chance to write to you. I got letters from you all, and they each deserve answers, but I have so little time to write. We've been having beastly weather--drowned out of our little houses below ground, with rivers running through our beds. The mud is once more up to our knees and gets into whatever we eat. The wonder is that we keep healthy--I suppose it's the open air. My throat never troubles me and I'm free from colds in spite of wet feet. The main disadvantage is that we rarely get a chance to wash or change our clothes. Your ideas of an army with its buttons all shining is quite erroneous; we look like drunk and disorderlies who have spent the night in the gutter--and we have the same instinct for fighting.

In the trenches the other day I heard mother's Suffolk tongue and had a jolly talk with a chap who shared many of my memories. It was his first trip in and the Huns were shelling badly, but he didn't seem at all upset.

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We're still hard at it and have given up all idea of a rest--the only way we'll get one is with a blighty. You say how often you tell yourselves that the same moon looks down on me; it does, but on a scene how different! We advance over old battlefields--everything is blasted. If you start digging, you turn up what's left of something human. If there were any grounds for superstition, surely the places in which I have been should be ghost-haunted. One never thinks about it. For myself I have increasingly the feeling that I am protected by your prayers; I tell myself so when I am in danger.

Here I sit in an old sweater and muddy breeches, the very reverse of your picture of a soldier, and I imagine to myself your receipt of this. Our chief interest is to enquire whether milk, jam and mail have come up from the wagon-lines; it seems a faery-tale that there are places where milk and jam can be had for the buying. See how simple we become.

Poor little house at Kootenay! I hate to think of it empty. We had such good times there twelve months ago. They have a song here to a nursery rhyme lilt, Apr├Ęs le Guerre Finis; it goes on to tell of all the good times we'll have when the war is ended. Every night I invent a new story of my own celebration of the event, usually, as when I was a kiddie, just before I fall asleep--only it doesn't seem possible that the war will ever end.

I hear from the boys very regularly. There's just the chance that I may get leave to London in the New Year and meet them before they set out. I always picture you with your heads high in the air. I'm glad to think of you as proud because of the pain we've made you suffer.

Once again I shall think of you on Papa's birthday. I don't think this will be the saddest he will have to remember. It might have been if we three boys had still all been with him. If I were a father, I would prefer at all costs that my sons should be men. What good comrades we've always been, and what long years of happy times we have in memory--all the way down from a little boy in a sailor-suit to Kootenay!

 
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Carry On
Coningsby Dawson

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