Another instalment from Alexander Henry Tod’s letters home from France during WWI.
I have your letters of 23rd November and 1st December. I think I have now received all your letters and am sorry my little grouse has disturbed you so much. The only thing outstanding is your Christmas box but that will turn up all right. There are probably about a million parcels to be delivered to the troops at this time and that will take some doing.
As you know we are presently enjoying Divisional rest, well behind the line, but it is rather dull being stuck here doing routine work and we are all hoping to get away on short leave to England. The chances are we shall get it, in due rotation of course, but at this game one mustn’t take too much for granted. I have been detailed to attend a Divisional course of instruction on special subjects, at some other place than this, and will be detached from the battalion for a week. One officer per company goes every week and I was second on the list. I shall be glad to get away as I think we are all beginning to see too much of each other. I go off the day after tomorrow and will rejoin the battalion for the Christmas festivities.
Today is Sunday and I am orderly officer. That’s twice it has fallen on a Sunday and I don’t like it. The duties of the O.O. are rather vague, but comprehensive, and the chief hardship is that he must be on the spot. He has to go round and see that everything is in order – inspect billets, cook houses, prisoners and everything there is to inspect. It is all right on weekdays when he can be excused parades by pretending to do something else.
I took the Roman Catholic contingent to church early this morning but didn’t wait for the service [as far as I know, Henry is not Catholic] as breakfast was waiting for me. There is a strong Irish element in the regiment and we have a ‘padre’ to look after them. He is a good sort and a great favourite with us all and he does full justice to the hospitality of the different messes! [perhaps the padre was a little plump?] He also takes full advantage of his position and the grim business of war to bring home to the men the immediate need of their living better lives and so forth.
We are recruited chiefly from Glasgow [Henry is from Glasgow] and Lanarkshire and the strong local accent is still music in my ears after being away from it so long. The men are wonderful in the trenches under the most trying conditions and there is always someone who can see the humorous side when things are most depressing. I hope some day to tell you all about them when the clouds roll by.
We managed to get a photo taken of the company the other day by a woman photographer, who is in this line of business in the village. We couldn’t all get into the picture so we had to make the best of it. I hope the censor doesn’t grab them. Tea has made its appearance so will close.
I found this comment on the PBS Newshour site about WWI soldiers playing soccer in their off times:
It’s a way to hide the horror under one layer of spectacle and another layer of moral virtue — a way to pretend that war is like a game, that there are rules, that there is safety. A way not to look into oblivion. We missed the cruel irony in all those soccer balls that show up in World War I photos. Nothing is a metaphor for war. War is a metaphor for nothing.
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M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union on August 16, 2016. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, Nook, Kobo, Google Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.