August 19, 1917

Dear Ma--

This note may be rather jiggly because of the so-called bed I am sitting on, the guns and my lack of sleep lately. Your note of the lst arrived today. I am at our farthest west post and getting the long-hoped-for action. I came out Friday afternoon. That night, an aeroplane bomb dropped in or beside a platoon of men near the post and killed four and wounded sixteen. This was at 9 P. M. As a result, the two of us here evacuated until about 6 the next morning. No, it doesn't take that much time to evacuate 16 men, but it happened that others kept coming in after those 16 were gone.

There is a great deal of artillery action here and the Bosche try to get at the batteries with gas. Last night, they gassed the place with shells that have the stuff condensed in them. We wore our masks for a little while and altho' it wasn't specially pleasant, it was quite an experience. Last night also, three gassed men came in and said there were 30 more, but they were evacuated by another corps.

We are also getting a taste of air raids. Beside the first night's bomb which was some 100 yards from the post, four were dropped last night in the same place. What with evacuation and gas, one can't sleep at night and in the daytime, gun fire and arriving shells aren't soporific. Since Friday morning - this being Sunday P. M. - I have had some 3 hours sleep.

As to that water question of Mr. Montgomery's. We have lots of good water and, besides, a filter and some acid stuff to purify it if it isn't good. On the way out, we lived on acid purified water for two weeks and had lots and were none the worse for it. Here, all the posts are within reach of it and anyway, they have to have water at the hospitals that is good. As to bottled water, there isn't any except maybe in Paris and we never could get enough here anyway that way. The wines aren't bad. We can always get pinard (ordinary red wine) and I don't think anything could be less intoxicating or conducive to habitual drinking except water. Personally, I don't care for it and as there is lots of water, I drink that. There is only one boy in the section among those who have acquired a taste for pinard, whom I ever saw drunk on it. He has always drunk since he was with the section and is unable to hold more than a couple of cups and be sober, so it isn't so much his fault. However, the water question may be serious in winter, altho' I don't know, but all the water is from springs and natural sources here.

As to any new offensive, I can't say because we really don't get as much news as you do, but I will say that what news we do get is lots truer than the average American paper. Still, you don't want to expect a rush to Berlin with our troops as they are new and they won't be any good until they have had a turn in the trenches and been en repos and go back again. Why? Well, I can't describe gas and shell fire so that you would know what it means, but when liquid fire, mines, etc., are added, it takes a while to get used to it. Talking of gas, the Bosche have just sprung a couple of new ones. One, besides being poisonous, affects you wherever you happen to sweat or be damp. Think what that means. The other one, wee breath and you are gone.

I am glad some more alcohol is coming as the stove has been very useful. You ought to have seen the use those plates of paper got. When that was discovered, I was the game of the place for a day or so. We had a tongue here the other day -- one of the ones you sent and it was fine, but too big. The same is true of the bacon. If you would let me have just canned things in small cans or things that can be kept and put the rest in for Liberty Bonds, it would be fine.

This note has been very interrupted as I began about 1 P. M. and it is now nearly 9. This afternoon, I went out in front of the post and brought in six blesses from a communication trench. I also was taken by the lieutenant of a battery to his headquarters, battery and range finding station.


Just had to duck into the abri because our friend the aviator came again tonight at just 9 P.M. as per schedule. However, I guess the French were on to him for we heard mitraille uses overhead and he beat it without dropping his bombs. Here's hoping he doesn't return.

Well, I guess this is about enough for this scatter brain story and anyway I must write to Marj as I got a letter from her today.

Feeling fine, but I would like a newspaper.