A.A. Laporte Payne letter to Muriel 15 May 1917.
May 15th 1917
My sins of omission are many and days have gone by and you have had no letter from me. You will forgive me won’t you dearest?
First of all thank you so much for your long letter of May 9th which has just arrived, and also for the two parcels which I have not yet opened as we have been moving in – but as I believe they contain something for tea I shall open them as soon as I have finished writing this letter. Thank you too for the post-card. It was not at all dull to get word from you & news of what you were doing. When are you off to work on the land? I hope the weather will be better than this. It has changed quite suddenly. To-day is dull and cold and threatening to rain; but before that we did have some lovely weather.
Well they have hauled us back to the line again after a very brief time in the training area. I enjoyed very much our time down there although it was so very busy. We marched up here and arrived late last night. It is an awful job moving. Leaving a place you have to see that it is clean and that nothing of the thousand and one things you ought to have are left behind by the empty headed men. Then there is all the watering & feeding of horses on the march and the rationing of the men. My little unit consisted of more than 60 men and half a hundred horses, and 10 vehicles – and I was all alone. On arrival the first thing is to find out where the bivouacing place is and then how to get your column in. Then the horse lines have to be put up – posts found and dug in and ropes put up – then the horses watered and fed and groomed. Places for the harness, cooks, telephonists, forage, food, stores, etc all have to be found. You see there is plenty to do. After all is finished you have time to get something to eat and then flop into bed. This has been the routine for the last few days.
Alas I am sorry to say one of my horses died last night – a good horse too – and they are so hard to get now. It was one of the signaller’s horses and got colic very badly. Poor old thing. I hate having horses bad.
I am writing this on a bully-beef box, and it is starting to rain so you must please forgive writing and blots. We have no furniture at present and we are living in tents. The cooking is done in holes in the ground. It is delightful – especially after our chateau and comfortable billets. My own gees are looking well. I have found them a shed of sorts.
Don’t alter the address from France to Belgium. It is all the same. Letters come out in just the same way.
We have got our work cut out here. Conditions are very similar to this time last year. I do hope it will be fine for the next few weeks.
How are you keeping, darling? Quite well? I am very glad you are quite contented and happy now. That is all I want.
Are you looking forward to my next leave? I am. I am living for it. The memory of your kisses and sitting on your lap is a very delightful one – only it makes the time of waiting worse. How do you like being engaged.
Your girl friend seems to like being married – but I don’t think I should like to be married to someone 20 years older than I am – would you? Both ought to be young together, don’t you think so? I am sure you can’t be foolish at 50.
You seem to be a very busy person now. Don’t overdo it. I should love to hear you read minutes. I used to for the Cambridge Philosophical Society to a lot of *** professors and dons – and I used to be frightfully nervous. I was so tied up once or twice in making minutes of some **** paper that I used to go and beg a précis from the man reading the paper and left out the discussion altogether.
Is Mrs Cross back yet? Then give her my love. I really must find time to write to her soon. I hope Mr Cross is better. Give him my kindest regards. Finchley is the same I suppose.
Mind you have your photo taken in your working garb. I must see what you look like. What ages it seems since I saw you. I remember you were delightful that evening we had together in town when we had dinner at the Savoy and afterwards went to High Jinks. I shall never forget that week. I hope you have as happy a memory as I have. How is the singing getting on? Next time I have got to cut out all the foolish things we did and sit properly and listen to you sing and play the violin. I wish I could be with you now to kiss you and hold you tight.
Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to make country excursions alone together now, and go on the river. I like punting on an easy stream – it is so comfortable to be in a punt.
I won’t be so serious next leave. I will be absolutely mad and silly. I wonder how you will like that. I must close now I think as I have got to go to ‘stables’, and then out to see about things in the line.
Please forgive this disjointed letter – the beastly telephone as usual has interrupted letter writing.
For the present goodbye, darling
All my love & kisses