A.A. Laporte Payne letter to Muriel 29 September 1917
Sept 29th 1917
My own dearest,
If the Boche will leave us alone perhaps I may be able to write and send off a proper letter to you. I have started badly again haven’t I?
My three weeks leave is fading into a happy memory of a glorious time – spent with very few worries and many fine days with you. Thank you so very much, darling, for giving me such a good time and putting up with me for so long. I must have been very trying at times. The annoying part about it all was arriving such an object, and the most annoying part giving you the same complaint as myself. I do hope you are quite better now – you have got rid of the cause so you ought to be. Please let me know how you are. I am very anxious to know.
You can imagine my feelings at having to return after such a time. I could not say much when I left but you know how I felt. That is the worst of having such a good time. I have never wanted to return less. This fine weather we are now having makes me long to be back with you again at Eastbourne. If I want cheering up now I think of the days at the sea – the day we went to Pevensey and Herstmontseaux – or the day we went out for a row.
I enjoyed it all the more because we took things easily – you can’t imagine what a relief it is to slack like that – with nothing to have to do and nothing to worry you. I am afraid I was very dull but you will forgive me won’t you – but you have the satisfaction of knowing that you gave me the most delightful time I have ever had – so how can I thank you in mere words! Do you think Mrs Cross really enjoyed her holiday? I am afraid it was very dull for her. How is she? I hope quite well and more reconciled to Finchley for the winter – please give her my love. I will write as soon as I possibly can.
I am writing this in my target book on the map board which is on my knees in the signalling dug-out or rather tin shanty which is all we have to sit in and my seat is a stretcher.
When I left you on Monday evening I went home and packed. I had a much larger amount to take than I liked but it had to be done – I got to Victoria alright but found the Grosvenor Hotel full – it was then after 12 midnight – also the Y.M.C.A. officers place – so I went to the Queen Mary’s Officers’ Club and there I got a room. It is a very nice place – bedroom to oneself bath (hot & cold shower) for breakfast, porridge, fish, bacon & eggs, toast & marmalade at any hour of the morning, and carriage of luggage – all this for 5/-: cheap wasn’t it? I was up at 6 a.m. and caught the first train to Folkestone. I met two fellows returning to this Brigade so as they were good fellows we had a fairly pleasant journey.
It was a glorious day, and a perfect crossing, but it was hellish having to leave on such a day. The place looked lovely in the morning sun – England and all she means to me with those I love there – are certainly worth fighting for. The realisation of this has helped me a lot in a return to the ‘delightful’ conditions.
We had two hours in Folkestone. John Amour, Roberts and I went to the Grand but could get nothing to drink to drown our sorrows. I sent your book off from Folkestone P.O. I hope you got it alright. We listened to the band for a short time and I met one or two people I knew. The padre I know was away for a holiday. We brought some pears and chocolate, and then went on board. I read the Morning Post and O Henry’s “Gentle Grafter”, which latter rather bored me. Lunch we had on board and arrived at B afterwards. In the afternoon we went for a drive and at night had dinner at the Louvre – oysters, soup, fish, chicken, etc and stayed the night at the Officers’ Club. B swarms with the W.A.A.C.S. – I wish they would import a decent looking lot.
We did not go by the train next day as we intended as I met a sapper with a car who was going to the same place as we were – so he took us. We left about 5.30 p.m., and had a most exciting journey. He was taking up with him a keg of gunpowder (100 lbs.) which we had in the back – with a top missing – also cans of petrol. The driver went like mad. On the way we had four punctures – once a rifle cartridge lying in the road went right through the tyre – 3 times we had to mend the puncture. We arrived about 11 p.m and I found them all in the same place. The Major was at the Wagon-Line and we stayed up talking until 2.30 a.m. The next morning I rode up here to the gun-line and took charge. The guns had been moved to another place for a good reason. That night I had to push a gun forward so I was up all night and the next day I spent visiting it.
Today I went down to the O.P. and registered it and on arrival at the Battery – or rather some way away I found the officers & men sitting in the ditches away in the fields disconsolately looking at the position – you can imagine why. There we sat for the rest of the day, and now it is late but comparatively quiet.
My reception like my departure was quite warm. Air raid in London, also in B shelled at the wagon line – also at H.Q. when I reported – now a G.L. also at O.P. and forward position. Delightful isn’t it – and the weather like it was at Eastbourne.
I read your Hankey book on the way up here. I like it very much indeed.
I found the Col in a very bad time, and looking unwell. He had asked the adjutant the morning of the day I arrived if I had turned up and when he heard that I had not he was very angry and said, “I told you so, he will get another extension and never come back.” But he was wrong. It was quite time I came back. I felt if I had delayed any longer I should never get back at all – I should have funked it altogether – such a delightful existence as I had on leave is not good for me I am sure. I was getting much too soft. You would not laugh at my luggage now or my comfortable abode. I am living in a deserted & broken down gun pit with a concrete floor covered with water – one end is open and the other blocked up with a few sandbags.
My kit I found alright my wretched servant never got away at all – poor devil. Leave has been stopped so I was only just in time.
The adjutant is leaving us so the Colonel wants me to take it on – I don’t know what to do. What shall I do? I want a battery but it does not look like getting one just at present. I do not see any papers now except the Daily Mail (Continental) so you might let me know if you see me gazetted as Temp Captain it will help me to decide whether to accept the adj’s job or no.
We are short of subalterns so it makes us very busy as you can imagine.
I must stop this ramble now or you will never get to the end even if you can read my scribble.
Please give my love to Mrs Cross, Mr Cross – and the Jacksons.
With all my best love for you darling
& many kisses
Also many grateful thanks for making my leave as perfect as it could possibly be. Ever your