Copy letter to Mrs Ficklin undated probably mid April1918
14630 Pte. H. Billings
H.Q. 152 Bde
Dear Mrs. Ficklin,
I don’t really know how to start this letter as we have had an absolutely cruel time, and I believe that all the Staff are prisoners including the General and the Major. I have hoped and prayed to God that they would turn up but I’m afraid of the worst. I wished to God I had never been ordered away. What happened was this, we went to sleep at 11 o’clock at night, and in the morning just as it was light we heard the cracking of rifles not far off, and I don’t think anyone realised what was wrong but the bullets were coming through the house and I scrambled into my equipment and then went to the Major and rolled his blankets up and put them on the limber, and the Major said to me: “you can pack my revolver in too”, then changed his mind and decided to keep it, well by this time the bullets were flying fast and no one seemed to know what to do till the staff captain rushed out to the driver of the limber and told him to clear out as hard as he could go. I stood just by him when a bullet went through his leg but he still kept walking about, and I just saw the limber tearing off with the back undone and I shouted out to the driver that he’d lose all the stuff off and the captain noticed it too and shouted to me to go on after it and two more of the servants. I little realised that things were so bad, but by God I wouldn’t have gone after it because it was ever so far before I could catch it, and I told him to stop which he did but even then the bullets were about us and a horse dropped dead just by my side and a driver of another wagon was hit, poor fellow, we done the best we could for him and I think the ambulance picked him up as it was just behind, and then moved a bit further away till we came upon a sergeant of our signals and he told us to go on to another village and join the division, we had been there about two minutes and than told to go on to the transport where I am just now. Bush got away too but the old horse was just grazed by a bullet, nothing much, but all there’s left of the Bde. is four servants and the groom and two clerks that is of those who were up there at the time, but there is hopes though very small that some more will turn up later.
I have all the Major’s things including the new primus which I am of course looking after and up to present I cannot do anything till we get our instructions, so could you write me a line about anything – in one sense it’s a good thing I am here really to look after things, but dear Mrs, Ficklin I would rather have been with him a thousand times but I pray for the best and trust that they are all alive, and if you hear anything at all would you kindly let me know that is please God I’m spared. I cannot say of course what will happen to me yet, but I will let you know. The Major was speaking to me about the Captain soon being out here again. I was thinking and wondering if he could claim me, that is if he would want me. I’m feeling pretty miserable just at present but of course we must look on the bright side but certainly it takes some doing. Well dear Mrs. Ficklin I think its all I can say at present so with all hopes and trusting God for the best with the Major I will close.
(signed) H. Billings