Monday May 28, 1917.
My dearest Mother,
Just a few lines to let you know that I received your ripping letter of May 23 yesterday.
I am glad to hear old Charlie has managed to get another short leave. I expect he will enjoy working on his old trade again and I hope that he will be able to get a little back of all he has lost. How is his business going on now? I suppose it is only just going at all! Let's hope that the war will soon end and he will be able to get the business going in working order again.
Fancy old Frank Churchill deciding to take a commission after all this time. I can quite understand what has made him do it for continual training is terribly monotonous. I had a letter from him this evening, but as usual it was terribly short and he just told me the bare facts.
As far as Commissions go in 'fighting' line, I think Arthur Chittenden has got the pick of the bunch. I dint mind telling you that really speaking a commission in either the Infantry or the Artillery, is not worth a snap of the fingers. You ask me whether it would be worth my while taking a commission. Well this is how it stands as regards the job I am on now. There are a good many points in favour of it. Firstly it is permanent, that is as long as I behave myself. Secondly, we take part in absolutely none of the fighting & work in comparative safety. Although of course we often work quite close to the line, but should Fritz become too hot for us, we can do a bunk to a safer spot, or if necessary go right back, & this is a great point, for I think there is not another section of the army allowed this privilege.
Now supposing I should take a commission in either the Artillery or Infantry, the fighting being so absolutely hard I should reckon myself very lucky if I came through many scraps without catching something. And as regards fighting, I don't mind telling you I have had enough, & don't wish to put myself in the way of any more.
On the other hand, if I did put in for a com. I should naturally be sent home for training. Well that would be absolutely great for I could do with a few months in England again. Also perhaps during my months of training the war would end, & of course that would be very nice. But I don't think there is much hope of that. So I think I will remain just common Rfn. R. Norrington of the Queens Westminster Rifles.
If I could get a com. in the A.S.C. of the B.E.F. Canteens, I should feel inclined to take it on.
I will just try & tell you what our present surroundings are like, & the work that we have to do.
By the way, when I last wrote you I think I told you we were once more out on rest. Well, we had three days of it and then there came an order for us to return up the line the next day. We were not expecting to go that way, as the rest of the Division, it was rumoured, was going further back. And they did, for as we paraded to go further up the rest of our Division paraded to go further back, so you can guess the Salvage Company was not in a very good humour that morning, as it was a frightful disappointment to us. But that was several days ago now & we are once more settled, & I am glad to say pretty comfortable.
We are now billeted in one of France's biggest towns which has suffered rather badly with Shell Shock. The house in which our company is billeted in stands in what I should imagine has been a rather classy square. On one side of the square there has been a rather swagger church, of course to a certain extent it still stands. On the opposite side there is a fairly big nunnery, which has hardly been touched, & just a few of the nuns still live there. These two buildings are the main features of the place, the rest if the space around the square, is taken up by a number of jolly pretty houses & gardens some of which have been hit, & others in fairly decent repair, of which ours is one of the latter. In the centre of the square, there is a large number of chestnut trees, which are now looking absolutely ripping, as they are in full bloom, & the nice green grass all around the trees sets them off a treat. Really speaking the place looks quite pretty. That's the best I can do -as far as my surroundings. Of course all the damage the town has suffered was done when the Allies line was only a few yards outside. Now of course it is a matter of miles. And we are only worried, if ever, by a little shelling or by sometimes an air raid. But those I am glad to say are seldom anything to write home -about.
Our work consists of absolutely scouring the captured ground of anything in the way of ammunition, equipment & anything belonging to either our or the German Army. This of course is a long job for in an advance there is always tons and tons of stuff left behind both by us & the Germans. We collect all the salvage from the fields & villages & make dumps of it on the roads & in due course wagons come along & pick it all up & take it to the headquarters where it is all sorted into serviceable or unserviceable. The former is just sent to the various places where it is cleaned up and then sent back to the factories to be remade up. I might tell you that in this way our Salvage Company alone often saves thousands of pounds for our army in less than a month. Well, I shall have to close now as I am getting a bit tired. So good-bye for the present.
Best Love to you Dad, Nell & Charlie.
Your Affectionate Son
PS I am also enclosing a letter for Phyllis which I hope you will send round to her.