A pleasant dinner and chat with Ricardo. He is in the line, yet his H.Q. are only 300 yards away from this, and quite good. So you may imagine our rest billets are not very far back. The difficulty in this area is that all the towns and villages are so heavily shelled that there is great difficulty in finding accommodation for battalions out of the line. A_____ [Armentieres] is a large place, but nearly every house shows signs of shelling. A few shops open, and I found a hair cutter and had a cut and shampoo. We wandered round the town. One church has been battered to pieces, and another hasn’t been touched. A lot of New Zealanders here—very smart and fine-looking fellows. Still nice sunny weather, but cooler and more pleasant. Ricardo suffered even more heavily than I did, 575 [casualties]. Our guns here are very noisy, and go on continuously. I hear Hubert Gough commands the Push now, and pushing well. Of course, he is a [word deleted] and has youth on his side, and the others are too old and [word deleted]. I hope we shall soon hear Thiepval is taken, but the Huns are putting up a stiff fight, and seem to be obstinately resisting the ‘Russkies’. Beaucourt Station was not long in our hands. Our people who got there were cut off, and died fighting, and no one who penetrated the German line ever came back, as far as I can find out. (N.B.—Lt. Barcroft did.)
Sunday Evening. P.S. It’s no good buoying oneself up with false hopes of an early termination; it only leads to disappointment. One must just harden one’s heart.
It turned a bit warmer this p.m., but is cooler again now. I went down to see ‘A’ Coy, and our new bit of the line, with Shill. Bn. H.Q. at Stinking Farm—a well named place. The smell which pervades the whole place is possibly rotting flax, but it might be anything rotten. I shall try and move elsewhere. St. F. [Stinking Farm] has all the disadvantages of buildings, shelled every night, and none of the advantages as it is uninhabitable. Bosche ‘planes were very busy today. They started by dropping, luckily a dud, near our transport, and kept coming over all the evening, and being heavily bombarded by our Archies [anti-aircraft artillery] just overhead, and the fragments kept dropping about here. Finally, at dinner, a dud Archie shell fell about 50 yards from us. We have eight officers on courses, leaving only nine officers for the four Coys. to go into the line—far too few to share watches. Our guns have just opened on Bosche dumps and roads, and are making a hideous noise.
1. The report that men of the Battalion made it as far as Beaucourt Station is not substantiated by any other sources. It is not known if Barcroft’s name was an addendum to the original letter or added to the letter when it was published in the Seagoe Parish magazine.
2. Stinking Farm was named in late 1914/early 1915; the stench was caused by rotting vegetables in a cellar (sources vary as to these being potatoes or turnips).