Fortis est veritas
9th Batt. Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry
My dear Mother,
Haven’t I been writing regularly? Well, you know there’s plenty to do here, and once I’ve got off a sheet to K., my writing powers are pretty well at an end. We’re up and out with a cup of strong tea and a biscuit in us by 6.30; then there’s Swedish exercises on the lawn or the path; and a run round the roads and fields, from which I generally excuse myself (‘quite right’ says the Colonel). Breakfast, then musketry all day, the handling of the rifle, muscle exercises, studying aiming and trigger pressing etc. The great feature of our infantry that makes it better than the German is its skill in musketry.
You know that I command one of the ‘service platoons’. A battalion has 4 companies; a company has four platoons. Our battalion has been made a reserve battalion; and four platoons of the best men have been chosen for the first line of reserve, the first to be called to the front. Two officers to each service platoon.
Well, the best 55 men of our company, some of the best men in the regiment, are under my command, specially preparing; so I’m pleased and proud of my warriors. However they’re mostly away on pass till Friday.
We go about when we can and do attacks and defences on open ground and play the Boy Scout generally. Then there’s bayonet fighting, bayonet fixing and a heap of other things; besides lectures which we mug up and deliver to the men now and again.
So we’ve a pretty full time; and that’s the programme.
Love to all the ducklings.
Your affectionate son
This is the last letter from George to his mother Clara that is known. She was staying at her holiday cottage in Ringwood only thirty miles away close to the New Forest. ‘K.’, of course, is Kittie Calderon.
‘Swedish exercises’ were callisthenics without apparatus. It is very tempting to think it significant that George is dropping out of the cross-country running and that the field days seem geared to open warfare rather than trench warfare (see my post of 15 April).
By implication, he is saying that his platoon is one of the best four in the battalion, which comprise a reserve company that will be the first to be called to the front. However, officers were in more demand than privates and therefore could be asked to volunteer for missions that separated them from the men they had been training, who would eventually become a ‘draft’ to a particular part of the front.
Clearly the situation was now extremely worrying for Kittie: George could be invited to volunteer for active service at any time, and she knew only too well that nothing would stop him going.
Next entry: The note darkens