Lieut. Robert Gibson (2nd Bedfordshire Regiment) is one of a large number of Old Boys to have visited us this term and we are delighted to receive news from him now. (I wondered where my pencil had gone…)
29/6/16. “It is many weeks ago since I pinched the Skipper’s pencil to write you this letter in the train from Oxford to Paddington. Unfortunately 7 more candidates for the 6 seats got on at Didcot, and writing became impossible. Perhaps it is for the best, as you would hardly be interested in a description of the ‘Reading flower-beds’ or ‘Trafalgar Square on a wet Friday in war time.’
Leave was a very pleasant interlude and preparation for future efforts; for this front is a very noisy one these days and I think the staff fondly hopes it is to become a mobile one. The gunners are having gala days, and the sins of the batteries are visited on the men in the line by the discriminating Teuton.
The men, however, are quite willing to put up with occasional retaliation, provided they can spend most of the day lounging over the parapet watching Fritz’s hearth and home going up in a cloud of smoke and barbed wire. It was not often they have had the opportunity of watching such a drama from the orchestra stalls, and I think they mean to do a lot of stage-work before long.
Raids have been the order of the day for the last six months, with the object of wearing out the enemy and keeping him awake; our regiment did one a short time ago with complete success; all they need is very careful thinking out, no detail should be left to the imagination.
For instance with regard to place, tell a party to get into German trenches between such and such a place clearly marked on the map, show them the place in the actual trenches, and even so they will lose their way in No Man’s Land on the night of the event. If you want to guarantee success you must dig the German trenches involved (by aeroplane photo) on some ground behind, and practise them by night for several days before, and it is the same with all the other details of the raid.
Our fellows knew their job and did it very well. All of which pleases the Staff, annoys the enemy, and keeps Tommy’s tail up. We have got bigger fish to fry now; and I think from the spirit of our own men and the French on our right, that something will be done.
Still, when we have done our best and the Boche his worst, you come back to the old saying of men who fought with their hands at close quarters, not in lead and steel at 1000 yards and more:
(Ask someone in VIa to correct accents before publication; my Greek alas is slipping from me. I hope the war will be over before I forget the lot).
Best love and luck to all Dragons, militant and expectant.”
In case your Greek is also a little rusty, the snippet above translates as:
‘It lies in the lap of the Gods.’
Indeed it does.
(The reports in today’s edition of the Daily Telegraph (pages 9 & 10) leads one to think that the big “Push” is imminent).