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[Page 388]

Since joining the company last October we've passed through dozens of villages slept in the open, in cellars, barns, pig-styes (do spell it for me) attics, dug-outs, occasionally on a salvaged bed. Once I used an unhinged closet door for a mattress with stars for a roof. Early in the morning one of the section pointed out the agitated figure of the farmer's Madame moving rapidly towards the sheltered side of a bush with a blanket, evidently intended for "camouflage".

The "cabinet" seat was in full view of our cook house! Poor old girl. The door now swings on its hinges with a notice – "Not to be Used by the Troops" –

The 23rd of last month things were becoming too comfortable to last long. I told you about our boudoir in the barn in a former letter.

Late that night I said something about it's being the 23rd with 23 francs in my pocket book and told a few of the "diggers" the Yankee receipt for Skidoo pudding (take 23 eggs and "beat it")

It must have been about three o'clock when it came like a tornado, Crash! Crash! Crash! bang! Crash! Bang.

Shouts of GAS! GAS! They're shelling the town! Shrieks of wounded and dying. Hell was turned loose.

In the flashes of bursting shells I could see men in their masks waiting their chance to dash from the barn door across the "cour" on to the open road leading to the wood. There was no need to look for matches or a candle. Even though a pitch dark night a flash from a bursting shell and I grabbed my trousers another flash and a rifle, and so on. It all seems a miracle how we go out –

Charlie Jones – Corporal Jones from Bananaland.

As I repeat his name Sapper Andy Townsley 10902 in the bed alongside says, "Not a braver man in the whole British Army." It was he who came back to see whether everyone had got away from the billet.

In spite of the "Skidoo" joke I was caught properly. Fancy waking up in a woman's little singlet (far more comfortable than the issue) that I had found in a deserted village and a salvaged pair of "froggie" pajama trousers.

[Sapper Andrew Townsley, No 10902, embarked from Adelaide on 31 May 1916 on HMAT A29 Suevic with the 11th Field Company Engineers. He returned to Australia on 19 October 1919.]

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