10.05.1917: Bernard Moves House

Transcription:

Quirk Cottage

10.5.17

Dear old Dad.

 

What lovely weather! What heat! What a

life! So many thanks for your letters of 29; and

4, and the congratulations contained in the letter.

Please convey my thanks to Sisters Edward, and

Theitre. About leave, people in the squadron

are getting it again in order of their last

entry into the country. Three months must elapse

after entering the country before one is again

eligible, so that I am not eligible before May

27, and as things go now my turn may come

in June, towards the end I expect.

I am writing this on the verandah {sic} which we

have fixed up outside the “Stage” and have…

 

…just seen an interesting little incident.

We face East so that there is a line of six

balloons before me as I write. The Huns have

been shelling the middle one these last few

minutes. The first two shells went low, and left,

the last one was high and on, with the result

that the poor old balloon split in two and fell.

Two little Hun things fell out and dropped a

little way, with mushrooms looking things over

each, which swayed about, and opened out eventually

slowing up, and floating down very slowly. Parachutes!

About that letter of mine certainly let the queen

see it. It can do no harm and may interest

her a little. We accomplished our move

pretty successfully and now settled in…

 

…most comfortably. Ofcourse {sic} Robby, and I,

are fearfully busy fixing up the Cottage.

We have glass in the two windows. We’ve

painted the walls green. Tacked white fabric

over the ceiling. Erected a Verandah {sic} about

12 feet square outside, with green canvas top

and scalloped edging. It has a trench bowed

floor –(like green house gratings) – a wooden

rail allround {sic} with wire netting down to the

ground and flower beds all around. I started

this letter, sitting outside, at 2.0pm it is

now 8.30! To give you an idea how

difficult it is to get a letter written, I keep

getting called away to send up another machine,

to see a dud engine, rigging troubles, or do…

 

…a job of work myself. We are still working

at high pressure, and I can tell you I have my

hands full keeping the engines serviceable. The

mechanics are splendid, often working all night

I am afraid I’ve diversed{sic} again Iwant {sic}

to tell you about the garden. The sweet peas

came by lorry, & got dreadfully shaken up, so

that to separate them from the earth we had

to tip the whole issue into a pail of water &

let them float off. They are now planted out

& doing well. I went looting amongst the

& returned in a side–car full of perennials,

so that tonight the garden looks most settled

with rose trees, peonies – (bit of a nose drive

over that spelling)- and forget-me-nots. We have

got a puppy, a lady one, called Quirk who…

 

…is most unladylike at times in the cottage, but is learning better.

 

(sketch of view)

 

This is my view from the Verandah {sic}.  There is

a hedge in the centre foreground, an ?? bed in the

centre sky line, and a “split area” bounded

with trees on left sky line. The much stayed

town of A–. {sic} lies off the paper on left, and the

sausages are the balloons. The dots & things above

the sky line are bursting their stuff. On the right

are some trenches with wire this side of them.

The dinner bell has just gone so will continue

later. The bell by the way is a Hun gas gong!

 

Later   

 

It is now 11.15 pm. We had an excellent dinner,

starting with a thick soupe {sic} we went on to tinned

salmon hot with yellow sauce, followed by

hot mutton, mashed potatoes, and cabbage. Lime juice,

and whisky, helped wash down the dog biscuit. (Bread

once a week) –. a tinned fruit sweet followed

by dessert of nuts & oranges finished a record

repast. I doubt if a restaurant could do one

better. I am again sitting on the

Verandah {sic} but the view is changed now. The sky

line only is visible in the darkness, and the landscape

is lighted up at intervals by the vivid flashes

of our guns, and by Hun bursts. The balloons are

no longer up, nor can one see the swathe of the

battle field. It is all very weird with

lightening like flashes, and whining shells followed

by deafening reports which make the ground…

 

…tremble. The “key” lights keep up their ceaseless

rising, & falling, awhile every now, and then, one

may see a vivid flash in mid air from some

shrapnel burst but whether “ours” or “theirs” it is

impossible to say. Away to my right some

I must turn in, I’ve

got a shoot on, some ten miles over the line, tomorrow

I shall have an escort of scouts with me so it

will be alright. It looks as though it might

be dud tomorrow. I hope it is a day off would

do us all good. Cheer O. Good night.

 

Bernard

 

P.S. Can you send me an eye bath, a small

sponge, and a bottle of “Glyco Thymoline. “An

ALKALINE. ANTISEPTIC. EYE WASH.” I’ve borrowed

this lot from a “merchant” who hails from Egypt.

It keeps my eyes in better condition than that grease

you gave me. They got rather bad a week, or two, ago

very red on lids, and bloodshot. And were all glued

up in the morning so that I couldn’t open them.

Wind up. Thought I was going thick. They still scale

freely, and are generally a bloody nuisance.

 

 

 In this letter to his father Bernard describes his observations from the ‘Verandah’ of parachutes falling in the distance and the rattling drum sounds of training exercises being carried out. However, in between these familiar war scenes Bernard also reveals the more domestic side to his life at war. In careful detail Bernard tells his father about the work he has been doing to create a more homely atmosphere in his new lodgings at Quirk Cottage. Bernard decorates his new cottage and begins cultivating a beautiful garden from flowers he’s found in a bombed out village that was completely destroyed – a stark juxtaposition that underlines the danger and tragedy of war.

Not only do we here about the cottage and the garden, but Bernard also describes his dinner in detail which reveals more about what everyday life was like as a war pilot. Tinned meats and fish were an essential part of the menu for servicemen as it was a calorie rich form of sustenance that wouldn’t perish quickly. Whisky was also a vital part of daily rations. Alcohol was a necessity during the war to help boost morale and to give the men courage. Despite Bernard’s generous description of the food rations each ingredient served a purpose to provide servicemen with the essential nutrients and vitamins to keep fighting.

 

Dog biscuit – Also known as ‘Hard Tack’, a hard biscuit made from flour, water and salt. These biscuits were so hard they needed to be soaked before eating.

 

Key Lights – Signalling lights used for sending Morse code messages.