Dear Mum, Dad, and Ellie,
I am writing this from where I am waiting for the arrival of my regiment's boat. I'm finally going to see France! I can't wait. If I'm lucky, I will be stationed near Paris. I've heard a lot about the 'City of Lights' from the others in my regiment. They say it's just as busy as London, but with lovely weather and beautiful women. I do hope I get to see it.
The train ride down here was mostly uneventful. The cars were full to the breaking point- I'm surprised people weren't being seated on the roof or hanging out the windows, there were so many Tommys on the train, all headed with me off to France. I will always remember the odd look given me by a couple of old men on the platform just before the train arrived. 'Shouldn't you have left two months ago?' asked one. 'I don't know,' I answered. 'This was when I was told to leave. I guess they didn't need me.' I laughed at this but the old men didn't. 'You were lazy about signing up. You should have been first in line to go off,' said one. 'They didn't want him,' said the other. 'Look at him. Second string material if ever I saw one.' The other just snorted. 'At least he's off now. Better late than never.' It hurt to hear those men I had never seen before insulting me. I am doing what my country wants of me by going off to war, following the orders of Lord Kitchener (who will be at our departure ceremony tomorrow, by the way), and total strangers are insulting me for not being good enough. Ellie, you were there when I went to sign up, weren't you? You heard the officer tell me that they didn't need any more men at the moment. Too many applicants, he had said. It's not my fault I'm two months late to the war.
Anyway, while on the train down here, I was seated beside a fellow named James who turns out to be in my regiment. We talked the whole ride down here. He is from Manchester and was amazed that I could be from a village that had only recently had a telephone put in and to whom electricity was a new convenience. He has had these things all of his life, and can think of no life without the comforts of modern living. We ended up spending the whole ride down here chatting about the latest sport- eventually encompassing nearly everyone in the train car in the discussion! It seems nearly everyone had an opinion on this team or that sport. By the end of the ride, we all knew each other well and each man considered the others his comrades the minute we stepped onto the platform here.
We are currently housed in several old hotels until tomorrow when the boats come for us. The officers are staying in the summer house of one of them. I can tell you, I would not mind at all to be able to walk around a dining hall filled with soldiers and have them all stand to salute when I walk in. But I'm getting ahead of myself- first I have to fight the war, then I can get promoted. Things would be much easier if that were reversed!
Anyway, I am excited to be doing my part against the Huns and I hope that all is well at home. Mum, I already miss your brilliant cooking.