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Letter, February 2, 1918

Trenches - near Camp Logan -

Feb. 2 - 1918.

Dear Mother & Father -

My experience of one week in the Trenches.

Monday - Jan 28 - 18. In afternoon helped to install some telephones & switchboards in different dugouts. And at 7:25 P.M. with all our equipment we started out to Reg. Hq. We were above ground there. We pitched out pup tents and made ready for the night. I and Corp. Mitchell slept together. It was very cold and started raining about 10 oclock. we went to bed then. I had on all my clothes except shoes. wore helmet, gloves and those heavy knit sox. I slept very good considering the hard ground and very warm too. At 4 am I was awakened and sent thru trench to Battalion Hq. to operate gas flare light for signaling. It was still very cold and still raining a drizzle like. This is Tue - 29 - you see Reg. Hq. is a way back from front line trenches almost 2 miles in a grove. It is screened off by a network of brush. a large trench leads from here to the network of trenches up to the front line of trenches. At Reg. Hq. is where all the mess tents are and they carry mess up to the men from here to front lines. The colonel stays here in a cement covered dug out. Which is proof against the largest shell made. There are three Battalions in our Reg. and each Bat. comes in for 48 hrs. trench life. They leave at midnight as the other one following comes in. Our signal platoon is keeping up lines - operating phones & other signal devices during full length of time our Reg. is in trenches - you see we have to stay three times as long as the rest of the men do. Well Tue morning I went on duty as 4 am. at Bat. Hq. Had to stay out side for 4 hours. There were no official messages sent. At 6:30 it was light and lamp not need any more so I went in dugout to warm up a bit. At 8 am I went back to Reg. Hq. got some cold beacon & bread for mess and at 9 am. went to sleep. I ate no dinner. at about 10 it started raining pretty hard. and slackened up about 2. PM. I got up about 3:40 and went to Bat. Hq. Dugout again. Stayed around there until 7: P.M. until I got supper. Then I was equiped with a ciphe disk - for deciphering a code message. An electric flash light board operated with a telegraph key for sending Morse code signals by light and a 10 inch pistol that shoots a 10 guage shot gun shell. This has rockets loaded in the regular shotgun shells - colors are white - green & red. We have a code we use. Well I was sent out to the company commanders post. With this equipment. and it had started raining again. The soil here is like chewing wax. But at this time so much rain had fallen that it was a sloppy mud over shoe top deep. Well I did not get lost in the dark but I did get covered with mud to above my waist. Did not dare use a light and out side co. com. Post dugout is a flight of earth steps. about 6 or 8 of them and they had worn down and very slick and as I did not see them I stepped right off and slid on my seat the rest of the way down in the mud and found myself sitting in the mud just out side of the stair way leading down in the dugout. I did not loose any thing, not even my temper, for I was already so muddy and plastered up I did not think it possible to get much worse. I just laughed at my own bad luck and learned by experience that there was a few steps there (as I hit every one coming down) and came on down in the dugout. The dugout here is not very large. About 30 feet long. 10 feet wide in one place. ceiling about 7 feet high. Has two stair ways. They are about 30 feet long each of them and the chute is so small you have to go down back wards. Each stair way has two gas curtains - to keep out gas & cold. dugout is about 21 feet under ground. walled up the sides & over head & floored with 2 x 8 and reinforced by 8 x 12 timbers. Telephone switch board for operator is at one end. There is a double bunk with one another double one just above where the officers sleep room for 4 men. A clerks desk in one corner and candles for light. Here is where I am now stationed. Most of my work is done at night. nothing in day time to do but sleep. As I have no one to relieve me - I am on duty 24 hrs. a day but they wake me up when I am needed to do anything. So you see I sleep most of the time down here in dug out. But Those poor fellows of the lettered companys that use rifles and stay the whole 48 hrs in the trenches sure have a tough time of it. They sleep in the mud and water - work day & night - sleep when they can and nearly freeze. I saw some sleeping in some of the most impossible places imaginable. That sure is hell. Covered with mud from head to foot. Tue. at mid night we got hot soup to eat. I had slept from 8 to 12. Wed. Jan - 30 - 18. after eating soup went to sleep again on the floor and woke up at 7 - ate beans & beacon & bread. all cold. Our dugout is in the 4th trench back from firing trench. I went to sleep again just after eating breakfast and slept to noon. during that time G. co. moved out and C co. moved in. At noon I got bite to eat and went out side. Sun shinging hot. Sky clear. trenches drying on top & sides but bottom just like chewing wax and about 2 inches deep. 2 P.M. while laying out side sunning myself saw a dense yellow fog coming from enemy trenches. gas attack. We all have gas masks. Was just ready to give alarm when wind changed and gas drifted over to our left and missed us entirely. Tear gas was used. 4 planes are flying around over trenches. Sun is very hot this afternoon. Eat supper at 5:30. Captain of C. co had some eats and gave me some as he is leaving tonight at 12. Being relieved by a co. from 2nd. Bat. Sleept from 9 to 12. Thur - Jan 31 - 18. It is now 12:30 am. C. co has moved out and E co. of 2nd Bat. moved in. I fired one rocket as signal that the change has been completed. going to bed again - sleeping in officers bunk. up again at 7:30 for mess. much colder this morning. Had a cup of rolled oats & slice of bread to eat. about 9 oclock. have been chasing around thru trenches. Saw Capt. Batie of Mch. gun. co. is from Quincy and a few of the fellows I knew there. For dinner had one slice of bread & one piece of meat - cold. at 2 P.M. wrote a little letter & started back to Reg. Hq. was given lots to eat there and signed pay roll in afternoon and ate supper at 5:30 with our sig. platoon fellows. when I am in dugout I eat with the company that is in the trenches in our sector. Our fellows at Reg. Hq. are getting fine eats all the time. Returned to dugout at 7 P.M. An old jew has been selling some pies to the fellows this afternoon and pies were discovered to be rotten - containing magets & such vermin. selling them for 35 [cents] apiece. The officers took him and some of his rotten pies and put them in the stockade. He is given water to drink and his rotten pies to eat. and when the pies are all gone orders are to turn him loose. His wagon was left out by the road. After dark a couple of fellows left dugout here and went over and turned horse loose - so he could eat and get away in case of gas attack and the fellows brot back almost a bushel of apples the old jew were selling for 5 cents for 2. Sure had all the apples I could eat for once and stored a few away. 12 oclock and still awake.

Friday - Feb - 1 - 1918 - 12:30 am. Received pass word from Lieu. Burns from Bat. Hq. Rec. it by code. I then went up to front line trench to sergeant in charge of barbed wire entanglements - sent up red rocket - followed by another red one a minute later. Returned to dugout and slept under clerks desk as it was the only place I could find to sleep. at 3:40 sent up two rocket signals - alarm for gas attack. went back to sleep & wakened at 5:30 up until now many of the fellows have been sent back sick. some so bad they were taken to Base Hospital. I slept all fore noon on officers bunk. at 11 the dugout being filled with commissioned officers rec. instructions from the French captain. at 11:30 rec. more shells for my pistol. at 12 got cabbage - potato & salmon & slice of bread. 1:30 returned from a hike thru our sector of trenches. very cold ang ground set and bottom of trenches like a cement walk. Dry dirt had been thrown in bottom of them making walking very good. Areoplanes flying over this afternoon. We have big pans they beat on for gas alarms besides the rocket signals I send up. down here in dugout - night and day are all the same. It puts me in mind of ground squirrels - I go running up out of this hole - sun myself on top of the parapets, hike back down again, looks comical. At 6 P.M. we had two meat sandwitches. 9 P.M. rec. cipher message from Lieu. Burns. 11 P.M. I co. of 3rd Bat. moving in. But a couple of drafted men could not keep up and got side tracked into another trench and were lost. 12 - French capt. Here and all worried over situation. Sat Feb - 2 - 1918 - 1:20 company found and placed. E co - just now relieved. Sure was some ball up. 2 oclock am. got a sandwitch. Jews apples all gone now. went to bed on officers bunk. I forgot - I sent up signal rocket at 1:20 when the company was all set. 9 am. wakened for breakfast. Had maccoroni soup. hot. It has been a drizzling rain since about 1 am and the men out in the trenches, their hats are covered with ice. ground covered with ice and trench very sticky. 9:30 went to sleep. got up at 12:30 PM. Had Hot mulligan for dinner - was very good. 1:30 P.m. have been around thru trenches. it is warmer - ice all gone but trenches very mussy. our sector has about 5 miles of trenches. It is now 3:30 Pm. am writing to you. I am letting telephone operator have a little rest. I have nothing to do so I dont mind as I can write & operate switch board all O.K. This is Sat afternoon and I am feeling fine. haven't been least bit sick at any time. These dugouts are very warm. Sleeping in pup tent & raining - right on the ground too - never made me feel bad. I have it the best of any one around here. don't have to go out only when I want to - can sleep when I want to - for I am called if needed only I have to stay here longer than the rest. I have sent a few flash light messages at night. I have shaved twice. Shaved last night about 10:30. You dont call a Capt. or Lieu. by their rank here. call them by their name. They dress like the rest of us - cant tell them from a private. we all wear our blue overalls & Jumpers. Our dugouts have code names. This one is enemys left - is Harry - on Enemy right is John. at Bat. Hq. is Paul at Reg. Hq. is Marguarite. So any one listening couldent get any exact information by listening to a conversation over the phone. The commanding officer at each place - who ever he happens to be is called by the name of his post.

Well it is now Sun. afternoon - I done some signaling last night before 12 and slept on floor and slept to 12 today. I guess we will get to go in Mon morning about 9oc. The new Reg - 130th are moving in now. They wont get all set until after midnight. Sun is hot and trenches dry and hard as a rock on bottom. I will be glad to get out of this hole & these trenches for I feel like a gutter rat. I want a bath and clean clothes so bad I can taste it. Havent had clothes off for a week now. I rec. your letter today. was so glad Bertha got to come up and see you. I guess I could enjoy a few weeks home right now with out a doubt. And what part of the army is Guy going into. This is the first I've heard of Guy enlisting. so tell me more about it as soon as you can. So the Old organ is moved upstairs at last. Well it belonged there long ago. The sweater Maude made me is plenty large for you know they stretch and the large ones get too big while one she made is just right now for I ant very big myself. I havent turned my map over to the officers yet and am so busy I can't possibly get another one made. Unles things change from what they are at present. Uncle and Aunt are living with Ethel and are going to I guess. And I haven't any idea if I will get to see Hoyt or not. Aunt hasent seen him for over 2 1/2 years and doesn't hear from him very often. Well Mother I have been so busy I haven't been taking any more pictures and haven't been doing a thing but study. I can't write now to any one but you, hardly find time to do that. Let them all read letters to you and hear from me in that way. but mother I simply can't find time to write to all as I know I should. If I did I would be writing a dozen letters to your one and I am sure any one of you have more time to write then I have. My folks will hardly write to me unless I answer every letter and some of the fellows here get 3 & 4 letters form the same person to one they write back. So please don't expect too much I will do best I can. And Bertha I expect you will be at home when this [ ] there and I will try and get some more pictures when I have the time. I got all the letters, one miles sent and all. If you can write don't waite for an answer from me. Well Mother I have to wonder myself if we will ever see France. we may and yet it won't surprise me if we don't. I don't care one way or the other. But be sure and tell me all about Guys exam and what for. This last week has sure been an experience for me. Something diff. from anything else ever.

Well I haven't heard anything yet from my application am hoping to hear from it soon tho. There is a new system I think that they use for Soldiers - making it possible to take first 3 degrees in one week - I hope so - if I am lucky enough to get that far. Well I will finish as soon as I get a chance to send letter which I hope will be Monday morn.

This is Monday noon. Just got in from trenches - still feeling as good as ever if not better - so glad to get back. Well I will send this now so you can get it as soon as possible.

Your loving son -

Paul B.

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February 1918