We have not had so much excitement her as you seem to have had at home with the Zeppelin raids and the measuring of the beams of light from the tradesmen’s half-shut doors across the road; the boys think you are having a terrible! However, we are glad to see by the District Times every week that the boys of Bromley are rallying round the dear old flag; and doing their bit wherever they are sent, and with honours , too.
Since I wrote you last we have had a trying time. The heat here through the summer wants a bit of sticking – 120 degrees (1200F = 500C) in the shade; and the hot winds that blow fairly scorch one up, in fact, we are warned not to go out in the sun from 9.30 am till 5 o’clock. You don’t want to be out in it long before it has you groggy and then off to the hospital you go, with your temperatures up to 101o and over, and if they do not soon get it down you may reckon your number is up.
I think ‘A’ Company (Bromley) will be the best shooting company again, although – it has not been published officially yet.
During the hot weather we were not troubled with flies, as the hot winds drive them away. They can’t stand it, but the men suffered a good deal with prickly heat. Then we came to the Monsoon, or wet season, but this was not so terrible here as we thought it would have been. Of course, when it rains, it doesn’t stop to rain, it simply falls down. You can almost see the grass grow, and everything green, where a few days before all was bare and no sign of any growth at all. Then we are troubled with the insect pest. First of all there are millions of large ants come out of the ground with large wings for the size of their bodies, and after a few hours the wings drop off and they are crawling all over the ground, and they soon fill the room if you happen to have a light in the bungalows. But it’s marvellous how soon they disappear into the ground again when it begins to dry. Then there are the mosquitoes, which give you malaria if they happen to sting you, but thanks to our mosquito brigade – men who are told off under the medical officers to look after stagnant pools and dirty water round the bungalows – their breeding places are well kept down.
Another insect that was loved was the flying bug. This insect used to come out at dusk in thousands; you could smell them in the air; and you had to keep all doors shut where there was a light or the place would soon be swarmed with them, and they stink awfully when killed. There were also several swarms of locusts that looked like falling snow when the sun was shining on their wings. The boys killed a few snakes, from four to six feet log: amongst them were one or two cobras. Now we are in the cooler weather, and things are much more pleasant.
The whole Battalion went out for six days to a place in the wilds, and a very pleasant time was spent, although there was plenty of work to be got through. On the break-up of the camp we had to fight our way in against the Cawnpore Volunteers, who were up for training at Jhansi, some artillery, and native cavalry, and a very instructive morning’s work was got through.
This brought us to within a week of Christmas, and then everyone was busy getting the decorations ready for the bungalows in the spare time between parades. Everybody was bent on having a jolly good time this year, and I think they did; the bungalows were very prettily decorated. Each Company made its own arrangements for the holidays and the Christmas dinner, and there was everything anybody could want. The Mayor’s cigarettes hadn’t arrived, but were, I believe, somewhere on the way. (Throughout the war there was a cigarette fun organised by the mayor and the District Times, to send cigarettes out to the soldiers of Bromley.)
There were Battalion sports on the Christmas Eve, and the finals were finished off on the Monday. Christmas night each Company had a concert, which the officers attended, most of them also dined with the companies, and everything went off merrily and bright. We have had more amusements visit Jhansi this season than lost, in the way of cinema shows and variety artists travelling in India, and some good shows have been got up by the Y.M.C.A., while thanks are also due to the ladies, officers and civilians, for the entertainments they got up. They all helped to pass the long evenings.
There is plenty of cricket, football, and hockey, and shooting, and the people here are very good in lending the boys guns and taking them out for a day’s sport. Most of them have had a furlough, and have visited a good many places of interest, such as Lucknow, Cawnpore, Agra, Delhi, and up to a place in the Himalayas. This last is rather an expensive journey, and the (pay) they get a week don’t allow all to take that journey.
The boys also thank Mrs Cooper, wife of the late Captain Cooper, for the nice cakes she was so kind as to send out. They arrived for the New Year, and were quite a surprise. Princess Mary’s Christmas souvenir was also given to the troops and the native servants in Government employ.
We have just had the news that some of the boys who went from us to the Persian Gulf have been wounded, three of ‘A’ Company (Bromley), Anscombe, Hatto, Cheel, and Knott, while one (Barrow) has returned here to hospital with dysentery, but is recovering finely. Several time-expired men have left for home, and there was another batch to go a week ago. Glad to say that all the boys are keeping we, but we shall soon begin to dread the hot days again.
Hope the Mayor’s cigarettes haven’t gone down in the Persia, as they have not arrived yet.