On 27 October 1915 King George V visited, but three days later all construction work had to be halted because the straw and brick supply had been exhausted. Back in August there was a note that men found taking bricks from demolished houses would be charged with pilfering. Perhaps understandably the relationship between the native population and the British Army were not always amicable and this may have contributed to the lack of raw materials. Relations were probably further strained when one of the mules goes missing overnight on 30th October 1915. Its non-appearance thereafter indicating that it had been stolen.
The chaos of warfare was also in evidence. On 7th November 1915 the diary entry says "An Australian learning to drive a lorry wrecked the motor ambulance car." Whilst on 18th November there is an air-raid. Presumably the troops are unhappy as well since "9th Division accused of being the second highest division for sick wastage". On 18th December 1915 having prepared refreshments for incoming troops "Tea and Oxo at Steenwerck wasted" as 8/Black Watch didn't want refreshing.
Things do not improve. The weather turns truly awful and the now infamous Flanders Mud makes its appearance in the diary entries. Comments such as "Everything is filling with water, mud is everywhere. Shelling nightly." - 5th December, "Mud and slush in the camp defeats us" - 6th December and "Horse line a horrific mire" - 21st December.
Albert, of course, mentions none of these things to his family > From the card at the head of the page:
"This is in the same village as the church and it was in here that I spent a day with Harold Stirling. The trains run along this street and the station is just round the corner. Save these cards for me and I will tell you more about them another day. I used to go backwards and forwards from the village where we were stationed to here about 3 times a week and I also went to the Picture Palace here." Dated 19th December 1915 - he could be on his holidays...
To his sister Alice he sent the church postcard with the message :"I have got you a brooch. I hope you will like it. It is a souvenir besides a present. I bought it near the firing line and got it very cheap considering. Hope you will keep the postcards. Look after them they will be worth it. I am in the best of health and always talking and thinking that we may get a few days leave in the near future. You never know your luck."
To his sister Elizabeth he says "This is a nice village and I think Harold spends most of his time here when he is not in the trenches perhaps you would show it to him. Wishing you the best of luck at your new job"
Harold Stirling survives the war and later becomes Albert's best man.
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