Letter from Gertrude Bell to Charles Doughty-Wylie written over two days from the 1st to the 2nd of February, 1915.
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My dear. The censoring of your letters at Jibuti is an unheard of proceeding - & for me most wretched. I think your letter of the 1-3 Jan. was opened. As I broke the seal – hastily, I do not waste much time in opening your letters – I had a suspicion that it had been broken already, even though I did not know until I had read the letter that that was probably the case. The next one I will examine much more carefully, being prepared. But the disappointment caused by a letter written inly for a possible censor was very bitter. Will that continue till the end of your time? I have no further news of your movements, but if you are really to be back in mid March, this will not catch you. That thought, coupled with the censor, cramps my style also. I’ve had rather a bad week, a struggle remastering fatigue, I don’t know why. Perhaps only because I had a cold. Anyhow I’ve felt miserable. But it’s better again, the fatigue, & the cold is gone, almost. One lives in such an atmosphere of sorrow & regret, its difficult to keep one’s heart high through it all. And on the bad days my own anxieties press too heavily – you & Maurice. He is not out yet & of you I know nothing. When you come you will want to see your hospital & buckle to some job; I don’t even know that you will have time to see me. Dick you must be vetted before you go into the fighting line. It would be [a] foolish waste to go out there unfit. Yes I know you feel that only to go is enough but if you come to fall ill at once, what good would it be? Elsewhere you might be doing useful work at which you could labour indefinitely – I do not know if this will reach you; of what use are warnings, restless anxieties? I cannot write tonight. I do not know how much I may say, lest it should be read, nor how much of what I have already said has been read. Col. Ponsonby, of the Scots Guards, has been in hospital here, with bronchitis. He came to lunch with us yesterday & has now been sent to Cherisy. Of all the Brigade, he & two others are the only officers left of those who came out in August. He has been wounded once, they have all three been wounded I think; the rest are gone, killed, prisoners or very badly wounded in England. That’s what it is like. They say the average time of an officer at the front before one of those things happens to him is a month. It’s an infernal war. He had been in the low trenches near Cherisy, in this last fighting. They keep the [?] trenches pretty dry, with pumping. At the worst they stand in tubs & lay outs, plunged in the mud. But the communication trenches they can’t touch; there isn’t time. And they get wet through wading down them knee deep, & over, in mud. The men still try to creep along the top to avoid the mud. They are always killed, every time; yet another does it next day – anything not to plunge through the hateful trench. I left the office at 4 yesterday afternoon, with Tiger Howard walked out to Wimeraux to tea with Major Armstrong at his hospital. I hadn’t been so far since New Year’s Day. He told us about the curious sort of frostbite from which the troops suffer. Its more a sort of vente securites, their feet & legs so tender that the merest touch is agony. He has never been able to watch a case through, for they are whipped off to England, but he thinks it will take weeks & weeks to cure, perhaps months. Sir V. C. writes from Port Said that the Viceroy meets him at Bombay & carries him straight to Basrah in his company – a bold move, may it be successful! No, I can’t write. I will go to bed. Oh Dick, oh Dick how long ago was happiness! I have grown so very weary of sorrow & see no other thing before me.
Feb 2. Your letter of the 7-8 Jan has just come. This won’t reach you & anyhow I can’t write. Enter the live world & the dream fades – isn’t that it? Goodbye.