Noel Downing to Mary Letter, Mar 1915

Letter from Noel Downing to his sister Mary Downing  – Mar 1915. Noel has moved out of the billet in Ashtead with Mr and Mrs Drew and is in the newly constructed huts in the military encampment in Woodcote Park. He has rented a room outside the camp to keep possessions etc. 

"The Great Fire" by C.E. Cundall. The Pow-Wow, the Unofficial Journal of the U.P.S. Brigade, No. 15, 12 Mar 1915

“The Great Fire” by C.E. Cundall. The Pow-Wow, the Unofficial Journal of the U.P.S. Brigade, No. 15, 12 Mar 1915

Please excuse the awful scribble but I have no time to go over to our room.

Woodcote Park, Epsom

My Dear Mary

Thanks very much for your letter. Anything in the food line will always be acceptable here, but please don’t go out of your way to send things as we can always buy, but of course it is expensive. I don’t think eggs will be of any use but some butter now and then would be very nice. The latter is very scarce here. Please do not send a lot of things together as there is nowhere to keep them.

We have had no more ‘spotted dog’ up here yet, but an awful thing has happened in Ashtead. A lady down there developed it on Sunday & died on Monday.  She was a very great friend of Mrs Drew. I went down to the billet on Monday evening not knowing anything about it and found Mrs Drew in a dreadful state about it. She almost collapsed when she spoke to me. It is very awkward for me to know what to do now. We feel we ought not to go there now for fear of giving it them. It seems such a weird complaint and no one knows how it is spread. It does not seem to be caught from other people, because when a man gets it no-one who has had anything to do with him ever gets it. They begin to say now that it is the work of German spies, who poison the water. It has started in nearly every camp in England I believe.

Things are much more pleasant up here now as we have some fine weather & there is therefore no mud. No, I have not got the room with any of the others from the billet. It was the brilliant idea of a man from my section. He is an awful nice little man who comes from Worcester & we get on very well.  It is his birthday today & he has had vast quantities of food sent him.

We are doing a lot of night work this week. On Wed. we are out all night marching to Reigate and coming back in the morning. If it is fine we shall have quite an amusing time. I have seen Jabey again.  I went up to Town on Sat. and stayed the night with Bots & we all three had an evening together. Jabey was in great form and took us off to a night club. We arrived home at 4.30am after having had one of the most amusing evenings. Jabey has not changed a bit and rags just the same as ever.

Did I tell you I had had a long letter from Wilmot? He was very funny about Ernest. Ma said she has sent me the paper about his wedding but it has not arrived. I suppose it was the money that attracted him. I did not think Ernest would do a thing like that, tho’ I have marked all my army clothes which I now find is “an offence against King’s regulations”. Can it be washed out in any way? Discipline is very strict up here. The amount of things one may not do are without number. But in the army the chief offence is to be found out. You can do what you like as long as you cover it up. “Right or wrong stand still it may not be noticed then”, they always tell you. You are not supposed to keep anything except what is supplied to you, but you can keep anything you like in your kit bag as long as no-one sees it.

I was so sorry to hear that Auntie Louie is bad. I hope it is nothing serious.

I enclose a copy of our paper. It is quite funny in parts. The fire they refer to is the one that burnt down the 20th Batt. officers quarters.

We are just off for some night operations, how do you like yours now.

Yrs Ever Noel