It had been several days since Sheriff had last written home – he claimed he had been unable to write much because there had been ‘such a lot of notes worth taking’. But his description of the course itself suggests that he was simply enjoying himself too much to think about writing letters:
‘I have had one of the happiest times during the last 12 days – in beautiful country and pleasant companions, and a lot of interesting work to do – just the kind of work I am interested in – musketry – map reading and sketching etc. Hot summer days lying in the shade having the mysteries of some machine explained to you – sitting in an old French schoolroom having a one time Schoolmaster (now a Captain) lecturing you on interesting things – it is such a pleasant change from the humdrum Battalion work to have intellectual work and notes to take worth knowing.’
But now it was time to return to the Battalion – two of the seven men on the course (shown in a photograph which he sent with the letter) had already returned to theirs, and he expected the others would follow during the day. He did not know where he would find his Battalion, but he hoped they would be out resting somewhere, which might increase the chance of getting leave.
[In fact, the Battalion was a little way behind the lines, at Mic Mac Camp near Ouderdom, having moved back there from the front line just a couple of days earlier. Sheriff didn’t realise at this point that, while he had been on his course his Battalion had had a very difficult time in and around Messines, pounded unremittingly by the enemy guns. In one incident 11 men were killed and 28 wounded by the caving in of a tunnel, and over the two weeks since the start of the battle the Battalion had lost 30 men killed, and over 100 wounded. One of the wounded was his old friend Captain Tetley who lost a foot and was sent back to hospital in England, never to return to France.]
Towards the end of his letter Sherriff expressed his desire to be home in such beautiful weather, and wrote of how he envied his father his recent bicycle tour – ‘the old scenes of Kenilworth and other places of dear memory were very nice and I much appreciated them.’ He hoped he would soon be able to join Pips on such trips. As it happens, he would: as soon as he returned to his Battalion he was given two week’s leave, and he left for home immediately. His next letter from France would not be written until he was on the boat from Folkestone on 4 July.
[Next letter: 4 July]