Being the only member of the unit capable of harnessing a horse, my job involved delivering more than just soup with black bead. For a time I was also a mail carrier. Parcels and letters periodically arrived at our command post, this needed passing on to the men.
Some distance down the road, two or three batteries had set up camp. The little two wheeled trap was loaded with as much as it would carry and I set off to find a large bridge. Men were stationed at the bridge. My first task was to find it.
Constructed of wood, the bridge spanned a river but I never got the name of it. Travelling around so much, I was never completely certain of where I was. If we halted close to a village or town, I would ask the locals but when out in the countryside I had no clue.
It was the tallest bridge I had ever seen; it went up, up, up into the horizon. When I found it, I answered the guard’s challenge with some trepidation. They didn’t know me, I could have been a saboteur, there were a lot of those around. Luckily for me, I was believed although I was made to wait for an escort. Even with a cart full of parcels those men did not want to take any chances.
“Wait there.” The guard commanded. “Wait until someone comes to guide you through the mines.”
I waited. I did not want to be shot and I certainly had no desire to wander into another minefield with my horse.
Eventually I was allowed to deliver the post. Next to a food delivery, receiving post is the men’s favourite thing. Many of the parcels and letters on my cart had been hanging around various base camps for weeks waiting for someone to make a delivery. I guess it was hard knowing where to send post during a war.
I received a very pleasing reception, all of the men were glad to finally get letters. Sometimes, if parcels turned up but no one knew the addressee, or believed that man to be deceased, the delivery would be given out to those with nothing. No one had very much of anything most of the time, and so, when something was going spare, it soon disappeared. No one felt bad about taking things addressed to someone else. As troops were scattered everywhere, with units moving constantly moving on, it was an accepted part of military life. Men died every day or, if they were lucky, were hospitalised or even discharged back home. Families knew it was virtually impossible for letters and gifts to find their loved ones but I guess they took comfort in knowing those small items brought pleasure to someone. I assume that all of the field offices did the same thing; it meant that everything got used, nothing was ever wasted.