LETTERS FROM THE FRONT
Alderville Indian Writes. (from France)
Mr., Moses Marsden, Alderville, has sent us the following letter for publication from his brother-in-law, Pte, R Franklin, who went overseas with the 139th Battalion, Our Indian soldiers are among the best in the Canadian forces, but it may be quite possible that the point of view taken by Pte, Franklin in some of his references was not general among the men of the Battalion. Be that as it may he writes interestingly of events in England and we pass his letter on to our readers:
France, January 31st, 1917
Just a few lines to let you know 1 received your letter last night dated November 19th, addressed to West Sandling but that does not matter as the news was just as good to hear now, only if you were killed back north, I would only just now have heard about it, and I sup- pose you were wondering why I did not make a reply to it. I have changed my address so much since 1 came across the ocean that the letters have a hard job to catch up to me. I will get them better now I expect as I am in the very distinguished labor Battalion of Canada. I am sorry I cannot explain in detail the line of work we do here but I will explain it at great length when I come home, as Alex did, and when I get up on the platform at Alderville Hall, I will deal out a line of 'bull' equal to what Jim Shippegaw used to give us of his great travels back north. Quite often, when I go to sleep I travelled back to Alderville and picture things that happened and meet you fellows in my dreams, only to wake up when the Sergeant says 'Shake a leg, boys, the tea is hot and I have given you ten minutes already.' So I get up disappointed because my good dream was spoiled, but I can't blame the Sergeant as he is up against the military rules as well as I am. We have good officers, they do the best they can for us. That is what I could not say about the 139th fellows. You asked me about our friend Floyd. He was at West Sandling when I left. When he gave us his farewell address he asked if any of the boys on parade would give him a set of badges and there was not one stepped out and he did not get a cheer from his Battalion, although he felt pretty bad as he wiped the tears from his eyes when he said good-bye to his Battalion. I guess he was ashamed of himself as he had as good boys as any that came overseas, only they were not handled right, as six days after we got there, the new officers turned the whole Battalion loose on a six day pass to London and they all came back to a man. Why could not Floyd done that at Valcartier, and his boys would have stuck to him, He is now on the Board of Enquiry at Sandling and our friend Grant is in charge of the guard at Ashford, England, Another cold-footed man, I grit my teeth yet when I think of what he said to us at Valcartier when he played the National Anthem after the route march to St, Catherines. Fred Mitchell was turned down for a weak heart, but not discharged, Al Frederick was classed B, the same as Mitchell. Charlie Davidson was pronounced fit in spite of his eczema and worked his ticket in the 36th Band as an alto player 3 and 4 at that. It was amusing to see the maneuvers of Fred Stillwell. He first got turned down because he had pleurisy one time and had a scar on his back where they operated on him. The next board marked him fit, so I do not know whether he was sent in a draft after I left or not. I would like to tell you about the other fellows but space and time will not permit. I wrote to Nellie the other day and have since received one from her written January 4th.which made better time than yours did. It was too bad about the Campbellford Shell Factory burning down as that was a good place for a lot of our boys to work. I was over to the village not far from here the other evening and there is a lot of Indian cavalry resting there. I got talking to an Indian corporal. We had quite a time making one another understood what we wanted to say, but we managed pretty well. I was a jolly fellow and was very much interested when I told him I was an Indian from Canada. He said I was the first he ever saw and would have liked to know more about our race, but we were handicapped on account of our language. He learned me how to say 'good day' and I taught him ours. They are excellent horsemen and I would give one hundred dollars if I had teeth like them. I can't tell you anything about our boys as I am the only one here from Alderville, and George Killick, our drummer, is the only one of the band in this Battalion, and he is in a different billet from me. David Orrick from Colborne is a 139th man in the same billet as I am. We can talk about Colborne once in a while. He got a letter from home saying Ike Marks was in the shell factory at Belleville, Ontario and his wife still drawing separation. I could not see how that was. If you hear any news of our boys in England or France let me know about them as I do not get any news of them here. Jim Campbell and John Cowan were transferred to the Boy's Battalion, Compare their ages with Noa Smokes' and tell me what you think of it. France is a nice country. I have seen some beautiful Percheron horses. This is their home. They drive them one ahead of the other here on great big cans and some have one line and others have no lines and sometimes the farmer rides the head horse and leaves the back one to himself. He can draw some if he wants to or take it easy, but when his driver begins to talk cross to him in French he knows what is said and gets busy. They are very intelligent horses. There are quite a lot of Jackasses here, the farmers use them mostly for drivers. Of course I do not mean myself, but they look funny on a big cart. I see quite a lot of ducks in pond holes around here. Makes me itchy for my decoys, because I could do something to a wild duck roast. I guess I will close now as it is getting too dark to see. Answer soon and often. Remember me to all inquiring friends. Excuse poor spelling and grammar. I would like the war to be over in time to go to the North West together for harvest and then I would be done running around for the rest of my days. I am going to live in the hopes of a chance but maybe will be satisfied to even get home safe.
So good-bye again, old boy, from as ever,
214584, 1st Canadian Labor Battalion, France.