July 4, 1917.
My dear Mackenzie,
Got yours of June 9th two days ago. Got in alright from Dominion Day Sports - sounds like home, doesn't it? held by the Canadian Corps. They were quite good and ended with a ball game which was all that could be wished for in excitement. A long private came up and asked if I used to be a Grove master. His face looked very familiar, but I couldn't place him. It was Charlie Akehurst, now in the 47th. He's only seventeen, but a big fellow for his age - enlisted as a buglar but has never blown one yet. An old U.C.C. boy also introduced himself. I saw Hal McCausland in the distance. Also saw Gerry Wilkes at Sports a few days earlier, but didn't get a chance to speak to him.
You may speak of the difference in our present way of living, but I'd trade with you now. We're having a pretty decent time of it, and no thrills for two months, but I think everyone is fairly fed up. I'm a kid in the game and goodness knows what the old men must feel like. We're always getting lots of changes of scenery and conditions, not in one spot more than a week since we came out of rest. Am getting all kinds of trips for camping, cooking and firelighting. Our present headquarters measures about 14 feet by 7 feet, with sandbags al around, canvas roof, chicken wire beds - very comfy. Three of us sleep in it, and six of us eat here, and all Company business is carried on in it. Last night we had a nissen hut, and before that some old Bosche dugouts - stinking holes. By the bye, I often think a shower bath system such as we have might be adopted at the Grove. They are built of galvanized iron, or tar paper over chicken wire on a simple frame. We run off about 100 men per three quarters of an hour in these. They go in and strip - hand in old underwear, socks and shirt - bathe, get clean change and dress in that time. The waters is heated in an overhead tank. I think it would be great to have one, say in the end of the rink near the laundry, for the football season. Sweaty clothes could be left on a bar in the bath house to dry and boys could dress indoors. A pipe with a series of sprays are all that is needed. Sides could be of canvas or burlap on a light frame.
I think you would like the farms, gardens and orchards here. The french are very diligent gardeners. When in rest I watched Monsieur of my billet spend an hour one evening on a space about three foot square. It makes things look lovely, but would not do in spacious Canada. Oranges are easy to buy everywhere here and cheap, but we do long for the odd apple. I've had one since I got to France, but it was a mere excuse. You people at home seem smitten with the vegetable growing idea too. It's frantic in England. Here we have plenty of vegetables, but eggs are high - in both ways! Butter is unheard of. In cold weather coal and coke come up to the trenches with the rations and rum.
I think you were wise to raise the fees. I thought the high prices would force it on. What complications there are in life!
I should think Dr. Rigby would be quite a good man for Lakefield in many ways. It is too much of a good thing for you to have to handle both parish and school.
I saw in the paper the other day that Flight Commaner Douglas Hallan, R.N.A.S. had won a bar to his D.S.C. It said he had come over as a private in the Canadian Infantry. Its he the old boy of whom I've heard you speak? The old 93rd is shining. Two of our old subalterns have won decorations and now command companies. Our N.C.O's in France have all made good. Big Roy Coones is a Sergeant Major, has a decoration and is recommended for a commission, I hear.
Poor Milburn got it. He was one of the best and highly spoken of all through the Brigade. Hannaford too - a decent chap. Writing letters to the next of kin of casualties is a sad job and brings back, sometimes, heartrending letters. But one gets horribly callous. This war will strip life of a lot of useless old conventions, I believe. We'll live more downrightly, simply and sincerely. Language will probably - for a time - be more decorative, and manners more brusque, not to say rude, but these will wear off.
I've spun a long yarn now and must let up. I have a budget of mail to censor.
My best to all the family.