K85260, Pte J. Baker
"D" Coy PPCLI
1st Canadian Division
January 25th, 1949
Well we were inspected by His Majesty the King today. I think that the best way I can describe it to you is to write down exactly what I have put in my diary.
"King attended by about 20 brasshats walked through the ranks escorted by Col. Colhoune. The King looks very tired and ill. He stopped to shake hands with every officer and also a few privates. He stopped right in from of our platoon to take the three hearty cheers which we gave him even though we were awfully cold from standing in the snow. Our Colonel was a very proud man indeed, strutting along beside His Majesty with a bit smile on his face introducing him to each officer in turn.
As I said before the King looks very tired and sad, as though he carried the worries and tribulations of the whole world on his shoulders. Indeed de does carry the worries of 1/3 of the worlds upon his frail shoulders. His face is pale and lined with sorrow, the eyes are deep sunken and overshadowed, but they glow with a strange inner light; as though they were looking far into the future and seeing horrible things. I think he realizes better than we do exactly what we are going into.
He was dressed in a perfectly-tailored field-marshal's uniform, khaki cap with red band, buff-colored great-coat, brown leather gloves, silver-tipped cane and hightop shoes.
His salute is very smart and military-like in its snap and precision. He seemed very pleased with us and congratulated the Colonel on having "such a fine, athletic, fit-looking body of men under his command!"
The King's limousine with the Royal Standard flying from the radiator went first - escorted by several RCMP on their motorcycles. The car was empty so we guessed that His Majesty must be walking through the ranks and it turned out that our guess was correct. The official escort composed of Staff Officers, press representatives, RCMP and escorting soldiers - all in cars, took about 18 minute to pass by us so you can see what a large retinue follows the King about.
You know, the King must get awfully tired of all these inspection-parades that he is called upon to attend. Everyone is exactly the same: a group of men dressed in khaki drawn up in three long lines standing stiffly at attention but with every faculty concentrated on one man - the King, alert to catch his every move, watching for a mistake, a glance, a smile, anything which they can talk about afterwards and treasure forever. And His Majesty must walk by, the object of the concentrated stare of hundreds of pairs of eyes. And yet he must appear natural and wholly at ease. He must appear interesting and expectant as though this was the first troop he had ever reviewed even though he is bored to death or sick of the whole thing. And why? Because it is expected of him, because it is tradition, because the dignity of the Royal House must be upheld: in short - because he is "the King". I don't think I would be the king of England for anything in the world *which you could offer me."
There, that is our inspection over. I hope you can see the picture. I've described it as best as I can remember it.
Please, if you are contemplating sending me any parcels, try to include some homemade cake and cookies. Also some candy. That is one thing that I miss more than anything else, your cooking. We get no cake with our meals and very little sweetening, so we are starving for it. I'd almost sell my soul for one of your hot gingerbreads right now.
We were issued with our tin hats and identification disks today. We are also beginning our tests, machine gun, trench mortar and anti-tank rifle so my guess is that things are beginning to move at last. Maybe we will wake up and find ourselves in France before we know it. It looks as though the rumour about Egypt was only a rumour after all. Our supplies have not arrived from Canada yet so we cannot draw underwear though we are desperately in need of it.
No sir "We are not going to make the mistakes we made in the last war ‘We're going to make an entirely new bunch of mistakes'" Imagine sending a division over without any supplies of any kind and especially no clothing except that in which the men stand up in. I don't know but "someone had blundered." "Ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do and die" so "Onward the Five Hundred." I guess that's all for now.
Lots of love as ever,
Your loving son,