February 8th, 1940
Your letter of January 15th reached me today and I am answering right away. I always try to answer all mail that I get on the day that I receive it. Then I feel easy and I know that is that for a little while. The little souvenir that I an sending you along with this letter is , as you can see a copy of the program during Princess Patricia's Inspection and a history of the regiment. It is a trifle dirty I am afraid but that was because I had to carry it in my kitbag when we moved. I don't think I told you that we changed barracks last week. We are now in Delville Barracks and I have moved down to the officer's mess.
It is much handier for me and my work and they are a fine bunch of lads I am with now.
We had a general for lunch today so of course everything had to be just so. The general was a quiet, unassuming, one almost might say a meek and henpecked little man till looked at the decorations on his chest. That man has more decoration than Goering and let me tell you, that's a lot! He had five rows of ribbons on his tunic; 5 ribbons in 3 rows and 4 in 2 rows, 23 decorations in all. His name with all the abbreviations after it would fill the rest of this page and anyway, I forget most of them.
Well we had our first casualty today. It happened out at the ranges. One of the men who were practicing shooting got a jam in his magazine and the sergeant who was coaching him in tying to fix the gun accidentally discharged it. The bullet struck the concrete wall of the trench in which they were standing, bounced off, went through a corporal's pant leg, grazed his knee and struck Lt. Corey in the stomach. The poor man had to lie out there on the range in terrible agony for almost 2 hrs., waiting for an ambulance. He has had three blood transfusions but is not expected to live. He is a member of the Carleton York Regiment from Woodstock NB. and it seems that he has a wife and a little boy. He is only twenty three-four. And to think that I was playing baseball with him just yesterday afternoon. It seems strange doesn't it? How fragile and tender is the human body and how vulnerable to the attacks of Fate.
Two other of our senior officers are also very ill - not expected to live. Brigadier Pearkes VC etc is very ill with spinal meningitis and Major Molson has a blood clot in his heart. We are certainly being attacked by disaster from all sides at once.
I saw my first AA fire. (AA is Anti-Aircraft). Last night about 10 to nine I heard firing to the east of us. Looking up I could see peculiar-looking puffs of smoke in the sky. An officer told me that it was AA guns. This morning the papers mentioned that a German plane flew offer S. Eastern England at a height exceeding five miles so I guess that was what all the excitement was about.
And speaking of excitement you should have heard Lord Haw-Haw razz the British about the smuggling away of the Queen Elizabeth. Oh he was sarcastic! "What's the matter?" he asked. "Can't the wonderful British Airforce protect her from our brave German pilots? Is Britain afraid she will lose the control of the seas she is so fond of boasting of. Or perhaps she is afraid someone of our intrepid U-Boat Commanders will repeat the Ark Royal episode?" Boy he simply made me writhe in my chair with his sarcasm. And I'm not even British! Of course it is all propaganda but it is bound to raise a huge lack question mark in the minds of some people just as it is intended to do.
Will you please try and find out all you can about the Educational Scheme for the troops? You seem to know more about it in Canada than we do over here. I haven't been able to find out a thing. But I certainly wish I could get in on it. I want to take my BA in Literature. I think that is where my greatest interest and ability lies. I also want to learn typing so that when I come to write my book I can type it out instead of writing it all out.
I haven't received your parcel of papers yet. I suppose I'll get them tomorrow. I'm looking forward to seeing the Leader the pupils edited and I'll certainly write and thank Mr. Stephens. I'm glad the kids are going ahead. Surrey High will be on the map yet. Thank Mr. Mowbray and Mr. Davies for their kind thoughts and tell them I am enjoying my experiences immensely.
I got 3 letters from Sadie today as well as yours so I've got a lot of writing to do yet tonight and as it is nine o'clock, I think I had better close this one. By the way she mentions that Uncle Clarence has got a chance at a job as stenographer for some steamship company at $125.50 a month. Boy I certainly hope he gets it for if anyone deserves a break, he does. I've got my fingers crossed and I'm hoping with all my might. Send my love and best wishes to Dad will you please?
Bye - love as ever