K85260 Pte. James Baker PPCLI
1st Can. Div. Inf. Rein. Unit. CAOS
Dec. 26th, 1941
‘Tis the day after Christmas and all through the house,
What a groaning and aching etc., etc.
Well, Christmas is over for another year and personally I can say that I am rather glad. I'm afraid that I did not enjoy it very much, at least not as much as one expects to enjoy a great occasion such as Christmas. But what can you expect when we have to spend it in such a horrible place as this is? It is really terrible, so bad I can't possibly begin to describe it. It is so horribly dirty that it makes me sick. I have to wash about three times a week to keep my clothes anywhere decent. The blankets are terribly black too, you shake them and dirt simply flies out! I have caught ringworm from the ones I had. Got it in between my legs but have managed to get rid of most of it. And the medical staff are pretty awful too. The doctor for one thing is nearly always drunk and he doesn't know what he's doing half the time!
We had a wonderful dinner yesterday though. The cooks really excelled themselves and showed us that they really can turn out a good meal when they have something to work with: a fact that we have very much doubted heretofore, although in all fairness I must say that the average here is far better than in most places. But to get back to the dinner. First of all at 12.45 precisely we marched in the dining room and what a surprise! It was completely changed. Five great Christmas trees ranged down the centre of the hall - complete with decorations and ablaze with candles! The room was hung with streamers. The tables were decorated with crepe paper and orange paper napkins at each place. It really was wonderful to see what a change busy hands had wrought since breakfast.
When we finally all got seated - all 378 of us, the officers and sergeants began to serve us. First came beer in true traditional Army style. Then the dinner. Shall I make your mouth water with a list of the menu? Turkey - roasted with spiced stuffing. Pork - roasted with apple sauce on top. Green Peas, Brussels sprouts, baked potatoes and gravy. And on top was a stick of celery - a real treat to us. Then came Xmas pudding with brandy sauce followed by Xmas cake and coffee. Then we had chocolate bars and cigarettes given to us, and every man was given a parcel from the YMCA. Mine contained 2 chocolate bars and a tooth brush with tube of toothpaste in a tin container. But after that enormous Christmas dinner I was feeling so lazy that I just went back home to the barrack room, lay down and went to sleep for about an hour. Then we saw a concert over in the NAAFI. It was lovely. There were just five of performers: four boys and a girl...all about 22 years old. The four boys were members of the Royal Artillery and they really were good. It was just like a big party instead of a concert! They were so natural and made us take part in the whole thing just as if we had rehearsed together. Then we had another supper: cold pork, salad, baked potatoes, bread and butter, tea, Christmas cake and mince pies. Then we had a show (cinema) "The Oklahoma Kid". Then home to bed. I'm now listening to the program exchange between Canada and London and it really is funny. The boys here are simply splitting their sides!
By the way, I received your Air Graph letter today. December 4th to Dec. 26th....not so very quick! But of course it had the wrong address on it, so that delayed it. Notice my new address at the top of this letter. I expect I will be here at least two months so maybe it would be best if you use it. I am glad to see by the letter that my parcels arrived OK. - my telegram and my radio present. How did I sound? Was I nervous?
I got rather a break this morning. I was given a job as room orderly in the band hut. I know all the boys, they're all the old boys from the RAP. who are now members of the band. But I have to clean up the barrack room and then I am free for the rest of the day. It means more time to work and write letters and it also means more personal freedom which is a godsend to me! I hate to be tied in anyway, under any authority except my own and lately it has become a positive mania! I never seem to get any time to myself and I never seem to be able to escape from the Army for awhile: except when I slip away to London to visit all my friends.
I had a rather bad experience last week. I was doing PT. when I slipped and fell right on my arm on the concrete floor. It burst open right over the old wound and bled like anything. I suppose I might as well tell the truth. It has bothered me ever since I was discharged. As a matter of fact, it wasn't healed properly at all but I was so anxious to get out that they let me go. It was sore for weeks and of course when I fell on and burst it open, it really began to hurt. It has bothered me quite a lot. I have been to see the MO. twice and I am afraid that I will have to go back into hospital in the New Year.
Now please don't start worrying again. I know it's useless trying to make you stop once you've started so I'm telling you not to start. I'm alright.
I hope you don't think - from the sound of this letter, that I've forgotten all my ambitions. I haven't, but as long as my arm continues to bother me, I cannot possibly get back to the regiment and as I don't like doing fatigues in the mess-kitchen anymore than anywhere else, I welcome this job among the boys I know. I don't think it will last more than a month at the most.
Well, I guess that is all for now. Write again soon