Somewhere in France
Mrs. Henry Johns,
It is with great pleasure that I can still write you a few lines from France. Received two letters from you this morning dated December 28 & 31st, and needless to say, I sure was more than delighted to hear from you.
As for myself, I am still enjoying my usual good health.- Never felt better in my life. Would you believe it, I have never been sick one single day since I left home and hope it continues to be so. It is marvellous, how the health of the troops is maintained over here, despite the fact that we go through so many hardships; For instance, the wet weather(which is frequent over here) the mud, cold and no shelter while in trenches besides various others too numerous to mention.
In regards to the questions asked in the letter Dec. 28, I did not help bury Earle. The reason is this, as he was with the snipers (head quarters) back in the Support line for the trip, while I was in charge of the Bombing section in the line so could not leave my post. Earle & I were always in the Bombing section together until he transferred to the snipers for different reasons and were "over the top" in bombing raids several times and both of us were lucky. As mentioned in first letter, he was instantly killed by a shell exploding beside him back in Support line about 9 in the morning if I rightly remember. Then the word was brought up to me in the front line( because we were such fast chums) about 3 oclock in the afternoon. And mark my words I felt it keenly and pictured us in the past & our intention in the future, but alas all were shattered. He was buried that night by some of the other snipers of his section and from the fact that our own Bn. preacher was on leave, the chaplain from another Bn conducted the ceremony, but now is removed to other Division and could not find out his name, as I never heard it. However I should be pleased to find out any information possible.
I have since visited his grave twice - a nicely shaped mound among many fellow comrades who sacrificed all. It was decorated with a few wild flowers we could find, and besides a neatly constructed tomb piece erected some thing of this nature. Across the centre piece is the Words Pte L E Johns #654 etc. Then in circular part is the words 58th Battalion Canadians. And Below on upright is Killed in Action & date. while the whole stands on a square base. The whole thing is painted white and the words as described are painted black. It is exceedingly pretty and to all 58 men buried a similar one is erected. . Of course different Bn's have different desaigns.
Although you and the family may never have the opportunity of viewing it I have given a few details and shall describe it all fully and our experience when I return, God willing it to be so.
Yes, I received a very delicious parcel from some time ago and answered by letter. Also have had three others which were readdressed and sent, all being in good condition. The socks, underclothes, mitts are sure appreciated, while equally as well, the delicious eats etc. Although I know I should share part had Earle been living, yet it seemed to say, or something kept gnawing in my mind that I was appropriating other property. However I under stood the circumstances and now I know for sure. And many thanks I'm sure you can't imagine how we are delighted to get mail & parcels from Canada be it from various communities.
In regards to weather, it has been excellent for the past three weeks - very clear & bright by day but chilly & frosty at night. Much different from a year ago. So you will be witnessing good old Canadian Winter I suppose. Oh! for a ride in a cutter, the jingling bells, skating, hockey etc which makes Canadian Sport so grand in Winter.
By the way, I suppose you will be wondering what the particular kind of writing paper means. I have forgotten whether I mentioned it before or not. However I shall roughly outline the idea. A new Educational scheme has been started in the Canadian Corps and is called by a technical name " The University of Vimy Ridge." Its object is the preparing of men for their return to civilian life. That is to better equip the individual in technical & Vocational Education upon his return to Canada. Libraries & reading rooms are being established with every unit as far as possible along educational lines. Lectures are being given along various branches to brush up as it were in the different trades of life. For instance agriculture, Business Efficiency, Applied Science and Civics.
Now I happened to be lucky enough to be picked for one to lecture on the Agricultural branches. So far I have been in connection with it for over two months & like it fine. If I can hold down the job, it means , I do not go up the line, or in short, finished with Trench life and a sort of Bomb proof job.
Am lecturing every day to various classes etc, besides running a library in connection. It is a grand scheme and will and is doing good work for the Boys, but especially during the months of demobilisation.
In regards the people at home, we are all living, two brothers & two sisters. One sister married and living near Blyth while the other other sister is a milliner in Toronto. My oldest brother is teaching school near home while my youngest brother is still going to school. Our home is two miles east of Brussels, so if you are up that way the folks would be too pleased to have you call, as they have pictures of we two, souvenirs etc and I always mentioned Earle's name.
Hoping this finds you all enjoying the best of health as it leaves me, I will close hoping to hear from you again.
Your Sincere Friend
Corp. R. H. Hoover
# 654881 A Co. 58 Bn.
P.S. Am enclosing one of our library cards in connection with our scheme one of which we give to each person who used the books etc. As the books are numbered we put down the no. in the squares, fill the card, he takes the books & when returned, stroke off the no. and he takes the library card with him & so on until card is filled.