April 4 /18
Dear Mrs. Thornton,
I have been intending to write you ever since Capt Thornton went to France but it just seems as though my relations take up all my time for writing. You will know by this time that I have been down here since the last of October, after a five months visit with mothers sisters. They live in the north of England and of course were very anxious that I should remain with them but the call to work was too strong for me and I felt that I should be doing something. So I came down here and up till three weeks ago have been staying with Capt & Mrs. McTavish (he was the 78th paymaster) During the winter we saw a good deal of your son , Co Holman, Capt Bryan, Thornhill and a few others but now they have all gone back to the battalion and it is very lonesome without them. Capt Thornton had Xmas dinner with us and then on New Years we had the four 78th boys and really it made it very jolly for us. The boys knew they were welcome at any time and if there was any "pie" going it had a hard time to hide. Capt Thornton spent his last evening with us and I must say he was looking well and when he went off - as cheerful as could be I was very proud of the boys who went back this time - because you know I feel as though I had some sort of claim on them - and if you were here you would understand that the "real" boys don't want soft jobs while others are giving their lives for us. Of course if I had my way I'd let all those who have done their bit take a rest but those are the very ones that are needed in the struggle - the boys who know - so we just have to leave it in other hands and trust for the best. After Passchendael Nelson had charge of the battalion & was made Leiut. Col, so I was very glad to see the old boys going back to him. Having been away five months I don't think anyone expected Col Kirkcaldy to return but however we went back last week & that means several changes. I can't honestly say that I am glad, because things were going along so smoothly, but it is the fortune of war which we must all accept. Last word I had Capt Thornton was second in B Company to Major McSwan a Winnipeg man, but they seem to change so often he may not be there now. Nelson had planned to give him a month at a school but of course he hasn't the [?] of it now. We are passing through a serious time just now but so far our boys have held their own and we must trust to Him to take care of them. Sometimes when we hear the guns pounding away I feel as though I must go over and help - but all we can do for them is write cheery letters & not expect many answers! Nelson was over on leave in January - just came the day Gordon went back - and we had a week in London together, but it seems very short. This is the third time I have seen him off to France and each time it seems harder to see him go. Then I get to work as fast as I can and that's the only cure for heartache and loneliness.
Did I tell you what I am doing. I am in the Y.M.C.A. canteen at Sandgate for five days a week and the other two I spend at the hospitals. I think I have found all the 78th boys around here and how I enjoy doing something for them. Of course as I visit round I always add some to my list and there is little time to spare. There is one boy in the hospital who is blind boor chap - his name is Woodfield & his people live on Cathedral Ave in Wpg. he is such a nice chap and so cheery - they are trying to give him a chance for one eye and I hope they succeed. It seems such a terrible pity to lose their eye-sight, but they are all so brave we must admire them. The boys who are able often come to the canteen for a chat and you may be sure if I see a 78th badge I don't pass it by. There are dozens of Winnipeg boys here and quite a number of the new army too. I was up at the reserve last week and saw about four hundred of them - a splendid lot of fellows who will surely be needed.
Since I came to this house - which is a private hotel with 12 guests - I have not had to do any "food-hunting" as I just handed in my meat, butter & sugar card and let someone else do the hunting. You'd laugh to hear us wondering if our butter was going to last. Last week I had four boys to tea during the week so I had two "butterless" days at the end of it. But we don't mind - only I love to get my sisters parcels from home. So long as we get plain food we can't grumble, but I'd just love to drop in and have a "real" dinner at home. Now my dear lady I must close - I hope you are not worrying too much about Gordon, its very hard I know to keep bright but they need all the brightness we can give them - that's our part in this war. I have written Gordon twice, just a cheer-up note - and I know he is well so - trust in Him for the future and keep busy. Give my love to the girls and may we all soon get "Home" once more.
Laura E Simmens