Capt GS Andrews, RCE,
H.Q. Cdn Corps,
Canadian Army Overseas.
England, 14 Sept 1941.
Back again today noon after a week's leave in the big City. Had looked forward to there being some mail waiting for me, but none has come in, that makes two weeks now without any Canadian letter mail, so there should be something soon. Your last mail or rather letter of the 10 Aug. came addressed directly here, so in future that should have a couple of days delay .
Don't know just where to being in describing our activities of the past week. One thing, it was by far the most expensive leave I have had, and of course, I should have known that it would be. Everything seems to cost about double in London, and when you are meeting friends and new acquaintances, you have to keep your end up. We found very satisfactory accommodation at a club, the English Speaking Union, centrally located, in Charles Street, Berkeley Square. It was sort of an old ladies home, like Cherrybank, remember?, but it was quite unmilitary in its atmosphere, only one other army officer there, and a couple of naval officers. We had breakfast there each morning, and were in most nights before midnight.
First night, we had dinner at Prunier's, a high class French restaurant, and it cost us a quid each, and hardly anything to eat. One dish I selected was smoked eel, it was stringy and tough, and no better in flavour that a kipper. However, we life and learn. It was the kind of a place where a dinner for two, with wine, could easily cost up to $30.00, and you would come out neither stuffed with food, or tipsy with drink. However, it was interesting, and broadens one's concepts. Saw a couple of shows, one real fleshy vaudeville, and a very good play, Noel Cowards "Blithe Spirit". This last was very good and typical of Coward, both original and daring, and spiced with cynicism. We met Coward last spring, he came up to the senior mess of Cdn Corps, and a lot of us were invited to the party. Saw one movie, Disney's "Reluctant Dragon", which was quite interesting, although not as good, in my opinion, as his earlier full length features.
As Hammond was anxious to see a bit of Scotland yard, I got in tough with Mr. Howe, Uncle Alfred's friend, who is a big shot there, and he certainly fixed us up. A special officer was detailed to look after us, and it meant being in tow for two days, and two nights. We were looked after just as royally as tho we were chiefs of police of some foreign country. Saw all through the yard itself, and spent a morning going down the Thames in one of the fine new launches of the Thames Patrol. It gave us a wonderful perspective of the blitz damage which few people have had the opportunity of seeing, all down through the East End, where the raid was most severe. A whole afternoon was spent in the Chief Inspectors special car, on a tour of the east end, and the blitzed area around St Paul's. Believe me, it makes one do some thinking. It is an awe inspiring sight to see that magnificent and enormous cathedral standing, intact, scarred, it is true, but standing in triumph among a chaos of devastation. It is as though the heavenly hosts had formed a guard on that awful night. It stands all the more triumphant, since new perspectives have been opened up all around it. (This is Tuesday night, and some interruptions have occurred, also I picked up a bug in town, evidently, which would like to develop into a cold, but its not having things all its own way, and tomorrow I should be OK). Although the destruction to a business premises and the financial loss must have been terrific in the "city" as they call that section around St Paul's, the most grievous sight is the huge areas of workers homes in the east and along the [?] it makes one think some pretty deep dark thoughts, as it was the Nazi who started this type of war. Where these humble homes have not been knocked flat in large sections, there are streets and streets of homes, standing, but blasted out, windows gone, doors blown in, furniture and fittings smashed and in ruin, and the people, --gone. Not all killed, some evacuated to the country, others crowded into hostels, and others sleeping in the tube stations. When one adds to this Rotterdam, Warsaw, Coventry, where death totals were enormous, there can be no doubt, no uncertainty, no hesitation or reluctance, the bloodstained monster must be hunted, caught up, and struck down, and his brood of bloody whelps, who have sided and abetted, and who would imitate him, must also be brought to earth.
During the two evenings, following these interesting days, our escort took us on a tour of some of the odd dives in Soho, the famous foreign quarter. Here we saw some strange people, living strange lives, but for all that, human. This was a bit expensive, because Bert and I stood the drinks and meals, which after all was a trivial outlay for the unique experience. We gained in this way, an entrÃ©e into places which could be absolutely closed to strangers, even if known. We had some wonderful meals too, one little Italian Swiss chap made us a banquet out of what seemed to be nothing.
Have my eye on one or two more prints, but will have to get them later. However, I did get some more postcards for Mary. Also got my cost, which is a good one.
Yesterday, your letter of 24 Aug. came, and with it, fortunately, the carbon of 17 Aug., so once again the sequence is unbroken. Maybe the earlier letter will get here eventually. These were very interesting letters, covering as they did, your Mother's and Helen's visit. Sorry they could not stay longer, but perhaps Chris can come up later on, when the rush is over. I also had a nice letter from mr Orchard, and one from Dave Carey, and one from Bill Hall, who continues to be working hard, and usefully, and I think he likes it out there. I asked Mr Orchard to send one of my stereoscopes, which arrived safely today. It is better than anything new have seen here, and should cause some interest. The Lands Dept seem keen to help out in this way, and it sure gives me a fine feeling to know that they are backing you up in what we have to do over here. My contribution to swinging this war the right way, seems fearfully indirect, and sometimes I wonder if it wouldn't have been better to have tried to find other work, but deep down I do believe in my work, just as much now as when I first knew I would be coming into it. Perhaps so far my chief contribution has been to influence certain trends, and this sort of thing is rather intangible. Maybe it will all add up the right way in the end. Do what you think best regarding the phonograph, and get the good one if you get one at all. It is something we shall went always. Too bad about the misunderstanding about Lorne's, am inclined to advise you to return the Records, if they are worried about it at all, but I shouldn't want to offend them, after all, older people have to be indulged in just a little.