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Date: March 30th 1916
To
unknown
From
Bernard
Letter

Thursday, March 30, 1916

This morning was beautifully calm & spring-like. At 9.30 we fell in for physical drill on the sun-deck under the direction of a jack-tar who is on his way home from gun-practice in Bermuda. We had just recovered our wind after a glorious leap-frog around the deck when the siren blew for boat-drill. After we were dismissed the crews were set at work practising swinging the boats out & in, and preparing the collapsible rafts. I returned to the sun-deck & watched for snap-shots. After dinner I got Huckleberry Finn from the library and went again to the upper regions to enjoy the sunshine. About 3.00 0'clock the tugs came, we weighed anchor and moved slowly through the narrows to the harbour where we found the Empress of Britain & the Olympic lying in the stream. We passed two cruisers on the way, our band struck up Rule Britannia and the sailors cheered lustily. The Empress was lined with troops - mostly Toronto batallions, we are told. The Olympic, having just arrived in ballast, gave us silent welcome. Docked again at the White Star pier. The trip through the narrows in the beautiful weather was a delightful change after our week of stagnation in Bedford Basin. Everyone was on deck which necessitated the cutting out of our 4.00 to 5.00 signal practice.

Friday Returned to the basin.

Saturday About 1.00 o'clock weighed anchor and steamed out of the harbour, bands playing "O Canada", Rule Britannia etc. A cruiser went first, then our boat, - 'the Baltic' - then the "Adriatic", with the "Empress of Britain" in the rear. The "Olympic" was at the dock and will probably overtake us. A rather thick fog hung outside the harbour which necessitated much tooting of sirens.

Sunday Had rather a squeamish night of it, and a squeamish day on top of it though so far I have not been actually sick. Spent most of the day up on the sun-deck, in spite of the fog which still persists. At 7.30 had a talk from a jack-tar on the Faulkland Island fight. He was on the "Inflexible"; is now on the way home from an instructor-gunner's course at Bermuda. Very good speaker.

Monday April 3. Had a very comfortable night in spite of the roll. Lost part of my breakfast though. The fog still persists. All we can see of the other boats is an occasional glimpse of the "Caernarvon's" masts. The "Caernarvon", by the way, was in the Faulkland Island fight. Her siren is a cross between bull-dog and hound. Am writing this in my bunk - just after dinner. I kept my lunch, and am hoping to keep what I have now, though the roll & toss are pretty bad.

Tuesday April 4 A beautiful bright day of scudding white-caps. Also the squeamishness is wearing off. Spent the greater part of the day up above rolled in my rug and reading "Richard Yea-and-Nay."

Thursday April 6 The days pass very uneventfully. The presence of so many troops limits the scope of our activities. To-day we saw the only ship we have seen since leaving Halifax - a three-masted schooner with every inch of canvas set, running before the wind westward. Have been doing some fancy rolling yesterday & to-day but all our bunch have got their sea-legs perfectly now. No one at our table has missed a meal yet, though I did with a roll & some coffee for one the second day out. There are six of us at table - Graham, Sutherland, and McCarter were "meds" before the war, Wood who hails from Kamloops was a School of Science man, and Skilling a 1915 Victoria man with theological intentions. McCarter is a Dawson City man. We make quite a cosmopolitan group.

Saturday All parades were called off yesterday, & orders were for all to wear life-belts after 9.00 a.m. this morning. We have just been met by four destroyers who are circling around us in clouds of spray - an inspiring sight.

5.30p.m. Have just sighted the Irish coast. 6.30 p.m. off Fastnet Light.

This evening our sailor friend Maddock, who told us about the Falkland Island fight gave us an account of the naval actions in the Dardanelles, in which he also took part. Very interesting indeed.

Sunday Up the Irish Sea, occasional glimpses of the Welsh coast. About 3.00p.m. took on pilots and entered the Mersey. The other boats docked ahead of us, however, & it was not till after dark that our turn came. Then we O.T.C. men found ourselves scheduled for the last train and were kept squatting or pacing on deck until after 1.00a.m.

Monday Spent the "wee small hours" curled up in the dinky little coach of the dinky little train that was whirling us to London at 50 miles an hour. I had a very good idea of what an English "coach" was like except for the size. Why, I nearly bumped my head on the roof, and stuffy! America might well learn from England in the matter of road-beds and safety, but when it comes to rolling stock--!

We were sorry not to have the whole of our trip across England by daylight. We were glad, however, to get what we did of the the beauty of the English country-side. The hedges have not yet put on their green conspicuously; but what we saw gave us a foretaste of what a few weeks will bring.

Reached London 9.00a.m. and came to the Imperial Hotel on Russel Square where I now write. After breakfast and a shave, Skilling & I hailed a bus for the Strand. The fair conductor showed her nervousness on the job when we asked the rate to the Strand, by exclaiming with delightful frankness and accent: "I haven't the faintest idea." S. Helped her out by suggesting a penny, which subsequent experience proves correct. The easy way in which she ignored her ignorance struck me as typically English

It didn't seem to phase her a bit to ask a man whether his fare was 5 d. or 4 1/2d. He was honest, and said it was 5 d. We got off at the Strand and walked to Trafalgar Square to pay our respects to the Admiral; then back along the Strand, past St. Paul's to Lombard St. where S. had some business to look after. We lunched thereabout, and blew another penny a piece to get back to the hotel by two o'clock. Owing to some hitch in the proceedings we were kept hanging around the Winter Gardens most of the afternoon. Porter & I went for a stroll and supped at an A.B.C. shop a few doors along Southampton Row.

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