King George & Queen Mary Victoria League Club,
January 13, 1917
I received your letter the last night I was at the guns. I was very much pleased and surprised to hear from you. Am glad to know that you are well and that you have not lost any of your old-time humour.
You may be a bit surprised to learn that I am in the land where they "compris" English. I must confess though, that the boy that directed us to this place this morning, had an accent not very easily understood. I expect to see the great 'Race' up here; they say that it is the closest on earth. We only arrived this morning after a twelve-hours journey in one of those queer and very uncomfortable English trains. (l really mean coaches or compartments.) We have already had two days in London, expect to stay in Scotland a week and then return to London for the remaining five days.
I only arrived at the battery from the base, had five days at the guns and then came on leave. Believe me, I was a bit nervous those five days. Every shell I heard I imagined that it was going to finish my leave for me. We were shelled heavily during this time too. Had three men wounded the first day I was there. They also put a bit of a barrage upon us as we were leaving the last morning and we had to take cover in an old culvert in the road.
I could just imagine every shell would spell disappointment for me. Shows, pretty girls, a year's pay, etc. etc. - all vain and hopeless visions. But I am here at last. We have had a good time and intend to continue.
We are going to visit the Castle this P.M. and I can assure you that although it may be historical and all that, I would prefer seeing Harvey Dickes' castle. And as to Charlie Adams' ice cream, well it may not be very good, but it is better than none at all. They don't know what ice cream is in this country.
Some of the food restrictions. No butter or even margarine while we were in London. No cream, can hardly buy chocolates, writing paper. A private is not supposed to pay over 1 s / 3d for a meal. Only one piece of bread at a meal; if you have soup, you can't get dessert, etc. etc. We soon "got wise" to them though, and we went to places where the prices are supposed to prohibit all but officers, and one can get almost anything at those places.
You see, we have had no place to spend any money for over a year, consequently the supply of that queer paper that the people accept as money over here, seems quite abundant.
I enjoyed reading about the "Bob" very much, and can picture Fred just as you described him. If you see him you may tell him that I will be writing to him soon. You certainly must be quite at home with Miss McKay, Miss Lindsay, Mrs. Copeland etc. etc. I have only seen Jack Brant once since I have been out here, but will probably see him when I get back.
I used to know a large percentage of those who skated at little 'Vic', but I suppose that as usual "The older order changeth" etc.
I must close now, hoping to hear from you again. Please remember me to any of the Smithville people you may meet in Toronto.
Wishing you all kinds of success, I am your friend,
G .M. Shrum.