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Date: March 1st 1917
Robert Affleck
Pte. McFarlane

Convalescing at Epsom

With 4,000 Other Canadians - Pte. McFarlane Says Canadians Are Best Soldiers

Writing from Epsom to Robert Affleck, acknowledging receipt of tobacco, Pte. McFarlane says:

I received the parcel you so kindly sent me, and you do not know how your kind remembrance of me settled forever a question that has been bothering my mind for the last few days.

Recently in going through London, I noticed at the station, in the tubes or at the street corners, wounded soldiers - some of them having earned that much coveted honor, the Victoria Cross - selling matches, lead pencils etc., for a living. To a Canadian it looked like a queer state of affairs, but we must not judge harshly. We must endeavor to try to understand military conditions as they existed before war and since. Every nation under the sun has its percentage of ne'er-do-wells, we in Canada nor excepted. Over here these invariably find their way into the army or navy. The pay they received - a shilling a day - appears to us deplorably inadequate, but the opening of hostilities brought men into the army from every walk in life and Fritz's shells are no respecters of persons - the rich or poor, good or bad soldiers - share alike. I fully believe that aristocracy of this country are awakening to the fact that the man who has laid down his life upon the battlefield or on the high seas has given his all to King and Empire. The man who returns covered with honorable scars, or limbs gone, no longer permitting him to follow his vocation, has lost as much and more than had the rich man lost his estates.

I think many of the rich realize this fact and are voluntarily giving up for war purposes the forests which heretofore sheltered game, the hunting of which was their exclusive sport. They are now plowing their golf links and grouse preserves, fully realizing that their country requires them, and that a loaf of bread made from wheat raised on this land is much more to the hungry poor than a shot at a bird or hare would be to them.

Mind you, I do not wish to convey the impression that England is short of food: far from it. We eat here four times a day. But the more foodstuffs raised here the lower the price must be, and the rich realize that so long as they keep their broad acres cultivated they are not doing their fair share.

Forgive for thinking for the moment that Canada might forget the unfortunate amongst those who filled the gap, and you might pass by on the other side. Your kind reminder has nipped that thought in the bud.

The Canadian soldier is undoubtedly the best in the world, not only officers but rank ad file. The Britisher doesn't understand us. He says we lack discipline.

During the Boer war the Canadian soldier always advancing - never retreating - instinctively taking advantage of every inch of cover, was a revelation to the British Tommy. So in this war the Canadian exhibits a spirit of self-reliance which stands him in good stead in the trenches. He has been raised to stand on his own feet, not born a house-plant, sheltered from wind and weather.

The Canadians originated and planned out the first thoroughly organized raid in this war. Its thoroughness and success was the theme of commanders both in the French, Russian and Imperial armies. The thoroughly __________ Bosche is not match for the Canadians in any part of the game. The Canadian fights with head and frame; the Bosche by numbers. The British born man in the Canadian army catches the mood of the Canadians. Although the fondest bonds of comradeship exist. You feel to a certain extent that you are "on your own," as they say here, and any little stunt you can pull off for the benefit of our arms and the discomfiture of the Germans you never hesitate to attempt.

I was transferred to this convalescent camp Feb. 1. There are about 4,000 wounded and sick Canadians and 2,000 Imperials. It is truly marvelous the modern appliances they have for the wounded. Electric massage and radio heat are doing wonders for me. My leg is wrapped in blankets, then placed in a glass case which is heated by electricity. When taken out it is covered with perspiration and red as half-cooked beef steak. It is then thoroughly hand massaged. Next day a kind of roller is fastened to an electric device and that is worked constantly over the leg and foot. It makes a noise like Saunders' planing mill when in operation, but does a power of good. Have not seen any of the Dutton boys since I first went to France. The world-renowned Derby race-course is here.