Letter #0:- 1
Kinmel Park Camp.
November 2nd, 1918.
Having found the necessary few moments, I thought I might just as well drop you a line. I have been in this quarantine camp now two weeks ago yesterday, didn't feel just 0 .K. after I landed so just got to writing the other day am fine now though. Don't criticize my letter for I write the whole thing in one paragraph, haven't time to bother with paragraph separation. I expect to get my six days landing leave in about two weeks & I intend to go to Scotland, up to Edinburgh, I would also like to see the birthplace of Shakespeare & Tennyson, also London. I had a great train trip from Petawawa to the port from which we sailed, there were two trainloads of us & we were given a great reception at every station we stopped at, especially at Pembroke, where the station platform was crowded. Pembroke is a town 12 miles from Petawawa which took a great interest in the soldiers in camp during the past summer. We had great meals on the train, eating in first class diners. When we arrived at the port from which we sailed, we were immediately detrained and put right on board the boat. Both closed decks of the boat were covered with mess-tables at which we ate. Each table had 3 tins, with which two mess orderlies from each table, who were chosen to get the meals for the day & clean up after them, lined up for the rations for the table. I was in charge of our table, was responsible for the table & had a good time also. We had very little drill, only life-boat drill, spent the most of our time lying around on deck & believe me it was none too warm on deck. We slept in hammocks (ordinary but smaller) suspended on two hooks (in ceiling) over the mess tables, some economy of space. One thing the trip will always keep in my mind tho and that is a burial at sea. We struck pretty good weather all the way over, for only a couple did the old tub roll around. The ocean as I saw it did not seem to be much rougher than a rough lake except that the swells are broader not much higher tho. One thing tho' it is never choppy as we say about a lake. We lay in harbour for 2 days before we sailed away with several other American troop transports. We arrived in port here in the middle of the night, the next morning the sick were taken off & the same afternoon the rest of us got off the boat & were immediately put on a peculiar little train & rushed off for camp. We arrived at the station at 11.35 & had a 6 mile walk to camp carrying our whole kit (2 full kit bags, haversack, mess-tin, water bottle, greatcoat & blankets) & it sure was no cinch. As soon as we got here (2.30 in the morning), we were assigned our huts, given a mess-tin of hot but rotten army coffee & a half piece of real army bread, then we went to bed for we were sorely in need of sleep. We sleep here on 3 long boards about a foot wide & an inch thick supported on 2 props about 8 inches high, one at the top & one at the foot. Each hut is supposed to hold 30 of us & we sure have lots of room though.
Our meals here are very poor in my opinion, since we are on rations & get about enough to keep alive on only. For meals we all have to line up, march into the mess hut & are seated at tables, 14 at each table. Each table is assigned rations for 14 men & a mess orderly gives out the food to each one. As we all sit at the same time you see there is no chance of anyone getting two meals. The canteens here also, are very poor, really not deserving the name canteen at all, for you can't get hardly anything in them, a cake for 2 cents which in civil life I wouldn't look at. Chocolates, fruit, cake, candy, pudding etc. are just about a thing of the past for you very seldom see any of them & if they ever have any at the canteen there is such a rush for them & the quantity is so small that you very seldom get any.
Also as we are in quarantine we are not allowed to go out of our own part of the camp to any other part of the camp on account of the rapid & dangerous spreading of the Spanish Flu throughout England. The penalty if you are caught out of your own lines is from 14 to 28 days [in the] clink without pay & your 6 days landing leave cut off. Oh, over here you have to soldier correctly, it is nothing like in Canada, & for drill we have Imperial instructors. One good thing, they give us a mess-tin of soup (dishwater) before we go to bed but we nearly always throw it away as not worth drinking - only for the heat it conveys to the body.
This country though is really the prettiest and most picturesque country I have ever seen or heard of, it is one mass of hills, valleys, pastures & rolling country dotted allover with bright little towns and villages only about a mile or so apart. The grass here is even, seems to be different being more of a pea-green colour & the fields are nearly all pastures. You never see corn growing here for they don't grow that here. The fences around the odd-shaped fields, which are much smaller than our Canadian fields, are generally of stone or bushes trees and shrubs & they really look swell. Talk about your holly for Christmas, why trees of it as large as apple-trees grow along the roadsides. I thought there were no crows here but I find out I was wrong for they are here in flocks but they all seem to have a cold, their "caw" is so squeaky.
Excuse the mistakes please as their is so much talking going on in the room, the bunch in my hut being of a very poor type, nearly all of them gambling, cursing or drunk half the time,
there is never 5 minutes but what some of them are gambling. I only chum around with a couple out of my hut, one an old school mate who sleeps next me, of course I have a few chums in other huts. "Over here" you have to keep almost everything under lock & key, even chained down if you could, or it is liable to be stolen on you. One boy (school mate) had a jar of honey here: he left it on the shelf over his head at night & in the morning it was gone, stolen while he slept, so you see how things go here.
One thing that surprised me when I got here was to see the flowers, dahlias, nasturtiums, sweet-peas etc. all in full bloom. The leaves here do not turn all colours like they do in Canada in the fall, but nearly always turn a common brown colour. The houses are nearly all very quaint, old-fashioned buildings, with no verandah, small many-paned windows, slate roof, many chimneys & a small yard with a grey stone wall around it. I have been here over 14 days & another 14 in quarantine and I ought to get my 6 days landing leave. I have not as yet decided where I will go but I think I will go to Edinburgh, Stratford - on - Avon (home of Shakespeare}, the home of Tennyson & of Gray, Leamington, Oxford & London, if I can possibly take them all in. Did you hear that my cousin from the beach, Toronto, Gordon Kean is dead. He came over on a draft early in Sept. & lucky I came to the same camp. I heard he was here & seriously ill with the Spanish Flu in the hospital here a couple of days after I arrived here & later (Oct 25th) I heard he had died Oct 24th. Before he died I tried to get a pass to see him but on account of the close quarantine I could not get it but when he was dead, after much red tape I got a pass to the hospital where I saw his nurse & doctor. They said that from the time he came into the hospital he was in an unconscious or semi-conscious condition. For fear of infection and because the doctors warning that I wouldn’t recognize him as a person who dies from that disease is a terrible sight to look upon I did not go into the morgue to look at him but with & other of his battery mates attended his funeral that afternoon to the famous marble church here. But let us turn to a more pleasant subject, the war news looks good now with Turkey out of it & Austria-Hungary on the verge of revolution & civil war so I think it will soon be over & we will all soon be home & leave it to me I’m going to have a whale of a time when I do get back, but every almost to a dance or party etc and to the rink (roller or ice) whenever possible. My address is :- #338578 Gnr. G.J.Knott
2nd. Canadian Artillery Tank Battalion; D Company
90 Army P.O.; London; England.
Well guess I’ll have to say bye-bye for now, hope you are all fine & to hear from you soon, with love to all. Lovingly Gordon.