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Date: April 13th 1919

April 13, 1919

Dear Mother:

Sent you a letter yesterday and I am going to drop a line this afternoon. Not that I have any news of interest. Yesterday morning I went over to see the folks at the Borough. Had dinner there and came back in the afternoon. Had tea and stayed around the club reading until bedtime which was quite early for me as I had been travelling all the night before. Didn't get up until late this morning and after breakfast went for a walk. Have just got back and had dinner and thought I would drop you a line before finishing the book I am reading. Told you in my letter yesterday that I was on my last leave and that we expect to sail about the 22nd or 23rd. We are not sure about the date yet and it may be a little later. At any rate we will be home early in May at the latest.

I was lucky to get back with the battery again and be going home with the old bunch. There are not a great many of the two hundred and eighty who left Charlottetown on that November morning going back with us. Some of them are already home. Others are scattered about this country waiting their chance to get back and others, many of them, and among them some of my best pals, will never go back. It is hard for their people. It will be especially hard on the day on which the battery returns and our sympathy goes out to them, but we are proud of our comrades who have given their all unhesitatingly, and perhaps they are just as lucky as we, after all.

Anyway, getting home means a great deal to us, how much only we ourselves can ever know. Home has taken on for us a new meaning and a new value and we will know how to work as never before. For it means all that is really worth the while in life, love, happiness, comfort, peace. Over here the memories of home have saved many a man from abject cowardice not only in the face of physical danger but also in the battle against primitive brute savagery. It has been the means often of salvation from self in the great battle of life when nothing but the memories of home could have kept him white and unscathed from the temptations which lured him on with the promise of forgetfulness.

A fellow has been through a battle and his soul is sick with the horror of it all, for no matter how hardened one may be, the sight of shattered broken men is a cruel one. At the moment he was keyed up to the hilt by the excitement, the turmoil and his work. But when he gets out of it he has time to think, to remember. Perhaps his best pal has gone under before his eyes and again the whole grim tragedy of it seems to dance before his gaze. He goes behind the lines or on leave. But still the memory follows him, haunts him. Even in his dreams he sees again those cruel, gaping wounds, hears those heart-rending cries of pain and his whole being revolts. It is unbearable. He must forget for a time at least. Everywhere he turns a pub door stands invitingly open and the sound of music floats softly out to him. The temptation is tremendous, especially to a Colonial who cannot go home. He is only a soldier. Nobody pays any attention to him. Nobody cares what he does with himself. So-called respectable citizens pass him with a cold stare, forgetting that he is a man, homesick, heartsick, weary of it all. Even the churches in many instances look upon him as something which must be tolerated but recognize no responsibility towards him. He is merely not worth notice. I have more than once gone into churches where I knew that I was unwelcome.

One Sunday evening, two of us went into an English church. An usher showed us to a seat occupied by a well-dressed aristocratic lady. She glanced at us, gave the usher a cold stare and deliberately got up and moved to the other side of the seat as though we were some contagious disease. I could not help smiling at the narrow-mindedness of it for my companion although a buck gunner was an M.A. from McGill and in civil life probably accustomed to move in better circles then she. When we left a gentlemen (in his own estimation at least) reminded us that "the seats were free if we cared to come again, but supposed we preferred a different society than that which the church offered". Then he also added he didn't expect to see us again. This was too much and we told him just what we thought of him. My friend was raging. "No", he said, "no danger of seeing us again. We do prefer other society when we go to church. We like to meet Christians not hypocrites. I was studying for the ministry when I joined up, in fact had almost completed, but thank God I never met any specimens like you or your self-satisfied preacher." After that we left him to nurse his injured dignity and I venture to say that neither of us visited that church again.

And this was by no means a unique experience. The reserved, haughty unsociable English people have much to answer for to the Colonial boys. Of course they are not all alike, I am speaking of the average. England offered the Colonial her worst temptations which were almost unknown at home but met him here, but from the best he was excluded without a hearing and it is only because of his own strength of character and will and because of his memories of home and loved ones that he has been able to come out on top. Class distinction is the curse of the country. The castes of India would not be more exclusive. The average Englishman has lost all initiative -his will is gone, his power to think for himself is gone - he is a slave to custom and to the classes about him. It is sickening for in the English race there is good stuff if only given chance to develop. But expansion under present circumstances is impossible. Is it any wonder that we want to get away from it all and get home.

Well Mother I didn't intend to write a discourse on this subject but just got going on it. Now about getting back. You will know ahead of time when we are coming and if you can I would like you get into town. We will of course have to go there first. Don't know if we will cross by boat or by train from Borden nor what the procedure will be when we arrive. But if I don't see you when I arrive, I will go to Clemmie's as soon as I can. Then we will have to make arrangements about going to Bay View. Suppose there will be quite a crowd out to see the old Second come back. I hope they won't waste any time over parades or speech making. We don't want that sort of thing at all, just to get home as quickly as we can. But if you can get in from home would like to see you there when we arrive.

Now I will close. Will not be long after this letter in getting there.

Love to all from, Harold