Search The Archive

Search form

Collection Search
Date: August 14th 1918

August 14, 1918

Dear Mother:

Am on duty tonight in the exchange from ten to two and as things are pretty quiet am going to write a couple of letters to pass the time. Sent you a note on the ninth. Received another letter from you yesterday dated July 22. Have not got nearly all of the early July mail yet. Have had no parcel mail at all since July 25 and have not got all our letter mail yet. We are expecting a big one along in a few days however. I was glad to hear that Lloyd is doing well and hope that he may be entirely better by now not only for his own sake but for Clemmie's for it would make a great deal of extra work for her.

First I must answer something in your two letters. You ask if there is anything I want in the line of clothes and mention underwear boots and socks. No I don't think I need anything. I am pretty well fixed for socks and if I ever get away on leave I will get some new underwear. Don't need any until fall. As for books I don't need any for the present at least. The Y. got some light canvas shoes in a few weeks ago and I got a pair of them. They are great for wearing around the battery in dry weather. Later on when I need pair of heavy boots for the wet weather I will be able to get them out here. I know where I can get a pair for practically nothing. Told you in one of my last letters that I had heard from Claude in Blighty. Am hoping to see him soon. Had a letter from Laura Simpson a short time ago and she spoke of having a letter from Albert written in Blighty. Didn't know he was overseas yet. I heard that he had enlisted but thought he was still in Canada. I presume he is in the artillery. I believe that Angus Gillis has been called up also not before time for he had nothing but cold feet to keep him back. Have not heard from Laura or Heber lately. Suppose Heber is out here again before this. I see Joe Clark occasionally. He is fine. Wanted to be remembered to you when I wrote.

Yes the war news has been pretty good lately, but I think there is even better to come before long. I hope so anyway. Although I hardly think it will be over before next year yet I wouldn't be at also surprised to see an end of it in '18. At this stage of the game anything is liable to happen and happen quickly to. When I spoke in my last letter about the Huns being more humane then we pictured them I was referring to the masses and not a higher command. For no doubt they have all suffered under the influence yet I think that an everyday German is more of a human being then some of us are inclined to picture him. It is the leaders and their ideals that are wrong and that is what we are over here to do away with, not the German people and their rights as human beings in the democracy of nations.

You do not agree with Dr. McKinnon when he says that cards are necessary to the boys out here. Personally I think he is right. A pack of cards passes many a weary hour which would stretch out almost unendurably were if not for them and I think that instead of their influence being for evil it has been more largely the other way. For instance a unit is on the move. They are in some camp for the night. There are about four hours to put in before bedtime and there is nothing to do and nowhere to go unless a fellow is in the habit of taking a drink. Then for want of a better place he may go to a pub. There is nowhere else to go. But somebody has it a pack of cards in his haversack. He gets them out and the bunch start a friendly game of cribbage. The time passes quickly and pub is forgotten. Under such circumstances I would consider that I was doing a fellow a good turn by getting him into a game. Then again fellows are on the line. A couple of fellows are sitting in a little dark hole in a trench cold and tired. Their backs and muscles are aching and minutes seem to drag into hours. At such a time a little game of cards passes away the weary hours which would otherwise seem endless. As for gambling there is very little of it. An occasional game of poker. You will find a few confirmed gamblers in any bunch of men, and the men who play are willing to take the equal chance of losing or winning. After all we are all naturally gamblers in a far greater game, the game of life and war especially is to a great game of chance. Ask a man to do a job which means certain death and it would have to be something very much worthwhile before he would undertake it, but he would go without hesitation if he knew that he had a fighting chance. Even with the odds several to one against him he would play his chance to the limits, and probably win out. With even odds he would feel perfectly confident and so it goes - a game of chance from start to finish and it is the best gambler who makes good. A true gambler is essentially a sport and a sport to be a real sport must play it clean straight game. That is the one important point and if the game is played square then it does not matter if he wins or loses. And so whether in a game of cards for a few paltry bits of money or in the game of life where the stake is a man's own soul it is the man who plays his sporting chance honestly and to the best of this ability who really wins even though he lose his stakes in the game. While I do not indulge in card playing for money myself I say this merely to show that gambling is a natural instinct and that after all there is something to be said in favor of the gambler.

You speak of what Laura said about the commission. I have been thinking lately about applying for one. Were I not overweight, I would have been in the Flying Corps by now for it appeals very strongly to me. But I am unfortunately too heavy for it. In the artillery my work takes me through the same experiences as an officer and is often more interesting and while there were older and better qualified men I did not feel it my place to go in for a com. It takes quite a while for it to come through after one applies. For instance Ben Conrad applied last February and he is still here. Expects to get away tomorrow. He wanted me to apply at the same time but I didn't see my way clear at the time. In his case it is different. He is twenty-four and had considerable experience in the militia before the war and so is more mature and better qualified for the work. However I may apply sometime this fall as it would be nice to get part of the winter in Blighty. As for promotions among the signallers so far there have been none except in taking out a commission. We are only a small body and had very few changes and have been fortunate in having few casualties. So there have been no promotions since we left Blighty. Had I gone on the guns I would probably have been a sergeant by now but would not have found the work nearly so interesting and would not have the decoration which I have. one of which is much more valuable than three stripes. On our job we see much more of what is going on and the added experience alone is invaluable. Then there it is the greater element of adventure which appeals rather strongly to a fellow, as I said before the gambling instinct, the sporting nature, which leads a fellow on to take it chance, and there is the opportunity of doing something spectacular and earning recognition which calls for the best that is in one. I do not say this to blow my own horn, but from the fact that McEwen has three stripes, not knowing the circumstances, you might wonder why I haven't got promotion. It is merely because there has been no opening I think I have made a success of my work. I have been able to keep up my end of it with the best of them and I think that when there is an opening I will ring in on it.

Now I think I will ring off for this time. Will write again soon. Everybody well and happy

Love to all from, Harold