Sept. 25, 1917
I have just come from O.P. and want to write you this afternoon. Roy and I are on the job for eight days, that is we have four trips out for we go every second day, - 24 hours on duty and 24 off. During our twenty-four on we get about five hours sleep, so we do not fare too badly. The O.P. in soldier language, where letters are given different pronunciations in order to distinguish them over the phone, O Pip is, of course, on a crest commanding our view of the enemy country where in connection with it we have a good dugout where the men off duty can sleep. During the day we take shifts on the phone while the man of duty gets the meals, etc. and at night we work two shifts, from eight to one and from one to six. The officer and observer do the same hours. Last night Lawson and I were on the first shift. It was an ideal night, the moon suffusing old Mother Earth with a soft radiance presenting a scene of tender beauty without disclosing the ugly scars which civilized man, so-called, in his campaign of destruction has brought upon the fair face of Nature. And overhead the myriad eyes of Heaven twinkle out their messages of peace and love and quiet power. And as one's gaze wandered out over this scene one's thoughts also reached out into the infinities of space, into the eternal mystery, the hidden secrets of the universe. From back in one's memory, those grand old words: "what is man that Thou art mindful of him or the Son of Man that Thou visitest him," and from somewhere a voice seems to answer "man is a being I have placed as a steward over My household and My terms are found in the message of the stars, that in return for his faithful stewardship his reward shall be peace and love and quiet power in a home where there shall be neither war nor enmity nor destruction". And as we sat in that little shelter, silent, our thoughts wandering at will I felt that there was a third Presence in place and that here with us was the Companion who would never forsake us, ever ready to offer the guiding, helping hand,
The first part of the night was very quiet. There was no wind and a slight fog had spread itself over the earth so that one could hear the least sound for quite a distance. However, but for the rat-tat-tat of a machine gun at intervals and the occasional report of the gun followed by the wind and burst of a shell there was nothing to break the stillness. But our reveries were suddenly ended and the silence rudely shattered by Fritz opening up a little strafe on our front line. It was immediately reported and in about a minute we heard our guns opening in retaliation. In a few minutes all was silent again. At about half past eleven we made some coffee and had a lunch, hot coffee and sardine sandwiches. Then
we sat down again and started talking, about our old college days and chums, about the boys who were over here and the ones who were still at home some because they could not come and others because they would not. Then our conversation wandered to our military life and of some of our experiences together. Then I went to write a message. It was after midnight. I put down the date. Sept. 25! Two years ago I had become a sworn soldier of the King. Long before this I had felt it was my duty to enlist and on that memorable day Sept. 25, 1915, the opportunity was placed before me in a way that seemed to ask, "what are you going to do with me, be a man and take me or a coward and
reject me?" I grasped the opportunity and to this day I have not been sorry for it, for nowhere could a fellow strike a more efficient bunch of fellows to work with or a better bunch with whom to chum.
A soldier's life has its drawbacks but there is a fascination about it which appeals to the spirit of youthful adventure and in its experiences one gets a more valuable education then one could get in double the time in college, for one gets to understand one's fellow man from experience much more fully than he could ever hope to do from books. For here one meets and lives, not with one particular class of men with but one outlook on life, but with all classes and one gets to understand their impulses and their possibilities and to know their weaknesses and their strong points. This is an education
which is invaluable to any man and well worth the time spent in obtaining it. But this is not all. There is a physical, a mental, and a moral training such cannot be attained elsewhere. On going up the line for the first-time one feels a great sense of dread. It is not fear of danger. When one volunteers to become a soldier and enlists one's mind is quite made on that point. He takes a chance on the danger and is ready for whatever comes. No, he is not afraid of the danger but he is afraid that he will flunk, that he will prove himself a coward. But after a couple of experiences under fire, finding that he can control his nerves and make them do his bidding he gains confidence in himself. And so from
day to day as his confidence grows, he finds himself learning and gaining self control, and also learning to do his work quickly and well. Then there is the mental training, for one must teach oneself to think and decide quickly and having made a decision to carry it out. And last but by no means least is the moral development for here one is called upon to meet and resist temptation that is almost unknown in civil life and for every one resisted the man finds himself with a stronger character and a firmer faith.
And so, altogether aside from my value as a soldier in the great military machine of Empire-wide formation, I look upon these two years as a soldier as being spent to great personal advantage and as being the worth double the time spent in ordinary life. Of those two years, two months were spent in Charlottetown, six in England and a sixteen in sunny France. A number of the old bunch are gone and others are home or in Blighty with new men having taken their places, but we telephonists have been very fortunate and our old tent bunch of Brighton Camp is still complete - not one of us is away from the battery and everyone of us has specialized in some branch our work - not a bad record
I had a card from Joe Clark a few days ago, the first word that I have had from him for an age and although it does not bring much news I was glad to get it for I was beginning to feel anxious that something might have happened. Am expecting a letter from him soon. Received Harry's registered letter with the five enclosed about a week ago. Many thanks. Last week's mail did not bring any letter from you. Think one must have gone astray. However I had a letter from Clemmie written at Bayview which is all the same. Also received a parcel of eats and socks from Lilla and Laura. Must acknowledge them today. Also want to write to Clemmie today so think I now have to ring off. I am afraid that my letters are not very interesting. There is so much that one cannot tell about that the little every day occurrences which the censor will admit must become monotonous. And our life follows more or less same routine from day to day so that it is often hard to find anything of interest to write.
The boys are all well. Things are very quiet here and have been so for some time. Our work, although we are kept busy, is not difficult and clear, cool fall weather makes it very enjoyable. I am in the best of health, in fact I never felt in better trim in my life then I have this summer.
Now I must say au revoir. With a heart full of love, Harold