March 2nd, 1919
Sunday evening and for a change clear and starlight. This has been a beautiful day also yesterday about the only two fine days we have had since coming to Epsom. Yesterday afternoon a chum and I, one of our old sigs. from the battery who is here, went for a walk out through Ashbeau? Park, across the moor to the famous Derby race course then back over Epsom Downs to camp. Have been in camp all day today. This afternoon we had an impromptu concert in front of one of the hills. It was a beautiful spring-like afternoon and a couple of the fellows got up on one of the seats with a violin and mandolin. Soon a crowd gathered around and we sang all the old songs. Spent part of the week in London and Shorncliffe. Got a pass from Wednesday sunset until Friday at midnight. Caught the six o'clock to London and got to the Maple Leaf Club about seven. Had a wash up and took a walk downtown. It was the first time I had seen London in peace time and the lights aglow certainly made a difference in the appearance of the city. Had supper and as it was too late to take in a theater went home about ten. I intended to take the early train to Shorncliffe in the morning but as Thursday was the day of Princess Pat's wedding I decided to stay and go out in the afternoon. Will mention it again later. Am sending an account of it and the programme. Got a train from Charing Cross at 3 o'clock and got to Shornecliffe at about 5:30. Met Claude and we spent the evening together in Folkestone. Went to the pictures then visited a restaurant and walked back. Folkestone is about half an hour's good walk from Shornecliffe and we got back about eleven.
Next morning Claude had a couple of parades to attend so we stayed around town and on the Leas. Had tea a little after four and I caught the 5:10 to London arriving at Waterloo at 7:40. Got the 8:42 Epsom and got back to camp about ten. Claude is waiting a draft for the boat and expects to be on his way back soon. Expect he will be home before me yet. Was glad I got down before either of us left. It is only about five months since we met before but during those five months we have been in several countries under many different conditions. He has been in England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, and I in England, Scotland, France, Belgium, and Germany. I have been through what has probably been the greatest battle in history. Have taken part in the march to the Rhine and formed a very small part of the army of occupation. But the world is a small place after all and at the end of five months our paths have again led us together for a day and I think it will not be long until we are back in good old Bay View again. And indeed there is no place like it, no place like home. During the last few years I have seen a good deal of the world but nowhere have I found a spot like little P.E.I.
I have been in some of the best middle-class homes in England and Scotland but nowhere have I found the Canadian home life. The average home is more the style of the boarding house, a place to eat and sleep but as a place to enjoy oneself, to spend a pleasant evening after a day's work it is not like the Canadian home. Both the men and women are to blame for this but I think the fault is chiefly with the women. The responsibility of the home life rests principally on the wife and mother and if she is not fitted to it then a home is going smash. This seems to be the trouble in this country. The women do not understand the art of home-making as the Canadian woman does and in consequence the real enjoyment of the home is lost. Much of the honour won by the Canadian Corps is due to the women of Canada. Canada's sons have proven themselves second to none among the fighting forces of the world because Canada's mothers have a given them an early training in manly qualities which only the Canadian mother knows how to give. And for the sake of that training and those memories the soldier has done his best to prove himself worthy. He has done what came in the way of duty without a moment's hesitation in the face of danger. And always when placed in the way of danger there were the memories of the old home and the old faces urging him on to his best efforts. And by his individual efforts the Corps earned a name for efficiency which has never been surpassed in the annals of history. Some of the honor must come to every soldier for nowhere will you find a higher type of manhood but at least an equal share of the credit is due to the parents, the wives and sweethearts of the boys, whose memories were ever fresh and sacred, no matter what the surroundings. Ever before the soldier's mind was the face of his mother, tender, loving and patient, and with most men there is another face, younger, but possessing the same qualities, the face of a girl just budding into the full flower of womanhood whom he placed on the same plane as his Mother, and what those memories meant to a fellow no one who has not gone through this life can ever know. Strangers in a strange land, subject to all forms of temptation, leading a rough and ready life away from practically every refining influence in society and the home life, the average Canadian boy has proven himself a true man for the sake of those he loves, and probably ninety per cent of the fellows who went wrong were boys who had no particular home ties and who had no one to take an interest in them or care very much what happened to them.
Of course every man of us is changed. It would be impossible for anyone to go through the hell that we have seen and live it and remain the same. But because of what we experienced the most of us will go back better, stronger men and truer citizens. I read something today that was rather good. I will quote: "the crackling of the rifles and machine-guns, the uproar of the batteries, the incessant bursts of bombs and shells, the buzzing of aeroplanes as they pass overhead, the rumble of transport teams and tramp of marching troops, bands on Sunday and choirs of trumpets sounding the evening calls, our echoes, all of them, from the great thunders of the Armageddon, which have died away into the distance to the last rumbling beyond the skyline."
Now those who are left of us will put away our weapons and go back to civil life. But we shall all be changed. No man returning from a journey has ever come back with the same self into the former life. From this travail we shall come changed into a different world. A new and realized manhood will meet a tried and better womanhood. We shall not anymore be able to be content in the old world of selfishness and slackness. The comradeship of our life, if it has done nothing more, has taught us the one great lesson of unselfishness. We shall demand for men a training in their manhood, for women a training in their womanhood. We shall value manliness more than scholarship, ease or wealth or even the freedom we fought so hard to save. The manhood of our fathers came by use of arms and of horses, by game, by going down to the sea in ships, hard, rough living, taking risks and enduring pain by generously giving and honest loving. The manhood of our sons will not be made by indoor life, by ease, by softness, selfishness or vice. Body, mind and spirits must have the training, renewal and growth if they are to perpetuate those traits of character which distinguished our forefathers, and which were not lacking in the men and women of Canada during the present conflict, if they were to avoid degeneracy and decay and be considered worthy citizens of the country which their fathers fought and bled to save. The old world of narrow-mindedness has passed away and with the war has come a new creation, the world of comradeship, of brotherhood, a world in which the home life will be more appreciated, a world in which men and women will be judged for what they are and not what they profess to be, where true with strong manhood and true and faithful womanhood will be the guiding principles of life. Our padres and 'Y' secretaries will go back with broader ideals and a better understanding of human nature and we also shall go back with new ideals and a broader, fuller conception of life. Probably at first we shall appear rough and our ideas of right and wrong may shock some of the straight-laced Pharisees of the Church, (without disrespect to the church itself) but we have learned indeed vital principles of Christianity in a hard school and through it we have our shortcomings yet I say in all seriousness and with a certain amount of pride that we have proven ourselves to be Christians in the things that really matter and in most cases are better prepared to face our judgment than those who so freely criticize us and place themselves in judgment over us. And if we have failed in some of the little things we would ask the people of Canada, not to forget them, but to remember that on the other side of the sheet we have succeeded in the great tests of manhood, that we have never neglected the call of duty and that we have faced danger and death willingly because our consciences are clearer. The God who gave his Son for the Salvation of the World understands the life and conditions we have had to undergo and will judge us by our efforts and forgive our mistakes accordingly.
Now I must tell you something of the wedding. No need of going into details for you will have read that from a better pen than mine so I will merely mention a few details. I went down with a fellow I met at the club at about ten o'clock and we got a good seat on the Sanctuary monument just in front of the Abbey door and had a splendid view of all that passed as well as avoiding the crush of the crowd. Were not more than fifteen yards from where the carriages stopped and had a good look at the guests as they arrived, the King and Queen, Prince of Wales, then the groom and the bride with her father. Also had our faces in several pictures including movies. Waited until the departure of the bride and groom and Royal family and then I beat it for my train.
Well I think this is long enough for one scrawl so will close for this time.
Love to all, Harold