My dear Gertrude.
Tuesday, but I will begin this letter, in the evening quiet of the billet, as letters from you came this morning. My last letter was rather a patchwork affair and finished in a hurry. I had intended adding to it during the day - but they decided to let us off afternoon parades and Freeman was in consequence anxious to go off somewhere. so he Dodworth & I rushed off after lunch & caught the two oclock train on the military line to Brookwood, the function to the main line. From there we had a pretty 5 or 6 mile walk to Suildford - the county town of Surrey - It was a pleasure to start with, to get on a road where soldiers were few & far between. Returning salutes at a place like this is a violent & continuous exercise. When there are 3 of us we take turn by turn at it, to ease matters. Some very pretty modern country houses of the smaller kind along the roadside.
Guildforn is not a bad sort of town, very clean like all southern towns are compared to the north. A rather imposing main street on a steepish hill. We found a good place for tea, the usual 1 Â½ of bread or cake ration but we got two eggs each so did not fare badly. After tea the town was beginning to fill up with soldiers from the camps round - very largely Canadians. Whitley the big Canadian centre being near. We got a Motor Bus to Aldershot at 7 - went in to the pictures from 8 to 9.45 fairly good & got a bus back to here by 10.30. Not at all a bad day.
Today has been back to normal parades again & quite time too - Although we have been here a week to day, it is only our third full days work. Friday was a holiday - Saturday a half - Sunday off - & then half Monday. I would rather have done a little less rushing about but one has to fit in with other peoples ideas when one is thrown with them as in this kind of life.
Freeman I have often spoken about - quite young only just 21, a very likeable fellow, but of course at his age, wanting to be on the move a lot, although as far as walking goes & sustained exercise I find I can more than keep up with him. Dodworth the man we have been thrown with, in being put in the same room here with him, is a curious beggar in many ways. He I about a year my senior, a marries man with one child - a teacher by profession - has not been out in France at all - & is rather worried I think in having to go & likes to rush around to get his mind off his home. He was one of the many who had his wife at Maresfield with him so he feels the difference here.
Had my letter from Mother on Monday - written on Friday so delayed. She had news of Berk to the 23rd. He was just moving off then, whether with the M.G.C. or his old lot he evidently has not said - but almost certainly the M.G. Co I will enclose the letter - a few weeks since I had one to send on.
With your letters came one from Frank Stovs- yours also mention them a lot. I am glad to hear that he has got to a better job - hope it is fairly permanent. His problem will be to find a really permanent position when things get normal again. You may say that that is likely to be mine as well. It is a pity for Frank that the C.P.R. offer needs such a long time away from home. Tell Helen the next time you go out, how glad I was to hear from you & her father that she is better again - quite better by the time you get this, I hope.
Hope you were able to sell one or some of your sketches, for your own satisfaction in meeting your Colonial Realty payment. Rather a queer idea to take up China painting for Lent - I don't quite follow the logical reasoning.
Have been writing this for sometime amidst a lot of cross talk - rather impossible so I will close for the evening. Just to finish your first letter - three came - am glad to hear that Spencer is able to get Mr Chapple to have an occasional extra evening off - if only almost by compulsion.
No time to-night to add much. Have been filling out Army Claims forms & making out some cheques. The first cheque book I have used since leaving "Kitchener" We get our pay credited it to us at the beginning of each month, in advance, so I am rich at present.
Two more letters from you to-day of March 4 & 11th so I am nearer to date than I have been for some time.
I will deal with your second of yesterday. You had received my Christmas photos. Glad you did not think them so bad - but hope the rest will be better. As to my looking better everyone at home said at Christmas that I was looking absolutely fit & on my last leave, even better if possible. The strong sea breezes & sun at Lydd had tanned me up. Mother spoke about the contrast to when I return from Canada - I think she was quite alarmed about me then & lots of people in the town had spoken to her of how ill I looked.
You also speak of your first game of cards. I am glad you have made a beginning although I play so very rarely that I am looked on almost as a card hater amongst the other fellows. Yet it is very useful to be able to play a little & also often very unsociable not to play.
Still another letter this morning - a short & intermediate one of March 6.
I suppose you would find the colouring of the Aldous crest. In engravings of such heraldic devices the shading usually conforms to some key - so that given the key the colours are known. You would probably find such a key in the Encyclopedia Brittanica or some special book on Heraldry.
Will deal with your next letter which I see is the last for February and leave the others for the weekend. Pleased to have your account of the Stovs & glad that in spite of the very cold weather & the long distance, you were able to get out to see them as much as you did. I have never sent them one of my Christmas photos, in fact liked them so little that I have given none away but I enclose one of each - & the next time you go up you can let them have whichever you like. If you know of any one else who would like the other - perhaps the Elgin people, although it is not too good as they have not seen yours.
You had just finished "Barchister Towers" I remember I was rather interested in both Mr. Arabin & Mrs Bold. If I remember rightly the previous history of Mrs Bold is told in "The Warden" - quite an interesting book although not so clever as the other. The warden himself always reminded me of old Canon Jones - The first Rector of "The Redeemer" & Mr James' immediate predecessor. The Archdeacon in the book, the son of the previous Bishop reminded me of the present Bishop of Toronto.
Your Irish Uncle will be having unpleasant times these days - Ireland & Quebec seem to be very much alike. Ireland certainly has no excuse the way she has been pampered all through the war.
Have had two quieter days yesterday & today - the usual parades & quiet evenings in the billet. Only 3 of us at present in our big room so we are very comfortable & have a treasure of a servant, cleans our things well & looks aver us in every way, without having to be kept up to the mark. Very different to the man at Lydd - who made far more money & did a great deal less for it.
Times seems to go very quickly - we have a lot of odd 30 & 40 minutes during the day but no time to get down to do anything. Just a walk to the mess & a look at the papers or to write a short note. Dinner is at 7, & tea not over till nearly 5, so between we usually have a good sharp hour & a quarters walk - then up here to wash & change - breeches etc are not allowed for dinner - & down to the mess. Dinner is not a quick affair & if we come up here directly after, it is not far short of 8.30 when we arrive, so the evening is not a long one.
Freeman is busy at the other side of the table, as I write, sending a letter to his girl in verse - awful doggerel - but amusing. He got a sudden inspiration before our walk this afternoon.
An inspiration has just come to me. I will enclose only one photo for the Stovs, cut to fit the envelope, & send the other to Port Elgin when I write to Neil as I must do soon.
A lot more of the men of our Company at Maresfield are to come here next week - they are the lower men & have been lucky enough to get 6 more days leave than we did.
The great battle has lulled these last two days but will break out in fury again soon I believe. I don't see how the Germans can hold back now. The French Premier seems very confident of our holding Amiens, so I presume we have planned to do so.
I must close. This is our tenth day here. Time is still flying although it is not so much crowded with work as at Lydd.
I hope you are well & everything is going as well as possible.
With all my love