L Corp J.S. Balfour. No. A11089
14 Section No. 3 P.P.C.L.[?].
Tues Oct. 19 1915
Dear Ma, -
The last time I wrote to you was a card from the trenches. Before that I sent a short letter and a fairly long one to Pa, written in a hurry.
While at that house we had very little to do, cooked our own meals, made apple sauce etc. There was an orchard close by with apples, pears & walnuts. We could fill a bag with apples in a few minutes. Fred Reid, who once lived in Regina now in Prince Albert, is a stretcher-bearer and was in our basement. He went to a town six miles away every morning for the papers and would also get oatmeal, milk & candles for me. We had porridge quite often. Reid's grandfather was a tinsmith on Broad Street & related to Mrs Scott.
After spending about two weeks in that place the six of us were sent into the trenches with No. 2 Company. Arthur, Bob & myself took over a post, Wilf, Quick & Hooper another. When it was getting dark we went up to our post, one on sentry, the other standing to and one sleeping, 2 hrs sentry, 2 hrs stand-to, 2 hrs sleep, repeating this twice during the night. The post was close to a swell dug-out with stove & dandy spring bed, table & a chair. We had a fire all night and could light a candle, with flap over the door so as not to show on the bank of trench and then could write or read. After it was light in the morning we went to a dug-out back of the firing line, where we made breakfast and then slept till noon, dinner and at 2 o'clock till 4 had a fatigue. We made several barbed wire entanglements, which are placed out front of the trench. Between 4 & 5 p.m. we had supper and then went back to our night post.
It doesn't take long to get used to staying up all hours. Much different from when I got up at 4 or 5 a.m. at home.
While in the trenches you never take off boots or any part of your clothes, keep on your skeleton equipment all the time, sleeping as well. That is pouches with 120 rounds of ammunition is fastened to a belt and shoulder straps, bayonet hangs on the left side. To this equipment is attached water bottle, haver-sack, entrenching tool & kit bag when on the march.
After a week in the trenches we came back here Saturday night. Marched along the canal on the same road we went up. Passed thru the small towns we had slept in nearly a month before and stopped after 12 or 14 miles march at this small town. We passed through this place on our way from the train when we first arrived in this part of the line.
It is pretty cool to-day and feels like snow. The fall is later here than at home, some leaves are still on the trees, tho the ground is covered with them under the large trees along the road.
We are back here for 12 days rest before going into new trenches on our right. This barn isn't the warmest place I've been in, no fire, no doors on two places where they should be. Three of us sleep together and keep pretty warm with 2 blankets & our overcoats. There are lots of air holes in the mud & straw sides of the barn but a little straw on the floor helps.
I am going to send for a sweater I left with lieut. Sparling. We will soon be issued with two suits of heavy underwear. I've two pairs of gloves so don't wish for very much. Yesterday I assigned 200 franks more to Mr. Reid and am going to have him send me a pair of high boots. They will cost 30 or 25 franks ($6 or $7) so he'll have over $54 of my money with the other 100 franks minus the price of two good shirts he sent me. One pr. of gloves are rather old with one or two holes so I would do well to have a strong pr. of coarse ones if you will send them. I have had a neck scarf all the time and it is getting dirty, could you sent one. You know what I mean, long (a yard or two) woollen one, about 10" wide. They do almost as well as a sweater. The wrist bands you are knitting will be fine. I often feel cool above the gloves. Socks will be good also. I have 4 prs. Now but it is difficult to get them washed. I washed a couple of pairs while at that house. Mrs. Secord's haven't come yet nor Longworthy's parcel. Howy wrote me about it. Parcels often take 2 weeks longer than a letter, Arthur got one like that. They must keep them either at the base or London till they have a large number.
I'm sorry to hear that you didn't know I received the box with suckers, gum, handkerchiefs & OXO cubes & that another of my letters went astray. I remember writing a long letter from the rest camp telling you about them and as you received a letter from where we slept in that stable with green field behind my letter must have failed to reach you. Perhaps it took longer to go, because I've received papers that took a month with paper that only take 18 days.
I have several of your letters here and will look over them before closing.
Before leaving this place I'll write Reg. or Willie and tell them what we eat & where we sleep etc. It tends to make one appreciate his own bed at home a little more than formerly, altho I've enjoyed many a good sleep in my bed. Willie got thro without a sup. He was one of the few who passed with out sups. I was glad to see it in the paper.
When I was going to the Collegiate and reading about the wars of 1812 and the others, I never dreamt that we would be taking part in the greatest war the world has seen. I thought and thankfully, that war was of the past and young men would not be called from their homes to take part in a struggle like this. But it has become necessary and we must win and no doubt we will. Just now it doesn't look as if it will be over very soon, unless conditions take a decided change in our favor. This has been a good experience for us. It helps one to realize what he can put up with and become accustomed to if it becomes necessary. If I pull thru this and don't get a commission before hand I would like to get one and keep up the training.
You mention Arthur and the other little boys pretending that they are fighting germans. There will be more patriotism taught at school now and more drilling in Cadet corps etc. I hope there will be a hundred years of peace and that the next three or four generations will not have to take part in any war.
I often think about Willie. Aside from the pain it would cause you, which would be very great, should he enlist, I don't want to go home and not have you all there and in good health. This is selfish of me but I think you have sacrificed a good deal and should not be called upon to bear more for at least two years. The war should be over long before that.
Don't worry about me. Our chances to come out wounded or untouched are much greater than the chance to fall. I pray God to be merciful to you and give you rest and comfort.
You say it costs more to send a parcel to France. I think if you addressed it without putting "On Active Service in France," on it, you wouldn't have to pay more. It would go to the P.O. in London and they know where the Princess Pats. are. Just put "B.E.F. c/o General P.O. London," as above [arrow drawn to address on letterhead].
I am not out of socks, to-day we were issued with 2 pair of drawers & 2 pr. of socks. Also, one of the fellows received 40 prs. of home-knit socks from somewhere and I got 2 prs. of them.
The sully[?] pots are our mess tins which we eat out of at all times. Our only eating utensil is the clasp knife. I have a fork but hardly every use it or the spoon.
I told you that we had moved. I wrote Dan some time ago & hope to hear from him soon. It must be Mr. MacDonald's fault that Gordon left the farm for Gordon is a very steady worker. While I was out there he would work all day and hard too. His father thought he was a good boy on the farm. Remember me to Gordon. It would be good of you to send a parcel to Dan and I hope you can find time to do so. Dan told me Madge was engaged. I guess Madge didn't like the farm & decided to leave it.
It will only be a chance meeting if I see Mr. Donaldson over here. We are moving to a different place every month and are getting away from the Canadian divisions.
I read all the news in the papers you send. They are urging recruiting very strongly. I suppose everything went well when the Duke was there. It would be nice to hear all the boys & girls singing.
I had a letter from Beth and she told me all about the folks at Lurnsden. Aunt Maggie should improve. How is cousin Violette?
I hope the films are O.K. I don't think they are very interesting, am not sure.
You mention having received 2 pictures there should be three, 1. The Rugby, 2. Arts & Science hockey team 3. The University hockey team. Write & tell me more about the pictures I think you may have two old Rugby Pictures which were taken in Regina when we were playing their. What you write makes me think that - one with ball in the centre & a long picture. The Rugby picture taken at Saskatoon was like this, - we were taken all separately and they were arranged in a circle on the frame. Perhaps you have received 2 and the 3rd will follow. There should be 2 hockey pictures.
I got a nice letter from Mrs. Willis, must write her and Mrs. Hunter. Fred Creswell will likely write also.
Tell Pa I note what he wrote about letting Mr. Reid know if I am sick or wounded. Have you any idea where we are now? Reg. & Willie will be both at school now working together. I have letters from Reg. & Willie & sent service cards. one to Reg. I addressed St. Andrew's College. It may be forwarded. I'm going to try & answer all my letters while here and will also write you or Pa again.
I got a soda box full of toffee from Longworthys to-day with 5 packages of gum. It was good of them & I'll write Howy perhaps to-morrow I haven't the sox from Mrs. Secord yet. If they are tight I'll give them to some one or perhaps use them over my knees.
Arthur Parlett gets numerous parcels Dr. Bow sent him several one including a flash light, foot-ball, writing paper, tooth-paste etc. I would like to get a flash-light for Xmas. Perhaps I'd better get Mr. Reid to get one and then I could get new batters when needed, this is better than you sending one. If you want to know things to send, here are some, Euthymol tooth-paste, writing paper (cheap) & envelopes, 2 indelible pencils & soap, anything like that is hard to get in this part.
While out of the trenches the cooks do the cooking. In the trenches we are issued with bacon, cheese, bread jam, tea & sugar & sometimes Potatoes, always fresh boiled meat, cigarettes & matches at intervals etc. Often we are short of bread and eat the Army biscuits of which we have plenty. I am used to them now and rather like them. Bully beef is always around in case rations are short.
Did Reg. shoot the three ducks & three chicken?
More Regina fellows are coming over, Albot Creswell Otton[?] etc.
As a rule we have lots to occupy our minds, books papers etc. but if you have a good book send it.
Again I repeat I got the box with suckers Handkerchiefs etc, I could stand more of the latter.
I hope your cold is better and that you keep in good health during the winter. In answer to Arthur's first letter I write, -
Dear Arthur, -
You are making dandy progress in school and your writing is just about as good as mine. I know you are a good student and do all your home-work every night. Don't study too hard, play all the games at school. You'll have to be a good hockey & rugby player. They are the two best games. Also make Pa take you to the golf links and show you a good swing which you can practice and keep. Better take Walter with you to the golf grounds and you two can play a game. I'll look for a letter from you again. The floor is all right to sleep on when you get used to it. Remember me to Walter & the other boys. Best luck to you at school. Your loving brother
P.S. I'll write you again soon when it's not so late.
Dear Ma, -
I haven't received the Province with the map yet. Will answer when it comes. Pa's trip with Mr. Casey wasn't so enjoyable as it could have been.
I'll look for those good socks & parcel from Mrs. Reid. The Postage is very high from home to France, perhaps not so high to England.
About the parcel from the lake, - I treated all the fellows with the suckers and they enjoyed them, the gum is fine and at the time reminded me of the lake. The OXO is dandy and warms one up while on the night watch in the trenches. I was short of handkerchiefs and they just came in time.
I'll try to get a photo in this town while here. I'll for parcel with short bread etc. It should be very soon. We haven't been in any fighting and are in a quite part of the line.
I have Pa's notes in your letters. Did he enjoy his trip to the coast? I'll write again must close now. In the evenings we generally have a little singing with a mouth organ. It feels good to sing out here and I like to listen to the fellows.
Tell Mary I'm going to write her she has a splendid start this year. I haven't forgot how well she did, only 5 marks behind 1st boy & the only girl.
Much love to each one.
Your loving son.