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Date: October 4th 1916
Annie Mowat - (mother)
Grant Mowat

Napier Barracks
Shorncliffe, England
October 4/16.

Dear Mother,

This evening I received two letters, one from you, and one from Father. I was glad to get a letter from you, but I am very sorry to hear that you are feeling poorly. I hope that you are having a pleasant Autumn to put you in better condition for the winter. And I am praying for you Mother dearest.

Our weather over here this week has been very wet, breezy, and slightly cold. However we have a fine big room, and just behind me now is the fireplace with a fine bright fire burning. As I think I told you in my last letter, I’m feeling fine. At the present time I weigh 176 or a trifle better in my uniform, of course without the great coat. And people are already talking about double chins. But I still want to put on another 20 lbs. I’ve gained 25 since August 1st. And I’m as hard as iron. My legs are so hard that I can let anyone try to grab a handful of flesh on my thighs, and he can’t get a hold of any. I guess that I’ve put on most of the weight on my thighs, upper arms, and inside. My legs below the knee are no larger, and perhaps smaller than they used to be, on account of the continual use of puttees. You can’t feel my ribs now, but that’s largely because I’m so hard. I’d like to put on another 20 pounds though, which would put me in great shape for the trenches. I’m standing the wet weather fine, no cough, cold etc. And what I do to the beans and roast beef is a shame. The mainstays of our meals here are – breakfast – beans, lunch – shepherd’s pie, dinner – roast beef. Outside of these there is very little, for the soup is what is appropriately called “belly wash,” and the dessert is infinitesimal. However an hours hard drill before each meal helps a lot to improve it. I haven’t got to like “spuds” yet, though.

Last week we spent most of our time out in the country on one scheme or another, and in this way saw quite a bit of England. Around here is quite rough, but the roads are fine and every three or four miles there is a little town. Along the roads the fields are bordered by low stone walls and back from them run the hedges. The country is full of sheep. In the villages the houses are set irregularly – in fact nothing is laid out here in an orderly manner, except the military things. The houses are mostly stone or brick, with red tile roof overgrown with moss, or occasionally a thatched-roofed house. They’re fond of thatching things however, and every haystack has its thatched cover. The churches are small, built of stone, and are very solid. All that I’ve seen so far are very old. At Lyminge we saw the second oldest church in England. In connection with each church is the rectory, so far as I’ve seen always by far the finest house in the village. Usually it has plenty of land and trees about it.

Folkestone, our nearest city, is quite pretty. It is situated at one end of a long pebble beach, miles long, and the city is built on the flat a hundred or so feet above the sea. To the east of the city stretch the chalk cliffs off to Dover. To the north west is Caesars hill – a very steep and high hill, on the top of what can be clearly seen the earth walls of one of Caesar’s camps. To the south and west the long curved beach extends out to a long point, and then in again on another curve to Brighton. In front of the city is its long stone breakwater forming a sort of harbour. In the bay are always anywhere from a dozen to fifty steamers anchored, and among them the patrolling trawlers and destroyers. And across the strait can be easily seen the chalk cliffs of France and behind them the hills.

Any afternoon you can see up above the city and out over the strait a couple of great metal covered dirigibles, and from two to a dozen aeroplanes, circling about and always on the watch.

Out in the strait the destroyers are doing all sorts of stunts, appearing, disappearing in the distance in almost no time, now two in sight and a minute later half a dozen.

Well, I must close now, Mother dear. I am hoping to hear from you again soon and to hear that you are feeling better.

Your loving son,
Grant Mowat.

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Original Scans