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Date: October 30th 1916
Elsie Mowat - (sister)
Grant Mowat

West Sandling Camp.
Kent, England.
October 30/16.

Dear Elsie,

This afternoon I received two letters from you. And they have been coming regularly all along. Really, I feel like a brute for not having written to you oftener. I have been doing very little writing lately. I should have thought more of you, for you must be lonely down there. Here we hardly feel that way. It has passed over. One gets to take things as they come. Apathetic describes it to a certain extent.

I am up at the 39th Bn. now, waiting to be sent Overseas. Most of our Senior officers are also here.

It has been raining and blowing now for 8 days, and may apparently continue indefinitely. It is not a steady rain – just extremely heavy showers every few minutes, and with each shower comes a tremendous gale of wind. I’ve seen it rain as heavily only twice before in my life – once one day when Dad and I sailed down to Brockville from Allans cottage, and once in Alberta in 1913. But those were only single showers, while this time we’ve had over a hundred. And the wind is the worst; for tents will turn ordinary rain, but this the wind drives right through. As a matter of fact I haven’t been dry, day or night, since it started.

I have just come from the mess room where we were almost hurting ourselves laughing. [Dupuy?], who just arrived here yesterday was telling us of his experience last night. We’ve got rather used to it ourselves, and so could appreciate the funny side. He said he came out to his tent through the rain. He used up a whole box of matches before he got his candle lit. He set the candle down and looked around for his bed. “Spt” and a drop of water hit his candle and put it out. After this had happened three times he decided to go to bed in the dark. After crawling in among the wet blankets he tried to go to sleep. First a big drop hit him on the nose. When he turned over, the next one hit him in the ear. He reached out to get something to put over his head, and a bug ran up his arm and down into the bed. The tent then started to leak so badly that he decided to go to sleep. In the morning he got up long before daylight, stood for a moment in his tent to get a shower bath, dried himself off with a wet towel, put on his wet clothes, went in to breakfast, and then set off for a long mornings work in the open and in the rain.

For sleeping – I have a Wolsey kit, which is a big canvas sleeping bag, open at one end, and down one side, the opening down the side being fastened with short straps and buckles. It is comparatively waterproof. In it are my blankets.

The first night it rained, the rain splashing on my face woke me, but I just reached down and buckled up the bag and settled myself to sleep, knowing that my head was thick enough to be waterproof. Away on in the middle of the night an exceptionally heavy shower wakened me again. I noticed that the pillow was soaking wet so I turned it over. Then I decided to roll over myself. But the canvas of the bag over my shoulder had run the water down that way, and the water from the pillow had run down the same way, so when I rolled over, I rolled right into a nice little puddle of about a cup of water. It was fully ten minutes before I had warmed up that water sufficiently to be comfortable to get to sleep in.

But it is the general dampness that has really wet the blankets. Last night I went to bed with two slickers over the top of the bag, and when I woke in the morning and threw them off, the bag was almost perfectly dry. But when I opened it, it was dripping wet on the inside owing to the steam from the wet blankets in it.

I’m glad that I’m not subject to rheumatism, for it is quite cold as well as damp. There are about 10 officers sleeping in tents. The rest and the men are in huts.

I have been given command temporarily of “B” Company here, so am kept fairly busy. Saturday afternoon I went down to Folkestone, and to the theatre in the evening. They have a good theatre there, which puts on some fairly good shows. On Sunday I was Orderly Officer, and so had to stay in camp all day. However, as Orderly Officer, I missed church parade. The men marched up, and for the full three quarters of an hour that they were there it simply poured. I’m afraid that most of them derived little benefit from the service. In making my rounds at night I got soaked up to the knees, for they wont allow you to wear rubber boots while on duty. But the sergeant that was with me fell flat on his back in a ditch containing about 8 inches of water. It was very slippery.

To-day, on account of being up all last night, I had no work in the morning. In the afternoon we went about 9 miles on a route march. All the officers are now carrying packs which make some difference, as they are quite heavy, especially when wet. We all carried our slickers, but they would not let us put them on. As a result, it rained nearly all the time, and we got wetter than usual.

I don’t know yet when we will be going to France, but sincerely hope that it may be very soon.

It is quite a change here from the School. There we had a dry bed, and horrible meals. Here the meals are first class. In fact things here are O.K. and no one can have a kick, unless he objects to water. However, in that line, one sometimes wonders if they are training us for the Navy. Anyway, those of us sleeping in tents are unofficially known as “The Waterbabies”.

Say, would you like me to send you some sheet music. If you would have a chance to use it, I can easily get some, and there are quite a few new pieces that are good.

Norm Hatton is back from France on a month’s leave on account of rheumatism. He was there a very short time, but was lucky. He got a piece of shrapnel through his water bottle, and another just grazed the point of his chin, making a cut about ¾ of an inch long.

Well I must close now.

Your loving brother
Grant Mowat.

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