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Date: January 29th 1917
Annie Mowat - (mother)
Grant Mowat

6th Can. Res. Bn
East Sandling Camp.
Kent, England.
January 29, 1917.

Dear Mother,

Received a letter from you, and one from Elsie yesterday, and to-day a parcel of papers from Father.

Since last writing numerous interesting things have happened. However I am still in England, and see no chance of getting nearer the front for another six weeks.

The first bit of excitement was a reorganization here resulting in us moving to East Sandling, about a quarter of a mile from our previous stamping ground.

The second and by far the most important was Cousin Mina’s visit to England on leave.

I might say before going farther that I think Mina is the nicest, kindest little cousin possible. In fact she’s the nicest girl I’ve ever met – bar none.

She landed at Folkestone Wednesday the 10th and went straight to London. Arriving there she sent me a telegram. I immediately bustled about and got three days leave beginning reveille the next morning.

I arrived in London afternoon Thursday, and Mina and another nurse who was on leave with her met me at the station.

From there we all adjourned to the [bank?] and then to the hotel. Mina was staying at the Regent’s Palace, and had had them reserve a room for me there. So luckily I had no trouble on that score.

Mina and I had lunch together about 1.30 P.M. and then spent the early part of the afternoon getting acquainted, and in mapping out a plan of action.

About four, we walked across to another hotel “The Kingsley” where among a large number of nurses Mina’s room mate was staying. Mina had promised to come across and meet the girl’s fiancé. Also Mina wished to borrow the nurse’s civilian clothing as the other girl was returning to France. They seem to have a sort of community life, using the clothes in common, or in turn.

We came back to the Hotel for dinner and in the evening went to the theatre – to see “Chu Chin Chow” a musical comedy. I had heard so much about it that it proved rather disappointing.

Friday morning quite early we started out to see the British Museum, but found it closed. So we spent some time looking through the small curio shops and second hand stores of that neighborhood. Then Mina went to her friends hotel to change into civilian clothes, and I did a little shopping.

We returned to the hotel to-gether and had lunch. In the afternoon Mina ran across still another nurse friend and the three of us started out to see the Tower.

There is very little that I can say about it, for you have read so much and seen so many pictures of it. However, we saw the White Tower, and the Bloody Tower. We saw where the two princes were murdered and buried, Sir Walter Raleigh’s cell, and walk, the cell where Judge Jeffries drank himself to death etc.

Then we went and saw the crown jewels in their great circular cage. It is impossible to describe them, they were simply dazzling and magnificent. There were crowns, orbs, scepters, maces, punch bowls, baptismal fonts etc also a couple of salt bowls and a dozen salt spoons.

From there we went to the Armoury. Here in immense arched halls, were displayed uncountable numbers of ancient weapons of all kinds. In one hall were the ancient suits of armour – chain mail armour and plate armour, and armour for the horses. There was one suit of plate armour for a man 6’ 10½” high and one for a dwarf less than 3’ 6”.

Then there was a hall full of swords and spear heads, and also of maces. There was a whole wall full of heads of pikes like the Black Douglas used.

Then there was a room full of the earliest rifles and pistols.

Then downstairs a room full of ancient cannon, and also body armour and helmets of Queen Elizabeth’s time. Practically all the armour in that room was French armour captured in the siege of New Rochelle.

Then in the last room was a mixed scattering of modern weapons.

After seeing the Tower we wandered across the Tower Bridge into the White Chapel (a slums) district. From there we got a bus home.

That night we went to see Daddy Longlegs. It was practically the same company that played in Peterboro last winter – the same heroine and children anyway. It was very good.

There was to have been another nurse go with us that night, but she got into the Tube to come across to our hotel at 7.40 and got into what they call the “Inner Circle” and kept circling about the centre of the city and not getting anywhere. At last an hour later she got out and took a taxi home.

Saturday morning I slept rather late and with the exception of a short stroll up the Strand spent the morning sitting inside talking to Mina.

In the afternoon we picked up another officer (who knew London well) and with Mina’s nurse friend started out to see some more sights.

First we had a ride in the Underground. We went into the station, got on an elevator and went straight down a mile or two. Getting out of this we found ourselves in a brightly lighted cement station, with a smart breeze blowing through. In a moment the train pulled in – looking like a lot of streetcars pulled by an electric engine.

We rode a short way, then changed across to another train. Getting off this we stepped on to a moving stairway, which landed us on the Thames embankment.

First we visited Soho square, where all the Jews live, and which is as dirty and smelly as –— ?

Then we went to the Temple. This is simply wonderful. Tucked away in behind tall buildings, and lying between the Strand and Embankment it is in the city, but not a part of it. You enter from the Strand through a long archway with tiny stores on each side and find yourself in a square surrounded by high oldfashioned stone or brick buildings – the Temple law courts and law offices. Each stone on the square once covered the grave of some one, and still bears the inscription, though in many cases almost worn out.

Then occupying most of the square is the Temple itself, a low Norman building – once (and still I guess) the headquarters of the Knights Templars and Knights Hospitallers. You enter through an immense door and find yourself in a church divided into two parts. The part you are in is the graveyard part, and at the far end is the church part.

Lying on the floor are the effigies of those buried beneath – knights in the very old chain mail, and some a little later in plate armour. Those that went to the Crusade lie with their legs crossed.

Then you go on into the Church. The ceiling seems high and fits exactly the description of Melrose Abbey in the Lay of the Last Minstrel. There is an immense rose window in the far end. The rich blues and yellows of the glass are wonderful.

All the seats and choirs are of very dark wood, each post crowned with a grotesquely carved head.

The ceiling is painted in some conventional design. The floor is of chocolate coloured tiles about nine inches square. In each of them in clear white is the picture of some fabled event – St. George and the Dragon, a Crusader in full armour and [mounted?] etc. etc.

Coming out and going toward the other end of the square you find yourself in a long park, with a fountain in the centre. Looking up at the roof of the buildings you see the horrible gargoyles staring down. Everything here is dead quiet. You seem to be in some village churchyard, instead of a hundred feet from the Strand, London’s busiest street, or the same distance from the stream of traffic on the Embankment.

Coming out on the embankment we got a bus across to the Parliament buildings and Westminster. We didn’t go into the Parliament buildings, for we had all been there before. And Westminster was closed – Saturday afternoon.

From there we walked back to the Haymarket and had tea in a large Chinese restaurant.

Then we returned to the Hotel. We had dinner quite late that evening, and then sat in the coffee room till it came time for me to leave – shortly before ten.

I arrived back in Sandling here about midnight.

The next Wednesday Mina came down to spend the rest of her leave in Folkestone. She was stationed there for nine months – and so she has a host of friends about. As luck would have it, I was able to get down to Folkestone every evening except Sunday. I was Orderly Officer on Sunday and also till noon Monday so I got Monday afternoon off too.

Mina always waited dinner till I came down. Then we had dinner together somewhere. One night we went to the Theatre where the boys of the cavalry depot were putting on a Charity show. The other evenings we simply sat and talked.

On Saturday and again on Monday afternoon, I had tea with friends of Mina’s, and on Monday afternoon visited a couple of hospitals with her. In one of them I met an old Peterboro friend of mine Holland Hill. He has been in 5 months – badly wounded.

Tuesday morning Mina returned to France. I received a letter from her to-day. She arrived back all safe and without being sea sick. This was strange as she was almost scared sick of being seasick again. Arriving there she found orders waiting to go up to #3 Canadian Casualty Clearing Station.

Nurses in France have no cinch. Besides having to work 13 hours a day or night, their quarters are cold, and they have insufficient blankets. Then they are not allowed out after dark, and only a short distance at any time.

Up at the C.C.S. conditions will be much the same, except that in all probability they will be subject to shelling once in a while, and that the cases they get will be just from the trenches, and the bandaging and operating will be nerve racking to the extreme.

It seems too bad to send a little girl there, for Mina is only a little girl, rather delicate looking, with a sensitive nervous mouth and immense dark eyes. In fact on first looking at her she seems all eyes. But later on you notice she is about two-thirds backbone and determination. It would be worth your while writing to her, for she must be a bit lonely.

Well, it is very very late now and I must close. I’ll write again soon – before the next mail anyway.

Goodnight dearest Mother.

Your loving son,
Grant D Mowat

P.S. Tell Betty and Billy that their fountain pens are on the way. GM

P.P.S. Mina’s Address is
Nursing Sister Mina Mowat
#3 Canadian Casualty Clearing Station

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