[transcription and transcription annotations have been provided by the collection donor]
Witley Camp England:
Saturday Sept 23rd 1916
My Dearest Mamma,
Here we are at last across the pond as you'll see by the above address. I suppose I'd better start at the beginning and detail it right through. Did you receive my letter dated about Sept 2nd? After my Toronto trip?
The big day came on Sept 8th at 7pm for us to pull out of old Petawawa and a glad moment it was. Our train (special) stopped at Pembroke and I never saw so many girls in Pembroke before as there were to meet us at the station that night. We were not allowed to get off the train, but talked to them through the windows. One, I never saw before gave me a box of eatables about 2 ft long. We also pulled them up to the windows and kissed them goodbye. Mc Kennan, one of the Bank boys, took me in over the weekend to meet some of his relations. They also met us with candy and several pairs of socks.
Our next stop was Ottawa at mid night and arrived at Montreal at 6am. We were allowed to get off here for an hour and walk around the platform, where there were any amount of girls. Then we had something to eat at a" Reviens de loup" [?] and [?] march at Moncton [Montreal?]. Did you receive my card from there?
We also passed Canada's wireless station, Newcastle, then Trurs N S [Hallisey's home] and say, I never, in any city, much less town, saw so many girls in all my life. Thousands at the railway station, and we were not allowed to get off, or even talk to them through the windows, as from this point on to Halifax, the windows had to be closed and the blinds pulled down.
We struck Halifax at 6pm Sept.10th. Slept on board and went on board the SS Cameronia at 10 am Sept 11th. We anchored and coaled at Halifax harbour until 8 am Wednesday Sept 13th, when we pulled out to sea, accompanied by the Northland, Scandinavian and Mattagama, all filled to the utmost with troops, infantry, artillery and cavalry. Our escort was the dreadnought Drake and we kept this formation:
until 24 hours out from Liverpool when we met the submarine destroyers. One destroyer escort each ship all through the war zone and at this point we all raced for England. Our boat beat the Mattagama by 3 hrs. and the other two were about 6 hours behind. We docked at Liverpool on Friday Sept 22nd 1916 at 4 pm. Took us 9 days and in peace time this boat does it in 5.
We went away up North and did this business all the way over and especially in the war zone [zig zag - drew a picture] to escape mines and submarines. We only had one day sunshine. It was all fog for 7days.
Everybody was sick the 3rd. day when the sea became very rough but apart from that it was like a pond all the way. The Officers had the 1st class, and the 12th Brigade the 2nd class, and the 15th Brigade were steerage for half the voyage when we changed with the 12th.
The food was AWFUL and I need not comment on the accommodations when I say steerage. The beds at Whitley Camp are about 6 inches off the floor on stands which makes it very healthy, and very unlike Winnipeg, where we slept right on the floor, over a sewer, almost. We have glass windows and electric lights and lavatories etc. under latest improvements.
About 500 yards away there is a little town for the camp and in that place a soldier can buy ANYTHING he requires. There's a moving picture show and restaurant and about 10 stores. The roads are the best I have seen since I left Barbados. Two miles away, there's a town of about 4000 people. We all went down last night... very pretty place and girls. Another town about 3 miles away also. These are all in bounds, requires no pass to go. That's the beauty of it.
We are enjoying fine weather, but very cold nights. In other words I may say in all my 21 years, I've never been so pleased as I am with conditions of this place, experienced in the last 24 hours. Petawawa was just a goal; this is the real thing and makes one feel more war- like every day. We are 40 miles from London and can get a pass quite often, so hope to see the city in a week or two.
327964 Gunner B. H. Cox
59th Battery C.F.A. [note: The 59th Battery became the 60th]
Whitley Camp Surrey England
Well, I think you have all my news to date. Received letters from Leila and self, just before leaving P'wa. Hope to hear soon again, lots of love and kisses for all from your loving son, Bertie.
PS Many happy returns of the 26th of Sept. 1916
PSS Oct.2nd YMCA London---- on 6 day leave in the city. Will write you all about it.