Somewhere in Ontario
Sept. 14th 1916
Dear Mother: -
This looks like a drunken mans writing. I am writing this on the train and it rocks so much that I can hardly write at all. We are somewhere in Ontario about three hundred miles east of Port Arthur. It is 8.30 P.M. Ontario time which is one hour faster than Wpg time. I opened up some of my parcels Tuesday night exploring the contents. Then I went to sleep.
When I woke up about six oclock in the morning I looked out the window and saw some pretty scenery. The first station we went past in the morning was "Malach". There were only a station and two or three houses situated on the shore of a tiny lake. I don't feel like writing any more tonight but will continue in the morning. I don't feel lone some at all. I know I am going to get along fine.
Good night Dear Mother
On the train somewhere east of North Bay. Ont.
Sept. 15th 1916 (Friday)
Dear Mother: -
It is about eleven oclock in the morning. We stopped at North Bay about an hour ago but did not go out of the train at all. Day before yesterday (Wednesday) we stopped at Graham for about an hour and a half and the major took us out for a short route march. We only marched about one mile. Graham is somewhere west of Fort William. We have just gone past a station called Alderdale. It is not much of a place. There are only a few houses there. Yesterday we stopped at a station called Hornpayn We caught up to the first section of our train there. That is to say, the train which the first bunch of the 108th were on.
They were filling the train tanks with water. By that, I mean the engine was taking on water and the train men were filling the drinking water tanks in the coaches. My grammar is rather poor somehow or other and statements are not very clear. I am not exactly in a mood for writing but I must write before I forget what to write. While passing through new scenery a person is apt to forget for the moment the other scenery and places he has passed. We are at the present passing along a ridge on one side there is just bush and on the other side is a valley and beyond the valley is a high hill and more hills in the distance. On the nearest hill there is a farmer ploughing a field up & down Hill. Of course by the time I have written this we are several miles past that place. I would be pretty busy if I were to write about every change of scenery we have passed through. Now I think I have wandered from what I was going to tell you. We caught up to the other train at Hornpayn. The boys out of the other train were marched past our train and back again. Then wer were marched past their train and back again. I saw most of the boys I knew but did not have time to speak as we marched past. Only could say "Hello" but we were glad to have a chance to say even that even though we have been separated such a short time.
We have passed many pretty scenerys but we are getting fed up on it. We want to see a little bit of civilization. This writing looks kind of sea sick. The train rocks so much I can hardly write. It is lots of fun trying to see how well you can write when the train is rocking.
We have just passed a small lake surrounded by wooded Hills. The the trees are kind of mixed. There is birch Hemlock Tamarac etc. The lake was narrow and the train goes ofver it on a bridge. It is supper time now and I think I'll go and eat.
In the meantime
I have been wondering whether this is regular Ontario weather we are having now. It rained last night but it hasn't rained at all today but still the weather has been dull and dark. I was writing this letter just before dinner and when I left off writing you will no doubt notice that I wrote that I was going to supper but it was only dinner time and it was dinner I ate. The train has just stopped at some little one - horse town to get water I guess, and I am going make use of the stop so as to write. The name of this place is Ellis or Alice or something like that. The boys were saying that our next stop will be Pembroke. The worst of this journey is we don't see any good - sized towns we have only struck three goo - sized towns in all these hundreds of miles. The only towns we passed that were of any size were Fort William, Port Arthur and North Bay.
We passed Fort William & Port Arthur About midnight Wednesday and I was sound asleep. We have gone through miles & miles of Wilderness and the stations we have passed have sonsisted mostly of two or three houses and the stations have been few & far between. We are all longing for a sight of civilization. It seems that this C.N. R. misses all the big towns of Ontario. We have been going through the backwoods alright. We passed a few farmhouses just now for a wonder. I saw about half a dozen cattle a while ago. They are the first cattle I have seen since we came to Ontario. We have just left the station called Alice and the train is going at a pretty good rate so my handwriting will be looking groggy again. It is supper time now and I think I'll go & eat: I'm not making any mistake about which meal I'm going to eat this time.
On the train a few miles east of Rivierre De Loup.
Province of Quebec
Sept 17th 1916:
I was just thinking that I must continue this letter and tell you about some of the pretty scenery we have passed. Rivierre De Loup is a pretty French town. It is quite large and has some pretty buildings in it. We stopped at the station there about 15 minutes but we could not see much of the town from there. After we got past the station we had a good view. The train goes along a hill around the outskirts of the town & the town is situated between the hill & the St Lawrence River. It sure is a pretty view from the train. The other side of the river is very hilly right to the water's edge. It is very rocky country. The Hills on the other side look as if they were solid rock. Just as I write this I have another view of the river. The train has been traveling about ¾ of a mile from the river but at present we are close to it. I can see a small island in the river and a boat on the river. The river is very wide here and there is a mist on the river and the hills on the other side are not distinct. The river looks like a long & narrow lake. We have just passed some beautiful scenery. I only wish I had a camera to take some pictures. I sure could have taken some pretty pictures. I have noticed along the river that some of the people gather some kind of seaweed or river grass from the Banks of the river. They scatter it on dry land so it will dry. I think they use it for fodder. I am going to start writing on the both sides of this note paper. If I don't, I will have an awful bunch of paper to mail home. I will hardly be able to get it into an envelope. We have lost sight of the river now. There is a high, steep, rocky hill between it and us. We may be quite a distance fromit now for all I know. These rocky hills look pretty (very much so). They are very steep & rocky and the trees that gow on them are scattered in small clumps. The farmers around here seem to make use of every bit of ground that can be used for farming. The whole country is fenced in long, narrow strips of lands. All the way from Quebec the farms have been long narrow strips and every one has been fenced in and all the fences have been rail fences. We have just stopped at a little town called St. Fabien. I don't know how long we stay here. We are to have a route march today at two oclock but I don't know in what town. It is dinner time now and I think Ill go and eat.
3.30 P.M. Sunday
We are somewhere east of Petit Metis now. At noon we went past Sacre Ceur. Since then we have passed Rimouski, Mont Joli and Petit Metis in the province of Quebec. We had a half-hour's march at Mont Joli. We marched around town a little and then went back to the cars. Well I think I'll tell you about our stay in Ottawa. We came to Ottawa night before last just about midnight and we stayed in the cars that night. Yesterday morning at nine oclock we marched down to the Parliament buildings to have our colours presented to us. We were presented with our colors with great ceremonies. Borden made a speech and we were praised to the skies for neatness and for being a sturdy looking bunch of men. There were many Military Staff Officers (you know these officers with their caps and coat lapels trimmed with red). Then we marched back to the train. We did not stay there very long.
Witley Camp England
Sept. 27th 1916
Dear Mother: -
We arrived in Camp Witley night before last. We did not know that we would come to this camp until we were on the ship. The camp is situated in a woody spot and is very pretty. We sleep in Frame buildings, thirty men in each building and we have plenty of room and comfortable beds. The baths and some of the other buildings are built of brick. We eat our meals in a big dining room. The meals we get are alright that is to say, what we have got so far. The grub we get here is every bit as good and about as much as we got in Camp Hughts. We have not done any drill yet. We have been fixing things up and settling down. We sleep on little bunks about eight inches off the floor. This bunk consists of two low trestles with three boards laid across them. The boards are about 10 inches wide each. These bunks make a fairly comfortable bed. We had a fine voyage on the ocean. We had calm weather all the way and I did not hear of any one getting sea sick. We had a good time on the ship. The machine gun Section had good quarters on the Steam Ship. Many of the soldiers had to sleep down below in the dining room and it was very close and Stuffy there at night. The M.G.S. were up on deck on the starboard side on the fifth deck and we had plenty of fresh air up there.
Witley Camp Sept. 30th
We are pretty well settled down now. I have been down town every night since I came. I went down town with Asmundur last night. He seems to like this place alright. The towns around here are pretty close together. There are three around here and they look as if they were all one town. There is a string of houses and shops between them. I can't tell where one town starts or where it ends. We drilled yesterday and day before. The ground we have to drill on is not very good. It is very rough.
There are two Alberta battalions here. The 138th battalion from Edmonton is in this camp. That is the battalion that Oscar Gottskalkson belongs to. I am going to look him up one of these days. The 100th is in camp here also. I have not gone to see Frank yet. I was on a march with the battalion day before yesterday and we went past where the 100th Signallers were signalling. I saw Frank but could not speak to him.
Camp Witley, Oct. 9th
Dear Mother: -
I have been to London "where the streets are paved with gold" as they say. Half the battalion got a pass last Monday from Monday night until Sunday but I went broke on Friday and came back that night. I had three pounds with me and I had a good time while they lasted. I went through the Tower of London and to the Zoological gardens and several other places of interest. They say that London is altogether different now to what it was in time of peace, and I am sure of that. I came back to camp as soon as I was broke but I know that many of the boys stayed there after they were broke and got along for a couple of days somehow or other but that is what I don't care for. I was glad to get back to camp, that is in a way. If I had had more money I certainly would have stayed. I am looking forward to my next pass to London, all the same, though I expect it will be quite a while before any of us get an other pass. I will know London and the way to see the city better next time. We found it pretty hard to find our way around being perfect strangers. The Machine Gun Section went on pass with "A" & "B" companies. "C" & "D" companies are going on pass tonight. The boys from down home will go on pass tonight. Mundi wanted to go with me to London but we did not get our passes at the same time. The Fort Garry Horse are here in Camp and Mr. Sherlock is in camp with them so I heard. I am going to look him up pretty soon. You know he was Josie's neighbor. We heard that the ship we came on had been reported sunk. It was said that the news of the sinking our ship had been received in Canada. I was justs wondering whether it had come out in the Canadian newspapers. I knew that if you heard such news you would be would be worried. This is getting to be a long letter and I have been a terrible long time writing it and I am ashamed to think how long I have delayed sending this letter. But when it gets to you it sure is some letter.
I can't write a letter like this to all the relatives and friends so I think you should kind of pass it around or else have it copied. I don't think there is anything very personal in it. I received a letter from you and the girls today. I got it alright and it was not opened at all. I sure was glad to get them. I hope you will write often. The lettes you wrote were a long time coming. You wrote them Sept. 17th and I got them today, Oct 19th. I am going to leave off now. Give my love to all the folks and friends and besure and remember me to old Maggie. Let her know I haven't forgotten her yet. Kiss Dad and all the Kiddies for me. Tell Dad that this letter is to him as well as to you although I address it to you. Good bye and God Bless you dear Mother and Dad
Your Loving son Archi
Private A.J. Polson 721948
M.G. S. 108th Battn
C.E. T. Witley Camp
I can imagine the excitement at home when you get this Letter.