13th Convalescent Depot, France
Sunday Feb 17/18
Still patiently awaiting the arrival of mail. When it does finally get here I expect there will be about a ton. I have been in the depot a week ago yesterday now and am having a splendid time. Of course I feel a bit lonesome once in awhile and have been thinking of home and Canada a good deal; but the life here is a picnic. I am indeed fortunate to have got sick. The worst of the winter will be over by the time I get back to the company again.
The Depot is very large and is divided into a number of camps. No 1 is the camp to which I belong and as I may have told you before I seem now a full fledged member – pianist – of No 1 Concert Party. This consists at present of seven members and a hut orderly. We have a hut of our own and a special table in the mess room. The men are all very nice fellows and in spite of being extremely English, most congenial company. Our leader of Spirit is a fellow named David – I think he is of Welsh extraction. He is a man of over thirty five I should imagine but quite boyish and full of fun. He is by far the most intelligent Englishman I have ever come across in the ranks of the British army. As far as I can judge he apparently had something to do with the stage in civil life, though I don’t think he was an actor. He writes a bit so perhaps he may be a newspaper man at any rate he was educated on the continent – Switzerland I think – and speaks French and German fluently. He is typically English in many ways: dislikes Americans, admires Lord Northcliffe and Ripling, has no faith in any kind of international organization, thinks an alliance of England and Germany (!) is inevitable and that the way to keep the peace is to prepare for war. At the same time he is quite a liberal in some respects. He professes to be an enemy of militarism (though now he reconciles this with some of his other views is completely beyond me and thinks that patriotism (as commonly understood) is really a vise. He also has a nice taste of literature – admires Meredith tremendously and is very fond of music. So much for David, next there is Hornblower who is a fair-haired boy of twenty four who comes from Liverpool. He is a trooper in King Edward’s House which appears to be a rather exclusive cavalry regiment. As soon as he leaves the camp however, he is going to England to take a commission in the L.7.C! From his manner and accent I should judge he was a public school man. He plays rugby and has a well trained baritone voice. He appears to have difficulty in understanding how it is that benighted foreigners don’t long to be Englishmen and has a faintly patronizing attitude towards everything not English. Then there is Spain a corporal from the Machine Gun Corps who, I think used to be a provincial stage manager. He is a Cockney and speaks naturally with a broad accent which however he can drop in singing or acting. There is also “Winnie” a tiny Cockney urchin who plays “girl” parts. He is “smart little kid, can dancelike a jack in the box and makes up into an extremely good girl. Lewis is an R.A.M.C. man who came down the same time as I did. Hailing from Dublin, he has a fine tenor voice and a charming lush accent. Finally there is another boy from London named Claxton. He is not very bright and decidedly the least interesting of the troupe but he has a rather god voice untrained of course, and with Hornblower’s coaching is going to be able to sing a couple of songs quite satisfactorily. Then I must not forget ‘Alec’ our hut orderly who is an old soldier, over military ages in the Royal [?]. He is a splendid old chap without the slightest bit of that senile cunginy manner common to so many Englishmen of his class.
We are getting up a concert for the end of this week and are working pretty hard. The first part of the program is to consist of songs, choruses, dances, “stunts” etc. and the second is to be a burlesque melodrama written by David, which is really screamingly funny and has some very clever, witty lines. In addition to working with the Concert Party I have engaged to deal in a discussion on ‘Contemporary Fiction’ at the Literary Society room by the Y. some night this week, and I have also entered for the lightweight boxing contest for untrained boxers which is to come off to-morrow and Tuesday. The ‘boxing’ is a great event which is held about once a month. Nearly everybody enters whether they can box or not and there is great rivalry between the camps. The men are matched according to weight and everybody takes it good naturedly. In face our company S.M. told us that there had bever been any bad blood shown as long as he has been here. I don’t suppose I shall last out more than a round but it will be great sport anyway.
So you will see that in spite of the fact that I don’t do any parades, my time is fully occupied and that I am enjoying myself tremendously. Nobody mentions the war and nobody thinks about it. This convalescent camp hasn’t been established very long, but it is seen on ideal lines and serves a splendid purpose especially now that it is so hard to get to Blighty owing to the scarcity of food over there. I only wish old Bill were down here with me.
Well good by dear people. I am impatiently waiting for news of you all and hoping that everything is righ as possible.