January 1, 1917
Dear Father, Mother, Marion and Aunt Mattie -
First of all let me thank you with all my heart for your lovely Christmas gifts. Everything is the best of its kind. The clothes box which arrived just the other day contained wonderful things. The Pillow makes sleeping about twice as comfortable and pleasant as before; the chamois vest I wear in the hut nearly all the time to keep from getting chilly; the gloves are the thing for the guard; the scarf is the finest I ever saw and if you are writing the Campbells please send my thanks for the silk handkerchief. I wear it around my neck whenever I go out. I shall try to write and thank them, but there are so many letters to write just at present I am afraid I may forget. The wristlets haven’t arrived yet but I expect they’re on the way.
Today I got a severe disappointment. Only thirty percent of the company got Christmas and New Years leave – those who have relatives in the country. Well the other day I received a letter from Grandma Haddow in which she gave me the address of Miss Kate Haddow, Rothesay. "So I thought "Here’s where I get away with something.” I showed the letter to Serjeant Gilbert and he sent in my name. This morning he told me my leave had been granted and Jim and I were planning to spend six glorious days in Glasgow and Edinburgh (I thought also I might run down to Moffat for a day as I received a letter from Miss Walker about a fortnight ago) but the fates were against me. An hour or so ago the Serjeant told me that there were too many names in and that mine had been struck off the list. However it didn’t bother me very much as I have completely recovered from that fit of nervous exhaustion which got me pretty badly a few weeks ago. What must you all think of me for writing such silly hysterical letters! You are making far more sacrifices than I am – overhere having a lazy time while you have to keep the home fires burning and have so much worry.
Really though I don’t think you need to worry much about my safety – or Will’s either for that matter. I think that Will has a pretty safe job though I’ve no doubt it is a hideous and disagreeable one. As for us – I don’t think we’ll ever get to France! The latest is that we are to form the nucleus of a new Cyclist Battalion and that several other platoons are on their way to join us here. In this case it will be May at the earliest before we are ready to go and I really believe the war will be over by that time. The recent political events in England as well as the international developments have been most absorbing. I have made up my mind though not to say a word about them because if I start I’ll never get this letter finished. Wait till I get home and I’ll tell you lots about England and the causes of the war. One thing there is far too much militarism over here; and another interesting fact, it was the Northcliffe Press and nothing else that got the Asquith government out of power. The worst of it is, I am afraid they did make kind of a bungle of the war; but you felt this at least about them that they believed that England was fighting for peace and would not prolong the war in a spirit of revenge or to secure territorial gain and commercial advantages. I think Lloyd George is all right – though he believes "that he can save England and no one else can." If he is really not a Jingoist, he may have a chance very soon to show that he is not a tool of the Northcliffe Press. He has the confidence of the nation to such an extent that he can easily defy the man who openly boasts that the he makes and unmakes the governments.
The officers appear to have made some New Year’s resolutions for to day for the first time in a century we had a full day’s work; physical jinks at 8:30 A.M. followed by manoeuvres with cycles and a lecture and cycle cleaning this afternoon. It bids fair to continue. Recently we have been going all to seed. For days we would have practically nothing – a route march or some platoon drill for a few hours – and an occasional day’s manoeuvres. The last time we had a hard day’s work was one horribly wet morning when we went out on big ride in conjunction with the Australians. Of course we got soaked and I got a regular cold – on tome of my usual one – which is still with me. At present it is wet and muddy – generally raining or drizzling. Sometimes the countryside is wrapped in a dense white fog. A couple of weeks ago we had some delightful weather – clear cold and bright. When we would go out for a ride the effect of the hoar frost covering everything like diamond dust was most beautiful. Occasionally a robin redbreast would hop across the road and the stately graceful old trees and cozy villages gave the country a real 'old yuletide' appearance. Our training has been very irregular. As far as real cyclist work is concerned – acting as an advance or a rear guard for a column of infantry – we are [91?] men. Then we have also taken our musketry. But some of us took a bombing course when we first came over, some had bayonet fighting and some have had practically nothing. Still on the whole we are pretty well ready for France except for the fact that lately we have all got rather out of condition owning to irregular exercise and decidedly rotten meals.
Christmas day Dorland and I spent very quietly in the bunkhouse. The A.C.C. showed their usual courtesy to overseas troops by putting on an entire Canadian main guard of fifteen men that day. We all hate the English military authorities with our whole hearts. It makes me sick to hear people in Canada saying that the war be carried on and speaking for the soldiers. I must confess that I have no enthusiasm for this job. But I am getting on to the war again and I must stop as it is a quarter to ten and my bed is not made. I have decided after this, when I start a letter I shall just leave off when I have to and send it – even if it is short because in this way I think that I shall be able to write oftener. By the way it is fairly certain that we are going to move to Hounslow Heath the middle of the month. Of course there have been rumours like this before but the latest seems very insistent. It will be a change at least – for better or worse we shall see.
Much love and heartfelt thanks for your goodness,