Wednesday Eve, 10 to 8 (D.S.T)
Dear Marion, Father and everybody at Bonnie Brae,
As I write this I am lying on my blankets in our tent, for we have just moved under canvas. We are encamped together with the British Army Cyclists and a small body of Australian troops, which has come from Egypt I believe. They are the first body of Australian Cyclists. Owing to the fact that last Sat was a holiday – Dominion Day – for the Canadians the British Cyclists very kindly pitched our tents for us, so that all we had to do was to carry over our belongings from the huts last evening.
There are nine men in our tent with everything they own in the army, and as the tent would hold four comfortably or even six without any inconvenience we are not as badly off as we might be. Some of the Australian tents have thirteen or fourteen men in them, and the Auzies are threatening to do all sorts of impossible things if they don’t get better accommodation in a short time. We are hoping that we may shortly be quartered in huts again because though it is just as pleasant sleeping under canvas we are really rather crowded here and the facilities for washing and other sanitary conveniences are the limit.
We have a splendid bunch of fellows in the tent. Our proper section N.C.O. corporal is down at Haling Island taking a musketry course and his place has been taken interim by S./Cpl Bassett whom has complete self satisfaction and is a terror to blow, but is very good natured and likable. Then there is ‘Mitch’, who was an accountant in the City Hall before the war, and who left a widowed mother behind in Toronto. He is a very plucky little chap and always jolly. N spite of the fact that he is thirty one, he looks ten years younger and is quite kiddish in his ways, so that I always think of him as a ‘young one’. MacNabb, Farmer, Bill Clark, stalker, Walter McCutcheon, Dorland and I make up the unit.
The Australians in the camp are the toughest bunch of men I have ever run up against. They are positively just like beasts in all their habits and as they all get drunk in the evening there is some fun, of a kind, going on about bed time. The English Cyclists, too seem to be the riffraff of the British Army – especially their N.C.O.s, though for the most part they are extremely good natured and mind their own business. The trouble is that they seem to fall in with army discipline naturally and back that spirit of personal independence and divine discontent which Canadians have. There is no doubt that English men who for want of a better word, I have to call the lower classes, have a spirit of servitity and lack of ambition which grates on a Canadian. Bill told me that in talking to some of the English men who have been out to Canada, they had admitted that when they came back to England the missed the sense of personal freedom which they had enjoyed in Canada.
Yesterday morning all the troops in camp were inspected by Lord French. We had to stand out in a meadow for about two hours and the seen was so hot and we were kept at attention for such a long time that eight or ten men fainted or had to fall out from sun stroke. I saw three of my own fellows and about half a dozen of the English. It didn’t bother me however, though it was extremely uncomfortable at the time. Mr Letters our acting O.C. told us afterwards that the Viscount had praised the Canadians very highly and commented about their smart appearance. We are expecting to get wheels and rifles shortly, and it certainly is about time.
Well Marion, you don’t know how much I have enjoyed your letters. You know that snap you sent with Carell at oneend and Harry at the other. I thought when I saw it: “That is not awfully good of Marion. She looks very pretty!” So then I showed in the Hux and some of the chaps and pointed out my sister, and they all said she looked exactly like me! Your ‘sermons’ Father too have been a great help to me and they have been doubly satisfactory because I haven’t heard any others for a long time. I think I have only been to church in Chisledon once at All Saints Church in Oxford, and once to a military service in camp here which was a rotten affair, because we had to stand up and because the Chaplain said that we weren’t ready yet to start peace negotiations! I suppose he was right in the last regard, but I felt sore at him all the same.
Things are certainly going ahead in great style now though, aren’t they? And they ought to have some real work for Cyclists if the push keeps on to the Rhine, or as the Daily Mail would like to have it away into Prussian territory. Even that delightfully discouraging journal now admits that the war will probably come to an end (this generation. Most of the common people (plebs) think that it will be over before Christmas but military critics and societies in the monthly reviews think that it will go through the winter. My own opinion is that the intellectuals are wrong. I believe with old Horatio Bottomby and Lord Kitchener that the collapse of the central Empires will come before many months and that we shall have peace this year – if the Daily Mail will allow it.
In my last letter to Mother I endeavoured to describe in a somewhat detailed manner my last week in London and Kent and also to tell something about my visit to Oxford. The result was the composition of the letter took practically the whole day. So if I try to describe it in chronological order, the happenings of my six days leave in London I shall have to take a couple of weeks. So I think I shall have to just try and record some of my impressions in the first place. I think London is a magnificent and beautiful city and enjoy getting up to town so much that I am hoping to spend my next week end there again. Strange to say I have not cared much for professional sight seeing. I feel too tired and too bothered to walk around very much seeing everything that ought to be seen. And I suppose it is the height of foolishness to spend money on the theatre in England but I want to four ‘shows’ on my six days leave and another on my last week and if next week end there is something I want to hear I intend to take it in, and, if not, I shall probably go to the new revue at the Vandeville entitled ‘Some’, which the papers an unanimously lauded.
There is something about an English ‘revue’, if it is clever, which places it in an entirely different class from American musical comedy. Ball Mell ‘at the Ambassadors’ was one of the smartest, wittiest, entertainments I have ever seen in my life. It was full of the most amusing satire as well as broad comedy carried out by people who were really funny. The thing was a burlesque on revues in general and everything else under the sun; and it had such a delightful air of haphazardness and inconsequentiality. Everybody seemed to do just what they liked and when they liked. For example the first scene should have been the royal palace in Alexandria, but by mistake it was the Alexander Palace and so the stage manager came out and raised a row about it. Then the theatre is so absolutely diminutive – it’s just like a little doll’s house, that there is a feeling of intimacy between actors and audience. I am enclosing a program of the shows. Well it is nearly half past nine and I shall have to go to bed soon. However I shall post this much of the letter and continue about London in my next one. In the letter which I wrote to Mother on Sunday I told about seeing Will and asked her to post it to you. I sent it to 40 Darkwood so I hope it will be forwarded if necessary. I haven’t received letters for the last two or three days, but I usually don’t deserve to get any for a month. I realize that I am under obligation to write home more frequently then I do and shall try to amend my ways, but circumstances are trying at times and conveniences lacking. However we ought to be the thankful we are having such a smooth time considering we have no reason to complain.
With much love to all,