February 11, 1940 (Borden, Hampshire)
We arrived at camp last night after a train journey of about twenty-two hours. In my last letter, I wrote of our arrival in Greenock, but owing to lack of space, had to cut the letter short. I find it hard to write a letter of description and yet get it in one envelope.
We missed seeing most of Scotland, as a rigid black-out is enforced at 5:30 p.m. daily; however, we saw the large shipyards on the Clyde and several industrial centres before dark. I understand we passed through Newcastle on the Tyne, but it looked much like our cellar at 12 p.m. We travelled on the L.N.E. (London North Eastern), which took us through many industrial centres. The towns are very close, and almost seem like the continuation of the first. The houses are all of brick or stone and usually as much alike as peas, presenting quite a sight. The snow is still lying on the fields in the North and the conductor told us they had more than usual this year. The temperature isn’t low, but the cold chills you to the core.
We passed through Oxford and saw the spires of the college in the distance. The countryside is very beautiful and looks like a continuous city park. The firs are much like our Eastern species and grow to quite a height. There are many little brooks and streams winding through the countryside studded with many kinds of evergreens. One tree grows to a great height and looks like a Lombardy poplar. Even though I realize we are seeing the country in its offseason, it is hard to understand why people want to leave it.
I forgot to mention in my last letter of seeing the largest battleship afloat, a sight well worth seeing. We were just preparing to leave our boat at the time and as each vessel steamed by, they cheered us and received in kind. It was quite a spectacle to watch them steaming out of the harbour in formation, a pride to belong to the Empire and be fighting its fight.
We as I mentioned, we arrived last night, thoroughly chilled after our trip on the train, which was poorly heated. The first-class cars are very comfortable but ours was a diner and poorly suited to our purpose, as we spent a miserable night sleeping in our seats. On our arrival, we were allotted quarters which are large and well equipped, except there is no heating system; a small fireplace our only supply, so we shivered our disapproval. I learned from one of the English boys that all the huts are the same.
The camp here is of huge proportions and is scattered over an area of over 40 miles. The barracks are almost entirely of brick or stone, being permanent and well laid out. The streets are all gravelled and as smooth as pavement. There are air-raid shelters all over the place and the vital spots are heavily sandbagged. The grub is good and the mess hut clean, but even there, fire is scarce. There are wet and dry canteens and a “cinema” here, so we shouldn’t be too bored. There are soldiers from all parts of England and last night I met guards, Welsh, Irish and Grenadiers, who were quite friendly. The boys are having quite a time with the new coinage, but get by.
At present the weather is fair and warm and the ground free of snow, comparing favourably with early May in Alberta.
I understand the 61st and the 107th will be united and as a result, many of the boys, now together, may be separated. All the boys are going on leave, starting Monday, leaving in three parties, the last going Wednesday. I put in for Tuesday and will wire Aunt May before leaving and hope to have a good time.
Les, Jack, Scottie and Wes are planning London and will probably have a whale of a time. We have a black-out at 5:30 and boy, I mean black, so my flash is very handy. Last night a bunch of us went on a tour around the camp and had quite a time finding our way back and once almost fell into a machine-gun pit, which was about twelve feet in diameter, six feet deep and one wide, so proceeded more carefully after that.
I understand the 92d and the 49ers are all fairly near – about 15 miles – so we will be seeing them soon. Well, I guess that is all the news, so will sign off, saying lots of love to all and hope to hear from you soon.