February 23, 1940
I have been writing regularly to Mother and the kids, but I am afraid that I have been rather neglecting you, however, the letters were all meant for the whole family, which of course, included Pater.
Well, things are pretty quiet here, as the nearest village is one mile from camp and a very dead little place at that. We were given a five-day leave and two pounds with which to do it, so I was very glad that I had relatives to see. I spent slightly over a pound on railway fare, which took me to Budleigh and left me very short of funds; however, Auntie May was very glad to see me and spending became an impossibility, as each Aunt did her best to show me a good time.
Aunt May has a sweet little cottage with ample ground around it for a nice lawn and terraced garden, which contains quite a variety of trees and shrubs, including several apple trees. This time of year here compares with April in Alberta, but there are so many kinds of evergreen trees, ferns, shrubs and climbers, that the countryside is far from being bare.
To the south of May’s cottage is a rather sharp rise of ground, from which you can get an excellent view of the sea. The weather was very dull most of my visit, so the sea was never at its best, but at that, presented quite a sight as the beach is piled high with shale which has a predominance of red and at high tide, the water is level with the top, which gives it the appearance of an engineering job rather than a chance of nature.
During my stay, Aunt May and I went to Exmouth to see Aunt Margaret and later to Brampford Speke to see Madeline, who lives well out in the country, but has a nice home with all the conveniences of a modern home, with the exception of water, which is pumped from a nearby well to a storage tank in the house. Aunt Madeline is still active in welfare work and is in charge of a casualty clearing station. I had dinner with Aunt Madeline and did justice to a large rabbit pie, which I found most delicious and at four o’clock went back to Budleigh.
I like the English countryside very much and imagine I would like to live here, providing I was rich enough to be completely independent.
We are given two pounds at a pay and the remainder is saved for us, which is a very good thing. The battery has been reorganized to combine with the 107th, to become the 61/107 battery and with the 71/113 battery, are now known as the Eighth Field Regiment of Artillery. Each man has been given his particular job and specialist training has begun in earnest.
The Colonel in charge of the regiment told us we would have to work hard, as separate training must be completed inside of three weeks, at the end of which time we will be ready to move to a range of gunnery, probably in Wales. At present, I am designated as a driver and should get some useful training.
Yesterday, I had to work in the kitchen, which I found to be well equipped, having a power dishwasher and a potato peeler and all cooking is done with steam. It was my job to operate the peeler, and I ran four sacks of potatoes through it in less than an hour. The food here is very good, though the rationing at first was a little close, particularly with butter and meat. The people over here are very cheerful about the war and, apart from the black-out, go about their business in the usual manner.
That was quite a feat, boarding the German prison ship Altmark and rescuing the Britishers and must have made Hitler boil.
The weather for the past few days has been very warm and the natives say Spring is here, so here’s hoping.
Well, there isn’t much more to say except I’m well and happy and hope this letter will find you the same. I am looking forward to the business of serious training and active service and won’t come home happy ‘til I’ve seen both.