Received your letters on Thursday and Sunday and got much pleasure in reading them. In my last letter, I mentioned a tentative plan for a weekend trip to Birmingham and wish to state I was one of the lucky ones. We were paid fourteen shillings towards our bus fare and I can only say that the trip was worth several times the amount. I enjoyed every minute of the trip and will try to pass on a little of my pleasure by describing the whole thing to the best of my limited ability.
We left Borden at 6:30 a.m. on a special bus and picked up the rest of the convoy in Aldershot, which brought the total up to four buses and about 120 passengers led by an officer from the Seaforth Highlanders. The first thing of interest we encountered was a party returning from a fox hunt. The party consisted of six riders decked out in proper hunting attire, red coats and all, and mounted on lovely horses. There was what Dad called the “head whip,” I think, who had about twenty fox hounds well under control. The whole party was very picturesque against a typical background of low stone walls, huge spreading trees, and lush green hills and fields which were divided by well-kept holly and thorn hedges.
At 10:15 we arrived at Stratford-on-Avon and were welcomed by the dignitaries of the town which included Sir Archibald Flower, the member of Parliament, and T.L. Waldron, the mayor. We were immediately taken to the Shakespeare memorial theater, which I understand Sir Archibald was instrumental in building. The theater proper is not the largest but most certainly the most perfect of its kind in England. Our guide explained how it was built with the sole idea of making the most perfect setting for the reproduction of Shakespearian dramas.
With this idea in mind, a quarter of a million pounds was raised and the theater built complete with an intricate system of multiple stages which can be raised or lowered or moved from side to side, enabling rapid scene changes. At the back of the stage is a background of plaster built in a concave shape. By the use of coloured lights thrown on the surface and tiny electric bulbs set in the plaster, the effect of dawn, twilight and finally night with the twinkling stars is achieved.
The building also houses the Shakespearian Museum which is rich in famous painting of the time. Original manuscripts and other relics too numerous to mention. We next entered the busses and rode a short distance to Ann Hathaway’s cottage which proved very interesting as everything is exactly as it was when friend Bill went courting Anne. I got a complete set of pictures here so won’t attempt to describe this part of the journey. Our next stop was Shakespeare’s birthplace, which was simply full of relics including an original letter written by Shakespeare to a friend in which he asked for the loan of thirty pounds. The language he used was very amusing and in today’s slang would probably be called “beating around the bush.” By the time we had explored this building it was twelve o’clock, so we sat down to dinner at Shakespeare’s memorial restaurant, which was close at hand. Here again we were met with relics on very side, including all manner of weapons. We enjoyed a very good dinner which we washed down with Sir Archie’s famous “Flowers Ale.” After dinner, we paid the bill by listening to several after-dinner speeches, which we applauded loudly and at one-thirty were on our way again.
During the time, we passed through some very lovely countryside, which is particularly lovely at this time of year. Our next stop was at Warwick Castle, which was well worth a special trip just to see. The castle is in a wonderful state of preservation, being complete in every detail. The interior was like a trip into fairyland, with high, vaulted ceilings and enormous crystal chandeliers. The walls were oak-panelled which date back to Charles II’s time.
There were many famous paintings on the walls, one of which the guide said was worth sixteen hundred pounds. This particular painting was one of Charles the Second mounted on a horse and a full-length portrait. We examined the place from top to bottom, even down to the dungeon, which seemed to be even worse that the dreaded “Glass House” and the words “dark and dank” certainly described it.
Once again, we took to the buses and our next stop was at the ruins of Kenilworth, which are mostly ruins. I got snaps of this, so won’t bore you with my efforts of description. At five o’clock we arrived in Birmingham and were welcomed at the city hall. After a delicious lunch, we met our hostesses at whose homes were billeted and set off for their homes. The people were all very kind and seemed anxious to give us a good time. On Saturday, I took in a dance and on Sunday went on a tour of the city in the host’s car. I saw the Austin car plant, also the huge Cadbury’s chocolate factory and found Birmingham a wonderful city.
Well, there isn’t much to add, except I made several friends who would like very much to have me come and spend my leave with them, but this won’t be possible, as I promised to visit the aunts before leaving the country. Tell Alan I got the cigs and that they saved my hide as I sold enough to cover half of the cost of the trip. Thank the kids for their letters and tell them that I think of them often, and tell Dad not to try and get well too quickly and to let the collar sores heal before throwing his weight back into the harness. I have my pictures of the convoy and will send them soon, also a group snap which I hope you’ll like. I ordered a picture of the regiment which will be sent to you direct and should be very useful for covering a dirty patch on the wall.
The weather is fine today, being much like a June day. The trees are almost completely leafed out and the whole countryside is very beautiful. I am glad that you liked the seeds and only hope I sent enough. My only wish is that I could share in some way the wonders of this country. Everywhere you look you see the subject for a lovely photo and even pictures fail to give you the real beauty that is so much a part of this country.
Well, I could ramble on for hours and say nothing but will save you the misery of reading such a letter and will close now.
However, today’s reports seem better and it appears that we shall be able to land equipment at Navik. Friends and relatives of the 49th should be glad as it was by the slightest chance that they were sent to Norway. I was talking to one of the boys and he told me they got as far as Scotland on their way over only to be sent back at the last minute. I enjoyed reading Phyl’s letter particularly, the news of Doolie’s debut. I am sure the little rascal will be in cover from now on. It’s too bad the family wasn’t able to see Liulf off but am sure he will understand. I expect they will be sent quite near here if they come over, but local rumors insist that they will finish their training in Ontario.
We have new trucks now which are four-wheel drive and closely resemble beetles and are officially known as “quads” and generally as “jeeps” or “potato bugs.” They have five speeds forward and one back and steer like a drunken hog, particularly when driven over rough ground or sandy soil. I was out all day and, at one point, passed through Lloyd George’s country estate which is in Surrey about twenty miles from here.
I enjoyed today’s manoeuvres very much as I got plenty of driving through some lovely country. We got word over the weekend that we move to a gun range this week. The general opinion is that the camp will be in South Devon. If this proves to be the case, it will be very close to Aunt May which will be nice. At any rate, don’t worry about me as I’m well and happy and have never for one minute been sorry I joined the army. Most of us are getting a little tired of training and are looking forward to our trip to the range. At any rate, I don’t expect we will return here to Borden, but that won’t make us mad. The grub is still comparatively good, the only trouble being that we see altogether too much of the sheep. I don’t know what we would do if it weren’t for the ‘woollies’ as they clothe and feed us too.