July 24, 1940 (No.1 Convalescent Depot, Brixham, Devon)
Well, here I am again in the good old Devon sunshine, only it isn’t today. I wrote you from the Canadian hospital and only hope you were at least mildly surprised to learn that I had had yet another car accident. You, meaning Mom, always did believe in Threes, didn’t you? Well, this seems to bear out your theory or superstition, or what would you have me call it? I think I mentioned in my last letter that I didn’t remember a single detail of the actual accident and must say that I still don’t, and furthermore probably never will. However, the M.O. tells me that this is not unusual and I have since had a visit from one of our officers, Captain Hanna, who enlightened me on the subject. It seems that one “Gunner” Swinton was driving a certain Major Ford down a narrow country lane at about 4 p.m. on the afternoon of July 10th, 1940. At the narrowest possible part of the road, Gunner Swinton was met by a truck heavily loaded. It seems that everything was running as per schedule when a projection on said truck struck the windshield of Gunner S.’s truck, smashing it and knocking fore-mentioned Swinton quite cold. Major Ford, sitting beside the driver escaped without a scratch. Gunner Swinton was immediately taken to the Canadian hospital where he received all the needed repairs and was then placed in a nice white bed where he awoke in the evening of the eleventh with a big head which was swathed in bandages and filled with cobwebs.
My first act was to remove enough of the bandages to satisfy myself that I could see, which I could, through two small slits that remained in the center of two lovely shiners. Having thus satisfied myself, I fell off to sleep again and awoke feeling much better on the morning of the twelfth. The nurse wouldn’t allow me to sit up though I felt quite able and proceeded to pour slops down my gullet from a dish which resembled a gravy boat, spout and all. I made rapid progress and by the end of the fourth day was allowed to sit up and partake of more solid food. I was grateful for the soft food at first as my teeth just didn’t seem to fit anymore and were very tender.
The nurses, I discovered were all Canadians, all good natured and very kind and considerate. Even the orderlies were easy to get along with, so I had no complaints. After five days, I became tired of bed-pans and bottles, so I coaxed the doctor to let me up long enough to go to the bathroom at least. On the sixth day, I was given permission to use the bathroom and did so well on my pins, that on the seventh day I was given a pair of hospital blues (a special blue uniform) and allowed to walk around the hospital. From then on, I was fine and soon was doing my share of ward fatigues which I welcomed as a change after so many hours spent in bed.
The boys in our ward were a cheerful bunch, so we had some pretty cheerful evenings. We had a radio and listened to our friend Lord Haw Haw whenever he spoke. His propaganda would really be funny if you weren’t confronted with the question of how many people have sense enough to take it for what it is.
Well, to get on with my narrative, I spent twelve very pleasant days in the hospital during which time my cuts healed and my stiches were removed. I fully expected to return to my unit in a few days but soon learned differently. On the twenty-second, I had an X-ray taken of my noggin and the resulting plate disclosed a fracture, so that was that. On the twenty-third, I was packed up and loaded on a train which carried me to my present location at the Convalescent Home in Devon. I had the opportunity of seeing my papers and saw a four-week’s rest recommended by the M.O. at the hospital, so here I am and here I will have to stay. One bad break from my point of view, was the fact that if I had stayed with my unit, I would have been on leave by now, as I was chosen to leave with the third batch who went last Friday.
However, the camp here has been a fashionable pleasure resort and all the fixtures are the best. At present, I have a very nice “chalet” all to myself with two beds, a sink, a dresser and two camp chairs. There are three fine tennis courts for our use and a large game room is provided in the pavilion. The camp proper is situated on a high plateau overlooking the sea and really provides a wonderful view. I haven’t been in swimming yet, but will do just that as soon as I can rustle some bathing trunks.
I am not far from the Aunts here so may be able to see them while I have the chance. I think I have covered the situation pretty thoroughly but will add that I feel fine and expect to have a grand time here. My only hope is that Hitler stays quiet until such time as I can rejoin my outfit.
In your next letter, you must really let me know how the crops are, as I hear that the Saskatchewan crop is dry as usual. I haven’t heard from any of you for over three weeks but suppose that is because I have been moving around so much. Well, keep your chin up and above all don’t worry about me as I mean every word of it when I tell you how well I feel.
For general information, Major Ford sent word to me by the Captain, that he didn’t consider the accident was my fault and that I was to insist on getting back to my unit on my release from hospital. This last bit of news was very welcome as you are automatically struck off strength if you are away from your unit for more than fourteen days. If you are away for a longer period, the usual procedure is to go to a holding unit from which you are sent to any artillery unit needing men.
Well, there isn’t much to add except that I miss you all and would like nothing better to see you all again soon. I also miss your good meals and I can’t help but wonder if those chickens that were hatched early are big enough to fry yet. I hope that when I come home, it’s in August when all the vegetables and frys are at their best. Well, so much for my gastric sentiments and so to the painful business of closing this letter. With that, I will close with the hope that this reaches you safely and finds you well and in good spirits, and that I hear from you soon.