September 1, 1940
I received your letter of July 24th and was just as glad as usual to hear from you. Since the letter arrived, I have left the convalescent depot and am now waiting at the Artillery Holding Unit for the dopes to let me return to my unit. There was a call waiting for me when I arrived, so I guess the Major still wants me. I really hated to leave Devonshire, as I was having the time of my life, what with swimming, tennis and May, not forgetting May’s family, who treated me wonderfully.
The night before I left, I called to see May and to say goodbye to the family. In view of their kindness, I thought it only fitting that I show my appreciation, which I did by giving Mrs. Brazier a nice box of chocolates. I think the gesture pleased Mrs. Brazier very much, particularly as she realized I was only drawing ten shillings a week. Before I left they made me promise to visit them when I go on leave next week. This was easy to do, as I had every intention of looking them up in any case.
We had an air-raid warning at five o’clock which caught me in the middle of a shave. I had to drop everything and make a dash for an air-raid trench and stay there ‘til the “all clear” sounded twenty minutes later. Old Gerry seems to have cooled off considerably of late, probably due to his heavy losses. Well, I don’t care much for the Holding Unit as the N.C.O.’s don’t seem to know the score and fatigues come often.
I expect by the time this letter reaches you, you will be pretty well all through gardening and the threshing all ready to start. I hope the prices improve, but don’t expect this to happen as our European Market seems to be gone for the duration, and after the war they will be too poor to buy anyway. Therefore, I should raise plenty of pigs next year and forget about the wheat, as bacon will always be in demand.
I had a nice letter from Liulf the other day in which he reported a nice leave spent in Glasgow. Well, I will have to go on parade and as there isn’t any news anyway, will just have to close for now. The parade ended in kitchen fatigue, so I decided to go into action myself. I couldn’t get any satisfaction from the stupid N.C.O.’s, so I went to the Major in charge of B. Battery, in which I find myself now. I told him I was anxious to get back to my unit as soon as possible, so he stretched a point or two to let me go out on the draft tomorrow and, oh boy, am I glad.
I am glad to hear that Catherine’s letter arrived safely, as she was wondering about it. She is a very nice girl, although quite the little school-marm, even though she is only twenty-four. I am sure Shirley will write her a letter that will do credit to the whole gang. The reason I gave her Shirley’s address was that she too was away from home and apparently lonely and I knew that Shirley had more time to answer letters than I did.
I almost forgot to mention that, while at the convalescent camp, we had a chap come down from London to record a program which later will be broadcast to Canada by short wave. I was able to say a few words and as near as I can remember this is what I said. This is Gunner H.A. Swinton, 61st Battery, Edmonton. “Hello Mother, Dad and family. We are having a grand time here, hope you are all well.” I do hope you hear the program as it was quite good. It really is surprising to see just how that innocent little “mic” frightens some people. Even I felt the effects, but I think overcame them. If you do hear the program, let me know how you like it.
I am glad your strawberries did so well and expect you have been busy as can be with all the canning. Well, it is just about time to return to the kitchen, so will close again, this time, I mean it. P.S. Sometimes I get pretty lonely but expect it only natural. Will be coming home about 1942, but I doubt if it will be alone.
Received Mother’s and Connie’s letters the other day plus the pictures of the “Brown Bear’s” den which is certainly a masterpiece and which must look quite nice in the middle of your flowers. The shapes too are nice, although the camera seemed to be playing tricks on you.
At present, I am on leave, which I received the day after returning to my unit. I spent five days at the holding unit before getting back to the Eighth. I was glad to see all the boys again and found them all healthy and just as dizzy as ever.
We are in an area fairly close to London and as a result have about five warnings a day. Last Wednesday a Hurricane crashed and plowed into the ground to a depth of about fifteen feet quite close to our camp. On Thursday, we had a fire-side seat to a grand air battle, which raged over our heads for more than an hour. The planes were flying very high so it seemed very unreal. You could see the planes, which looked about a foot long, dashing to and fro in spectacular spins and dives, and hear the rattle of machine guns or the odd bang of the Messerschmitt aerial cannon. We had the pleasure of watching one Gerry come sailing down in flames before the fight passed out of view.
Right now, London seems to be catching the devil, but I understand Berlin is in the same condition and after all, this is what the people have been expecting ever since the war started, so they aren’t really surprised or frightened. When I got back to the unit I learned that the Major was ill, so I went straight over to see him. He was very glad to see me and seemed genuinely worried about my condition. He told me he was afraid I had lost an eye at first and that the accident hadn’t been my fault in the least and he was glad I was back as he would have a regular driver once more. I do consider myself quite lucky, as apart from a slight discolouration under one eye, you would never know I had been hit.
I suppose you poor devils at home must worry about us over here an wonder just how long we can last, or how bad things really are. Well, please stop worrying right now, as I think the War has now reached the crisis (or dear Adolph has fired his wad). There is no doubt that many people are suffering by his indiscriminate bombing, but he isn’t hitting military objectives, which, after all, is what counts. It does seem so strange to be living under front-line conditions (if you can call it that) in England. One moment you may be looking at a scene of perfect peace and order, and the next thing you know, the siren wails and all hell breaks loose. It isn’t bad for the troops, who are prepared at all times, but it works quite a hardship on the civilians engaged in vital works.
This war will be decided in the air within the next few weeks, though it may take years to crush Hitler completely. A modern War isn’t the least bit like I had imagined and the real war is going on in the factories and fields. If the people can keep on going in spite of broken sleep caused by raids, they are doing more to defeat Hitler than all our armies. It is really quite a sight to watch the searchlight cut the sky into ribbons when searching for enemy bombers. The lousy Germans fly so high to avoid the lights, that accurate bombing is impossible, hence the bombing of civilian homes. On the other hand, the R.A.F. are methodically singling out Germany’s industries and air fields and blowing them to Hades.
Well, so much for the screwy War and so to finish this goofy mess. I am glad you got my report on the crash first, as some of the reports which floated around the camp would have raised your hair. The dizzy eggs had me as good as in the ground from all accounts. I wrote just as soon as I was able for that very reason as I knew how rumours spread and gather momentum.
Your hollyhocks must be very pretty and I’m sure you are quite proud of yourself for having grown them. Please congratulate the designer and builder of the summer house for me as I think it very nice. Well, I’ve spent most of my leave travelling around the country and expect to spend a day visiting Auntie Lila before I go back, so will let you know how I make out. In the meanwhile, focus your camera and carry on.
P.S. Congratulate Mrs. S. for her poetic efforts and the kids for the good school reports. Perhaps you could send me a copy of the poetry in question, as I still have my sense of humour. Will enclose a snap taken of yours truly on the beach and at the gate of the camp, hope you like them.