May 25, 1941
Received a nice long letter from Mom today and a nice smaller effort from her nibs, Lorna. Both, of course, were greatly appreciated. Please accept my humble apologies and belated congratulations for your 36th anniversary, which I completely overlooked. I only hope that when I take a partner or choose a first mate, as it were, to sail with me on the sea of matrimony, I will find one who is as constant in their love and devotion and duty as you have been. Most people think that 36 years of marriage without divorce or separation, is something to really marvel at.
I am glad to hear that Spring has set in at home as you must have had a very tiresome Winter. I have seen two Springs ripen into summer and still think our more spectacular Springs with gushing water, returning birds and warm clear days, leave little room for criticism. The chief fault I find with the climate is that you can have bitterly raw days, even in late May.
I was very sorry in this last letter of yours and in previous ones, you make no mention of having received the snaps of Devon I sent you months ago. I can only assume they have gone down, the way so many of our letters and parcels have, but it is too bad, as they were jolly good. I am afraid I won’t be able to send a snap of Pat as I promised, as I no long bother with lady. I discovered some unsavory facts about the lady which convinced me that I no longer wished to keep her photo. We meet dozens of very attractive girls at the dances in the area, but few of the better class. In any event, I am still shopping around but have come to the conclusion that the better type of Canadian girl is head and shoulders above her English sisters.
I showed the maid at the billet the portion of your letter in which you mention the price of eggs, just to make her envious. Your tenpence is five pence over here and just a sixth of the price of local eggs, if and when they are available. Yes, Oxo cubes would be a very acceptable gift as they are getting increasingly difficult to obtain. Speaking of farm produce prices, I must say they must be frightfully low at home just now.
I am glad that Alan has regained his old interest and hope you get the needed breaks to make a go of it. I think I will return to England after the War to make my fortune. There are many fields of opportunity entirely unexploited over here that I have noticed. Take the case of the unromantic tin of pork and beans: if you tasted the English preparation, our superior quality product would sell. Another example came to my notice yesterday. We had an issue of Planter’s peanuts given us by the Legion or some such organization. These were done up in attractive vacuum-packed tins, nicely salted and roasted. I offered some to Mr. and Mrs. R. and to the maid. In each case, they accepted just out of politeness, saying they didn’t care much for peanuts. However, after tasting our product, they were delighted with the flavour. I have tasted the English salted peanuts and understand their lack of enthusiasm. These two instances are just two of many which makes me certain that a good salesman could go places in the right lines. Oh, by the way, did you receive the recipe for the treacle pudding which I sent some time ago? If not, let me know and I will try again.
I liked the poetry you enclosed, in spite of the judges’ lack of interest. We do get pretty lonely sometimes and fed up as, up to the present, we have done absolutely nothing to justify our long stay in this country. The news these days is not very cheerful, as you say, but I feel bright days are coming so why worry. The loss of the Hood came as a real shock, even to me. The reason for this is, that we always think of the Navy as something beyond Hitler’s grasp. He does seem to have the devil’s own luck, doesn’t he?
Many thanks for your compliments on my literary efforts, which I must accept with reservations. I really would like to write a good descriptive letter but usually I end up with a few incoherent phrases.
We went on a three-day scheme last week and took up our positions on a fine old English estate. In the background was a fine rambling mansion surrounded by the usual array of oak, horse chestnut and poplar trees, lovely velvet lawns and a well-laid-out garden consisting of flowers and flowering shrubs. All this was very lovely but what really did appeal to me was the rolling pasture land in which we camped. The English grass is, as you know, very lush and green. Dotting the landscape were clumps of fine old trees, and in the intervening spaces, sheep and blooded horses grazed. I don’t think you will find anything quite as beautiful or peaceful as pastoral England.
We took up gun positions in the shade of the trees and, after staying overnight, withdrew the following morning. I was sentry on the gun when daylight broke and had the pleasure of hearing the birds come to life one after the other. The cuckoo awoke among the first and his calls could be heard all morning. One thing I noticed about these songsters is that few have a complete song like our song sparrow or meadowlark, but do considerable chirping and chattering. Another thing I noticed was the lack of gaudy plumage among them.
We slept out under the stars, of course, and were quite comfortable in spite of the heavy dew which invariably falls. The idea of these schemes seems to be to teach us co-operation between our unit and the supply units who are responsible for our supplies. All went off very smoothly on the whole, though I went without a shave for two days, due to lack of water.
Well, I have started to really ramble again, so will just try to answer your letter and sign off as it is nearly my usual bedtime. I hope the girls do well at the musical festival and I’m sure they will. We had a good preacher at the church parade this morning who really knew how to handle the rough men. An example of his humour is found in the following parody of the usual “Now I lay me down to.” He said that “Now I lay &c “ was baby talk and added that the Sergeant Major would deal with any soldier who “laid him down to sleep,” and then gave this version. “Now I get me up to work and pray to God I won’t shirk. If I should die before the night, I pray to God my work’s all right.” He also told us of addressing a similar but larger body of troops in the Aldershot Command last year. He said that after the sermon, he apologized to a chap in the back row for being unable to make him hear. The chap replied, “Please don’t apologize sir, as I’ve just made $1.30 playing crown and anchor while you were speaking.” After he had won the attention of the boys, he delivered a very fair address dedicated to Empire Day. He told another story of an Englishman who bragged to a Frenchman that the sun never sank on the British Empire. To this, the Frog replied, “God doesn’t trust you in the dark.”
Speaking of Frogs, don’t you feel like liquidating a few of the Vichy Administration? What do you think of Devilera’s stand on the conscription issue in Northern Ireland? Can you imagine people being so stupid or spiteful as those damned Irish? Ireland is in a position which makes her entirely dependent on Great Britain to protect and feed her, yet she does everything possible to make it harder for her.
I went to a dance last night in a nearby town (10 miles) and, due to the poor service, found myself stranded there. I have learned to take this situation in my stride, so it no longer worries me. The only real worry is getting back in time for parade the next morning. I was lucky, as usual, and arrived back here ten minutes before Church parade, so of course nothing was said. Oh, I forgot to mention that my bedroom was a motor bus which I found at the bus depot and shared with another Canadian storm trooper. No, I haven’t been writing to Liulf very often, as there is nothing to say. I would of course get in touch with him if I were about to leave the country and would expect him to do the same. Well, I must close now and make a parcel of this mess.