16 Oct. 1918
Up at five, breakfast of two eggs, tea and bread. At the station a host moved onto the train. Lady relatives stood here and there with their soldiers who were returning again to France. One isn’t amused at such an hour and such a time. The best he can do is buy a paper and have it out with the Kaiser in his heart and these days when his armies are running for it and they are talking of disposing of him in some way the paper is directly in harmony with ones spirit. You sit there, then in the corner of your coach mentally making faces at the Kaiser and confounding him and all his crew. In Britain I have heard especially elderly ladies plan tortures for him which would make an Iroquois chief green with envy. One wished him to be put in a barrel filled with sharp spikes and rolled down endless miles of hill; another wanted him in a small cage which would be sent to every town and village in Britain so that each woman could poke at him with her umbrella. The gentle Mr. Bishop would have liked him in the arms of a devil fish for an hour each day for the length of time the war had lasted at least.
But I was on my way back to France.
We ended up at Dover instead of Folkstone as we expected and were marched far up the hill to some old fortress, into a dingy room where one could sit quietly on the floor. Here I wrote from page 50 in this diary and thus passed the time quite pleasantly. At 12:30 dinner and I was faced with the problem of eating as my far distant ancestors for I had no instruments only a tiny pen knife. There was boiled potatoes and stew, bread without butter and tea. I managed the potatoes. From the top of the walls we could overlook all the harbour and the town. There were the white cliffs which Caesar saw from the coast of France. I don’t blame him much for being attracted and having a trip across to see what they were like. Instead of the water filling the moat below the walls of the fort there were lines of barb wire entanglements. Apparently we had thought it just possible the Germans might try a landing some night. I was standing about a hundred and fifty feet above the ocean so that the view was splendid.
At 1:15 we fell in and marched down the winding road into the town dirty enough for the back streets of France. At 3 we were on board a small transport and on our way somewhere. We fancied Calais but after three hours on the water the harbour lights, yellow green and red of the same city from which we had left France.
On the boat I met Georgesson who had left No. 7 the same day. He is an old bald headed man with a few stray hairs of a reddish straw colour, speaking very poor English for his birthplace was Sweden. He reminds one of an old turkey hen, distressed with family cares during the late summer. Still he belonged to my unit and company and is good hearted, very sensible in the fact he did not get married while on leave... Met Jackson this morning too. He had been wedded in Ayr. Nearly all the men who have reached that lonely dreamless land beyond 30 get married on leave. With a father just dead and a wife just obtained he had sufficient capital to ask the OOC and thus had been away three weeks.
With Georgesson and his continuous smoking and ‘yaw, yaw,’ for conversation I marched along with some thousands of leave returning ones along a path bordered not with flowers but the red caps of military police. We were prisoners.
French people lined our way offering apples, beer and grapes for sale. Some whispered they would give us a bed for the night. Onto a great plane we were marched. Here there seemed to be thousands of men and great daring gas lights relieved the darkness. Some officer with a far reaching voice was calling out names of French towns. He was separating the men as to the towns they must take to reach their destination. It was very impressive indeed.
Finally we were weeded out and marched off to a hut on the floor of which we were to sleep. Supper was served but stew without a plate or fork and spoon did not appeal to me. We went to the Y.M. but it was closed. A kindly minister who was the genius of the place refused my plea; he turned the hungry from his door in quite unchristian fashion, quite overpowered with the thousands which continually flood through St. Martin’s Camp.
At the E.F.C. canteen we got a can of Canadian corn, borrowed a spoon and ate part of the lunch the Bishops had given me, the old turkey and I eating out of the same spoon.
Returned to the hut and hunted for blankets for they had all been snatched up a few moments before. Got one each finally and made up a bed on the floor! My blanket below and Georgesson's above and our overcoats. Who was the last possessor of the blanket, what the floor contained was not of question. What’s the odds as long as you’re lousy? My haversack and coat sleeve was my pillow. The boys say this kind of thing takes the cream off the leave.
I had stolen a cup from the Y.M temporarily to aid me in feeding myself. The ill gotten but most useful goods is at present in my pocket.