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Date: June 22nd 1915

23rd. Battalion,
Dibgate Camp
Shorncliffe, England
June 22nd. 1915.

My darling Girlie:

I wonder when I shall get a letter from you. Of course by the time you receive this I shall have heard from you and from home also I have no doubt, but damn these war times and uncertain ocean mails. The average time of crossing now they tell me here is from ten days to two weeks; try to imagine that. Let me see, I wired you my address on Tuesday night, so that I need not expect a letter for three days yet at least and probably longer. Good Lord I shall go mad. For the last two days I have been in a state of nervous unrest wishing so to hear from you. At first I thought I was hungry, and then after Sunday dinner decided it was thirst, but finally arrived at the true diagnosis, I want you, and failing that some loving communication with you. And you, poor darling, I suppose you are watching the postman with lingering eye also.

My dear, dear, Ferne, it is so hard to be away from you – nearly three weeks now since I bid you good bye, with a handclasp and two short kisses, how short only you and I can know. That last day at the train seems so unreal, looking back upon it – the hurry and the confusion in the thick surging crowd of people and your dear face smiling at me bravely from the growing distance. Fernie, my loved one, God grant in his goodness that someday before long I shall see that same smiling face coming nearer and nearer until I hold you in my arms again. I hope dear when you write you will tell me every little thing that you are doing that I may see you in your daily life before me day by day.

This is a beautiful country dear and a beautiful camp. Were the circumstances different it would really be an ideal life that we are leading and England is such a wonderful country, that is rural England. One never feels really out in the country at all, for every couple of miles or more there is a little village with a few beautiful country homes and an inn, and the roads of course are so wonderful and shady that it is really a pleasure to wander among them. It is nothing unusual to see a couple of fashionably dressed ladies with sunshades wandering along about two or three miles outside of Folkstone, which is the town here. We go out every afternoon for an eight or ten mile march, and believe me it is different from marching in Canada. Hills and valleys one after the other. We are at the foot of a range of hills which rise up to a height of 600 feet above the sea and in order to get anywhere inland it is first necessary to climb these hills which makes excellent training. The footing is so good and the weather so lovely that the men seem really to enjoy it intensely. It is a fact that one often turns down a narrow side road, just wide enough to
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fashionable watering place, Folkestone, which in happier times is one of the great watering places of England. To the left are the tents of the 49th. of Edmonton with whom we crossed and about a mile beyond them, the hills roll up green with pasture and dotted all over with sheep, for this is a great sheep country and for miles some times one sees nothing but shady pasture with a farm set here and there in the midst of it. Nothing here of course is on the same scale as in Canada, but it is remarkable the way one comes up on to a rise and can look across a rich valley of farms and trees and country houses, parks, for two or three miles to where the ground rises again. It makes the country very beautiful and a walk or drive through it most interesting.

From the top of the hills here one can see France quite plainly and usually a continuous line of steamers fading away toward it. Every now and then a torpedo boat or a scout cruiser dashes up from the horizon, scurries about for a while and is off again while a little fleet of steam trawlers ply about day after day sweeping mines and looking for submarines. They say that about one submarine a week is sunk or captured. The two destroyers that brought us in had been chasing a submarine all the day before; the next morning I heard that they got the beggar.

One of the officers here described to me seeing a submarine chased and captured about a month ago. Four destroyers kept flashing around and around for over two hours with a couple of aeroplanes flying high in the air. Suddenly the aeroplanes swooped down towards the water, the destroyers dashed towards it, before the submarine could sink again which it takes them about three to five minutes to do, the little black devils werein her, bang, bang. down goes Scrubby Marine, tucked in for the night as the Tommies say. Ordinarily, however, the scene is so peaceful that one can hardly believe there is a war on at all. Nearly all the troops that go to the front pass either through here, or from Southampton or Dover and yet I have never seen a troop train, although the railway is only a quarter of a mile away and quite visible. I suppose they all come through at night and are away by daybreak.

Only two real signs of war by seeing and one was the first night we were in Camp. We went in to town in the afternoon and decided after dinner at a most scrumptious hotel right in the terrace above the sea, to take a little motor trip to Dover. We arrived there about eight and saw the great harbour full of destroyers, cruisers, converted trawlers with their little guns, hundreds of them, and ordinary mercantile and passenger vessels. We drove through the narrow streets of the dirty little old town with sailors rollicking along everywhere, and went up on the cliff to have a look at the great old Norman Castle, now full of British soldiers. On the way back it was getting dark, when suddenly from overhead came a roar and a whiz and two great armoured Rolls Royce cars whizzed past us going like the devil. At the time we thought there must be an invasion, but the next morning we heard it was a Zeppelin raid near Deal up the coast and they were after the Zepp. There are about a dozen of these cars and the same number of aeroplanes around here and also a couple of dirigibles, so that in the day time there isn't much chance of trouble. At night however it is harder to protect the coast. One can hear the pesky things but never see them. Folkestone at night is like a city of the dead, not a light in the street or anywhere likely to be seen from the sky.

The other war scene I saw was less exciting, but just as dramatic in a more tragic way. Arnold and I strolled down to the station one night to send a wire and came out from the telegraph office on to the platform. We noticed first that all the gates were closed, next a lot of Medical Officers and Red Cross men on the platform and lastly a long row of stretchers down the platform. In a minute or two in rolled the hospital train. The coaches are fitted up with two tiers of specially made bunks on each side and there is a nurse and doctor in each coach. In about fifteen minutes the 200 wounded had been removed to different hospitals about here in red cross ambulances waiting in a long line outside.

First came off about 100 slightly wounded, arms, heads, feet, &c. two men with bad arms helping along a chap with a bandaged foot, all merry and smoking cigarettes. As they came off some dear women met them with tins of coffee and buns and all sorts of delicacies. Then came the more serious cases on stretchers in all stages of ruination, nearly all of them though sucking at the inevitable cigarette, bound to enjoy that much if it be their last pleasure in this world. Good lads they have "done their bit" as the boys say here and will now be taken care of by tender hands again. It sobered me somewhat to see them all, but strange to say the only other feeling I had was a sort of grim rage at something or somebody that has brought all this about.

On Sunday we took a motor trip to Canterbury, about 28 miles North and saw the beautiful old Cathedral and the ruins of the ancient monastery. Quite as interesting in their way were the city walls of the old town and the great moat still in quite good repair, and used as a sort of Parkway through the city of today. I shall try to get some good views or snaps and send them to you, as it is really a very picturesque town. We had dinner at a fine old inn, beef stew, onions, cherry tart and white wine, then motored back about 8 o’clock. As we left the town the streets were simply jammed with soldiers, privates, subalterns, majors and even generals rubbing elbows in the crowd. They say that there are about 50,000 troops encamped or billeted about the town.

The English Tommy outside of the regular army is not, I think as smart a soldier as most of the Canadians. Their uniforms are built for comfort and not for style and they don’t worry much how they wear them in many cases. The regulars of course are wonderful, although very few of them are in England now. Indeed most of them are merely volunteer battalions of regular regiments, such as the Black Watch, &c. which were in existence when the war began, the same as our Militia and were then turned into regular battalions. The others are volunteer battalions raised since. We have some Imperial army instructors with us and Good Lord, if the British regular army which went out first was even remotely like them, one can imagine how they managed the terrible retreat from Mons and the subsequent battle of the Aisne, which saved Paris. They are undoubtedly the finest trained army in the world, not even excepting the Germans themselves. People over here are quite enthusiastic over the Canadians, although naturally there is not so much piffle about their extraordinary qualities in the English papers as in ours. I have heard though from English officers back from the front that nobody can touch the Canadians at bayonet fighting; they take to it with a grim ferocity that aroused the admiration of the regulars themselves.

On Saturday afternoon I ran into Marion Merritt of St. Kitts, on the Leas. The Leas I might tell you is the terrace above the beach, It is a broad walk about 100 ft. wide with hotels and pensions and tennis courts all along it for about a mile, a delightful place to stroll. She was very glad to see us and asked us down to tea some evening at their hotel. She and her mother are both here to be near Major Merritt who is in the artillery. Poor old Merton Seymour, her fiancee, is 6000 miles away in Vancouver and Marion says she is rather lonely. She wants a Canadian girl to play with. How would you like the part?

Good lord, how I wish you were here. It would be very lovely for the time I am here, but I am afraid you would be horribly lonely when I left for France. Mrs. Smith is coming on Saturday and Mr. Mackenzie and Eleanor will be here some time next week to remain until we leave for the front.

Just when that will be I have no idea. Not at least for a month. I have no doubt, as the men need a lot of training in some branches of the work. There is also some talk of withdrawing the first division and sending          in the second in a few weeks time. The first division is worn out and badly battered, some battalions merely a handful of men and the whole rather disorganized. If this course if taker we may be here or at the base in France for some time, as we are to reinforce the 31or Toronto battalion under Colonel Rennie.           It would probably take a month or more to refit and bring the division back to strength. However, this latter is only a rumour at the front and we got from the Adjutant of the 3rd. Bn. who is here on a few weeks leave. He was too near a big shell at the battle of Langemarck and had his nerves shaken up a bit. Couldn’t hear or see straight for a while, but is all fit again and returning shortly.

And now for a little bit of exciting news before I say Good-night. When we arrived here a certain battalion had been six days overdue and it has not come into Camp yet. It is absolutely lost as far as general knowledge is concerned. One rumour has it that it was lost at sea; another that it is all quarantined at Plymouth I suppose for smallpox or something miserable of that sort, and lastly and most persistent, that the whole battalion, officers and all, are prisoners in Edinburgh Castle on account of a mutiny on board ship against the authority of the Captain and crew. Two persons have been sentenced to death and so on. For the sake of Canadian good name we are all hoping that this last is not true. It would be a horrible blot on our Scutcheon would it not? Personally I think the quarantine story is far the most likely and expect they will turn up after a certain period has elapsed.

And now, darling, I must close for to-night. I do so hope you are well and happy and that you and Molly are doing a lot of paddling and having a good healthy summer. Take care of yourself my darling baby. If I could only bring you over here for a while. All English girls look so healthy and well set up and athletic with their red cheeks and tanned skin. There is something very invigorating about the climate. I suppose it is largely the sea air and the open nature of the country about.

If you and Mother and Molly and Kae and Dad were only here for June and July, the most beautiful of English months, what a time we should have. But, Lord, I mustn’t dream when I’m not asleep!

I kiss you, my beloved, your lips, and brow and loving eyes,
Yours lovingly,

P. S. I hope you dont mind these long scrawls. I love to write to you and when I go to France I probably shan’t be able to write at all, so much make hay while the skies are blue.

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