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Date: June 23rd 1915

23rd. Battalion,
Dibgate Camp,
Shorncliffe, England.
June 23rd 1915 - 8.30 p.m.

My dear little sister:

How have you been since I left you all three weeks ago today, only twenty-one days, but it seems a year since I have seen you - I suppose because no mail has arrived yet. I expect I shall get a letter in a day or two now, but mails are so uncertain just at present and the average time of crossing, including the train, is nearly fourteen days. Everybody has had a letter but Major Smith and myself, and of course we are on pins and needles. The reason the others heard from home so soon is that the letters were posted care of the War Office, while we were still at sea, and then forwarded to us. It seems so weird to be so absolutely cut off from you, and although I’m not really homesick, I don’t suppose nevertheless I shall certainly heave a soulful sigh of satisfaction when I hear from all my dear peoples.

How did the exams go? for I suppose you are all through by this time, or will be by the time this letter reaches you. I hope you did well, Sis, but I am afraid you left your studying off until rather late on in the game. I know it is very hard to settle down to it sometimes, but take it from one who has had a lot of experience and tried every known method of sifting and plugging through, that it is most dangerous to let that restless feeling get the upper hand. I don’t think it is good for one to simply cut out everything, unless of course just before exams, but it is necessary to keep your hand in at all times so that you can at any time send in a few extra licks if necessary. If you don’t follow this method it becomes almost impossible to settle down to anything of any value. No matter what one takes up, that same restless feeling overtakes one which is in reality nothing more, no less, than a disinclination to concentrate at all. For some people, of course, they have no mind to concentrate, but for one like yourself, who has real ability, it is too bad not to have control over your faculties and make the most of them. So listen to your big brother.

And just while I am handing out advice, I would like to say a few words on another matter. Don’t let yourself run away with the idea that there are no differences of importance between people except the fundamental ones. What I mean to say is this; because a person is at bottom fine and upright, and because they may be admired for many excellent qualities does not make up for the lack of certain delicate and almost indefinable attributes which distinguish the gentleman and the lady. I don’t even mean to suggest that you should avoid people who lack these qualities altogether, much less to treat them other than you as a lady would. But be careful never to let this distinction slip from your mind, for if you do, the result will be that you, by constant association with them, will sink to their level and lose those delicate attributes yourself. The reason I give you this advice is two-fold: in the first place, because I have noticed that in making your friends you are inclined to lose sight of what I have been speaking of in your appreciation of certain very excellent and substantial characteristics which a person may have, and in the second place, because I know from experience that as one grows older they put more and more value and importance on these subtler attributes, and people who in their younger days they admired, and whose society they enjoyed, they find in after years grate upon their finer sensibilities. Be careful, therefore, my dear, dear Kae, to always estimate everyone at their true value from all points of view, and not from one alone, whether it be boy or girl, and although you may enjoy the friendship of many persons of every station, and rightly so, only give your complete confidence and intimacy to somebody whom you are sure you will always feel the same toward in after years, and who you think will help you to appreciate the finer and more refined sides of life. For there is only one way to be permanently satisfied in the society of a person lacking in refinement, and that is, to sink to their level, and that means tragedy as a rule. Besides, you must remember how much Mother and Dad love you, and how anxious they are for you to make the best of yourself, and you have the ability and the energy to be successful in anything you set your mind to. You must set up a standard for yourself and measure everyone by that, not let your standard be set for you by those you meet necessarily almost every day. I hope you won’t resent or misunderstand this little bit of advice from your big brother whom you may not see again for a long, long time.

I intended to write home last Sunday, but was busy all morning, and in the afternoon the boys were very set on taking a motor trip to Canterbury, so to be pleasant and complete the party I went with them. It was a delightful drive through Kent County for about twenty-eight miles of the richest agricultural land in England. England is all up and down hill, so that one is continuously looking across valleys two or three miles wide. What one mises here is the beautiful wide rivers we have in Canada. Instead they have beautiful little brooks winding through the valleys, some of them large enough to punt and paddle on, but most of them mere streamlets. Even the famous Thames above London is not nearly the size of the Humber below the bridge, but of course it runs through the most wonderful part of England.

Going to Canterbury we passed Lord Kitchener’s place, a very beautiful park on a hillside with some fine tennis courts at the foot of the hill on the edge of a little stream. The house is a very modest, ivy clad one, with high chimneys and many gables, something like the Featherstonhaugh’s on the Lake Shore Road. One can just see it from the road looking up a long winding avenue of beech trees. Just at the foot of the hill the road curves suddenly and up springs the quaintest little village, all red brick and white rough stone cottages covered with roses, and the inevitable "pub” advertising in large letters its own particular brand of ale. When I say a village I mean, of course, just a cluster of cottages for a few hundred feet on each side of the road, in which live the retainers of the great lord.

You would be interested in Canterbury. It is, of course, one of the oldest towns in England and has the old city walls and the moat still standing. The old Cathedral is very wonderful, but unfortunately we could not get into it at that hour of the day and did not feel like paying a guide half a pound. It would really take about half a day to go through all the wonderful chapels and the ruins of the ancient monastery partly built into the Church and its surrounding buildings. We found our way into one little door and down a few steps and discovered a dimly lighted chapel in the crypt which turned out to be a Hugenot Church. Service is said in French there every Sunday, and has been ever since the religious persecution in France when a band of Protestant refugees found sanctuary there. We wandered through a long dark ruinous archway leading from the grounds and came out into the beautiful grounds of Canterbury School, where a lot of lads in flannels were playing cricket. In strange contrast to the quiet within the gates was the riot of soldiers in the narrow streets of the town as the evening drew on.

We are working very hard now, and I am usually glad enough to turn in before ten o’clock. We start in with physical drill at 7.00 for half an hour, then parade at 8.30 until 12.15, lunch, then again at 1.30 with a ten mile march until 5.00, or else bayonet practise all afternoon. I am taking a special course of instruction in bayonet fighting, and am getting quite expert in making neat holes in a straw-filled sack hanging on a wire. Then we hang around, write letters or bicycle in to Folkestone and back and off to bed. The simple life with a vengeance. I am as brown as a nut and my cheeks already look like puff-balls, but I’m working too strenuously to get very stout about the rest of my anatomy, I fancy.

Last night we started out at 10 o’clock just as it was getting dark (don’t be skeptical, its a fact), marched four miles across country over hill and dale to absolute silence and blackness, took up a position on the crest of a hill and dug ourselves in vigorously for three quarters of an hour, lying flat on our faces all the while. I felt and looked like a rabbit or a coyote trying to make a burrow into solid rock. However, we managed to get a hole big enough to lie in and some head cover out in front, and then started off for home, arriving in about two, just as it was beginning to get light, to find the cook with his lantern poking over a fire, and about twenty dixies of steaming tea. With a sandwich all round, the lads went to bed happy enough in spite of being soaked to the skin by the fog, and slept in until seven this morning. Great life, eh, what!

Goodbye, little Sister, for the present. Give my love to all the dear ones at home. Be a good girl and look after our darling Nennie.

Your loving brother,

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