Search The Archive

Search form

Collection Search
Date: July 21st 1915

France, July 21, 1915.

My darling Mother:

’’Here we are, Here we are, Here we are again", as the boys sing. Just where, of course, is a matter between me and the Major. Not, of course, that it would seriously affect the course of events if the Germans were to discover my whereabouts. They probably might take to sniping at me with a seventeen inch gun, but as an officer back from the front said to us a few days ago in his inimitable English way, "Yes, I think they are annoying; I feel safe in saying they are annoying, but of course they don’t at all affect the wah!" However, it is a rule of the censors that absolutely nothing should be said in a definite way concerning the movements of troops, so - well here we are in France, and have been since last Saturday. At present we are well in the rear, but I expect that very shortly we shall be moving up to our battalions, ours of course the Third.

But alas, dear Mother, we are only going to take our boys up to the trenches and return to England. At least, those were our orders on leaving Shorncliffe and I have heard nothing to the contrary so far. The Major will probably remain, as Colonel Rennie has asked for him, but Crawford and I, who are with the company, are only "Conducting Officers". You can imagine how heartbroken I am at the prospect of returning to the base and leaving my bonnie boys all alone at the mercy of those awful Germhuns. Honestly though, it is the most disappointing thing that has happened to me for years. There is just a possibility that by the time we arrive we may be needed, but it is more than probable that by the time you receive this I shall be back and eating my heart out without any company at Shorncliffe with the other three subalterns. Of course I suppose our turn will come, but - well, it makes me tearful to think of it. If possible, of course, we shall get into some instructional course at one of the Military Schools and make a study of some branch of the war. Otherwise we should undoubtedly go mad or go to the devil. Of course this has been the fate of many officers of reserve Battalions, but its mighty tough luck.

I received a letter from you, dear Mother, just before we left, but have not it with me just now and don’t just remember whether there was anything I should especially answer. If so, I shall do so when I write again. I suppose there is not much use telling you not to worry over me, but please dear, try not to think of me except as away on a little jaunt. I miss you all horribly, but am really not suffering any terrible hardships, and from all accounts the boys at the front, although of course they are not in the lap of luxury, find life fairly passable most of the time. The only case of real discomfort we have had yet, although of course we have often been dog weary, was the night we left England. Never have I put in such a perfect Hell of a night. A terrific gale with rain in sheets blew up the Channel and we stood out on the plain at Headquarters waiting for orders to move for two hours. The Admiralty were not sure whether they would let us go at first, but about ten o’clock, when we were thoroughly wet, orders came for the boat to put out, ourselves and another company marched down and embarked along with a thousand British troops returning to the front. Although soaked, I curled up in the stairs, the only place available, and slept most of the way over, in spite of the fact that the boat stood on her ear most of the time. Fortunately, it is a quick trip, and by four in the morning we had landed, marched to our destination, and were tucked between the blankets. It rained all next day so we had no opportunity to dry out, but the lads were very cheerful and are all glad to be on their way at last,

Sir Robert Borden was over the other day and looked us over (there are, of course, a large number of Canadians here). He looks very very changed. His face is all puffed up and his eyes are just slits. I suppose these poor devils of politicians do really work fairly hard in these strenuous times. All the officers were introduced and I had a long chat with an officer whose face was very familiar, but whom I couldn’t place. He was very terse and energetic in speech and I was sure I should know him, but hadn’t a chance to ask him his name. Just after they had gone I recollected where I had seen his face before and his dark eyes. His face was out of the newspapers and his dark eyes were Laura Aitkens’. Sir Max and none other, as I confirmed later! Now wasn’t that strange. I hope we meet again sometime before long,

I had a long letter from Mrs. Tobin, which I shall answer as soon as I get back to England. It was very kind of her to remember me, I must also write to California and to Aunt Ellie. Have you heard from her at all?

I shall write again as soon as I either return or settle down here, and give you some impressions of France. It is really very pathetic and very lovely. Fair rolling hills and valleys covered with crops, and nothing but women and old men to be seen anywhere. Every Frenchman wears a uniform these days, unless he is unfit for service. The peasant and village women follow us about when we go on marches in the mornings, selling chocolate and fruit. Poor squalid creatures. I suppose many of them make their living out of it. This morning an old woman followed us for fully eight miles in a very hot sun, trudging along quite cheerfully with her basket over her arm. Every here and there we meet a peasant’s cart, two wheeled gig affairs, covered with tarpaulin like a gipsy waggon and generally pulled by a patient little donkey. Always they are driven by a woman, and seem usually to be milk pedlars. The children are bonnie, dirty little brats, who come swarming after the officers when we go down street in the morning to a little hut where two fair demoiselles in black frocks put us up a tasty meal. They take our hands and ask for ’’souvenirs”. The kind of souvenirs they favour most is a shilling in good English money,

I wrote just before I left to Scotland, and will when possible run up and see the folks at Ely. Had a line also from Jack Harman asking where the devil I was and how about a party. Good old Jack, I met him in Folkestone one night, but have been so busy that I haven't been able to arrange an evening with him or Laddie Cassels, who are both at Sandling with the 19th.

Well, dearest Mother, we are off early in the morning, so I must turn in. When I write again I shall have heard the big guns roar. Dear big guns, how badly we need them. Things are not as cheerful as they might be. Here when we ought to be helping the Russians out we have to sit tight and wait.

God bless you, Mother mine, dear Dad, and the girlies. I love you all.

Yours lovingly,

Original Scans

Original Scans