Search The Archive

Search form

Collection Search
Date: July 28th 1915

23rd Battalion,
Dibgate Camp, Shorncliffe.
July 28th, 1915.

My dearest Mother:

When I arrived home last week from France I found a letter from Dad for me, and the other day I had letters from Kae, yourself, Mally and Fern, so I have had plenty to keep me cheered up; certainly I needed some news from all the dear ones, for I felt pretty blue for several days. As you know, I am not given to violent emotions, but I really am awfully cut up about losing all my men. Not being by nature particularly masterful and having achieved ascendancy and discipline amongst my men more by long acquaintance and personal goodwill than by merely military means, I feel as though I will never be quite as good in command of any others. However, I know, as Fernie used to tell me, I have a habit of looking for bridges to cross miles before I come to any rivers; so will probably not find it so miserable as I imagine with a lot of new and strange chaps.

For  a couple of days Jack and I were in the last stages of boredom, kicking around camp doing nothing under heaven, and afraid to ask for anything to do for fear they might ask us to help knock one of the new companies into shape. I wouldn’t mind doing some instructing in advanced work, but to start in teaching “Form fours” all over again would be about the last depth of damnation. We wanted to get a machine gun course, as that seems to be developing into one of the most important arms in this warfare; but the Adjutant rather discouraged us as he said everyone who took that course at present was kept behind as an instructor on the Headquarters list, and we don’t want any such fate to overtake us. However, I managed to work in on a course Arnold and George were taking in reconnoitring and patrol work under the F.S.O. and have found it fairly useful. Really the best way of learning, I think, if one is well acquainted with the general principles laid down in the text books, is to get in touch with some officers back from the front, preferably a British regular, and have a chat with him about things as they really are. The reason I say British regular is that I have found these Imperial officers about the finest type of men on the whole I have yet run into. They are absolutely without swank as a rule, and thoroughly up in their work and always keen to see where old practise should be modified to meet present conditions. The trouble seems to be that very often the Divisional Staff are inclined to be over-conservative and to frown on suggestions offered by their men under fire on the front line from day to day. For instance, it took a great many weeks and cost many lives before the authorities seemed to be made to realize that the Germans in many cases practically invite us to take their trenches and then wipe out our men by skillfully placed machine guns enfilading their own trenches. However, things are looking up, I think; we seem to be having a few ideas of our own and are lying low while we work them out.

By the time you get this the issue of the great struggle in the East will probably be decided. It seems to me that if the Germans fail to take Warsaw and are beaten back they will suffer a terrible defeat, even though the Russians fail to drive them back very far. They will at least be prevented from throwing their full weight against the Western front, and believe me, the English forces are growing up like mushrooms and supplies pouring over the Channel. Whatever happens, the Canadians are sure to see some fun. Wherever they are sent there is sure to be trouble, because they are sent along with the famous Seventh British Division to stop any dangerous gaps. The British Tommies call us the “White Ghurkas”, which may or may not be complimentary. At any rate, the old timers have never forgotten their gassing at Ypres and have taken very few German prisoners since. They get short shrift, I hear.

Major Smith has come back from the front after being in the trenches for four days with the boys. During that time things were very quiet, he says, and only a couple of the men were slightly hit. He expects to return very shortly and tells us there is a good chance of some at least of the four of us getting over within two or three weeks if anything transpires at the front. If I have to hang around here for longer than that, I am seriously considering having a crack at the flying game. Errol Boyd is at Dover and he tells me that they are anxious to get well educated and enterprising airmen, and I see no reason why all that shouldn’t be spelled Platt. However, we shall see what turns up. I am also going to look up Beverly Robinson, who has just got his wings and see what he has to say about it. He is up near London, I believe, and we have put in for leave to go up to town over next week end, when I shall try to look him up. What do you think about it?

As I said before, we are going up to London over Sunday just for a lark. After living on pennies for two months it is so cheerful to be able to count our wealth in pounds that we must see how it feels to throw a little of it about. One does feel so munificent spending money in England on account of the gold so much more commonly used than in Canada. You draw out your sovereign purse and plank down a shining gold piece on the counter careless-like as though it were a penny, and receive in change a whole pocket full of florins and half-crowns as big as our fifty-cent pieces. You see, the smallest note in England up till recently was the £, anything below that was in silver. Now, however, they are issuing war currency in 10 shilling notes, which are mere pieces of tissue papers about the size of a shin-plaster. It is impossible to accumulate a large and ostentatious roll of English bills, as they are so very small and thin, so if one wishes to have that “dammit all” feeling, the thing is to carry about 10 gold sovereigns in a little chamois bag.

Well, to return to London, or rather to arrive there, we intend to look up Margaret Geddes if possible (Jack knows her well), also Joyce Hutton, and spend Sunday out at Richmond with a millionaire guy who wants to marry Eleanor MacKenzie. She is a bright, noisy girl and we have had some very pleasant evenings with her and Marion Merritt and Mrs. Smith. Mrs. Smith is really delightful, and so witty and chatty without being at all lavish, and although I know how she absolutely adores “Baise” (the Major) she talks away about his going off as though it were a nice little trip and quite a lark.

I saw John Harman last night; cycled out to their camp and stayed all evening. Old Laddie Cassells came in and we had a very enjoyable chat over the old days at the Island and all the boys in old “A” Company, 35th. He wished to be remembered to every one in Toronto.

Well, mother dear, I must run to bed now. This is not much of a letter, but I want to get it off to you and will write again soon. One hates to miss a mail even if it is only a scrawl as they are so irregular at present. The military police are insisting that we put all lights out, as they expect raids, I suppose, so good-night.

Yours ever lovingly,

Original Scans

Original Scans