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Date: August 3rd 1915

23rd Battalion,
Dibgate Camp, Shorncliffe.
August 3rd. 1915.

My darling:

I have just returned from seeing a quite remarkable sight. Nothing less than the whole Canadian Force here on parade at once. To-morrow afternoon Mr. Bonar Law, the Secretary of State for the Colonies intends to review us, so we all met this afternoon to rehearse the piece, and find out whether we could all locate ourselves on the big plain in front of Shorncliffe Barracks. Our Battalion arrived amongst the first, and it was great to watch the others pour in from three sides of the field without a pause with dozens of bands blaring away with now and then the shrill of the pipes, as the Highland Battalions swung up. When every one was in place, which took nearly an hour, the massed bands struck up, and thirty-five thousand Canadian bayonets flashed in the Royal Salute. Afterwards there was a march past, each Battalion swinging past the saluting base in column of companies, four long lines in double rank, arms swinging and bayonets gleaming wickedly against the dark mass of the khaki. It looked like a German Host advancing to the attack, wave after wave, to dash itself vainly against our lines. As soon as each Battalion passed there would be a dash of running men, as the three rear companies closed up on the leading one, then a right turn, and the whole solid mass moved off to the rear as the next battalion swung gaily past Generals Steele and Macdougall. It was really a ripping sight, and blase old warrior though I am by now, it gave me quite a thrill.

Just then, old dear, the bugler appealed to us all to eat, and really I shall be unable, y’know to describe to you the nature of the thrill on a full tummy. I should probably confuse the gastric and the cardiac emotions, so I shall proceed to tell you about our trip to town, y’know, during which nearly all the thrills were undoubtedly and frankly induced by the consumption of vast quantities of the most wonderful food. In fact at one stage of the trip all three of us were quite exhausted from nothing else but eating.

On Monday night we decided to have a light dinner before getting the train for home – With this resolve in our hearts, we wandered aimlessly into the Trocadero, London’s famous mastication parlour, but by some mistake found ourselves in the table d’hote dining room, being introduced to the most extraordinary meal I ever met face to face, - hors d’oeuvre, about six kinds (horrible works as George calls them) soup, sweetbread, some sort of lamb chop with vegetables, an ice, then quail and artichokes, coffee, coffee ice cream and biscuits, and finally fruit and coffee. I said to George – “Look here, no one has any business to be eating a meal like this “in war time” – “Right”, said George, “I agree”, “but what are we to do” – “We simply can’t offend the waiter”. So we ate the meal, carried ourselves weakly to a taxi and finally collapsed into a railway carriage on our journey homeward.

The little note I scribbled to you in the Lyceum on Sunday gives you a sort of outline of our programme up till then. We fully intended to go to St. Paul’s on Sunday morning, but did not awake until about 10-30. On Saturday night we went to Daly’s Theatre to see “Betty”, and then ate about two pounds of grapes before going to bed, so were pretty tired. By the way if “Betty” gets to Toronto before I do, don’t miss it. One of the prettiest musical comedies I have seen for a long time. Of course that inimitable English ass, G.P. Huntley, was the whole works, as far as the humour went – I saw him in Toronto three years ago; the same damn fool as ever. We enjoyed it immensely, but it reminded me rather poignantly of all the wonderful evenings you and I have sat beside each other – not so very often on my law clerk’s stipend perhaps – but each time with you was worth a dozen. That night do you remember, sometime last fall, I think it was “The Little Cafe” wasn’t it – when you leaned over and put your hand on my arm and held on while you laughed, and all the little furnaces of my heart sent out a sudden flash of exquisite white flame. I did want to kiss you that night – In fact I believe I did later on, eh honey!

But to return to “Betty” – most of it was very harmless humour, but there was one naught joke, when old G.P. tries to engage the parrot in conversation unsuccessfully. After several introductory attempts, he says, adjusting his eye glass “I say, are you a man or a woman biahd” – No answer – “By jove” says G.P. “the pooh little shavah has been around heah so long alone, he doesn’t know which he is”.

Lets see where was I! Well, we didn’t go to St. Pauls, but drifted off to the Lyceum to meet a couple of girls and walk in the Hyde Park. When I said in my note that they were coming, I was mistaken, it was a stranger, and thereby hangs a tale. George was with us, but wasn’t very keen on the party. We had to wait quite a while, and then this strange lady came in and sat down near us. Finally George got peeved, got up to go, saying he would be hanged if he would wait all day for any ---- girl, and a few other uncomplimentary remarks. Arnold and I stuck about for a while, and then came to the conclusion that we had made a mistake about the rendezvous, and dashed off to the Park. After wandering around for a while we bumped into Miss Gordon and with her the strange lady of the Lyceum – She must have heard every word George said!

We had a nice walk about, saw all the toffs riding on Rotten Row, dropped the ladies, lunched at the Savoy. George made love to a telephone girl, and took her out for a paddle on the river, arranging to meet us at the train for Bristol at 4-30. We caught the train for Bristol all right, but no George appeared. So there were we, flying across England at the rate of sixty miles an hour to a town we did not know, to visit some people we didn’t know, and whose names we couldn’t for the life of us remember. Believe me we did fly through towns as big as Toronto without slackening speed, over switch points, and through tunnels, 119 miles without a stop in 120 minutes. At Bristol we changed trains and took an hour to go 13 miles – some contrast.

Our next trouble was that there wasn’t a room to be had in the town of Weston-Super-Mare – big bank holiday in England Monday and everyone beats it ti the sea. Finally, however, we bagged an attic room with a bed which sagged about two feet in the centre. First Arnold slept in the hollow while I perched on the edge, then I leaned down and gently pulled him out, and carefully lowered myself into the depths, so we spent a wonderful night! At six George banged at the door, and regaled us for an hour with the virtues of the Great Middle Class, as exemplified by the fair lady he had been punting with. The beggar was having a good time and calmly missed the train, caught the 9-40 and arrived in Weston about five in the morning. We expressed our candid opinion of him, and his ancestry, and told him all about God, and then went to the Grand Atlantic for breakfast. The town is a lovely little watering place, and we certainly must go there for a trip some day.

About ten we wandered up to “call” at HolmWer, the home of George’s friends, the Orr-Ewings. Three very nice girls, one quite pretty, has quite a crush on George between you and me. Had lunch there, and then motored to the beautiful Cheddar Valley, had tea, and went through some of the most wonderful caves for miles under the rocks. Came back and caught the five train for London – Then the wonderful meal, and the 9-40 for Folkestone. So ended three speedy days. I hope the next time I see London it will be  on leave from France.

I am so glad, dearest, that you and Madeleine had such a good time in Bowmanville. My darling, you certainly needed a good rest, and I hope you didn’t time yourself out gadding. Of course really after office work, that is really more of a rest than anything perhaps, just to get out and run around like a fool for a while – the change you know.

By the time you get this I suppose you will have completed the second installment at Belleville, and be back at your desk again. Dear, darling Fern, do be happy; I love you so, that is the one thing I want for you. Sometimes I wonder if you are really happy loving me so far away. I love you always, but of course that is different. Remember, darling. I never want to stand in the way of your lasting happiness.

So you want me to talk a lot about myself, do you! Such a difficult topic, rather difficult to make anything of I should say. I am really awfully well and generally in good spirits, although sometimes the course of events makes me horribly depressed. The future is such a veil of darkness at present and nowhere can I see the light. However, events change with lighting swiftness in these days, and all we can do is to trust for a speedy end of this infernal damnable business. They have set me to training a bunch of the poorest class of French-Canadians they have here. I’ll knock the fear of Kitchener into them. When I think of my wonderful boys in the trenches it makes me so wild that I fairly bellow at them. However, they’ll come along with a little poking.

The letter you enclose is very annoying. I shall immediately write to Ottawa also to the Battalion Paymaster at Niagara and enquire about it. Remember if anything does go wrong do not hesitate to draw on my account rather than drop the payments. If the Canadians could keep records as well as they fight, they would be a wonderful army, but their pay and record dept. is a mess. Imagine keeping us here for two months unpaid. Damn fools! They have a large army working on the staff too. Someday we shall pull them out and make them into our last line reserve!

Well dearest, for the present,
God Bless you – I must run to bed,
Yours ever lovingly,

Original Scans

Original Scans