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Date: September 6th 1915

23rd Battalion,
Dibgate Camp, Shorncliffe.
Sept. 6th 1915.

My darling Fernie:

It is almost becoming necessary to wire home every now and then, isn’t it, and say that you are all right. Some bally mailship seems to be taking the plunge every week or so and carrying a few thousand soul-throbs of Canadian soldiers to the bottom. It is annoying when one has poured out his heart in a letter to have it treated with such vulgar contumely by the minions of his Imperial Majesty, William the Arch-Assassin. However, I fooled them this time, I think, by not writing on the day I usually do, but putting it off for a couple of days. Of course the habit of procrastination is to be condemned, and I have no doubt you will frown tremendously over this admission, but what is one to do! We have to fool them in some way or another. If they ever get the idea that I wrote my confidential review of the week’s operations on the Folkestone front for you every Friday night or Saturday afternoon, they would sink the Sunday mail steamer as regularly – well a little more regularly than they seem to have been doing it lately. So I switch around, my dear, from one day to another. As a matter of fact, last week we were busy nearly every night at some thing or another, and Saturday afternoon – well I have to work in a bath and a hair cut once every week or so. They are putting up shower baths here at last, in fact have the enclosure built, but of course are waiting for the weather to get properly frigid before putting in the pipes. What is the use of a shower bath in warm weather, forsooth? But to return to mail-steamers; if you ever have to wait more than a week for a letter blame it on the Germans. We’re blaming everything on the Germans over here from the rainy weather to the advanced price of teething rings; so you won’t be in bad form if you do likewise. It does seem a pity that we can’t devise some means of preventing all these splendid ships going to the bottom. True, the list is a comparatively small one if we consider the thousands of great vessels that sail from here every week, but at the same time, they are managing to get some very fine ships included in these few. The Admiralty think, I believe, that they are solving the difficulty by means of these tremendously fast armed steam launches of which they are building thousands, which they expect to have in commission shortly. These will simply haunt every corner of the coast and cover all the waters where it is thought possible a submarine may be found. Of course, as I have perhaps told you before, across the channel here where troopships are continually passing, they use aeroplanes and airships to hunt the beggars. They flutter far and wide over the water all day long, and it is a pretty smart submarine they miss from up above like that. Then, of course, they use hundreds of trawlers to sweep for mines and as bait. A submarine two or three trawlers, beats it after them, usually into the welcoming yappers of the ever ready destroyers. Then across the Straits of Dover the use great steel nets every here and there all the way across and gather them into these like giant fish. Of course we don’t get any details as a rule, but they say that many, many of the pesky craft will never go back to the shelter of Cuxhaven.

To-night is as calm as the Vale of Death and as dark as the waters of the Styx,  and I would like to wager a couple of bob with any sporting gentleman hereabouts that in another hour or so we shall be hearing in the distance that ominous boom! boom! which indicates that the Huns are showering their favours upon us from above. It is a shame the way they dig holes in the poor farmers’ potato and turnip fields hereabouts. One place they do find it hard to miss, of course, is London. If they drop thirty or forty bombs around there almost anywhere, a few are bound to drop into some row of houses and blow it up, or as once happened, crash into a hotel and put quite a number of people on the casualty list. As an English artillery officer once remarked to some of us in that inimitably nonchalant way they have, speaking of the big German shells: “Yes, well – yes, I think I might say they are annoying – but of course they don’t affect the war!” 

Last week, dearest, was rather busy one with a lot of night operations, trench work and bivouacs, which kept us pretty tired. Of course I must have told you of George going to France with the company. He arrived back about the middle of the week, having had much the same experience as ourselves. Then this morning about four o’clock, seventy of the French company pulled out and a new draft arrived in from the 60th of Montreal, so that we are rapidly becoming a Christian battalion of Englishmen again. The French Canadians taken as a whole are pretty poor soldiers, although they have many admirable qualities. They seem absolutely undependable and no form of punishment has much effect on them, except taking away their pay for two or three months with the exception of $2.50 per month. A man can’t raise much hell on $2.50 per, can he?

On Saturday I went in to have my new uniform tried on and think it will be some swagger. English tailors are amusing. They consult you as to your wishes regarding every minute detail of cut and fit, and then go ahead and do it the way they think best, and ten times out of nine you don’t know the difference of course. Afterwards George and I had a wash-up and then took Eleanor to tea at the Grand. It was very pleasant, although I always feel guilty going to tea without you, darling mine. It seems as though that should be your sole prerogative and none other should dare pour tea for me but you. However, Eleanor pours tea for a different man nearly every day and is quite an adept, so that you may rest assured the tea is properly poured.

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