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Date: September 30th 1915

23rd. Battalion
West Sandling Shorncliffe
Sept. 30th. 1915.

My darling Fern:

Both your letters of September 13th. and 15th. came to me to-day, I was beginning to be quite worried about the mail for fear it had gone astray, but discovered that it had been left in my room at Sandling, and not forwarded to me, so my little man, Yeates, who by the way is a worthy successor of that young scamp, Campbell, cycled out and brought it in for me - Two letters from you, and one with the snaps and a letter from Molly.

It transports me for a time into an altogether different atmosphere when I receive your letters and those from home. Something soft, delicate and infinitely precious seems to touch me through the hard grim panoply of glorious (!) war. There is a shell forms about one here, an armour plate, either of indifference or glittering enthusiasm to protect one from every blow of circumstances. It is not a rough shell like that of the woods in the mining camp - No, it is the refined brilliant surface which only the army gives, very very sensitive, but oh so tough and hard. When your letters come, that armour for the nonce slips from me, and I feel once again your soft arms about my neck, and the precious warmth of you against my heart. My Fernie, my darling, God bring you again to me.

Your letters are full, dear heart of love and longing, but they do not help me very much to make up my mind whether to ask you to come over and marry me here or wait until after the war. I can only try to read between the lines and somehow I feel that if I asked you, you would willingly take the chance and come. Is it so? Well, dearest, we shall see what the next month or so have in store for me, and perhaps by next Spring, I really shall be able to see a little light. Don’t run away with the idea that I am anything so wonderful, child. I haven’t noticed a very great crowd outside my tent waiting to offer me the laurels of victory, or the positions of honour. Those I meet with seem to agree that I am a conscientious worker and clear headed, but my fame hasn’t travelled very far as yet. My great fault from a worldly point of view, is of course that I am very reserved, and lack the genius which seems to create opportunities for self-distinction, and the nerve to insistently push my own interests and claims. Perhaps you will do it for me, my shy little lady?

The snaps, my dear, are splendid, and so characteristic of your infinite variety. In the one with your hat off you look like a sweet and lovable maiden, a sprite of the forest, while in the other, you blaze forth as a good humoured rather quizzical woman of the world. Now, which would you rather be? Then I look from them to the serene and graceful beauty of your photo, and wonder what sort of a girl you really are, and whether you have a different mood for every frock. Your hat is ripping and most becoming. Molly says in her letter, that Fernie looks so pretty this morning. By all means get a smart suit. You are far too lovely to be spoiled, my dearest. I adore your hair, oh queenly one.

I am simply eaten up with curiosity over this something you are making me, so lovely and so wearable, and for parties too, and to wear when I go out to see you. What in the world can it be, and is it for war or peace? time, however all in good time, we shall see no doubt.

I have thought many times of sending you some little remembrance, but have been rather frightened out of it by George’s experience. He sent Marjory Smith, you remember her, a beautiful pendant worth about six guineas by registered post and it has never reached its destination. The wife of some indigent post office clerk is no doubt wearing it to Church where all good Methodists wear their jewels and best clothes. However, perhaps a little later on I may take a chance.

The box from the Ex. hasn’t come yet, but will probably be along in a day or two. Parcels are always slow getting through the Post Office. I shall see if I can get “The Far Country” but you should always mention the author. He is a most important person in connection with a book you know. However, they will probably know it in London, if not down here.

Give my love to Barbara Joan. How delicate are your allusions, dear, to our future happiness. "For the present", I am content that she should be the dearest child in the world.

Well, my lady, the great battle has taken place and the Hosts of the Lord have prevailed. For a couple of weeks now there have been constant rumours of a big attack and sure enough it has come off. Apparently it has been a great and glorious victory, and has proved the quality of our new volunteer armies. All sorts of rumours are flying about as to the part of the Canadians in the battle and especially the Second Division. Some have it that a couple of battalions were in the front line on the North where the demonstration was made to hold the Germans there, and that they have been a bit cut up. I heard last night that the total British casualties exceed 40,000 men, but before you receive this no doubt the real figures will have reached you. If the losses are so great, it is to be hoped that a commensurate advantage has been gained and that it will leave us in a position to continue the offensive, and materially advance our line toward the borders of France, before winter sets in. The Russians seem to be absorbing all the energies of the troops on the East front, so far from home as they are, and if they can only bump them hard enough, to keep them all there, we may stage a show in the West which will make Kaiser Bill sit up and nurse his crushed left foot. As for his Turkish tail, the British and Australians are twisting it thoroughly in the Dardanelles these days.

Lord, if our boys find themselves moving forward after all these months of inactivity, all the powers of military barbarism stored up in German arsenals and all the fiendish ingenuity of the academic, scientific satans of all the tenpenny universities in the Fatherland will not stop their onrush. The British have now nearly a million men in France and intend to place another 500,000 there according to the estimate of a French Minister the other day. I am so anxious to find out whether any of our men were in it, and what casualties there were. May the devil blight the souls of all the martinets of the Canadian Headquarters if they get my boys all cut up before they let me out there!

The great argument here now is Conscription or no Conscription. Personally I hope that England will never need to resort to it. If we must, we must, but what a pity it will be if we have to resort to that German weapon of State compulsion, in order to bear the Germans and what a tenfold victory for our Great and righteous cause, if the full power of the nation can be mobilized by voluntary effort, and I believe it can to all intents and purposes. What England need is method and co-ordination of effort - at least that is my faith, in which I shall live until events disprove it. The Labour Unions are now taking the matter up themselves and are guaranteeing that to the best of their ability every man on their rolls will either be enlisted or usefully employed, either on munitions or on those trades which are essential to the nation’s commercial life and financial solidity. I fervently hope they succeed. To me, it would be a victory compared to which beating the Germans would be a small and temporary success. The spectacle of a mighty nation organized for a common effort by the freely given effort of each individual toward the ends which their leaders dictate, and the national consciousness declares to be desirable; The victory of freedom organized and unified. Perhaps I demand and hope for more than can be expected in a world of complex motives and opinions.

Already 3,000,000 men have been withdrawn to the Army, half of the available male population between 18 and 36, and Kitchener says he is satisfied, but that the Army must now be maintained at that strength which means of course a constant stream of recruits. If he gets them good, if not, - compulsion.

To-morrow night if we can get leave, George and I are going to run down to Weston-super-Mare, and spend Saturday and Sunday in the vales of Somerset, and the land of the Doones. Have you ever read "Lorna Doone"? If not, get mother to give it to you out of my book-shelf. It is a splendid story in its simple way, a classic of English fiction. It is away in the West of England where all is still and peaceful.

We shall go up to London, take in a theatre and spend the night there; then take the 7-30 a.m. fast train to Bristol, 120 miles in 119 minutes, without a stop and then 13 miles to Weston, coming back on Sunday night. George’s friends the Orr-Ewings live there you know! and he has discovered that another sister, Greta, who has been nursing in London, is really the most remarkable of the family for beauty and wit, and insists that we must visit them while she is home, for her holidays; so I’m on presumably to keep my eye on the other three girls. I think on the whole I should have the best time myself! Eh!

Well, dearest, I am really freezing slowly and must get off to bed. The weather is very bitter and this infernal English climate is so damp that it is like a knife when cold. We spent a rather miserable couple of nights last night and the one before, and George nearly passed away, and has collected a lovely cold. Yours truly is the picture of health and impervious to frost, but all the same I wish some one would lend me a furnace for my feet. I think I shall crawl in before they solidify.

Your own soldier-lover, with oceans of love,

George, well fortified with hot brandy and water, with a touch of lemon and sugar, is snoring like a grampus. 10-30 p.m.
E. B. P.

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