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Date: October 7th 1915

23rd Battalion,
West Sandling, Shorncliffe.
Oct. 7th, 1915.

My Dearest and Best Peoples:

Just a short note to catch the mail on Saturday and let you know about our departure for France. At the moment of writing I am still resting on the soil of England, as a matter of fact, sitting in a very comfortable little room with George, with a little open stove blazing merrily in the corner of the room and a varied conglomeration of articles of campaigning kit strewed carelessly on the floor. By the time you get this, however, I have no doubt you will have received my cable to say that we have left for the front.

Yesterday afternoon George and I were sitting in our tents at Napier B discussing a letter we had just received from Major Smith, written on the first of the month, in which he said he could hold out no hope of our immediate requirement with the battalion. We were discussing the prospect of remaining in England all Winter with no good grace and also considering the advisability of trying to get some base appointment to keep us busy. You have no idea how trying , how depressing physically, mentally, and I may say morally, this sort of absolute inactivity can become. It was not the prospect of a frivolous life that appalled us, but one of absolute inactivity and lack of responsibility. One can be happy enough if an ordinary mortal, when merely freed from work, if some stimulating form of amusement can be substituted, some game, anything which calls forth some effort and imagination; but to be absolutely passive for three or four months is rather staggering to look forward to. Having disposed of all the possible openings I said: “Well come on George, let’s go and eat, anyway”, and off we went to the mess, where we met an orderly standing at the door who handed George an envelope which contained: an order to report back to the battalion at once! Immediately we dashed to a phone, rang up the 23rd, and found we had been warned for the front along with several others. Great excitement! We packed our duds, held a little auction sale of table, chair, lamp and a few other sundries of camp equipment, got a taxi, piled all our numerous boxes and bags on board, and arrived back at Sandling at 11.00 p.m., and here we shall have to remain until orders come to embark.

This morning the Colonel gave George and me and Jim Gairdner permission to go into town and  make a few purchases. We went in to see Mr. Mackenzie and Eleanor and say goodbye to the Grassetts, who have been very good to us, and to Mrs. Eric Osborne (who was Lorna Murray of Toronto). I am rather sorry that the Merritts are away as I should have liked to see them also. Mrs. Merritt insisted that when they returned we must make their flat our headquarters for the Winter. Eleanor is a brick and spent the morning shopping for us; then came out to lunch with the Colonel and spent the afternoon sewing for us and helping us pack, or rather, according to George, getting very much in his way. Of course she didn’t know much about military kit and asked questions more than anything else, but the dear girl was just aching to be with George as much as possible, while he, of course, with masculine obtuseness, failed to perceive her real motives.

I have my things that I am going to take all sorted out and the rest packed in my green box, which Mr. Mackenzie is going to take charge of so long as they remain in Folkestone. I shall leave Eleanor my keys and she will send us both over any things we may think we need. Mr. Mackenzie’s address is “The Lyndhurst”, Clifton Gardens, Folkestone, Kent.

My bank account is in the Bank of Montreal, Waterloo Place, London W.C., but just at present I don’t think there is a devil of a lot in it. I have been paid up to the end of September.

Well dear ones, I would so like to see you all just for a moment before I go and give you all a long smack and tell you not to worry about Errol. Twelve months of military training have their effect and I am going out with no excitement and absolute confidence, praying only that God will permit me to do my duty well and mayhap to show some qualities which the piping times of peace have not brought forth; and that He in his infinite goodness may bring me back to you all once more. Dear dear Mother and Dad, what you have done for me brings tears to my eyes when I think of it; and my little sisters, may your lives be full of joy. God bless you all. Be good to my darling Fernie, and remember that my sole wish for her future is that she should be as happy as can be - I hope with me.

I shall write from France as soon as possible and let you know what is doing there. George and I are so delighted that we are going out together. He is such a splendid chap! Poor old Jack Crawford is being left behind much to his and our disgust. He is assistant musketry instructor here and Headquarters won’t let him go just now. I think it is a miserable shame myself, especially as one of the chaps who is going is a poor piece of cheese. Jack has his faults and is inclined to be "precieuse”, but is a pretty good officer for all that. However, he intends to raise strenuous objections to be detained here permanently and perhaps we shall see him later on.

I must say goodbye, dear ones. Cheer up and don’t worry if my letters are irregular. I shall get one of the boys to cable if I fail to dodge the bullets successfully. One has some difficulty in doing so at times, but the majority of wounds are really superficial and only a matter of time and care to heal perfectly.

Yours ever lovingly,

I think my address will be:
3rd Battalion,
1st Brigade,
1st Canadian Division,
British Expeditionary Force, France.

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