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Date: December 1915

Belgian Frontier,
Christmas, 1915.

My dearest Mally:

It seems an age since I last wrote home, but I hope that the postman will prove that it is not really more than ten days or so. Even at the seat of war Xmas preparations seem to be inevitable, and at the same time the war must go on without rest or respite, so with up- holding my little fag-end of each pursuit I have been fairly on the rush. As a matter of fact, this isn’t Xmas Day but the day after. I wrote the heading yesterday but had to lay the sheet aside on account of the accumulation of details and the demands of sleepy eyes.

Our promised rest for three weeks did not materialize when we expected, owing to military considerations, so on Xmas Eve at four o’clock we came out of our tents and saw the company lined up in close column of platoons with their kit and blankets at their feet; a liberal sprinkling of sand bags filled with grub, which the different sections carry up to supplement their rations, and a look of bored determination on each countenance; all the old familiar signs and signals of an impending tour in the trenches. Off we started in the gathering dusk at the head of our platoons, streaming up the muddy pave roads in single file at five minute intervals, past transport and returning troops, motor lorries and ambulances, galloping orderlies and flying motor cyclists, merging into the endless orderly confusion of moving day in Jungle Land. This time in we are to do an extra day, so as to bring us out for New Year’s day, which we shall spend merrily in Brigade reserve. Then a few days in and after that, so rumour has it, our delayed rest will take place and we shall take the long trail back to Corp Deserve, where life for three weeks will consist of smartening up and training of various kinds away miles behind the guns.

We had intended, if out for Xmas, to stage some sort of concert and party for the men, but of course that was now impossible. The nearest thing we can to Xmas music was on the way up. About a mile from camp, as we breasted a hill in the darkness, the strains of instruments of brass and wood were wafted to us on the freshening gale, growing louder and louder until we came to an old inn on the roadside, in front of which stood the band making merry music for each platoon as it passed by, now a hymn, now a carol, then a sudden swirl into the Queen’s Own march. However, we had decided that the troops must have some little bust up, so the day before George and I started off to Bailleul in the mess gig with the “C Company cow” in the shafts to see what we could do in the way of a tabloid Christmas dinner. After a tremendous amount of urging and investive we managed to drive the "cow” into the town square on the trot, heaved the reins to a ragged urchin, and started off to buy up the town. After pushing and hauling one another through a crowd of officers and Tommies with like philanthropic instincts to our own, who jammed every tuppence-hapenny "magasin" in the whole place, we managed to collect about forty pounds of nuts, four immense boxes of dates, thirty tins of condensed milk, and ten pounds of raisins, all we could buy in the place. The store keepers were much perturbed because we kept buying out their whole stocks. I left George presiding over the goodly pile, while I went off and found the "cow" leaning up against a tie post with its legs crossed and sound asleep in typical military fashion. A few carefully administered kicks in the ribs

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and then carrying on again - as it is a little brightness and beauty I want to see again, I don’t think I shall go this time. However, this is anticipating, and anticipating leave is considered a dangerous thing to do.

Poor old George is in a terrible funk these two days. Yesterday he got a nice little Xmas present, a note from Marjorie Smith announcing her engagement to some chap. George was awfully mits on her and was terribly disgusted, especially at the idea of being thrown over for a beastly American. So he went out on patrol last night, threw bombs at the German trench and generally tries to get himself shot but had no luck, so to-day he is swearing grumpingly at things in general and trying to eat himself sick on Xmas boxes. Seriously, we are all in danger of being overfed through the kindness of all at home. At present there are in this dugout, one box of chocolates which Eleanor sent me, a box of dates, two Xmas cakes, one George’s and one Dugald’s, a box of candies, George’s, a box of candied fruit, a shortbread from Elie, some peanut brittle, a box of Christie’s biscuits from Epiphany Men’s Club, and in the kitchennette innumerable tins of tongue, asparagus, pork & beans, plum pudding, which Dugald has received from his sisters in England. All this has to be finished inside of four days or else we have to carry it out and store it for the next four, then carry it in again. We prefer to be sick, and Hal Gordon went to Hospital to-day with trench fever! Our pleasure upon receiving a big box from the mail runner is such that we would eat twice as much if necessary to keep up with the Xmas greetings!! I wish somebody would send us some sweet lavender to couteract a certain pervasive odor in the trench which George says is "Unknown Hero" 1914 Stock.

To-night Mother’s letter (no 27) Dec. 10th. arrived and also one from you, dear Sister, and I do so enjoy them. You will have heard from me by this time about the safe arrival of the Xmas boxes, but no apples have as yet appeared. Perhaps they have been confiscated at the base! you know! It is too bad about Capt. Mackay I hadn’t heard of his death. Let me know Mrs. Wade’s address in England if you have it.

Those in Canada who have been hoping against hope that they would not be needed seem to be realizing that the game must be played out to the finish, and I am glad to see so many I knew flying the mud brown flag. We shall no doubt have a Third Division here by Spring and will need large reserves in England if the Corp is to go through the summer at anything like effective strength. Dugald had a letter from Alex. Snively who is now a Coy’s C.O. in the 92nd. Battalion, describing very humourously the trials of untrained officers training untrained men. Little Campbell is in "B" Coy. so I don’t see much of him. My present man is a six-foot red-headed Canadian whom I have instructed to keep his eye on my head in case of aircraft and see that nothing happens to it that shouldn’t. They are beginning to issue the new steel caps which are painted green and make the trenches look like a Japanese watering-place! Arnold Davidson is with the 15th Bn. (48th. Highlanders) and at present has the measles!

Well, dear Mally, I must cut it out. Love and kisses to all,

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