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Date: February 11th 1916

3rd. Battalion Toronto Regt.
Canadian Army Corps.
February 11th/1916.

Dearest Mother,-

It seems quite a long while since I last wrote, probably eight or nine days, but I have been so beastly miserable up to a day or two ago that writing was too much of an effort. Caught a beastly cold, the first I have had, just before going into trenches last time, and it settled right down into my chest giving me a pretty tough four days of it. One morning I thought I must be getting pneumonia, the congestion was so painful, but Doc. Haywood managed to loosen it up with dope and mustard plasters. After we came out, the weather became very mild and I soon got rid of it and feel O.K. again. One uses up so much nervous energy out here, that it is sometimes hard to throw off these little ailments as quickly as under ordinary conditions.

Speaking of nerves, we ran across a peculiar case the other day. As you don’t know the conditions out here, it may not convey much to you but it shows how the imagination of some men seems to throw them out. An officer of the C.M.R. came down, absolutely a wreck, to the Field Ambulance next to our billet. "You see," he said, "I've been in for over two days, and Sergt. ----- was killed this morning. They shelled and shelled and shelled and then an aeroplane came over. My God, it was awful! " As a matter of fact, they had tossed over about three small whiz-bangs; and the sight of half-a-dozen Bosche aeroplanes overhead as a rule only lends interest to the proceedings, as one generally sees a good scrap when our fellows go after them. But he was useless, absolutely nervously exhausted from apprehension of impending danger. I think it was something of the same sort of thing which put Major Smith out of business. Every time a shell burst, he thought of his wife, I think, until finally it killed his nerve. Myself, I find it a great help when anything comes unpleasantly close to swear fluently and sort of make it a personal matter between myself and the guy what fired the thing. Keeps up the fighting spirit, don't y'know.

Last night was wonderful. The moon was clear and bright and the evening air soft and caressing. George and I went for a walk up the road which runs along about half a mile behind the line, halting every now and then to gaze over the ruined country around us, wrapped in a ghostly shroud of moonlit mist, while overhead the bullets sighed affectionately after each sharp crack from beyond the ridge in front. One could imagine that the crackle of musketry every now and then were the fireworks at old Toronto Ex. and the illusion was heightened by the dreamy star-shells popping up over the crest, hanging for a brief inquisitive moment and dying again earthward. It was weirdly beautiful. You see, we are not always in the eye of death and except for an occasional stray bullet which came singing angrily past us from somewhere away off on the flanks, we enjoyed our walk thoroughly. You can't escape it for long though; when we walked into the billet a message lay on the table, - Pte. E.J. Locke of your company was killed tonight while on duty with Brigade wiring party. A.A.A. He was in my platoon and we are all turning out to the funeral today.

Now just a word as to that stuff in the ’’Star” about King Nash. I must ask you all, mother dear, on no account to let the papers see my letters. The little excerpt from it was of course purely a personal matter and quite alright; there could be no possible objection to it. But the remainder of the article dealing with the military situation on Christmas day and especially the mention of the place in Belgium might get me into very serious difficulty appearing in a newspaper under my name. I can often say things to you which are quite harmless and could even be shown to other people but which must on no account appear in print, - not so much that there is anything in them, but simply: It is forbidden! You see too, how they ball things up, the blighters. I’m sure I never ’’emerged from my dugout on hearing a yell" considering that King was in another company altogether. As the extract says, I saw his body at headquarters. This Pte. Silvester is a whopping liar if he said the band was present musically, as the cemetery is only about half a mile behind the line, if that. Take a tip from me; keep the reporter at a safe distance; he’s a natural born villain anyway,- finds truth too dull, and insists on vulgar trimmings. Men who have been to the front have very little to say about it, and most of the accounts one sees in Toronto papers from so-called wounded heroes are a joke; the raconteurs in most cases have never been nearer than the horse lines. If they could only realize that the great romance of this war consists not in deeds of undying glory - there are none - but in the wonderful humour and stoic endurance of the men in their helpless encounter with all manner of machinery of death and galling discomfort.

Your letter and Dad’s in reply to mine regarding Fern and myself arrived last night. They were both very dear and sympathetic for which I must thank you more than perhaps you realize. Of course the point you raise is one which has troubled me too very much and one which, whatever Fern and I decide upon, must be squarely faced. There is just this to offset against it,- the slimness of the chance. I might happen to be one of the unlucky ones, but very very few are permanently dis- abled. For a man of my mental qualifications, the loss of an arm or leg could, hardly be considered as more than a handicap. Of course there is blindness which takes long to overcome by training and a few other things which make one wish to have remained single,-permanent disfigurement, and so on. Dad says I had better wait until I'm a captain which as a matter of fact was the original idea which we both had, being a suggestion of mine before I left for France at all. However the events of the next few months should clear things up a bit. If Fern decided that she wanted to come facing all the possibilities, I told her that it might be possible to manage it in April, or if my leave comes and if in my judgement that was not advisable, then in July or August after things have taken a definite turn one way or another.

Well, dear folks, I must away to bury poor Eddie Locke. Once again many thanks for your tender interest and advice. Love to the girls and a vast depth of it to you and Dad. God bless you all.!


I got the cable O.K. Thought I had mentioned it.

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