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Date: December 14th 1915
Dear Ones All

Midocean, Dec. 14th, 1915.

Dear Ones All,

(And when I say that I mean to include Molly for of course she is one of us too)- I am afraid I should have started this yesterday, for up until this morning it has been beautifully calm, and the old boat has surged ahead as peacefully as a chip in a millpond. Consequently everybody has been feeling happy and contented with everything and no one has been sea-sick. To-day, however, it has begun to get a bit choppy. It is difficult to navigate on the forward decks and the waves are dashing all over our bow, and naturally the rails are decorated here, and there with people who appear to be gazing intently at the bottom of the Atlantic and making queer little ducking movements of their heads the while. There are a few who are confined to their cabins too so our stateroom steward says; but so far I am glad to say that nearly all our party including myself have been able to retain both our appetites and our meals. I am touching wood though when I say it for I know very well that it wouldn’t take a great deal more in the way of a sea to make me follow the example of some of my fellow passengers and lean thoughtfully against the rail.

We all embarked on Saturday morning expecting to sail in the afternoon. It was very interesting to watch them load the ship-for we are carrying a tremendous cargo, or at least it seems so to me for it is all new to me- using big steam-operated windlasses to haul the packing cases up, and over the hatchways, and then lower them into the hold. It was all very fascinating and I spent hours watching than load up and watching all the passengers arrive and go on hoard. Owing to some delay in the arrival of a boat train, we were unable to sail until night, or as a matter of fact, four o’clock on Sunday morning, so that I was asleep until long after we had passed out of sight of land.

There was no mistake about my ticket and baggage labels, Father. We are travelling second class- all of us- and furthermore this is a decidedly second rate boat. Our cabins are not a great deal bigger than a good-sized mouse trap and four of us sleep in each. I am fortunate in being assigned probably the three most congenial fellows that could be chosen from the party, as cabin mates. Norman Millman, Ralph Jarvis and Alastair Ross. The first two are Toronto boys and you have probably heard me speak of them as they both started on the same day as I did at the Island and on Macaulay’s machine at that, so we have been together all the way through. Ross is a Scotchman. His home is in Aberdeen but he is a mechanical engineer and his work has taken him pretty much all over the world during the past few years. He is a gentleman and a thoroughly fine fellow.

There are over 1700 souls ( they always call them “souls” on board ship, don’t they?) on board this ship and 1650 of them are the most ordinary people I have ever seen in my life. There is not a word of exaggeration in that, for really we all think the same in our little party. Greasy, dirty, untidy men and women, and ill-kept squalling babies- hundreds of them- that is what forms much the larger portion of our passenger list. A great many of them, particularly the women, I suppose, are dependents of soldiers who are being taken home to their relatives in England by the Canadian Government. There are 1100 steerage passengers and it almost looks as though they had been crowded out from there into the first and second cabins. Anyhow it’s a mighty queer lot of folk that we are herded with and they furnish the ship with the most wonderful assortment of smells you could possibly imagine. For that very reason, I have avoided the crowded, human-smelling writing room and the lounge, and am in my little cabin with my writing pad on my knee, and with three steamer rugs under and over me.

There are quite a number of Jack tars on board. They are off the "Calypss" [Calypso?] but where they have been or where we are taking them to I do not know, and it probably is none of my business. Such an endless source of amusement as they are, with their strange dialect, their little beribboned caps and baggy trousers, and their rolling swaggering walk. With their broad bull necks and bronzed faces they are perfect specimens of the type of British seaman which we all know and which the world has lamed to respect. We watch them from the upper decks every day as they fill in their time with all manner of sports, boxing, wrestling, and skipping apparently the most popular. Last night they were dancing hornpipes , a sort of competition or something. It was very entertaining as you may well imagine, but it would take a Kipling to do justice to a description of it.

I wonder if we are going to see any submarines. The excitement would be good sport- of course providing they didn’t get us. We have a big naval gun mounted on our stern-not Just a little one, but a great big fellow- just to provide against such a contingency, and we feel Just as proud as though we were on a real dreadnaught.

In spite of the uncleanliness &c. of some of our shipmates, we are having a first-rate-time. Sometimes we study-most times we don’t. Then we sit on deck and get bundled up by a deck steward until we look like patients at Gravenhurst in winter time. Generally, though, we walk or play the different deck games, and then in the evenings we have concerts in the music room. Several of the boys sing quite well and two of them have violins, so we can have big times.

This is all for this time. Good-night all.

Thursday, Dec. 15/15
Yesterday we reached the proximity of the Gulf Stream and immediately noticed a change in the climate. It has been almost like summer weather ever since, and our cabins are much too warm for comfort.

There are a whole lot of strange things about crossing the ocean in a liner. The strangest of all, I think, is the feeling that one is utterly cut off from all the world and that for the time being at least, one’s fellow passengers form a little world of their own. The captain is the head of this little floating community- his word is law in everything, and he is perfectly at liberty to do anything he wishes with his ship or his "subjects” The hardest thing to bear is that we are not able to find out anything of what is going on in the world, and now-a-days when things are moving so quickly there is no doubt we are already far behind the times- even in these five days. Of course, it would not be wise to send wireless messages from the ship but I don’t see why in the world they should not receive them and put up the news on bulletin boards. I certainly would like to know what Greece has been doing. The war has made a good many alterations necessary, one of them being that the daily run of the ship is not posted up. Tomorrow or Saturday we shall be in the war zone, and all the lights will be covered.

To-day we passed a school of porpoises and it was fun to watch the big fellows jump high in the air. We have passed a number of steamers, the neutral ones being easily recognized from the fact that they have their names in huge letters from one end of their hulls to the other. We passed a Dutch ship to-day and could make out the name "Rotterdam" on her side though she was fully a mile away.

Friday, Dec, 17th 1915.
This is Fred’s birth-day. I wish he were with me to-day but he is almost half way round the world from here. I am anxious to hear all about the new niece and how Eva is getting along. When I left home the news was simply that the baby had arrived, and nothing more.

The last couple of days have been fine but there has been a heavy swell and most everybody has felt a little under the weather. About half a dozen of our boys are laid, out, absolutely too miserable to care what happens to them. The rest of us haven’t been ill at all, only just sort of lackadaisical and out of sorts. As I said before, however, this would be a most uncomfortable voyage under the most ideal weather conditions, on account of the accomodation with which we have been provided- (partly)- but most because of the class of people with which we are herded. Ugh! I never will forget the early morning smells in the corridors of this ship!

There are some very nice people on board of course and we manage to fill in our time fairly well, but I shudder to think what it would be like without the rest of our crowd to leaven the mixture.

They have uncovered the big gun in the stern and stripped it for action. I would like to see a German submarine- just see one and get away, not meet a torpedo face to face. The Atlantic is too cold for a long swim I think, judging by the temperature of my morning tub.

Sunday, Dec. 19th 1915.
There is big excitement this morning for we are actually in sight of land, and everybody is busy with packing and making preparations to disembark to-morrow. Believe me, Dear People, it looks might good to me to see something else than “water, water everywhere" More than that we are now under escort and we feel very important indeed. This morning at day-break a destroyer came racing out to meet us "lay to" about half a mile away and exchanged the time of day with us. Now she is loping along beside us "on low gear" looking very trim and business like. In fact these waters seem to be quite thickly inhabited for just while I have been sitting here on deck one of Kipling’s trawlers has arrived, and is hanging about our stern. I don’t think she is a trawler after all as she is built on speedy lines, more like a pleasure yacht of some kind. She is sticking to us so evidently she wants to be in on our little party too, and her two guns are rather comforting.

Later: Have just come up from church. Nobody really been worrying very much about torpedos and things I imagine, but all the precautions which have been taken cause one to remember that there really is some danger. Last night all the deck lights were out and the portholes darkened. We were given instructions about life-belts, and the life-boats are now swung over the side ready to be lowered. From that it would appear that now when Ireland is only five or six miles to the north of us and when we seem to be almost at our journey’s end, we are actually in the most danger. We have all been so disappointed that it is strictly against orders to use cameras on board. It would have been great fun to take some snapshots of the boys and of our escorts &c. but perhaps I may be able to get some later!

When I got on board I found a parcel from Harry containing a very handsome medicine case filled with various kinds of dope. I have already used it and realize just how convenient a thing it is going to be. The boys have christened me “the family doctor”

There was also a registered letter from Mrs. Gorham and I was perfectly astounded to find that it held a little silk purse with ten sovereigns. She said she wanted me to buy cigarettes with it and. think of her between puffs! Imagine $50.00 worth of cigarettes! I don’t know why in the world she should have done so much for me, but there seems to be nothing to do but accept it.

We had a concert last night. I enclose the program I am also enclosing a clipping from a St. John paper showing that we actually figured in print.

I am so glad that to-day it is fine and bright and perfectly calm, so that we can have a good view of Old Erin all day. We really have had a very smooth passage and I am glad to say that though not feeling quite as well as usual for a day or so, I have quite escaped sea sickness.

We have had some great opportunities of studying bird flight, for the gulls have been with us all the way across. To-day we have more than ever- evidently “Irish gulls”

And now, Dear People, I think I shall bring to a close this long drawn out letter. I have a couple more letters to write before landing, besides packing my clothes and things. The fur coat and the steamer rug have both been of great use to me but I wish I had some place to stow them now. We shall likely go to London in mufti unless we receive other instructions at Liverpool

I hope everyone is well and shall anxiously await the arrival of your letters. My address will have to be c/o George Martyn for the present. How are Will’s glasses suiting him, and how is the thyroid treatment going Mother? Must post this on the boat so that there will be the least possible delay. It won’t reach you in time for Xmas or even for New Year’s Day but in spite of that my wish and prayer go out that the New Year may bring many blessings and much happiness to you all.

Lovingly yours,


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