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Date: October 22nd 1916
William & Georgina Mercer
Richard Mercer

[transcription and footnotes have been provided by the collection donor]

Camp Hughes[34]
Oct. 22/16[35]

Dear Mother & Father

Received your welcome letter yesterday. I sent that picture to you. I thought perhaps you would like one.

I have not got a pennant yet[36]. I don't suppose I will be able to get one either. Isn't it a nuisance.

Yes, Miss McGill[37] did give us all some candies when we went away. Thanks for photo. I am going to keep it. I should like to get one of you and Father in the car[38].

We are going[39] either Wednesday or Thursday so I don't suppose it is any use you writing again until I send my address.

Walter, Tom and the rest in our tent[40] are all well again[41].

With Love

[34] Camp Hughes (formerly
Camp Sewell) is where Pte. Richard Mercer began his basic military training from April 1916 until October 1916. "Camp Hughes was named for General Sam Hughes and is often confused with the adjacent Camp Shilo in western Manitoba. The original battalion-sized trenches still exist. The Camp Hughes trench system was developed in 1916 to teach trainee soldiers the lessons of trench warfare which had been learned through great sacrifice on the battlefields of France and Flanders. Veterans were brought back to Canada to instruct in the latest techniques. The trenches accurately replicated the scale and living arrangements for a battalion of 1000 men. The battalion in training would enter the system, after first being issued their food, ammunition and extra equipment, through two long communication trenches. All along the route dugouts with thick earth overhead cover housed the troops and protected them from artillery fire. Once established, the battalion would undergo training in daily routine, sentries, listening posts, trench clearing, and finally, a frontal assault on the "enemy" by going over the top and across no-man's land into the enemy line of trenches." Camp Hughes - Manitoba Provincial Heritage Site
[35] This is one of only two surviving letters from Pte. Richard Mercer while in basic training at Camp Hughes in Manitoba.
[36] The 'pennant' probably refers to the 196th Western Universities Battalion. No samples of this pennant have been located at this time.
[37] Miss McGill is a young school teacher referenced by the notation "L. P. McGill" in the Theodore and District history book who taught in Theodore between September 1915 and December 1916. She is about the same age as Richard Mercer, Tom Tracy and Walter Wylie.
[38] In a letter dated 10 March 1917 Pte. Mercer asks when they are getting a car, therefore, this particular car must belong to someone else.
[39] The basic training of the 196th Battalion is near complete and they are preparing to leave by train for Halifax and then England aboard the 
S.S. Southland for a final level of training. On 7 October 1916 Pte. Mercer, at nineteen years of age, completed his Last Will and Testament as a soldier. The Will was witnessed by Pte. A. C. Tracy and Pte. Walter Wylie, Mercer's two best friends.  It is quite likely there was a major departure parade for the unit in and a short 72-96 hour pass to return home for a short visit. More details on Camp Hughes are being researched. Most of the trained battalions will be shipping out as train transportation can be arranged and convoy preparations are made in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
[40] Camp Hughes was a city of white "Bell" tents with the 196th Battalion tents being located next to the CPR main-line railway line. In 1916 over 30,000 men were trained at this camp in 1916. The facilities included 7 movie theatres, an in-ground heated swimming pool, Post Office, jail and hospital. A special photographic album was produced with all of the trained battalions listed. A least one photograph of them is features, either in parade march-past or of their battalion camp compound.
[41] Privates Richard Mercer, Tom Tracey and Walter Wylie were known as the "Theodore Inseparables" from Theodore, Saskatchewan, Canada as published in the 
Yorkton Press on 11th February 1919. By the comment, there is reference to them all being sick. Pte. Mercer was hospitalized with measles in the summer of 1916. Therefore, it can be assumed they may have had colds sometime in the Fall of 1916.