c/o Chief Postal Censor
LONDON, SW 1
10 August 1940
Nora and Jack Sloane, Toronto.
Mary and Betty etc. London,
Marion Harris, Jack & Lillian H.
Uncles Fletcher & Alfred Andrews
Emily & Olive Andrews,
Bill & Joyce Andrews,
Leila Rennie, Cull Lake,
Uncle Ashton etc Med-Hat
Gertrude Andrews, Banff, PO Box 557.
Harold A. etc. Abbotsford.
Jean Andrews, 912 Heywood Ave., Victoria,
That is a formidable list, but it is one way of covering a lot of ground. I think this is the third of these broadsides and I am always wondering if I have forgotten to include anybody above.
You may be interested to know that I have reverted to type, in the language of Darwin, in that for the last month I have been attached to the 1st Corps Field Survey Coy, R.C.E., C.A.S.F., although I am still officially and financially on the strength of the (Imperial) Royal Engineers, and as yet a 2nd Lieut. It is rather an ironic situation. The Imperials were all set to send me off to the near east about 6 weeks ago - much to my joy - when the Canadians got wind of it and succeeded in catching me practically on the gangplank, topee, shorts and all. Evidently they thought they needed me here, which of course was all very flattering, but as an attached officer, promotion seems to be frozen, and pay on the Imperial rates. So I feel something like a football being kicked back and forth, fun for the boys, but mostly ware and tear on the pigskin. However I'm going after a transfer to the Canadian Forces, and chances look brighter that it will go through, which will almost double my pay which is not to be sneezed at, and I know, personally a larger percentage of the Canadian staff, which should make it easier to get ahead with my work. Major Baird, the OC of this unit is one of the best, has gone to bat for me with the brass hats, and got the ball rolling. Incidently two of the officers of this coy studied Forestry with me at Toronto, Capt Robinson, and Lieut. Tom Kelly. A Lieut MacDonald was with the P.F., GS GS Ottawa, and I had met him there several times, another, Lieut Sam Camble has rambled all over northern B.C. for the Geological Survey, so we have much in common. Another, and one of the best is Lieut Chas Souter i/c our printing section, he is just over 40, a grandfather, in the last war, short and plump, answers to "Grandpop" in good grace, he also holds the distinction of running the highest mess bill - after all a grandfather should have some privileges - like the one in "Grapes of Wrath". Oh yes, Charlie also breaks down and writes poetry when the mood is right. HE gets up an hour before the rest of us, to meditate on a double scotch before breakfast. Yes, Charlie is a discovery, of the most lovable kind. You can see I am in congenial company, this goes for the men as well as the officers. The Coy Sargent Major is an old salt, CSM Pink, PPCLI, Vancouver, Victoria, and Winnipeg, (he knew Pacquette) and keeps the boys guessing. I overheard one of the sappers say to him one morning "How are you today SM" A gruff reply "None the better for you asking".
Since joining the coy I have been helping out some with the transport section, and the way our boys handle those tremendous power lorries on these crazy English roads and in the English traffic is a marvel. An Englishmans traditional jealousy of his Rights is never more apparent than when he is on his bicycle on the Kings Highway. Transport is like a game here now. As you know from the papers, the whole country is stripped of all sign posts, place names. With the maze of roads and villages, it is a real job to pilot a convoy of army vehicles from one place to another. My experience with maps has enabled me to act as "navigator" of these land convoys. This has been an interesting way to get around and see some of the country. I sit in the leading car, with map on my lap, one eye on the road, the other on the map and speedometer, ticking off the landmarks, and giving directions to the driver. Have made several trips through the old grey stone town of Woodstock, near Oxford, and each time thought of Olive Andrews, and how she would enjoy seeing this quaint old place from which Woodstock Ontario got its name I suppose. Farther over, in the Cotswolds I was through the town of Broadway, ironically enough a tiny group of cottages not faraway from it is named New York. One of the most charming of those towns is Chipping Campden.
Mary will be interested to know that I spent an enjoyable evening with Col and Mrs Lloyd at their home near Oxford, Guzzling home-made ice cream and sherry on their velvet like lawn, watching the sun sink down across the valley of the Thames. The Colonel was delighted to learn that I am a brother of Mary's and an in-law of the famous Bonnycastle. He unearthed some photos of the ski party in Switzerland. Mrs Lloyd is very nice, they have two small children who were tucked away in bed. Col. Lloyd was very interested in my coming to this country, and is using his influence to try to get me on to work of my own special line, which he (as well as others) consider of greatest importance. It seems stupid that so far I have really been doing odd jobs requiring no special skill - it has been interesting, and good experience, but I feel the time has come when they should assign me to air survey work, in which I have so much unique experience and training. Things seem to take so long in the army. The God Red Tape moves in mysterious ways, and so many authorities must have a finger in each pie. In my case, too many cooks are threatening to spoil the broth.
The OC took me up to London the other day, in connection with my transfer, and I wound up, finally at the desk of Col Booth, of Winnipeg, who seemed a fine fellow, and I believe got my case pushed along. He tried unsuccessfully to pinch my gas mask, having lost his own. Another Winnipegger I have met several times at the club where I always stay when in London, is Brigadier PJ Montague, I think he is a General now. He is a great fellow, and quit a tease. The last time he said he had heard from Uncle Alfred, whom he evidently regards very highly, he remarked that the names Andrews and Montague are a combination that go well together, and hard to beat, adding as sort of a corollary that however, the younger generation of Andrews aren't quite up to the par of the older. I ventured "That remains to be seen". This club is quite a modest place, frequented largely by junior officers from overseas. The Brigadier seems to prefer it to some of the more swank affairs in town. He seems to enjoy shocking the self conscious young officers by traipsing around the lounge in bedroom slippers and unbuttoned tunic. He pretended to be horrified at me for smoking my pipe before breakfast, I refrained from informing him it was an old Peace River custom. He is a great character, and I admire him very much.
I was greatly pleased to get a letter from Uncle Ashton and can appreciate the reaction of his grandsons jack and Gordon on their attempts to enlist. I hope in spite of his remarks that he may not be able to get out to the Coast this summer, that he will, and will make the acquaintance of my wife and daughter. Jean enclosed some recent snaps in her last letter. Mary Elizabeth is a prize package if there ever was one. I wish you all could have the snap of her hanging onto the side of her crib with a glorious expression of triumphant impudence - she's an Andrews from head to foot, snub nose and all. Jan writes that you all have been swell in writing to her. She is very busy, and I fear working too hard. She went in and made the BC government give or find her a job, and now is going to build a small house under the NHA. And she will do it too. She has a good head for finance, and nothing can stop her once she sets her course, -- I ought to know. I hope Uncle Ashton will not forget to send the Free Press article on Uncle Alf. Jean relayed on a letter from Bill and Joyce, which I was glad to have, and to learn some news of Leila. Gertrude seems to be working hard, and will enjoy having her Mother and Emily out to see her. Too bad they cant all go on to the coast to see Jean and Mary. Jean said she enjoyed a visit from Harold Beth and Alice.
I don't remember if I told the girls that I had been up to Nottingham country to see the Smedleys. They are getting pretty old, but still game. Bertha, the wife cant get upstairs anymore, so they have the beds down in the living room. Cousin Bernard seems fine, although Bertha confided to me that he has his "queer" spells when he treats her rather badly-they carry on like two children, with the odd little quarrel, but nothing deep or serious. Bernard threatens to pack up and go to Canada when she gets too fussy. Bertha has a weakness for chess, and while Bernard had his afternoon nap, she and I had several surripticious games. Bernard says she shouldn't bore her guests in this way. To balance the score, Bernard and I would go for a stroll while Bertha got supper, and of course our rounds would include the corner pub for a pint of bitter. I got to know Bernard better this time, and he is a fine old gentleman, and I can tell is lovingly respected by all the folk around the little crossroads village. They live simply on the net income from several small old houses clustered around the one they occupy, all that is left of the bygone Smedley estate, which at one time included a picturesque old lace factory and fine home across the road, and a lot of land on which most of the more modern houses of the village now stand. The lace mill now in alien hands, is still running profitably enough for its owner to live in the big old Smedley home. Bernard is the last of the clan, except for a cousin in Detroit USA, with Park Davis. In his day, Bernard ran the mechanical part of the mill, while the more "executive" brother and uncles apparently did the managing which I suspect amounted eventually to 'liquidating' the assets so ably built up by William Smedley, our great grandfather. I was interested to discover that Bernard invented several rather ingenious mechanical appliances in connection with the mill, and this trait was evidenced by several odd gadgets he had around the house and garden, all clever, and useful. This may explain some of my nightmares in the line of plotting instruments in connection with air survey. The thing I like best of all about Bernard is that he seems to have mellowed with an even keel, free from any hard feelings toward anyone, ahs a naÃ¯ve dignity, a subtle appreciation of humor, and a kindliness, in spite of the ravages of age, declining fortunes, loss of his old time friends, and I suspect a spouse that at times could be just a bit of a trial. I was interested to notice that their tenants seem to take an interest in the old couple, and do all sorts of little kindnesses for them.
During the last few months I have had a chance to extend my acquaintance with this country and the people. In the Royal Engineers I made some very agreeable friendships. Many of the officers were previously engineers and surveyors in the Colonial Service, from all parts of the world. The majority of these impressed me as being well qualified and capable. I almost got to like their habit of interrupting the day's work with meals and teas. My pal, Bill Hall, said one day in London, "A nation of chain pullers and bus jumpers". The chain pulling is particularly apt, because with the English plumbing devices, to be a successful chain puller one must have a gentle, almost subtle, but firm touch. Gentle and firm seems to fit the English Character.
Sorry not to have got this posted sooner - but had intended to say more - however better wind it up - love to everybody
Leila-think of you so often - and wonder how the season is going for you - they are harvesting here now, and the countryside looks beautiful - and the stocks are thick.