Major GS Andrews, RCE
10 Cdn Air Svy Liaison Sec
FIRST CDN ARMY OVERSEAS
15 July 43
This is a bit late, due to a combination of circumstances. I started on leave last Saturday morning, and was very rushed, working until late the night before, and then had to pack up. We started out on our trip up the Thames, as I mentioned in my last letter, Unfortunately, the weather was typical, it rained and stormed both Sat and Sunday, making things none too cheery, and of course slowing up our progress. Monday was not too bad, about 10% sunshine and 90% cloud, but very windy.
Tuesday was similar, in the punt, which had a canvas top which could be rolled up tight out of the covering and whole smart when protection was wanted. We both had our eider-down sleeping bags, and air mattresses, and kept dry and comfortable. It is quite an art camping in this thickly populated country. All our cooking was done on a little "Primus" stove which I borrowed from Capt. Luscombe. It burnt kerosene, and is the best thing I've ever seen. Have tried to get one but they are Swedish or Norwegian made, and of course, are not to be found in the shops. They are wonderful when on maneouvres for making a bit of hot soup or coffee. If you should happen to see anything like it in the stores at home, you might get it. Kerosine is preferable to petrol for fuel. Just as we were passing under a bridge, and entering Windsor, we saw Capt Luscombe on the bridge, and I wondered at first what we were doing there and then it dawned on me that he probably had been looking for us with the news that we were to be recalled off leave, and that's just what it was. So we got a late lunch in Windsor, and did some phoning, and about 4pm we headed down river again, and with the wind and current favourable, we got back to Shepperton shortly after nine pm, tied up at the Bevans and made our supper on their lawn, unrolled our beds, and got back to work next morning. The reason for the recall was extremely interesting, and gave me a bit of excitement, but now it appears that it was all abortive, and we might just as well have stayed on the river and finished our leave. However, the weather has continued very dull, cold, and unpleasant, so I am really not sorry, and when some better weather comes along, and the flurry has completely subsided, I will get away for a few days again.
We had enough in the 4 days on the river to convince us that in fine weather, it is an ideal way to spend a holiday. Plenty of exercise, and fresh air, and sun. We wore nothing but trunks when paddling. Every few miles there are locks to go through, and it provides a break. Usually we help the old lock keepers to open the sluices and gates, they are all interesting old characters. When Capt Luscombe was trying to find us he went to one lock after the other and asked the old keepers if they had seen two Canadian officers going up river with a punt and camping outfits "Oh yes" they had all seen us, "They went through here at such and such a time, they were only wearing trunks". We didn't realize that we had been so completely "noticed". It was swell to have the Bevans to use as a kicking off place. They were wonderfully kind, and interested in all our arrangements, and of course wanted to feed us, but we insisted on cooking our own food. We did leave Mrs B quite an attractive little "residue" of tea, marg, a bit of butter, some canned bacon etc.
We were really getting to the nicest part of the river when we had to turn around, however I wouldn't have missed the part we did do. Most of the waterfront is subdivided into little tiny lots, but the cottages on them are very cute, and picturesque, and each seems to vie with its neighbor to have the most attractive garden. Just before we reached Windsor we passed the grounds of Windsor Castle, and of course there were signs up "strictly private", but otherwise no obstruction to viewing into the grounds or landing in case of an emergency. Windsor Castle is one of my favorite specimens of English castles, and it was nice seeing it from new perspectives along the river. I have never been inside it, but I think my appreciation of it from outside, at a distance is probably the most, agreeable anyway.
I was quite disappointed with the arrangement s along the river for the public, using the river as we did. most of the riparian ground is privately owned, and most thoroughly covered by notices to that effect, ad nauseum, But the few places where public mooring and camping is allowed are absolutely unimproved, usually densely overgrown with nettles and thorns, so welcoming signs that camping is permitted, no sanitary arrangements, not a very convincing sign of democratic principles, or genuine provision for the recreation and happiness of the "working" classes, who can't own their own cottages along the river. I feel very mad about this. The English could well take a few notes from us in North America about development and management of public camp grounds, and the like.
Your letter of 27 June [?] arrived on the 8 July. I loved your comments on the garden. Maybe it wont be so long before I will be asking you "if this is a weed or a much prized plant" and it certainly is wonderful to look forward to coming home to our own little home. Haven't heard anything of Bill Hall or Axel for some time, and I think it is pretty certain that they are both taking part in the Sicily show.
Tomorrow is Mary's birthday, four years old, somehow it doesn't seem that long ago that the Salvation Army accompanied her arrival with their build.
Well this is two pages instead of one.