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Date: February 1st 1916

4th University Company
St. Martin's Plain

Feb. 1, 1916

Dear Edna: --

It seems hard to realize that this is the first day of February. The time goes so quickly. To those of us who have been in England it has been more like spring than winter so far. But we are looking forward to spring for then we shall be in France lulled to sleep each night by the dull music of the big guns. It is a peculiar feeling that a person develops after being in the army a few months. When I enlisted first I was not very keen to see the front, but now my whole ambition - or almost that is to get into the real thing. I have noticed it everywhere the same. The one burning desire of all seems to be to get there and finish the job if possible.

We were suddenly warned on Sunday at noon that the whole battalion was to be medically examined that afternoon to be prepared for immediate shipment over. Naturally all of us were hoping we would be on the first draft, but after being reported physically fit, we were told that no draft was being sent at once but that all kits and equipment must be kept in readiness for pulling out at an hour's notice.

Jim Brown has been under the weather for a week or so with bronchitis. He is in the hospital. Steve and I have just returned from a visit to him. He is not very sick but will be in bed for a few days yet, after which he will get sick leave for about 10 days which means another visit to Scotland for him. I think I shall get sick and try to work in a holiday that way too. However it may be as well to keep clear of the hospital as long as possible. I have never been sick in my life that I can remember, so it would not do to spoil the record.

Now I must tell you how much we enjoyed the box of candy. I was almost despairing of it being safely delivered for it was nearly 10 days behind your letter. But when it did come - well you can imagine how I blessed your little heart! It was lovely - that is not quite the right word either (hardly strong enough) but all the boys made very flattering remarks about that unknown, unsuspecting maiden, somewhere lighting up the prairies. You said you were not a very good candy maker. Well your ability and your judgement in that case did not quite agree. Thank you for your kindness and thoughtfulness, not only in this case but in so many others.

Your willingness to think of me occasionally is sufficient to make me feel that I owe you a debt of gratitude, for as I have told you before and wish I had an opportunity to tell you personally that in my opinion your personality and character combine about all the elements of true womanhood. This may sound rather much like what the Irishman calls "blarney", but since it is true, I do not hesitate to say it, for the truth is never out of place is it? I remember writing an essay on my First Class examination on Ruskin's "Ideal Woman". Rather a funny subject for a school kid wasn't it? But I think Ruskin was thinking of just such a girl as you about that time. But lest you should close the letter before finishing it I had better change the tone. However I have learned to know you a great deal better than I every did before even though our paths have been very widely separated since I saw you last. If I am hitched to a lucky enough star that I may be allowed to return in one piece, I hope I may always retain your friendship.

But this time you are busy again with those mysterious things that only H.E. students know anything about. As I have followed some of the classes in various classrooms and read on the blackboard of the composition of soda biscuits or peanuts and then the combining parts of a balanced ration for a hungry man I simply gave up and was always perfectly willing to accept somebody else's word for its accuracy.

I doubt however if you could fatten such fellows as Steve & I as apparently English food and climate have done for each of us has gained about 20 lbs. in the last two months. You remember I was never overly supplied with flesh but if I keep on I shall be as broad as I am long. At present I weigh 157 and Steve beats me by 7 lbs. I am enclosing a few snaps to prove what I say.

By the way I shall look for one of those snapshots you are going to take sometime soon. If the bally English weather, don't you know, would only permit, I would have a chance to get some more. I hope to do so sometime soon though, for my camera has kindly consented to work again.

We are still shooting at the ranges and I am enjoying it very much. Today we shot at 400 yrds lying, and at 300 yards standing, and then rapid fire 15 rounds per minute, all of them at a head and shoulders target. Steve still continues his record scores. I think he is third now. Bill Betts is one of our instructors. He is coaching on the target that Brown shoots on, though of course Brown has not been shooting during the last few days. It is rather an odd coincidence that Betts and Brown should be shooting together over here, while only a couple of years ago they roomed together at College for two years. Neither of them then expected to be together at this particular spot then.

Did I tell you that Harkness was here one day. That was rather an odd meeting too, for four of last years graduating class to be sitting around a table talking of old times, under very different surroundings than those in which we found ourselves this time last year. His battalion has been moved to Bramshot during the present week.

The German Zepps. have been busy again as you have probably noticed. All the lights are put out when word comes that they have been sighted in the vicinity. As you know the county of Kent in which we are is about the nearest point they can strike, and Dover is their chief aiming point. Last year they struck this camp and killed 14 men and some horses.

The airships flying around here are almost as numerous as automobiles. There are biplanes, monoplanes, dirigibles and all the rest. Today a French Bleriot monoplane flew over the ranges, coming from France. They always have their colors painted on the back part of them.

One of the M.A.C. boys, Tom Cogland was over last night on horseback to see us. You may have heard of him. He used to do quite a lot of debating. He is going over to France about the 10th of this month, and then they are to be sent to Egypt. He is very anxious that Steve Brown and I transfer to his regiment, "The Fort Garry Horse", but we have decided to stick to the Princess Pats. We also had a chance to go into the bacteriological department of the Army Medical Corps but as there was a chance that we would not get to the front we turned it down. Perhaps I told you about that before. If I did I hope you will pardon me for I sometimes forget.

There is a fellow in our Company who has a brother at the M.A.C. His name is Grant. No doubt you know the Grant who plays football and I think he is or was President of the First Year. This brother is a graduate of Manitoba College, and he was telling me that all of this three brothers as well as himself have at some time played on the team that won the Shield which M.A.C. at present holds. Quite a record isn't it?

I am anxious to hear how the hockey team is doing. I hope they duplicate the record of the football team. We do not get the Gazettes very regularly. In fact I haven't received one at all yet, though Leslie says they have been sent, but among the bunch of us we have seen the Nov. & Dec. issues. Betts had a letter from Prof. Lee a few days ago. Prof. Lee said things were not going very well this year. He says the students are too much interested in drill and other things to pay enough attention to work. He says he would favor closing down the College and everybody going to the war. Just like one of old Charlie's pipe-dreams isn't it?

I am looking for a letter from you soon. I know you won't disappoint me; the oftener you write the better I shall like it. Be sure and tell me all about the "Old Boys'" banquet. It is always the big event of the second term. Tell me how many of the boys of the old brigade - and girls too were back, - and the debates. Perhaps you will be scattering some of your own eloquence this year.

Till the next time,