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Date: January 12th 1916

5th Universities Co.
St. Martin's Plain

Jan 12, ‘16

Dear little Snookie: --

Have just finished writing to my old partner in sorrow MacInytre and now I shall commence an answer to your very welcome "newspaper" as you called it. I only wish it were a daily instead of a bi-monthly publication. I would immediately subscribe and have it delivered every morning.

Am enclosing a few snaps which I took coming on the "Lapland". Again I have to apologize for their indistinctness. I have since discovered that it is the fault of my camera as the shutter is out of kilter and the Kodak man cannot fix it, so I shall have to throw it away. Perhaps I had better explain some of them, for the costumes look rather barbarian in some cases. No. 1, in case you cannot make it out is supposed to represent the 3 pals in their life belts. This was the garb we had to don every day in going through the life boat drill and which we had to wear night and day for the last two days out from harbour in case the German submarines happened to find us. No. 2. Steve & Brown, No. 3 a line-up along a raft on the top deck. You may be able to distinguish "Yours truly" second from the left in the front rank. No 4 is a very fine fellow, a graduate in science from Toronto University who has been in the West for the last four years doing engineering work. The others are obviously uninteresting but I enclose them to fill up the envelope. I left room on the seat on deck for a little girl about your size but there was nothing doing. Don't you see how downhearted I look? Oh' For the Red Cross nurse to sit down and talk to me for an hour. An ocean voyage is very nice but on a troop ship one misses the gentle voices that occasionally we hear on terra firma.

About that picture in the Free Press - I forgotten all about it having even been taken, and I certainly never expected to see it in print. The way it happened was this Brown & Crawford & myself were sitting on the side of the hill on McGill campus in Montreal one Sunday morning when one of the boys came along with a camera and took our picture. Crawford got hold of one of them and sent it to his friend Miss Cora Hind of the Free Press, and the result you saw. I did not know he had sent it to W'pg until I saw it in a copy of the F.P. that came to Brown a few days ago. Steve happened to be away seeing "Bunnie" that day. Hence he was not included.

I was certainly glad you wrote such a long letter. It is written in that conversational style that is characteristic of all your letters and I always imagine that if you were talking you would say what you do in exactly the same way. In that respect you resemble my sister Ethel whose letters I always enjoy for she writes just as she talks. She wrote me a nice long one a few days ago and in her breezy manner told me all the Regina news. Of course her chief topic was her wonderful daughter and she was so anxious that her (I mean the baby's) charm should be appreciated fully by (it's) uncle, that she sent some snaps to prove her statements.

I have heard that one should never speak of a baby as "it" if one wants to remain in good terms "its" mother but to save my soul I don't know how else to speak of "it" sometimes.

Well let us hope you will have another long breezy epistle on the way now. It has been taking almost a month for letters to cross the water during the Xmas rush but it should not take so long now.

I had a nice big box from home - a little late for Xmas but nevertheless just as welcome. Cake, candy and other little knickknacks composed it. Then from difference sources there came - don't be shocked now - a box of cigars, a big package of "old Chum", 32 boxes of cigarettes so we are so well supplied that it keeps us guessing what to do with them all. I do not smoke many cigarettes - in fact, I very rarely smoke one at all, but I must confess a fondness for a good cigar or a pipe-full of good tobacco.

A fellow has just come in and is sitting at the table where I am writing who says he is going back to Canada, leaving tomorrow. How lucky! Wouldn't I like to be going with him? He has been to the front and got a bullet just behind his ear which has put him out of commission so far as fighting in concerned. There are bunches going out every day from this camp back to Canada. Just before they are loaded on the trucks that take them to the pier they line up and the officers shake hands with each man. It is rather pathetic line-up sometimes. Many of them have only one leg or one arm. Some are disfigured in the face, and nearly all are lame. But they are always cheerful, for they are going home.

Every day now we are spending most of the time at musketry. "Learn to shoot straight and quick." This is what they keep drumming into us. We have cut out a lot of drill on the parade grounds and instead we have entrenching, bayonet fighting and route marches. We have our route marches at night now, generally we leave at 7 and get back about 10:30, which is far enough. It is much harder marching at night as the roads are muddy. That pack usually seems to weigh about 100 lbs. before we get back. Still it does not bother one afterwards. I never feel at all tired the next morning - not nearly so tired as when I was on the farm, simply because the exercise we get here is systematic and develops all parts of the body in the right proportion whereas the work on a farm is not always figured to that degree of accuracy.

I suppose with M.A.C. people it should be though shouldn't it? When I make that week-end call on you in the year 191-? you will no doubt have everything in your household tuned to perfect harmony and working with such smoothness that would put an ordinary M.A.C. graduate's farming system in the shade.

Your story of Executive troubles sounds like old times. It must have been pretty serious when the whole lot registered. It reminds me of the stirring times we had at the old College, when I was on the executive. That year we expelled 4 of the boys from the residence, and it just happens that one of them is here at Shorncliffe. I don't think he has quite forgiven me for it, but it was impossible at the time to do otherwise.

I was very glad to hear of the good times you are having at dances, skating, theatre parties, etc. I believe, though, you said you did not have your skates there. Surely you brought them in after Xmas. How could the honor of the Second Year be upheld without Chappie playing rover? There is no ice here, no snow, no nothing in the way of winter. I was roller skating last night though, but it is not nearly so good as ice skating.

Speaking of dances, didn't the shades of ex-Pres. Black loom up as the auditorium was so vilely desecrated that night? You will surely learn to dance now. I am not very proficient myself. I like a waltz though very much. It seems a long time since I used to go to the country dances when I was a backwoods school teacher, but I can recall many hoe-downs that did much to relieve the monotony.

I had another birthday a couple of weeks ago. They seem to come round every few months now, which makes me feel like I am getting old. Perhaps I am, but still I am not more than twice as old as you even though you are still growing - perhaps.

About that letter to Prof. Lee - it was Steve who wrote that and signed all our names to it. It was funny when Prof. Lee answered it and wrote to me instead to Steve.

This is a terrible scribble but please, forgive me. I know I am getting worse every day. I forgot to congratulate you upon that A+. I am not at all surprised - only proud to have the honor of hearing from the one who wrote the essay. I would like to read it. With lots of good wishes for you as you begin the New Year.

Yours, as ever

Jan 13, ‘16

Did you ever see a letter from me that did not contain a P.S.? This is no exception. I did not post this last night so decided to slip in another page if you can stand it. We have just come in from another route march, this time in the afternoon on account of the rain being so heavy as to prevent us doing trench work which was outlined for the afternoon.

We went through a very pretty part of the country today through a lot of old villages some of the buildings bearing the date 1634. It is interesting to see these old castles and churches, the style of architecture being so different to anything that is used now. You have seen pictures of ivy covered cottages and thatched roofs. We see them everywhere here, and the well trimmed hedges and neatly kept grounds set them off to advantage. I often wish we could drop out and go through some of them as we pass but of course that is contrary to discipline. In one corner of our camp is an old church which they claim was the first Christian church built in England.

There are many spots of historical interest close to Shorncliffe. Do you remember that line in the "Ode on the Death of Wellington" where it says, "Hastings, Hythe & Dover were all alert that day?" We are only 3 or 4 miles from Hythe and about 8 miles from Dover. In our marches we go through these towns frequently. There is also a hill about a mile from here where it claimed Caesar camped when he invaded Britain. It is called "Caesar's Hill". If I knew my history better no doubt many events would come to my mind as we go through different parts of the country. I am looking forward to getting to London before long and going through Westminster Abbey and the Art Gallery as well as other places of interest if I can get leave. Before doing so though I want to go to Cornwall and see an old uncle of mine or rather of my father's with whom we have been corresponding for years. He is 90 years of age.

I got leave to go to Scotland at New Year's but cancelled it in order to be able to go to Cornwall instead as the old man wrote me very urgently asking that I go and see him. Jim Brown and Crawford went to Scotland and had a good time.

I was sorry to hear that both you and Esther - am risking her by her first name you see - were sick with bad colds. I hope they are now gone and that you had a good time at home at Christmas. Of course I know you would have. I, too, have had a cold ever since I struck England. It is so damp here, and sleeping on the floor in the huts is a poor place to get rid of it. I have slept in a bed only two nights in the last 3 months. Wouldn't a feather bed feel good again!

The 5th Universities Company that is being recruited in Montreal will soon be coming over. I hear it is about 200 strong now. I hear that Bill Shearer is with them, also Ramsay's brother and one of Mrs. Nellie McClung's sons. I hope they get here before we leave for France though I am doubtful. Well, I shall really quit this time.

Remember I haven't forgotten that little photo of yourself that is coming sometime when convenient for you. I assure you I shall carry it into the trenches and think of you often.