Search The Archive

Search form

Collection Search
Date: January 24th 1916

4th University Company
St. Martin's Plain,

Jan. 24, 1916.

Dear Edna: -

Yours of the 3rd has reached me since I wrote you last. It is the first answer to one of mine that you received from England. Now that we have managed to get the mail service working satisfactorily again for our special benefit I hope to catch a glimpse of your handwriting pretty often when the mail comes in. You said you had mailed off a little box of candy to me. You dear little girl! I am still looking for it. It will probably arrive this week. You say you are not a very good candy-maker - we'll just leave it to me to judge. Of course it would be hard for me under an absolutely unbiased opinion, since anything you do would be done perfectly, but I shall try to be very fair, and I shall tell you what the other boys say about it.

So you are back to work again. I heard that the examiners were very strict not only with the girls but the boys too so don't worry about a C. I think if I had stayed there another year it would have been a D for me.

Oh, about that little Xmas cake you made. I would have risked my bayonet cutting it, for it is nearly 2 feet long and as sharp as a razor. But I know it would not have been necessary to use it. So next Christmas don't be afraid of it drying out. You will probably think me very bold to suggest such a thing but you know how much better anything from home tastes than that which is made elsewhere. I say from home meaning Canada, which includes Manitoba as well as Saskatchewan though, of course, Sask. is the pride of the prairies. I hear you say - perhaps.

I am sure you and Esther and your sisters had a splendid time at Xmas. I have lived long enough to know that in spite of weather conditions a houseful of girls make time fly.

This past week has been the most interesting we have had so far in England. We have been shooting at the ranges at Hythe, which by the way are generally considered to be the best in England, even though the rifle competition used to be held at Bisley. We started shooting at 100 yards and gradually worked back to 600 yards. Believe me, 600 yards never seemed as far before until we started trying to hit an 18 inch bull at that distance. We started with slow firing first, taking 20 seconds for each shot and finally had to get off 15 shots a minute or one every 4 seconds. It was most exciting at times for competition was very keen among the boys for the highest scores. We discovered that Steve is one of the crack shots of the company as he holds about 4th or 5th place. Brown and I are tied for about 30th place and Crawford and Hawthorne are close behind us. When you consider that there are 250 of us, that is not too bad is it? Of course we hope to do better next week, though the shooting then is more advanced and new features are introduced, such as moving targets, targets shaped like men, and firing while advancing.

It is about 4 miles to Hythe and we walk down every morning and back in the afternoon, with our packs on, of course.

There is a rumor going round that we are to be moved to Bramshot as soon as we finish our musketry of course which will be in two weeks. The 5th Univ. Co. is almost at full strength from latest reports and we expect they are coming over and will occupy our huts if we are moved. I rather hope the report is true for it will give us a chance to see some more of the country, and it will also place us nearer London, which is a big consideration.

I was out riding last Sunday on a beautiful little chestnut, an officer's horse, and with a friend went over to Dover to see a big landslide there that is the latest sensation in this part of the country. We are going out again this afternoon this time toward Canterbury, which as you know, is famous for its Cathedral and historically has been the scene of many events of interest. My friend happens to be a sergeant in the 10th C.M. R.'s and is able to provide horses for us. It is quite a treat to get out on horseback after walking so much. It brings back memories of the prairie. My brother wrote the other day, though, and said that our riding horse had been killed in the pasture just before Xmas so I shall have to find another one when I get home. We were very sorry to lose him as he was a pure-bred Kentucky Saddle Horse, imported from the South and had been trained to do the fine gaits.

Our nearest town, Folkstone, has had a treat this week in having Martin Harvey, the great English actor here. He played three different parts, chief or which was in "The Only Way" and was certainly splendid. I was sorry I could not see the other two but military discipline would not allow more than one night out. You think it is terrible to have to put the light out at 11 don't you. Why, our lights are put out at 9:45. Not only that but we have to be in our huts at 9 o'clock. Then reveille sounds at 6 a.m. and blankets have to rolled or rather folded and everything tidy by 6:30 and while going to the ranges we have to be out on the parade ground at 6:45 with everything ready to move off.

I think it is agreeing with me pretty well though. I have some snaps which were taken last week which I shall send you as soon as they are printed, and I think you will agree that life here not too bad from the flesh-producing standpoint.

Don't forget that I shall look for some snapshots when you get your camera going. It is strictly against the rules here to carry a camera so we have to be careful in order to keep one. I am enclosing a couple of snaps taken about 3 weeks ago. You will recognize Brown & myself perhaps, though we are not often as serious as the picture would indicate. The other fellow is the sergeant I mentioned. He comes from Grenfell and has been training for over a year now and has not been sent to the front yet because there has been no use for cavalry so far.

I had a long letter from Ramsay yesterday. He says he is going to enlist in the spring. Dunlop says he is coming too. We have often remarked Steve, Brown and myself, that if Ramsay were only here we would have a complete quartet, for he is a good old scout. We have certainly put in a big time together during the last 5 years. I doubt if Miss McPherson will let Danny come. He spent his holidays at Brandon so he told us. Bill Harkness arrived at Shorncliffe last week but we have not seen him yet. I heard that Shearer was with the 5th Univ. Co. but my sister Cora tells me - and she ought to know - that he is taking the Officers' Training course in W'p'g. You have probably seem him before this. However the 5th Co. is represented by two M.A.C. boys, at least, H.N. Thompson of the ‘11 class and Harold Clare of our old class.

My friend, Brownridge whom I think, I told you, I met one night in a cafe, having just come back from the front has gone back to Winnipeg to finish his course at Medical College. You may happen to meet him at the Winnipeg rink sometime if you go there as he is a great skater.

A December "Gazette" came to Steve one day last week and somehow it disappeared before we had time to read it so we are waiting for another to get the news. I just glanced through it for about 2 minutes and noticed some new headings and some interesting pictures that certainly make a great improvement. I promised Leslie to write something for next month but have left it so long I am afraid it is too late now. Anyway I don't know of anything that would be interesting to the readers. I think they are tired of this war stuff.

Billington was here a few minutes ago and was telling me he has a sister at the M.A.C. this year. You no doubt know her.

I was very much interested in your description of the snow at home - I mean at your home. It seems so funny for this to be nearly the end of January and I haven't seen a bit of snow or ice yet. It is so warm that we don't wear any gloves, and only great coats at nights, as a rule. Wouldn't it be great to be ploughing through snow instead of mud on a route march?

Bill Betts has his wife in Folkstone now and he is quite happy. As you know they were married in Alberta last summer. Since then she has come over to England and Bill is not very particular how slow they are in sending him to the front now.

Please tell me to stop. I only hope your reply will not be any shorter. You see I am making up for the time ahead when I will not be allowed to write very much. I had a letter from a chum at the Dardanelles yesterday, a fellow I went to Normal with. He said all he could write was only a few lines as the censors are so strict.

Don't work too hard but hop to it and take in all that's going.

So till next time, I shall say goodbye.

As ever,