Search The Archive

Search form

Collection Search
Date: March 29th 1918
Harry Smith

The Saturday that we embarked, it was only about 53 below zero (F.) Four of us occupied the same bunk-room and believe me we did not have any more room than we needed, as three of us had to stay in bed while the fourth was dressing. That is, while he was putting on his great coat, as that was about all the clothes we had off except when taking a bath. Still, we put in some good times while on that boat. They fed us very good on the boat and the fare kept improving all the time, so that when we had been on board nearly two weeks, we had nothing to complain about.

I must tell you about the bunch getting sea sick. We were not out over two hours before about half the Battery started to feed the fishes. It did not bother our crowd however.

The weather kept getting warmer each day and when we were about three days out it was so nice that we were nearly always on deck. Lifebelts had to be worn at all times, except when sleeping, and they were an awful nuisance. No light of any kind was allowed to be shown at night on deck and that meant all our smoking after dark had to be done inside. The sea was not really rough at any time although it was rough enough for a couple of days to suit most of the crowd. You can imagine how welcome the sight of land was when we went on deck one Saturday morning and found that we were lying at anchor with land only a short distance away.

Our turn came to unload on Saturday night about eight o'clock after we had received our rations for twenty-four hours, which consisted of nearly two loaves of bread, two slices of bologna, an apple and an orange, and our water bottles filled with tea. After lining up on deck we were marched off the boat and lined up in fours on the station platform and I wish to say that the Canadian trains have these English trains beat half a mile. We stood there for over two hours and finally a long string of good-sized Canadian hacks came along. At least they looked very much like some of Lingard's cabs, but over here they call them carriages, and when they put a few together it is called a train. Anyway, when it came to a stop a man went along a platform and opened a lot of doors. Then we were told to get in, eight men to a carriage. The only way I could see of getting in with all my equipment was on my hands and knees, so I threw in my kit bags and in I went. There was no light so we sat down any place that we could find room. In about five or ten minutes somebody came around, opened a skylight, stuck in his head and lighted a gas lamp. That made it some better and as soon as we had disposed of our baggage we settled for a long ride, but little or no sleep that night, we were so cramped for room. Daylight was a great relief and then we could see some of the finest scenery one could wish. Shortly after one o'clock on Sunday the train once more came to a halt, the door open- ed and out we jumped. A hike of about two miles then lay before us and it was about the most enjoyable march I have ever had. Everything was nice and green, sun shining and the birds singing. It was like passing from winter into June in about two weeks. When we reached camp we were all perspiring as we were wearing our great coats and were also heavily laden.

The troops here (Witley Camp) are all billeted in huts, thirty men to a hut. As soon as we had our outfits put away the bugle sounded for dinner and you can well believe that we were ready for it. We are quartered here in the area known as the segregation camp, about as big as a good sized back yard at home, and we expect to be held here for another two weeks or more, but we are not kicking as we are having a rather easy time, although our parades are rather irregular and we hardly know when the day is over.

Our first Sunday night in England will hardly be forgotten by any of the fellows, for it was an exceptionally cold night, and the weather here in England is so damp at night that no matter how you dress, you still feel the cold, and we had no coal for our stove that first night. We all slept with our clothes on and besides we were each issued three extra blankets for every man, five blankets, and we bunked in pairs, so that we had four under us and six over us, still we nearly froze. Monday we made sure that we received our issue of coal and it made a big difference. Now, some of the boys even undress at night, but I have not had my clothes off since I left Cobourg except for taking three or four baths. My kitbag serves as a good pillow and my bones are getting hard so that I do not mind it at all now, and I can get a good night's sleep.

I often think of the good old times at home, but I have had and am still having a far better time than I expected. I think that when we get to our respective camps and again are put on drill that it will be fine, as it sure is interesting if a fellow wants to make it so. Of course it depends largely on the man himself, but I am going to try as I never tried before, even if I do go to France before some who take it easy here.