D Coy, Camp Hughes, Man.
As you were already slated for my next correspondence fit, I may as well take a dig at your letter, received today.
We are in the thick of preparations for overseas. Yesterday and today the entire battalion were out for two heavy days' practice on the ranges, the first shoot-off of our finals this side the water. Soon after we got out yesterday, word came over from Headquarters that we are officially warned that we will leave on Oct. 15th. Last night we paraded the camp, a thousand or so strong, with our two bands (brass and bugle) and lights. That is somewhat of an innovation.
I have applied for leave to go east in time to spend a week in Toronto. I hope I may obtain it, but it will be only as a special favor, through the kindness of Major Will Green.
Gee! but I am tired tonight. It is rather exciting and nerve straining to be hard at it for two full days the very first time I have handled a service rifle. To realize that you have at your shoulder a force that can kill eight men at a blow, and then to find that you are almost master of that force, can direct it at will, and may be asked to use it against men that are worth as much as or more than yourself; - it brings fear and loathing sometimes. And yet, as a toy, - in careful hands - it is as pretty a plaything as man could wish for. When I forgot its real use, I thoroughly enjoyed the practice, and the faster the firing the better I did. At long range I had my weapon hot enough to scorch, and made four hits in five.
You were correctly informed, some of the "Little Black Devils" have gone overseas, others are on the way. The 8th battalion C.E.F., which is No. 1 of the L.B.D.s, was with the first contingent, and bore the brunt of Festerbert and Longemarc. The 90th, No. 2, are also at the front. No. 3, the 144th, left camp here two weeks ago, and are in quarantine for measles at Halifax. We were No. 5, but owing to the failure of the 190th recruiting campaign, we are now No. 4. We are all detachments of the old Ninetieth Winnipeg Rifles, who were the principle unit engaged at the battles of Fish Creek and Batoche in the first Riel rebellion, and later mixed things for the Fenians and the Boers.
No, I don't remember Reg. Blackburn, except that you mentioned him last time I saw you.
While we were away for harvest, gravel foundations were put down for permanent roads through camp, and now a steam roller and tar pourer are at work almost day and night, and Sundays. It looks as though there was expectation of a long-continued war, and the necessity for preparations of a permanent nature.
If I succeed in getting ten days' leave, as I wish, I will be home and in Regina about the 5th. If not, it will be the tenth, that is if we get any last leave.
Sincerely your humble uncle,
Shorey J. Neville.