April 21st, 1918
Had quite a big mail last night in which I received your letter of March 24, a bundle of Island papers and your two parcels of March 14 and one of March 25 for all of which my sincerest thanks. Your long interesting letter was extremely welcome. I think there is nothing more welcome to a fellow out here than letters from home for they are the one connecting link which gives him strength and courage for his work. I need not say how highly I appreciate parcels. Those cookies certainly went right to the spot especially during my night shift from two to eight. We fill the Thermos bottle with coffee every night for the men on duty and believe me a hot drink in middle all our shift certainly
goes good especially when one has fruit cookies to go along with it. We have not touched chicken yet but it will make a couple of good lunches for us. The only trouble with the butter is that we like it too well and often the butter it is nearly as thick as the bread. By the way what do you have to pay for coffee at home. It only costs three francs (sixty cents) a tin out here. They are selling milk again in the Y's and canteens but it is still very difficult to get. If you are lucky enough to get there just as they are getting in a stock you may get some. Otherwise you are out a luck. I'm glad you put in the sugar for it is one of the impossibles with us. You simply can't buy it. We use a good deal of Quaker Oats when sweetened milk can be obtained. The sugar is more than welcome. We made some tea, real tea, for dinner today and perhaps it wasn't good, oh no! I told you before that I am with the left section. At present we are occupying a rear position some little distance behind the other section. We moved down here the last of March from an advanced position which we have occupied for over a month and are having a pretty decent time of it. There are only four signallers with the section and we have no O.P. work to do. Merely mann our own exchange and keep our own lives up, and in addition have established a visual station forward and back where we can use the lamps in case of emergency. Together with the two observers we have a little home to ourselves and are quite comfortable. Warren Love, Allison Tate and I are the only originals. The other three came with the new section. Two of them are spuds and the other chap comes from Ontario. Two of us do duty on the exchange each day and the other two do linesmen duties. In that way we have every second day more or less to ourselves for we have not a great deal of trouble as linesmen back here. We have a flourishing a little mess of our own. Each pay day, once a fortnight, we put 10 francs into the mess funds and appoint one man caterer for two weeks. In this way everything runs smoothly. Each man gets to share and gets twice as much for his money than by buying individually.
Had a short letter from Laura Simpson last night and one from Bart in which he spoke very highly of the kindness which he received at Clemmie's on the way home. Am glad they went down to meet him and took him up to the house. Poor old Bart. I hope they keep him in Canada. He has certainly down his duty if ever a man did. There was no harder or more conscientious worker in the battery. In Canada and England we were always together and although since coming to France our work has kept us more or less apart we have always been the best of chums. Bart was a good old scout, one of the best, - a true friend who would do anything and give anything to help his comrades. Hope they
send some of the, shall I say men? who have stayed at home to have a go at it in his stead. I know of a number of cases similar to Joe Fleming where fellows have got exemptions while teaching, why I fail to see, for I know a number of teachers of the opposite sex would only be too glad to relieve them. Their fellows overseas at least have their own low opinion of such people. Surely they do not realize the need for they would come if they have any manhood left at all.
You speak of my estimate of character. That is one subject on which I have fairy strong opinions. For nearly three years now I have been studying human nature in the best school in the world, the army, where one meets every class of man from the highest idealist to the meanest weakling and I have learned several invaluable lessons. The first is to condemn the sin and not the sinner and the second that every man has some weakness also some strong points which in most cases out-balance his weakest. The first depends essentially upon the second. It is a case of the beam and of the moat and while we may condemn the sin we are not in a position to judge the sinner. I think that is one of great faults with our Christianity today. We are too prone to charge our fellows without knowing their side of the case. A fellow is seen under the influence of liquor. That is enough. He is shunned by respectable citizens, so-called, and so continues on his downward course where, with a bit of sympathy, a little ordinary friendship and advice he might reach out after something higher. We are all human, we all have our failings and some of us who are more blessed than others ought to pass it on, be taught to form
friendships with our less fortunate brothers instead of passing by on the other side of the road, and show them by our sympathy that we are really interested in their welfare, that we do care what becomes of them. Man is a receptive being and in most cases he would respond to such a friendship and try to make himself worthy of it.
There is the question of the rum issue at the front. A few temperance fanatics have been condemning it in some of the Canadian papers. Personally I have been fortunate enough to keep clear of places where I needed it or possibly I am in good enough shape not to need it. But I have sense enough to know that it is a necessity and that it has been the means of saving many a life. I would like to see some of those who condemn it so freely go over the top in the face of a modern barrage without a drop of any stimulus and I state they would change their minds. Of course it is hard for one who has not seen war conditions at firsthand to realize that need but I think that we can trust the opinions of
our padres and Y. M. C. A. men as being unbiased and carrying some authority and I may say that almost without exception they endorse the rum issue. I think we place our heroes of the past on too high a pedestal. We forget that they lived in an age when prohibition was upon no one and that they never went into battle without a bracing tonic. And I think that comparing conditions, the work done by the Canadian army of today shows courage and moral stamina far surpassing anything in the past. As to general drunkenness among the men it is a slander to which I am glad to see padres and others in authority have been quick to give the lie and if their word cannot be trusted then one can find further proof by building up statistics. To my mind it is amazing that there is so little, for in Europe as you know. open bars are everywhere and I think it speaks well for Canadian staff, thousands of miles from home, in most cases without any friends on this side of the water, they have resisted as they have temptations always in their way.
Now I think I must ring off. Will write again soon. All well as usual. Again thank you for parcels.
with love to all, Harold