Ward 9, North Evington War Hosp.
One learns to appreciate hearing from his friends when he is obliged to do without any letters from them for a month or more. It is almost a month since Fritz gave me an extended holiday and it was a week or two before that, that I heard from you last so I am real hungry for a line from you. Of course I know that somewhere in America or Europe, there are letters with my name on them but so far none have been sent to me from France, where I expect they are collecting.
My first letter from Canada direct to me since I came here, arrived yesterday and was from my old friend Ramsay, who is wearing a red coat which in his own words "looks like the d—l", while he is taking the Lieut's course in W'p'g.
I thought that I would have been sitting up by this time, but the powers that be, say I have to keep flat on my back for another 10 days or so yet. The flesh is filling in the wound pretty well but the rib takes quite awhile to grow together. It was smashed into so many pieces that the splinters could not seem to find their way back without a lot of persuasion, hence the delay. Since it has started healing it is a little more painful than it has been. The doctor says that it is from the nerves and muscles growing. But I am enjoying the change here and am in no hurry to get away.
I have heard from Jim Brown since I wrote you last and was greatly relieved to hear that he came through the scrap without a scratch and the Crawford did also. We feel badly that our little clan was broken by the loss of Hawthorne. He died a few minutes after being carried out of the front line to the supports. A lot of very fine fellows went down. When one gets to know a bunch like that, it seems hard that they should be cut off so suddenly. When you consider that only a little over 100 are left out of 1000 you have some idea of the casualties those few days. And other battalions were cut up just as badly.
The news has just come in that the military authorities have stopped all mail going to or coming from France for 6 weeks beginning tomorrow the 29th. It is a most unusual order, and looks as though the long expected British offensive is about to begin. From yesterday's paper, it seems that there is considerable activity there already. It seems hard on the boys to be shut off from the world for 6 weeks for the mail is the one bright star in the cloudy sky out there. But still everyone has been waiting and longing for a chance to start something for months and the news of an offensive, if such is the case, will be welcome.
I have within the last few minutes had a parcel brought in that came from my cousin in Surrey. From a letter which came in the same mail I learn that it contains apples, oranges, bananas and chocolates. Don't you wish you were a patient in North Evington? No, you are in a much better place than this, though it is very pleasant here. How often we used to hear in France, "Wouldn't Manitoba look good to us today?" The love of the homeland is very strong in all of us.
I made a rather funny discovery a week or so ago. The fellow sleeping next to me in this ward and I had become rather good friends and we used to be here for hours everyday chewing the rag, for about 2 weeks, but neither of us happened to mention what we used to do in civil life, until one day, the other fellow happened to mention McDonald College when I then found out he was a graduate of that institution with the B.S.A. degree. Since graduating he has been on the Central Exp. Farm at Ottawa working under D. Saunders who is my cousin. It was a rather peculiar coincidence, wasn't it?
I have heard from Stevie also. He is in a hospital at Reading, Eng. The report I had about him being shot in both arms was not correct. Only one arm was slightly hurt. But his spine was injured by shrapnel and the doctor does not know just how serious it is yet. However he is able to get around a little.
I think I mentioned in my last letter something of the kindness of the Leicester people to us here. Every Saturday afternoon, there is an outing of some kind arranged for those that can get out. The motors come and take the boys out for a spin in the country, then tea is usually served on some one's Estate, then sports or other amusements are enjoyed. One Saturday the annual Ladies Swimming Regatta of the county was held and the wounded soldiers were the guests of ladies on that occasion. This is a great country for swimming and the girls seem to be as good at it as the boys.
Of course I have not been able to take in these doings yet but in two or three weeks I shall be fit to go about. I had an invitation from the Methodist people of the town to an outing last Saturday but could not accept. My McDonald College friend is a Methodist too, so he went, and said it was the best yet.
I think the Canadians here are favored a little for we have visitors nearly every day. I have a special, I suppose there is no harm in telling you, a very nice young lady who come up every Friday afternoon, and I enjoy the couple of hours she spends with me, needless to say. She is a daughter of the M.P. representing Leicester, but in spite of that affliction is very nice, and not all of the condescending nature that aristocrats are supposed to inherit—and besides that she is only 17!
Well to have such nonsense I shall proceed to the 9th page. I was very much surprised last when Lieut. H.N. Thompson of the 68th from Regina walked into see me. He came all the way from London making a 200 mile trip here and back, so I appreciated it very much. As you probably know, he was a member of the first graduating class of the M.A.C. and has since then been Weed and Seed commissioner for Sask.
I expect to see Bill Betts here this week some time. His home is only 22 miles from Leicester and he is getting leave to come home for a few days. He is chafing at being kept at Shorncliffe when he wants to go to France. Once a man gets an instructor's job he is tied up indefinitely. I am very thankful that I did not stay there when they wanted me to.
As soon as the last scrap was over, practically every available Canadian was shipped over to France. All the 5th Universities Co. went over and when Betts wrote a few days ago there were only 22 Princess Pats left at Shorncliffe. Reinforcements for our battalion were also taken from other battalions. There were two more M.A.C. boys with us now. Clark of the 5th Univ. Co and Partridge, one of the 1st graduating class. Ramsay's brother is over there also now with our bunch.
My experience in the trenches was a very short one, but it was exceptional, for in the two days I spent there I saw more action than most of those who had been there since the 8th of May last year have seen. It was then that the 2nd battle of Ypres took place, but it was admitted everywhere that the bombardment then was nothing to this last one. There is satisfaction in the fact that in spite of the casualties the enemy made no advance which they held longer than 2 or 3 days. Every trench was re-taken again.
I think the most interesting sight out there is the city of Ypres. A walk through it on a moonlight night gives one an impression of what the ruins of Roman architecture must look like. There have been some of the most magnificent buildings that the architects and artists of Europe could devise, built there. Chief among them is the Cloth Hall. It is an enormous building and the carving over the whole of it both exterior and interior is wonderful. At one time Ypres had a population of 200,000 but of late years it has dwindled to less than 80,000. The Cathedral is hardly less beautiful than the Cloth Hall, and practically every building has been exceptionally fine. As you probably know Ypres was the great lacemaking centre of Europe, and the Cloth Hall was for the display of the products of the city for buyers from all parts of the world.
I must close now. I hope you will write to me here and if you can stand this scribble I shall try to answer. If there is to be no mail from France for 6 weeks, your last letters will be held up for a long time.
As ever, Sincerely,