March 17, 1916
Received your letter dated the 28 yesterday also the two bundles of "Witnesses". Also received three bundles of Island papers from Clemmie so have fared pretty well along that line. But there were very few letters in this mail, - not one-tenth what they usually are. Our last weeks mail has not come yet. It was quarantined in Liverpool because of small pox on the boat coming over but we expect it will be along soon. You speak of some things in the letter I received which evidently refer to things mentioned in the letters at Liverpool. You ask why Col. Peake has gone home. I wrote explaining it, - that rather than go under Col. Cole and keep the rest of our officers out of their appointments, he resigned of his own free will and returned to Canada. Captain Prowse has been appointed major and Lt. MacDonald is just awaiting his appointment as Captain. Both are excellent officers especially Major Prowse who is the finest officer I have seen yet. He is as the fellows say "clean white" and that is the best recommendation that anyone can have. We are still in Horsham. May go to Lydd on Tuesday. At least we hope to if there
are our no more cases of measles.
With the exception of the signallers all of the necessary work has been completed for weeks and we could do our work as well at Lydd but we have had to wait our turn according to number and in the meantime three cases of measles broke out and have delayed us still longer. Now we expect to have qualifying exam next Friday and Saturday. As a result the essential part of our work will be completed and we in turn will be doing practically nothing while the gun crews are getting their firing practice.
On Friday we will have our exam in the signaling part of the course - buzzer, lamp, flags, etc., as signallers. That will mean a pair of crossed flags on our Army sleeve and signaller before our name instead of gunner and on Saturday we have our written exam on telephony. If all goes well we hope to qualify as first-class gunner. It will also mean the end of our course and a much easier time during the remainder of our stay in Old England.
When we finish our work apparently we are all entitled to a six day free pass to whatever place we want to go. Lawson, Bart, Warren, and I are planning on going to old historic Scotland if all goes well. Out all places over here, I think even more than London, I want to see Scotland. Would hate to go back to P.E.I. again without seeing it and so we your going to take the first opportunity of a pass.
Have been reading some letters from our fellows in the papers you sent and a few of them had a pretty grouchy story. You know there are habitual grumblers everywhere and in nine cases out of ten they manage to get their letters in the papers. For instance about the breaking up of the battery we had originally 280 and we still have 180. Of the original bunch 70 were R.C.G.A. with absolutely no claim to the battery. Now it was found that we had 100 too many men. The Halifax battery was also over strength so it was decided that 100 men be picked out. Naturally the R.C.G.A. were taken first and only a few of the biggest of their men were left in the battery. In the end it came to picking out our own men; some of the smallest were taken first but at the same time they took good care to pick out those who hadn't made good. Some 15 of the best of the surplus were put on the brigade headquarters staff. 97th had poor signallers and about a dozen were transferred to do that work and the remaining 70 most of them R.C.G.A. men went to Shornecliffe and I must say that the battery is better off without them while they are in just as good a position where they are. As for those in the 97th and on the staff they are under exactly the same conditions as we are. So you will see that there it is no reason for grumbling on that score.
Then again there are complaints about the grub. In nine cases out of ten that comes from those who never had half as good at home. For my part I have no kick coming and think we are well fed. I am not losing on it anyway. And so it is all the way through. Pay no attention to what you read in those letters. You know how reports get bigger and go down with some people and when you hear a fellow grumbling like that you may be sure that he is one of those that is always grouching. Conditions at Lydd will no doubt be a little more difficult than here for Roffey is considered the best training camp in England and no doubt there will be complaints but you must not pay any attention to them.
You speak of the Germans cutting the lips off an Island boy. It may be true but I hardly credit it. You know that stories grow immensely, and although I realize that some terrible deeds have been committed yet I do not think that prisoners are maltreated in that bad manner. They may be poorly fed and clothed and all but that a prisoner should be bodily injured seems unreasonable. For after all, although the German militarism has a tremendous force behind it, in the hearts of the people there is a human side just the same as with us, and, although they have been easily misled, yet they are men of flesh and blood. It is not the German people we are fighting - it is the militarism that
dominates and we must and will fight it until that militarism is crushed which I hope is not too distant now.
We had our weekly progress test today and I got on fine. Got all R.D.'s. Hope I get on as well next Friday in our final tests. Well, this is the 17th of March and I am 19 today. We have been busy all day and hardly had time to think about it. Little did I think two years ago that I would be over here today but God has willed it so and I would not be back in Canada in civilian clothes again for a good deal until this war is over. I hope and expect that this time next year will see us all home again safe and sound.
Don't think I have more news and will write again soon. Now must close as it is getting close to bedtime.
Love to all from your loving soldier son, Harold