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Date: February 20th 1915
Ronald Norris
Arthur Davidson


The following is a portion of a letter received from Bugler Davidson of Nanaimo, by Ronald Norris, describing his voyage across the Atlantic with a section of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. It was written at sea on Jan. 24 and mailed at Liverpool Jan. 30.

When we arrived in Halifax we had to wait for the boat as the weather was rough and she could not enter the harbor; from Sunday morning at 8 o'clock until 12 o'clock on Wednesday noon we were in Halifax and still berthed on the train. Of course as all good soldiers do, they were grousing about having to stay in a place like Halifax, and I thank my lucky stars Nanaimo is where my home is. The place certainly was depressing with its hills (the town is built on a steep incline and the streets, or the majority of them are sloping towards the water) and the little dinky street cars and generally dirty condition of the town. But we said everything would be all right when we got on the boat, so we looked forward to our departure from the freight yard. We were to leave on Monday, then Tuesday, then we were to stay until Thursday, naturally we left on Wednesday, such is the contrariness of this life. Excitement was great when the train was shunted from the yard to the dock and we got our first glimpse of the leviathan, (at least that's what we thought it was to be, but we got badly stung). It turned out to be the SS Vaderland which did belong to a Belgium outfit and ran between Antwerp and New York. Our first glimpse was not at all pleasing.

The stewards took us to our quarters in the fore part of the ship down some iron stairs where we saw some dining tables fixed up on the hatchway. This was the dining room. As soon as we got in, the grousing began and I can safely say it has never yet ceased. To being with the stench was overpowering and our first views of our future home (for ten days) were anything but cheering. They then showed us our beds and we found that we had company at nights much to our general disgust. Thirty of us were put in a place about the size of your barn with the
exception that ours is only seven feet high, and no ventilation. We got rid of our company at nights and are making things just as comfortable as we can, some sleeping in the dining room, on the tables and on the deck.

To make things still more uncomfortable the Victoria and the Winnipeg men are deadly enemies, at least if one judges by appearances, and one or two incidents. But the Victoria men being a bunch of well disciplined men fail to see why they should be burdened by a motley rabble of raw recruits. However, in spite of all this apparent grousing we are all happy and having a good time.