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Date: March 27th 1941
Peter Guttormsson
Carl Henneberg

[sender’s address from envelope:
“Capt. C.C. Henneberg
No 5 Canadian General Hosp.
Canadian Army Overseas”]

27 April 1941.

Dear Peter:

Your most welcome letter arrived yesterday, and it is difficult for me to tell you just how much it was appreciated. I was very pleased that you had received my November letter, as another in February must be in Davey Jones’ locker, so I will start this commentary from Christmas time.

Thanks to British hospitality, the Red Cross and the Auxiliary services, the hospital staff and patients had a good Christmas and New Year. The wards were beautifully decorated and there was a real turkey dinner for everyone. Lady Astor had a concert in the hospital for the patients, and gave a party for the complete staff at Cliveden. There was a beautiful setting for the party, orange trees with ripe oranges were brought in from the green-houses, and strangely enough looked very appropriate among the paintings, old silver, armour and baronial fire-places. A rather large home is necessary to entertain two hundred guests at one time. One of the other officers and myself were forced to participate in a Scotch-eight dance. We were tutored by a sergeant piper in full dress on the afternoon of the party and did the dance in the evening. It caused plenty of amusement, our awkwardness was apparently more entertaining than the gracefulness of the other members who were more expert. Lord Astor also took part, which helped considerably, as he is a most accomplished dancer. In spite of my antipathy to the terpsichorean art, I must admit it was fun.

At the first of the year I came off the orthopedic service and went on EEN&T and general surgery. We are now having a general ward rounds every Thursday, when all of the interesting cases are presented. It affords the opportunity of keeping in touch with what the other services are doing.

In January, I took a convoy of patients by motor ambulances up to a hospital near Birmingham, to relieve the pressure on us. I saw the famous Banbury Cross, Warwick Castle, Leamington Castle, and on the way back we had a gander at Stratford-on-Avon and Oxford. I will not soon forget my first view of Banbury Cross. As you will realize, it is necessary to stop a convoy of soldiers occasionally to permit a very common physiological act. For some unknown reason, the leading ambulance stopped right in the heart of Banbury across from the main square. Before I realized it, all the ambulant patients unloaded themselves and lined up along the street – about a block in length – and proceeded to assist the town fathers by watering the boulevard. It was an amazing sight, but still more astonishing, it caused no flutter whatsoever among the citizenry. After all I suppose they are used to troop concentrations and are fully aware that soldiers are human. At the end of January and beginning of February I had leave, which was spent in London. I am very fond of London and feel very badly about the damage being done to places I know well.

Colonel Arthur was ill at that time, and has since returned to Canada. Our new officer commanding is Colonel J.C. Mackenzie, former superintendent of the Montreal General Hospital. He is a very capable man and is well-liked by the boys.

One day last month I walked down to Maidenhead, and when returning home I was picked up by a gentleman in mufti with a very fine car, with the usual greeting of “Hello Canada, do you wish a ride?” After being driven back to the hospital, I invited the driver into the mess for tea, and was a bit surprised when he introduced himself as Admiral James. He is a most interesting man, and a Sunday following, he invited four of us to his home near Beaconsfield. We were royally fed and entertained. In the last war he was under Sir Roger Keyes, then became Admiral of Malta and Gibraltar. One part of his home contains timbering from the wreckage of the pier of Zeebrugge in the last show. We have an invitation to return, which will definitely be utilized.

Early in March, Major Cooper, our adjutant had an appendectomy and I was picked to handle the job for a month. It was a very heavy job, as the responsibility rests on the adjutant after the Officer Commanding. An adjutant must be a combined lawyer, superintendent and policeman. Cooper is now back on the job and I am not sorry to return to my own line of business. I was offered a majority to take over the position of adjutant in another medical unit but did not want it, as it would mean forgetting medicine and surgery for some time, and after all, I will have to make a living after the war. However it was good experience, and I have an altogether different impression of the executive side of an army.

While doing adjutant’s duties I wrote a letter to Lord Wigram, Lieutenant-Governor of Winsor Castle requesting permission for our officers and nursing sisters to visit the Castle. We received a wire setting the time for Sunday afternoon. We had a very pleasant tour and it would be easy to spend a whole day on St. George’s chapel alone. Being in uniform we were taken around the Royal and State Apartments, also the private gardens.

A few days ago I had a trip to Northampton in the ambulance, seeing Buckingham and Aylesbury en route.

Last week after the severe blitz in London I came up to one of the hospitals to pick up some of the Canadian casualties. I will not attempt to describe the damage, or all the ramifications of an air-raid on a large city. It is all so insane, but there will be an inevitable, terrible day of reckoning. Unfortunately there will be plenty more hell before that day comes. The modern bomb has a terrific wallop, even the anti-aircraft guns can be heard for miles. I hope that some further defense against the night-bomber will soon be found, but it is a difficult problem.

Bob McGuire was at the hospital last month, and I have also seen Alex Lockwood and John Yakinow.

You are certainly to be congratulated on the surgery that you are doing. Good work. As the town becomes older, there will be a larger and heavier variety of surgery and medicine.

The Miner still arrives fairly regularly. All news from Flin Flon is most welcome. When this show is over I will be pleased to go back, it is a good place with good people.

We were all very sorry when Marjorie Elvin lost her baby but it was a relief that it was not worse, as at one time her condition appeared absolutely hopeless. She had one of the best men in London in attendance, so even the great have their trials and tribulations.

Harvey is well and is still on surgery. He is showing considerable interest in one of our nursing sisters – Adele Parker. Percy and Betty will probably know her. Harvey had 108 patients on his wards last week, so he is not over-troubled with spare time.

Our rations are a bit less with a more restricted variety, but we do alright. I am damned sick of margarine but after all that is not a serious complaint. Cigarettes are hard to obtain and chocolate is almost extant. I find that I can now eat things that I would not have looked at previously. Necessity can change tastes.

Again I will not discuss the general aspects of the war. Everyone has his own opinion and can judge the news for himself. However it will undoubtedly be a long affair. The spirit of the British is still good, and that is what counts.

The blossoms and flowers are out and the leaves are showing up rapidly. England is lovely in the spring, like a huge garden, and I appreciate the poet who wrote “Oh to be in England when April’s here.” I have taken some pictures recently, but will do a bit more as summer approaches. It is very disappointing to pass up so many interesting photographic subjects due to the war-time restrictions.

I have bought myself a .45 Colt automatic revolver, and after due course have received the necessary permit from the Buckinghamshire Constabulary. It is the first revolver that I have owned, and it is a handy gadget.

My regards to Betty, Percy and family.

Remember me to the Greens, Ryans, Caulfields and the Carrs.

Give my love to the girls on the staff. I hope Mrs Guttormsson, the boys and Norma are well. How I would love to drop in for the evening.

Enclosed are a few pictures that I have taken. The enlargements [are much?] nicer but are too difficult to send.

Thanks again for your letter, please write another.

Yours sincerely,

P.S. I have received the bundle of papers and magazines. Thanks a lot.
Please do not have any of this letter published.

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