West Sandling Camp
Friday night Nov. 10th/16
Rev. AM Irwin
Dear Mr Irwin:
“Moving over to the 9” – “Yes” – Then double up don’t be all night” – “Hello Tom” “I’m the clink again” – Shall I blow defaulters call” – Puff, puff, puff – These are a few of the phrases that fall upon my listening ears as I sit in the Guard tent on this clear bright moonlight November evening. Some impatient one is urging his chum to hurry if he is going to the YMCA hut with him; another chap in passing the detention tent sees a pal within & shouts at him; the kid burglar sticks his head in the tent where I am and asks if it is time I blow defaulters call. Across the narrow valley the puff puff of of the exhaust from the pump house machine echoes through the camp. Mr. Moon has nicely shown his round face above the horizon and the air is cool & frosty but embracing.
I said I was in the guard tent but not as a prisoner but as serving my turn for the days camp guard. It is a night when one could not help but turn his thoughts – no, I will say allow his thoughts to drift for they need no force – back to the little town where now it is just past noontide.
For 15 continuous days we had rain and wet rain too but Wed Thursday and today have been free from the now-horrible stuff. Instead we are having clear cold weather – typical of Ontario.
The rear party of the 93rd broke camp Monday evening Oct. 23rd and marched to West Sandling where we joined the others and threw over our name as 93rd and were taken on the strength of the 39th Reserve Battalion, Since then we have been in trouble for when a man gets into a Reserve Battalion his troubles commence. They are rather a distant sort of thing & as hard to approach as a wild bear. They stand as a jungle animal with bared fangs ready to “jump you” at the least mis-move. Nothing sociable about them. But such is war and one of it associates I suppose. I expect that some of these days you will be hearing from me asking you to address letters to Pte for the kind of N.C.O. they want in a reserve Battalion is not my kind. The N.C.O. that makes it the most miserable for his men is thought the most of – by some – but not by the men. And I don’t feel inclined to be one of that kind and if they still demand it I shall revert at my own request but as yet have not fully decided.
I suppose tonight you are back in the woods and about as lonesome for friends as I am. But you are thinking about your deer hunt the next day and I guess mine will be a dear hunt too for it is Saturday therefore the afternoon to ourselves – I hope. Though often we have to work with Sunday included. But the “English hunting” doesn’t trouble me at all. I suppose you will have by this time your one deer allotted to you and will be ready to proceed home again.
My brother Will arrived a week ago last Tuesday night but I didn’t get his card till the following Monday and of course I answered immediately but now he is up at Stourbridge & I don’t think he will have received my letter as yet. I got a telegram from him today asking me to go up too as he would be up there till Monday but that was impossible. However I was making arrangements to have him return on Sunday to here & I would get Monday off & we would spend a day together at least but on making application for Monday off I was refused it. For what reason I cannot tell as I haven’t had a pass or been out of camp since I came here – 17 days ago. But some officers are tight with their passes quite different from the 93rd Battalion officers. However I shall have to wait till some other time before I see him now. I felt rather badly when he refused me leave for a day – glad to say it wasn’t a 93rd officer.
Dave Starke, Art Searight, Art McKenty, John Rathwell, Fred Kempt, Jacob Kurn, and Elmer Brown went to France to the 21st Battalion some 2 weeks ago. That leaves very few of the Norwood Platoon in England. From all appearances it is going to drag through another winter but think spring will see the finish of it. There hasn’t been much doing lately on account of the continuous rains but the bombarding today was very heavy.
Well I shall close hoping this finds you and Mrs Irwin and all the family in the best of health.
Hoping to receive a letter from you soon
Your sincere friend