Nov 6th 1915
My own darling wife –
I received three letters from you last night & I am glad to hear that you are all well, I had just come off a 24 hour guard & was just dying for a sleep so had to put off writing till to-night, as usual I have very little to tell you, if anything the weather is worse, we have had an awful time of it this last few days, you would have to see the country for yourself before you could realize what it is really like, since I wrote you last we changed over to another trench, as all our movements are conducted at night, you may guess what it was like, it was pitch dark & every now & again we would slip into a shell hole or a ditch full of water, I was soaked from head to foot & you should have seen my rifle, it was choked from breech to muzzle with mud & I had an awful job cleaning it, you can imagine, dear, how miserable it is having to sleep in a wet dug out that is leaking all over, with no chance to get anything dry to put on, I have five pairs of socks all soaking & I cant even get one pair of them dried, my overcoat weighs about a ton with the wet & mud & my blanket is pretty much the same, I think if some of the soldiers at home really knew what it is like out here they would take things a great deal more seriously than they do, but in spite of all the hardships & misery you would be surprised how cheerful every one is, when we get into our dug outs every one rolls himself in his blanket & great coat & all be as close together as they can get, then some one pulls out his mouth organ & starts to play & in a few minutes everyone is singing, by this time the place will be full of steam from our bodies & we begin to get warm, but you should hear them when we are routed out to go on guard or line the parapet for fear of an attack, when we have to stand for hours shivering in the rain, then you would realize that this is no place for a ministers son; I would give anything for the sight of a good fire so as to get a good heat again; this is the kind of thing that makes a fellow think of home & all that home means; many & many a time I try to imagine myself at home again, sitting in one of those rocking chairs that you’ve got, with my feet up to the stove & you sitting beside me & the children playing on the floor & everything nice & cosy & warm, but when I look around me in this dismal place I am constrained to wonder if such a thing could be really possible, it seems so long ago now since I came away, instead of a year it feels like ten & I believe I feel just about that much older, I dont know what I will be like by the time the winter is over, I guess I will be an old man. I have got no word yet about my pass, but I expect to get it soon & I am hoping that I will get the addresses from you before I leave as it would not be very nice to go to Glasgow & not know where to go, I am sure looking forward to the trip, even although it is only for a few days, I will be glad to get away from all this mud for a while & I am looking forward to sleeping in a real bed & having a good meal or two, it will be a great change, of course the worst of it all will be the coming back again, it would be fine if I could only keep on going, I think I would be the happiest man alive, but all I can do is to wait & hope that it wont be much longer now before this thing is over & I can get home again. I am glad the children received their cards all right & that you were pleased with them, I would have liked to send you all something worth while, but I cant get anything here, there are no big towns near us & any villages that there are, are all in ruins & the only shops are ruined buildings & run by people who are too poor to leave the place, they risk their lives every day for the chance of making a few sous, these places are only a few miles from the fighting line & the Germans shell them every day, one would think that they would make an effort to get away from it all, but as long as they can sell cheap beer to the soldiers & make a bit of money they wont leave, one would be inclined to pity them if it was not for their meanness, they always try to get the better of us & will short change us every chance they get, of course this class of people belong to the riff raff & are not to be classed with the better class of French & Belgians, who are fine people & very hospitable & will do anything for the soldiers. So Edwards is still hanging on to his job, well he can have it, I only hope he feels satisfied with himself, I am glad you dont see much of them, as I think you will be better without them & I dont want my children running about with theirs, you know I always thought they were a wild lot & I am afraid Janet & Arthur are going to have a bad time with them when they grow up as they dont seem to be able to manage them now & they will get worse as they grow older. I am glad to know that you are getting all my letters, I was afraid you might be missing some of them, I wish I was getting all my parcels, I could do with them, it is quite a while now since I got one, I cant imagine where they get to, I think dear it would be just as well if you did not send me any more, there is no use in you spending good money on things that I never get, I guess some one must be getting them though, I only wish I could find out who it is, he would go to jail mighty quick, it is a great shame that we dont get what stuff thats coming to us, for there are others here also who do not get their parcels, it is not the value of the parcel that matters but it is the goodwill that accompanies it & God knows we get few enough luxuries without having them stolen from us. I am sorry to hear that the children miss me so much, dear, cheer them up the best you can & tell them that I will come home just as soon as ever I can, I do hope it wont be much longer now, dear, tell them that I got the locket all right & I think it was very nice of them to get it for me, I am wearing it all the time & I have a lock of their hair in each side of it. I am sorry you did not get the badges & buckle I sent you, the buckle especially was a curio, I cut it off a belt that I took off a dead German after the fighting at Festubert last April & had the German words “Gott mit uns” on it, which means “God with us”; that was the first real fighting I had seen & I valued the buckle for that reason, I had lots of other curios, but I have thrown them all away as I got tired packing them around, besides one sees so many things lying round on the battlefields that one thinks nothing of them, I see the Hudsons Bay had quite a display of things & I guess they were of great interest to the Vernon people, we see tons of that kind of stuff out here & dont think anything of it.
I note what you say, dear, about sending me something for my birthday, & although I appreciate the kindly thought that prompts you, still I would just as soon you did not send anything as I am afraid of not getting it, & besides, dear, now that the winter is on to you, I am sure you will be needing all your money for wood & warm clothes, you know dear, I am very anxious that you should be comfortable this winter, it has been a constant reproach to me that I was not able to make you happy & comfortable the last two winters I was at home, therefore I am all the more anxious that you should have all you want now. So Harlow has got a job travelling, well, he always wanted to travel, so he has got his wish, I hope he will get on all right at it, but I am afraid he is rather slow, he never sent me the parcel he promised, nor did he write, I guess he has forgotten all about me by this time. You say Happy is in France now, but I haven’t seen him yet, perhaps I will run across him some time, I bet he finds things a whole lot different here to what he has been used to, he will probably lose a lot of his fat, which will be just as well for him, the C.M.R.s are only a few miles away from us, but I have’nt seen any of them yet, nor can I get a chance to get over to see them, as they are brigaded with a different division & I would have to get a special pass & I dont think it would be worth the trouble of ploughing through the mud, besides I’ll probably run across them some time. I have just received another letter from you dear, dated Oct 17th, I am very sorry indeed to hear about George, it makes me wish all the more that I was home again, as I would like to have him fixed up, the sooner it is done the easier it will be for him, I am afraid, dear, that you will have to take him to Dr Morris, as I think he will understand him better than any of the others, there is no doubt about it, but that if it is allowed to grow on him that he will only grow weaker & perhaps undermine his health altogether, have you ever tried him with Cod liver oil yet or Scotts Emulsion, any of these might help him to keep up his strength. So it is eight years since you came to Vernon dear, my how time does fly, as you say, this last year has been a very unhappy one for you, I know it has, dear, so it has been for me too, the most unhappy year that I have ever spent, if it was’nt that I have you & the children to think about I dont know what I would do & it does not make me any the happier when I know that you are worrying about me so much & are afraid of the children being left without a father, I know it is lonesome for you, it is lonesome for me too, but what can we do, dear, we can just bear it all the best way we can & trust in God to bring us all together again soon, but dear, you must not blame yourself for sending me away, it just had to be, you did not send me it was circumstances & bad times that did it, what would you & the children have done, I could not get any work & I could not stand to see you & them starve, so you see, dear it just had to be & you must not blame yourself any more. I am very sorry to hear about Mrs. Godwin, it will surely serve to straighten Charlie up, if it does not, he will probably drink himself to death. Old Mrs. Evans must be crazy & the chap she married must be crazy too, so there is a pair of them, I dont know what the world is coming to. So Georges wife has another daughter, my, she is getting quite a family around her, I do hope that George pulls through this thing all right so as to look after them, I hope to see them all soon & will be able to tell you what they all look like.
No, my friends in Victoria have never written to me, nor have I written to them, I have no time to write to everyone, sometimes it takes me all my time to get writing to you. I see you have taken in roomers again & I am glad you have got such nice people, I am sure the children will enjoy the company & the music, it will help to brighten their wee lives a bit. Well, darling it is getting late & I will soon have to go out on duty, so I will have to close now, the rest of my section are all asleep & it will be my unpleasant duty to wake them up in a few minutes, & wont they bless me when I do, for it is raining to beat the band & we are all pretty well fagged out; Ah me, I wish I was home again with you dear & in our own old comfortable bed, this is so cheerless. but I must not complain. Remember me to all my friends & kiss George & Eileen for me dear & give them a great big love from their daddy. & with all the love in my soul & lots of kisses to you my own darling wife, I remain
XXXXXX Your loving Husband Jack XXX