St. Martin's Plains
Monday July 12
I've just been over to the Salvation Army Canteen and had some bacon and eggs. So I feel better and ready to write a letter or two. It is now 8 p.m.
Tom Yorath just came in and announced that we leave for France sunday night or monday. He got his news from Lieut. Sparling and says it is official. We will not likely go to the trenches for a week or so but we may go right to them. I'll have more definite news by the end of the week and will tell you.
Tues. July 13.
I had to quit last night because some fellows came over to see me. Hamilton & March are two fellows from Regina and arrived here Friday night. They came over with the 2nd University Company. I also have seen Claude Merril and Mr. MacDonald. Mr. Mac Donald ran for Alderman ship last dec. He had the papers for a commission but not the appointment and when he heard about the University Company he joined them. There are quite a number of fellows I know with them, some saskatoon fellows & Regina boys. They have a different hat badge than we had, instead of McGill University crest they have a crest with "University overseas Company" on it. I got an extra princess Pat badge and will send it.
I went to London friday night. My pass was from saturday morning till sunday night. Tom Yorath went to London on his way to Cardiff, Wales, and I told him to ask Mr. Reid to send a letter to me saying he wanted to see me on business. Mr. Reid wrote the letter and I showed it to the Captain. The Captain only changed my pass from saturday noon (the time when week-end passes start from) to saturday morning. I thought when I produced the letter he'd give me monday and perhaps tuesday as everything is closed up in London at noon on saturday and I wouldn't be able to see Mr. Reid. But as I say only lengthened it from sat a.m. I used a little perspicuity and got a late pass for friday night and went to London at 7.18 friday evening. The train didn't get into London till 10.15 so I went to an Hotel with a Sergeant Hamilton I had only spoken to on the train. He was a good fellow. He was wounded about 2 months ago and has only been out of the Hospital for two weeks. He and I walked around for a couple of hours and he pointed out places to me. He has been in London several times. He gave me some good pointers about the front, one was to have some one send new suit of underwear and socks every two weeks to you at the front. They provide fresh under wear when you come out of trenches but it isn't properly washed and still dirty. I forgot to mentioned about it to Reids but I may write and leave money with him to get it with. The packs we carry at the front are not very large and when our great coat is in there isn't much room for anything else. We only carry real necessities in this pack the other things are put in the kit bag we brought from Canada and that is left here. An idea has come to me - I could put several suits of underwear in separate parcels and get Lieut. Sparling or Capt. Clinkskill to send them to me. I'll do something like that.
To return to London, sat. morning I left the fellow and went to Mr. Reid's office. Mr. Reid sent me over to the art gallery for an hour. In that time I only had a hurried look at half the pictures. It is a very large building and filled with paintings. When I returned at about 11.30 Mr. Reid took me around to see some of the sights & historic places. We visited St. Pauls Cathedral Westminister Abbey, Parliament blds. passed right through both houses. They are not very large rooms and only a small gallery for visitors. In St. Pauls and Westminister we saw the statues & burial places of a great number of men who have made history, Poets, Statesman, Kings and Queens etc.
At 4 o'clock we took a launch from a wharf close to the Houses of Parlt. and went up the Thames to Putney.
Other buildings we saw were the admiralty Bld., the Home War office. These are close to Westminister & House of Parlt. If I'm not mistaken. Saw the place where Charles I was beheaded. I can only remember a few of the places we saw. It was only a hurried look. Passed Nelson statue, Queen Victoria's etc. etc., the tree that Wordsworth speaks of in that poem "at the corner of wood street, when daylight appears, sings a thrush that has sung for 3 years etc.,(the tree was at the corner of wood & some other), the street were Milton lived. Mr. Reid pointed out old buildings which didn't burn in the great fire [250?] yrs. ago.
The Reids have a nice home out about 25 minutes ride on the underground electric rly. It is quite out there and away from the noise of the city. Sat. night the three of us went to a show at the Coliseum. Sergeant O'Leary was in a box with T.P. O'Connor and other prominent Irishmen. The crowd cheered him at some length sevral times. He had to get up and bow(?) to them several times. Sunday morning we went to church and in the afternoon we went to Richmond on the bus, and from there we took a launch for an hour or so up the river to Hampton Court.
Hampton Castle was built by Wolsely in Henry VIII's time. The castle is surrounded by hundreds of acres and it is one big garden, flowers of all kinds, lawns and fountains also ponds with swan and ducks.
We went home on the bus. After supper Mr. Reid took me to the station. Mr. R. travels on the electric underground train mostly and it goes pretty fast, doesn't loose much time in starting & stopping. I travelled on every kind of transportation. You can see quite a lot from the top of the buses and often you wonder if you aren't going to run into another bus or something. It was a very hurried look through London I had and can't remember much about what I did see.
Bob Turriff & Wilson were up in Lodon and I met them at the station. We just got back in time the passes were to midnight and we got in 2 minutes to 12.
On Monday afternoon we went almost to [Dover?] on a route march. We walked about 17 miles and it was a good march. After we got to Folkestone the road led up on the top of the cliffs a long climb, and then follows along the edge looking down on the sea. A railway runs along at the bottom and looking down over the rocky mts. Tuesday we went to a new field up over the hill west of us and dug more trenches. The three companys were all digging. The 2nd University Co. is called no.5 I saw in the Leader about a banquet given to the law students - March and Merrill I know but I don't know Little or [Rowand?]. Little was in Pa's office so Mr. MacDonald told me.
At 2 .p.m. on wednesday we went out to the same trenches and dug some more, and remained out there till this morning. We evened the trenches off so we could walk in them in the dark and at 5 p.m. we returned about 300 yards to the rear and made a camp. About 8 p.m. 13 & 14 platoons went down to occupy the trenches and then after a couple of hours 15 & 16 went down to relieve them. We're in 15 platoon. The movements were carried on as at the front with guides etc. The trenches are always kept full. The Company to be relieved don't start to move out till the relieving ones start to ove in. The section commanders have to look after their section at the front, see that they are properly posted and relieved at the loop holes (made by 4 bags filled with dirt), see that sentries are posted etc. We have to do most of the overseeing for it is very difficult and takes too long for the lieutenant to get around and visit all his platoon. We only stayed there an hour and returned to the temporary camp for the night. the only unpleasant thing about the performance was that it was 12 p.m. and evrything was soaking wet. The captain didn't return when it began to rain because he thought it was a good experience for us to have a taste of what we will have in near future. We took a blanket and sheet each and arranged them for protection, some slept out in the open, some went in twos and made a tent with the aid of shovel and picks, like this, (see original letter for picture) and crawled in from the end. This is what we did. It was certainly a very real bivouacking camp, bonfires etc. we were all wet and I only slept for a couple of hours. I got up and got sticks and made a nice blaze and sat down beside it and by 5 a.m. I was much drier. There wasn't much sleeping done, groups of fellows around a fire most of the night. We saw the sun rise and it looked very much like pictures you see of the soldiers at dawn. I was thinking of taking a snap but you wouldn't be able to see very much. Quite a number of the fellows remarked "we'll have to right home about this," and Ican't describe it to you, you'll have to imagine it all. The night was very dark and misty and raining, a flock of sheep in the adjoining field. The whole experience was one totally new to us and a pleasant one to look back on. We have been all morning cleaning the mud from our rifles and coats, drying blankets and everything. It is now 2.30 p.m and we haven't paraded. At 3 o'clock we have rifle inspection and then after that I'll have time to finish this. I must get ready now.
Before I forget to mention it - Martin Straith is here with an ambulance & stretchbearers bunch from Victoria. He is close to us and I've seen him several times.
Gordon G. has moved away about 2 mls. From here and I haven't seen him since. Harvey has only been here once.
To-night excitement is in the camp. The orders are full inspection of kits, all to be packed and medical inspection to-morrow night likely I'll telegraph if we are leaving. I have a few things such as two undeveloped films, P.P shoulder badges and a hat badge. I'll try and make a parcel and send them.
I've received all your letters. You letter dated June 25 with Mary's, the letter dated June 27 with mention of a box which has not come yet and Pa's card all came to-day. I also received Pa's letter. I'll answer them all as soon as I can.
I've only most forgotten what a good meal tastes like. We'll be ready for a good one is we pull thro O.K. Just now it doesn't look as if the war will be over for sometime. The Germans are gathering troops for an advance on Paris again.
The orderly corporal has just come in and read the orders to be ready for overseas to-morrow afternoon at 4p.m. We are going. I think Willie will get thro his exams O.K. It is too bad about the hard papers. Reg. has done fine. He must keep his work up in great shape and sail into the exams with determination. We all will feel proud of him.
I haven't met the [McGibbon?] boy but have heard of him two or three times. I don't notice the change in climate, expect sometimes we get a cool sea breeze. I am wearing the knitted socks and like them much better. If I don't get the new socks here, they'll be sent to France. I have plenty of everything. I don't know what I'm going to do with all the stuff. Perhaps I'll send a parcel to the Reids.
Arthur must be getting along fine. Mary thinks he is pretty good. I wonder if the questions we used to give him has helped him. I'm sorry I haven't written Mrs. Hunter. Give her the news and tell her how very little time we have for writing. I must owe everyone a letter whom I write to. I'll look up the passage in the bible you asked me to read.
Lum Clark & I were thinking of going to a golf links and have a game but never did. There are quite a number around here. Mr Donaldson & I had two good games. I don't think I ever played better than I did that fall. It was Mr. Willoughby who hit the ball that struck my head. It didn't hurt at all.
The parcel hasn't come yet so I'll tell the post man to forward it. All letters will be forwarded from here.
I told you about going to London Mrs. Reid hasn't been very well this last winter and isn't feeling up to the mark. I didn't get to see Miss Tench. I thought of it but it would take quite a time to visit her. From what I hear I hope the socks come all right. It is well to have lots of socks. I have 6 pairs now and that is plenty for sometime.
I'll answer Mary's letter shortly. We may be at the base for two weeks and may have time to write.
I don't think I've answered your letter about the fire. I noticed in the Leader that Mayor Balfour's chimney was on fire. You must have had some excitement. I remember when we had the fire before the grate in your room. I ran to get the large crow-bar and slid all the way down the cellar stairs and most of the back stairs. I don't believe I ever went faster.
It was certainly very good of everyone to come over and see if they could do anything. It is too bad about John Greig. Is Percy better? Has Rose left? You'll have to get a girl who isn't deaf next time..
I'm sending shoulder badges and a Cap badge which was made into a broach before I got it. The pictures were taken at the ranges in Regina a year ago last fall.
Friday 3.30 p.m.
The orders are we parade at 5.30 with full equipment. We are leaving to-night. I've sent a cablegram down town with Mr. Wanklyn. We are not allowed out of bounds. There are only 2 of our officers going Capt. Barclay & lieut. Pope. The other places are filled by old Princess Pat officers. We don't like to loose the old officers but perhaps these new ones will be better.
The flower on the hat badge is a marguerite. Princess Patricia's name is Marguerite.
We realize very clearly now what this was may mean to us. It is a greatgame of chance with high stakes, for we all would like to live. We may be wounded if lucky and return for a while. Dear Ma, it is a good thing the bunch is so good and section 12 will stick together very closely. We'll look after one another and do what we can
If [it?] falls my lot to be called away, remember in what cause it was. God will look after you all and we'll be united again in heaven. Life on earth is very short and if called away one is relieved of a large number of earthly cares and worries. I pray God that you all will live a happy peaceful life. May the war be over soon and loved ones united. Dear ma may God give you strength to overcome your worries and cares.
I'll drop a card when we leave the dock. I'm not sure where we sail from.
God will comfort and keep you all. Much love to everyone.
Your loving son