March 18, 1940
I received you letter the other day and was very glad to hear from you. I didn’t think the rink would pay very well, but as you say, it is better than nothing, and if the town helps you out, you should be O.K.
The gang which includes Jack, Wes, Les and Scotty, went on a weekend pass to Portsmouth on Saturday and had a great time. We went down to the waterfront on Sunday and saw a large aircraft carrier, the Ark Royal, lying at anchor there. I forgot to mention that Norton Smith is in the air force and stationed near Portsmouth, so of course we got in touch with him and we all went on a party, starting on Saturday and ending late Sunday night.
On Saturday night, we all went to a dance recommended by Norton and had quite a time. The pavilion is situated right on the seaside and is really quite a place. There were lots of girls, nice smart-looking lassies, who were very friendly and could dance like nobody’s business. While in Portsmouth, I got a postcard showing the place in a blackout. I thought it a good joke to send it home and so did all the others, who all bought some.
The only trouble with the weekend was that we had a heavy fall of rain on Saturday night and Sunday morning, which hampered us as we all failed to take our greatcoats.
Well, so much for the fun and so to business. We have our trucks now and get quite a lot of driving, most of it being in convoys of eight trucks and two motor cycles. We had quite a time rolling through the narrow country lanes and boy, I really mean narrow. Last week we went out on a rifle shoot, to a range situated about four miles from camp. We had five rounds grouping at 100 yards and five rounds application at the same distance. We then moved to the 200 yards range and fired ten rounds rapid fire with our gas masks on, which is some fun. The 303 doesn’t kick much and all considered, I did a pretty well, getting several bulls and one washout. The target itself is about four feet square and is operated by men in a pit, in front of the butt. These men raise and lower the target and have different methods of signalling to the marksman, to let them know how low the bullets are hitting. When you miss completely, a red and white flag is waved across the face of the target. Bill Kerr, a big Scot was busy waving the washout flag, when the dizzy sap on his target fired again, splitting the staff in his hand, much to the amusement of all present.
There were thirty-two targets set in a line, numbered one to thirty-two from left to right, with each man placed in a spot on the range corresponding to the number of the target. We made quite a din, especially on the ten-round rapid fire, with the rifles popping away at irregular intervals. I enjoyed the shoot very much, but didn’t think much of the four-mile march back, which left a sweet little blister on my heel, but suppose I can swing lead for a day or two, if I get too sore.
I was working in the battery orderly room today, which means flunky and general errand boy to carry messages back and forth, to and from the officers and sure did a lot of arm waving and gravel pounding in the process. Well I will soon have to wind up, as I am writing by the light of my flash as it is after 10 o’clock and “lights out” has been sounded. The camp here is very dead and I sure will be glad when we move to something new, which won’t be in the near future.
I was a little surprised to learn that you still hadn’t heard from this side, as I wrote a few days after my arrival here on the tenth of last month. However, I understand the authorities hold our mail two weeks before sending it over instead of censoring it, as in the last war, so this probably explains the delay. I saw the paymaster yesterday and arranged to send $20.00 a month home and the first cheque should arrive soon after the first of April. I thought this a good idea, as my pay is held back anyway and a few dollars might help at odd times at home, especially in the spring when there is so much to buy.
I wrote to Liulf about two weeks ago, so won’t get an answer for some time. I was sorry he had contracted trench mouth, as it is a very disagreeable disease, as well as disastrous to the teeth. I often wonder how I managed to escape, as the army has a very unsanitary method of washing the utensils, especially the knives, forks and spoons. Each man has his own and as he leaves the mess, rinses them in a pail of hot water, furnished for the purpose. If one man were to get trench mouth, it would spread like wildfire. However, I clean my teeth regularly and gargle with salt and water frequently, just in case.
Next time you see Liulf, ask him if they have started any real training yet or are they still feeling around as we did in Edmonton. I watched the Royal Engineers at work the other day and they really go through some real training. One bunch were busy stringing telephone wires from a truck travelling down the road at about twenty miles an hour and when they got there, you should have seen the mess, as the wire swung and tangled in the trees and thorn hedges along the way; however, they soon had it properly strung and in working order. Another bunch ran a railroad line between camp and a little town about six miles distant. These boys are responsible for the track, running gear, and all seem to have a lot of fun too. We took the “rattler”, as they call it, from camp to Liss, on our way to Portsmouth on Saturday and had a lot of fun en route.
We have had some very fine weather here lately, although yesterday and today have been wet and cool. Today has been much like a summer thunderstorm, with periodic downpours, followed by blue sky. However, there has been no thunder as yet, or possibly they don’t believe in that over here. By the time this letter reaches you, spring should be a reality. I sure will miss the Canadian Spring, with the return of the birds, especially the ducks and geese. Over here, you never really have Winter and Spring comes in gradually, that you don’t appreciate it to the same extent. If I were you I wouldn’t try to use the tiller out West to any extent or the tractor ploughs either, except where the ground is level., My idea would be to get out West as early as possible and use the horses if they are fit to rush in all you can, but have the tractor ready if you get stuck. Well, I don’t think you will have any trouble with the seeding, as you got quite a little experience last spring and remember, don’t over-seed. It is much better to cut it fine at first and then gradually increase up to the required amount.
What do you think of the screwy War now, do you think they will ever open up or is “Adolph” still bluffing? Personally, I don’t think I will see much of France, more likely we will be sent to Egypt, so I think any big push will be the East probably, through Turkey or Rumania. We hear lots of rumours around a camp, the most persistent being that we are going to move East next month. It would be a great trip, although a sea voyage on a troop ship in the tropics wouldn’t be my idea of a pleasure cruise, however, there is so much drivel going around that one can’t believe anything.
Art McLaughlin and I met a couple of A.T.S yesterday and made a date for Wednesday, I hope they got paid recently, as our little weekend left us flat. Some of the A.T.s are not hard to look at and can wheel a truck like a veteran bus driver. Well, I could ramble along indefinitely, but must call a halt sooner or later, might just as well do it now. I will enclose the stub of my ticket to Budleigh and two tickets to the dance Saturday for the kids, who may be interested in such rubbish.
At present, I am just waiting for the Canadian mail, before writing Mother again and it should be here today or tomorrow. Give my best to all the kids and Mom and thanks for the news. I hope you will keep me posted on the farm news from time to time. I guess Norman Glover can keep you [better] posted on the war than either I or the papers, so tell him that I will leave it in his hands. I get lots of chances to buy postcards, but all the best ones are apt to be of military importance, so I have to be pretty careful. However, if they can make anything of the postcard of Portsmouth, let them hop to it.