September 16, 1941
Received a letter today from Mum plus Phyllis’, which was enclosed in the same envelope, which, by the way, bore a post mark of August 22d. I was very pleased to hear from you again and learn that all is well. I do hope that Audrey manages to pass her supplementary exams and feel sure, as you do, that it’s just a case of getting flustered and forgetting, rather than not knowing her work, that gives her trouble.
I, too, wrote my exam in artillery work and passed with a mark of seventy-three percent, which isn’t too bad for a poor numb-brained lout like me. An exam of this kind really does make you wish you had emphasized math rather than the more trivial subjects such as history and literature. I know when my boys go to school and Pa looks at the report card, those young men will certainly catch plenty if their arithmetic is not above a pass. All fooling aside, I was glad to make the grade, even though I realize I still have a great deal to learn before I could consider myself capable of being an efficient “ack” (officer’s assistant). Do you remember me telling you last Spring of having passed a course in Anti-tank and Lewis machine gun? Well, it backfired yesterday, with the result I have been posted back to Battery H.Q. as a Lewis machine gunner. I must say I’m not particularly pleased, as it’s useless to complain, as the officers resent any kind of interference. At least I have company in my misery, as another gun-layer from the other gun in left section has been posted too. The “A” Troop Sgt. Major said it was a crime the way they switched men from troop to troop, particularly when they picked the two “best” men. Of course, this implied flattery served its purpose and made me feel somewhat better, so I’ll just make the most of it and watch for a chance to get back on the guns again.
As I told you in a previous letter, the troops are assisting the farmers in the harvest, because of an acute shortage of labour. I could never manage this while my school was in session, but now it is over, I am left free to join the boys on the job. I enjoyed myself immensely, though it did tend to bring back poignant memories of home. When I see these British farm workers in action, I can readily see why so few of them can adapt themselves to our farm conditions. To begin with, it takes three men to do the amount of work that one good man would do at home and, to finish with, they have funny little two-wheel carts drawn by a Fordson tractor which, by the way, brings to my attention once again, the fact that three out of every four tractors over here are Fordson, and a McCormick is a novelty. Just tell Dad that I think his firm is slow and should be taking full advantage of the present situation to introduce their machines and popularizing them while the British firms are busy on war production, so that after the War their reputation would carry them.
Well, so much for sales talk and so to more general topics. As you no doubt know, things are very quiet over here just now. As a matter of fact, I haven’t heard an air-raid warning for so long that I forget how doleful it really is. Old Fritz is much too busy with his former ally to bother us just at present, but I expect his nightly raids will be resumed when the freeze-up halts his advance into Russia. You really must hand it to the Russians, they are certainly doing a grand job. At the same time, I feel their need for fresh supplies must be growing daily, especially as Leningrad is the centre of their war industries.
I saw by yesterday’s paper that R.A.F. units were now in operation with the Reds. This is really quite a feat in itself, as the distance from England to Russia is so prohibitive. I just wish the authorities would take this opportunity to force a landing somewhere in the Lowlands and give the Gerries something to think about. I suppose however, this would be too great an added strain on our overworked navy. I read with great relish, the account of the sinking of the American merchantman and of the consequent declaration by the President. This actually amounts to an ultimatum to the Axis boys, to put up or shut up. It will be very interesting to say the least, to see just what will happen the next time Mr. Gerry Sub meets Mr. American convoy.
By the way, I received a parcel of cookies recently from Mr. and Mrs. Stinson and will write to thank them but would appreciate it if you would tell them they arrived here safely, just in case my letter goes astray, as they seem to do quite often. The days are certainly beginning to close down on us again, particularly as blackout time is seven-thirty. It’s just seven o’clock now and I can hardly see to finish this letter, so will have to close. One thing I hope I have stressed sufficiently is that at present, and I expect for the duration of the Winter, your boy wonder is going to be just as safe from harm as your next-door neighbours, so please don’t worry.
Well, as I said before, I’m glad everything is O.K., though I realize that times can’t be too good. The main thing is that you are all well and happy, which is all that really matters. I’m looking forward to seeing you all again and soon, I hope. Sometimes I get a little “browned off” or fed up at the continued inactivity and when I do, I just sit down and think how lucky we are not to have suffered heavy casualties. Cheerio for now.