March 24, 1916. London
Under the guidance of an old printer, Waterman and I visited Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abby, The Old Curiosity Shop made famous by Dickens, St. Paul's Cathedral, the monument erected to commemorate the Black Death, the Fish Market noted for its good fish and bad language, London Tower, Tower Bridge and returned by London Bridge. In the evening three of us visited the Wax Works. A day could scarcely be more full. I think we saw as much this day as anyone could see in a day, of wealth, grandeur, tombs of kings, their prisons, their weapons, their instruments of torture and oppression.
I know of nothing which could be more impressive than the Service of Intercession in the Abby, there, among the tombs of the mighty, great folk of a thousand years, England's rulers, poets, warriors, statesmen and queens. What a nation. Greatest in age, in grandeur, in world wide labour for the betterment of the race.
The most effective method among the many, to preserve the memory of one dying, was that of a certain duchess. Every Saturday, out of the estate of her heirs, a certain number of poor widows are given a loaf of bread and a penny in her memory.
We saw the Bloody Tower, the place where Raleigh spread his cloak in the mud for the Queen to pass over. The balcony where Lady Jane Gray stood to see the execution of her husband, the path along which she walked a few moments later to her own death. Walking up the winding stone stairs and through the old prison I saw walls which are marked with their names which they cut in stone to wile away the weary hours. One could feel how these wretched mighty folk suffered.
These things are too big for me to write about. Many of the tombs are covered with sand bags to prevent destruction from bombs. The oldest windows were being taken out. Many evening church services were cut out especially St. Paul's. Busses passing this cathedral and going over the bridge must extinguish their lights. Powerful search lights and anti aircraft guns are mounted in a high place here and there. The traffic is cut in two.
March 26, 1916
Hunting up a famous preacher I finally heard Dr. Horters at Westminster Chapel. Visited Hyde Park, a large stretch of grass with seats for thousands. The grass grows so well no fear of people destroying it getting to seats. Returned home for service at Haslemore and into camp and mud before nine.
We saw many soldiers returning from the Front, on leave or wounded. One said fighting was not a bad job if it wasn't for the dirt. He hadn't had a wash for over a week. One fellow was a graduate of McGill. He was returning home from graduation ceremonies when he enlisted. Had been wounded and sent back. He was on a machine gun. In a charge one day the Canadians had passed him. His gun no longer of use he grabbed up a rifle and went along receiving a slight wound. When he had lain for some time he saw a German coming at him with a rifle and bayonet. He got up with what strength he could muster but could not fire before the bayonet had gone into his side. He struck his foe down with his rifle butt and killed him with his bayonet. He had enough of war.
Many of the returning men were ragged, haggard looking, with wiry muscles and thin cheeks, but a great spirit shinning through their eyes. War is a game which fills them with horror yet many of them love its wild excitement and desire to go back.
March 27, 1916
Ice on the puddles and a few flakes of snow. I am a mess orderly today washing stacks of dishes and greasy pans.
March 28, 1916
We marched today out to Hindshed Heath for a review by Sir Sam Hughes returning at 2 P.M. famished, find mail from home. A wild night with heavy snow, wind and rain. I find a cozy room at the Soldiers Rest and write. We may leave any day now for France.
March 29, 1916
Ground frozen hard and the boys joke about English weather and the Englishmen try to explain. We received identification disks on morning parade.
This afternoon I had my first experience at stretcher drill, charging down a hill after supposed wounded men. Rather hard on soft muscles. When we returned the fellows played a continuous joke as the late comers returned. ‘There was mail down in hut 22’. With hasty steps they ran down. They returned with ruffled feathers while fellows cheered. It was a mean trick.
March 31, 1916
First real duties on sentry squad. We are rich now. 10 bob came our way. Harrah for a current bun and a cup of tea in the morning.