From #644539 Pte. Wm. J. Wood, Smith’s Lawn Camp.
Base Depot C.FC. Sunningdale Birks, England
To Mrs. W. J. Wood, Box 639, Midland, Ont. Canada. Mar 3/1917
My Dear Little Wife. I am at leisure this afternoon to think of you, to write to you, and long for you as both Lt. and Capt. MacDougall have gone away for over Sunday. I have had no letters from you since those I mentioned in my last to you. Feb 27th. I know it is not your fault. Yet it casts the mood upon me expressed in the following verses, of which I am proud. I may even copy them to send to the “News Bag” as a reply to Mr. Elliot’s letter and a literary effort. (His letter Home!)
You’ll not forget me “Dot”?
Forget me not, while I’m away
Forget me not, Dear Heart.
Remember that I’ve gone to play
The urgent, only Part.
Through war’s uproar, your parting kiss,
The pressure of your hand,
Remembered is; and much I miss-
Your presence in this land.
I know your loving, tender heart
Is full of prayers for me.
I know you’ll bravely do your part
Whatever is to be.
I wish you now the best of cheer
You are my happiest thought
The one that helps over troubles here.
Oh! You’ll forget me not?
I did not choose to leave you alone
But guardsman, Duty, called;
Nor shrinking will he ever condone,
Until our frontiers walled;
With living steel that will resist
All ills that near its bed-
The hordes of hate that still persist
In thither being led.
You do with me in dreams attend,
Where distance matter not;
Awakening, I will you defend.
You’ll not forget me “Dot”?
I may see if Mr. Greig cannot have this published in some magazine along with a reproduction of the etching “His Letter Home.”
Sunday March 4, 1917
Leisure again today. Fine weather continues with us here; how I would like to share it with you, sweetheart. There is frost at night yet. Today is quite cold, but the ground is clean and dry.
An aroeplane swooped down and came to a rest upon our camp ground last week. The “birdman” was on his way from France to some place in England and had lost his bearings. He stayed overnight and we had the pleasure of watching him leave the earth and proceed upon his journey. Next morning It made me long to fly myself. As the machine soared away like a bee. Drafts of men have left for France yesterday and this morning. On a muster parade I was handled thus:- What’s your name? - “Your Category?” “Class A. Sir” “Do you want to go to France?” “Yes, Sir” “What are you doing here?” “I’m a batman Sir” “Who for?” “Lt MacDougall. Sir.” “I suppose he will be taking you with him?” “There is no understanding to that effect sir.” The officer then [?] out a number and told me to go out that way (pointing to the door I came in by.) Those who did not have to go out that way were provided with a couple of discs on which was their # etc. to identify their remains when found in future days. They have gone to France.
So you see, like the centurian of scripture, this officer saith to one man go and he goeth and to another “come” and he cometh.
I think that in event of my returning to you dearie, you shall find me more loveable, since many corners are rubbing down on me in this agrigation that will make me smoother, I hope, and more agreeable, and controlled. I imagine it is this being easily managed and reliable that like the same qualities in an auto causes them to hang on to me, as an artisan hangs on to a favorite tool. All bandsmen are kept also as batmen to so that a band may be organized for this camp. One fellow was punning on this morning He pretended to be a bandsmans little boy asking his father why bandsmen were made batmen –was it because both began with a B?
Today is clear, the wind blows cold and strongly from the East. But I do not think it is frosty. How are the people below you behaving toward you and the noises overhead? Does their fires not make it more comfortable for you? I’m so glad you are plumping up again my own dear, little woman. I’m all stirred up with the thought of embracing you and longing for the day that brings me to you again.
In my last letter I mentioned the pleasure of a trip to London to see a exhibition of graphic art, but was too cold to go into details. Well there is a good fire in our hut today and I am comfortable of course I’ve moved. We batmen are in a hut by ourselves: I got into London at noon and soon got over to Bond Street where an exhibition of Raemaker’s cartoons were on exhibition. But on going in I asked if they had any of Zorn’s etchings handy as I would like to see some.
The young lady in charge at the time showed me several, one very nude one framed. I told her how much his work appealed to me and mentioned that I had never had the pleasure of seeing an original picture, painting of Zorn’s. She said she thought there was one on hand. She found a [?] black frame in which was a colored portrait of a “Karl” a Swedish peasant girl. I took it eagerly and asked the attendant where I might go with it to be out of the way with it for it would take me a couple hours to look at it. She indicated a well-lighted side-gallery full of J. Pennell’s Lithographs. I soon discovered that the picture (a marvelous facisimle reproduction of one of Zorn’s most masterly paintings) and not the original as I could see the photographic light and shade of the lumps of paint and brushmarks instead of the actual paint itself. An older woman came in to relieve the one that gave me the picture and told her she had made a mistake (for which I’m truly thankful) that is for the mistake (otherwise I should not have seen the print) She then came over and told me about it begging pardon she etc. I had been puzzled by it for the above reason. However the price asked for it $18.00 shows how valuable a bit of art it is. I feel that I have learned a very valuable lesson in painting from it I then went to the Royal Academy and enjoyed an able lecture of etching and engraving illustrated by lantern slides. Altogether I had a splendid day and I was told in one gallery that they were putting on a lot of Zorn’s in a fortnight. I will see them if I can. I must close with this and love for my (model) girlie and the kiddies, bless their hearts.
W J Wood.