27th Jan 1919
Dear Winnie: –
I received your letters & parcels some time ago & was glad to hear from you. I put off writing from day to day until at last I had to write.
I joined the battalion from leave at a small village named Folx-les-Caves. It is a small village about eight miles from Jodoigne.
I spent a week on the road between Calais and Folx-les-Caves. We stopped one night in Valenciennes and went from there on our own. There was another fellow and myself separated from the bunch and beat ourway back on motor trucks, etc. The trains and street cars are free to soldiers – one of the reasons why we do so much travelling around. We made our second next stop at Mons. The old boy we stopped with at first took us for Imperials (English) and wasn't any too friendly but as soon as he found out we were Canadian we were jake. When on the road like that we always "parle" enough for a free bed and meals. We tell the people a lot of old rot about Canada and they all seem to think it's a great place. One thing all the Canadians seem to peddle is that the women in Canada never work – the women and girls over here work like slaves all the time. When we are around a farm house we do a lot of odds & ends and help quite a bit. I started to tell you about the trip up the got off the subject. Well, we stopped a day and night in Mons, after leaving our old home at Paturages – a small town we were billeted in for a fortnight. This is a très jake place and the people we stopped with filled us up with waffles and coffee. There were no soldiers there at that time so we paid several visits to our ex-landlords and friends and got a feed in each place. This is a good place – old Heinie acted about his worst around here and the Canadians were the first to enter after he beat it and they are always welcome. The people didn't have very much to eat when we were there but we had to accept some or they would get sore. Of course, we could never allow that. Oh yes, I had to go on church parade there one Sunday. There was an old fellow there dressed up like a Crimean veteran with grand regalia and a hat like Napoleon. He carried a long staff. I think he was a sort of usher. He never knelt down but stood up all the time and at the consecration he went into the sanctuary and stood at the salute.
We left there by street car for Mons. From Mons we took the train for Namur. We stopped in Namur a day & a night and put up at at the Belgian Calvary Barracks. We had a good look around Namur and "partied" for Gambleaux. We stopped there one night and left the next day for Jodoigne and Folx-les-Caves.
We are billeted at Folx-les-Caves for two weeks. All under Vimy Ridge was a mass of tunnels – all along the Western front for that matter was tunnelled. The Romans under Caesar made great tunnels which extend long distances in different directions which could hold many thousands of troops at Folx-les-Caves. The people call them caves instead of tunnels. They also call a cellar a cave. We were through the caves one afternoon. A great many tourists visit there. Teddie Roosevelt's name is inscribed on one of the walls of the tunnel. There is a small stream running through it. There are different characters carved in the walls; an old chapel, a prison and the remains of an old brewery are also there. We left there on the 4th of January and after three days' hike arrived here (Boitsfort). Most of the people here are Flemish and speak that "lingo". It sounds like German. A good many of the words are almost the same as in English. The people we are with are French and we get on fine. These are the best billets we have had so far. It only takes about twenty minutes to one-half hour on the train to go to Brussels. We take a slide in their nearly every day. It is some gay city. Everything is wide open but the prices are skyhigh. We take iron rations with us – like the crows do when they fly over Aberdeen. (When the war was on every one of us had to always have forty-eight hours' rations – one hard tack and a tin of bully beef – with us, so that if we ever got in such a position that it was impossible for the transport to bring the rations up we would not starve.)
Brussels has some classy stores and large buildings and is a very clean city. There has been a streetcar strike on during the past week and everything is tied up quite a bit. There seems to be a great deal of unrest amongst the Belgian soldiers. They claim they aren't getting enough pay and they don't like the idea of a king for a ruler.
We were in to Antwerp yesterday and took a trip across the river. It is not as near as clean a city as Brussels nor are the stores fixed up as well. It was snowing when we were there and we didn't have a very good chance to look around.
Why don't you send me a few dimes now & then?