April 17th, 1916
As you will see by the heading I am on leave in London. Bert Gordon is over with me. Ernie Parsons and Norman McArthur went back last Tuesday. I was up In Scotland for a very short time. I was in Edinburgh and Glasgow and went to the Henry’s house on Saturday night but they weren’t in. I haven’t seen much of the country while on leave but it’s worth coming over just to sleep in a bed and eat good meals.
I can’t find out for certain whether the 63rd are over or not but I am going to Shorncliffe to see.
The Regiment was in Ypres before I left and will be at Hooge when I go back. The Canadians are all up in the Ypres salient. Two divisions at least, of Australians are behind us. There is a persistent rumor that the Canadians, the Australians and one division of the Guards will be together. The Guards at present are on our left.
I will never forget the first time we went through Ypres. I had seen it from five or six miles distance and of course had seen villages and towns blown to pieces but this was the first time I saw a wrecked city. We had come out of the trenches about eleven o’clock and reached the city wall about two thirty in the morning. The poor old gate, which had probably stood more than one siege was no good against high explosive and was all smashed up. The only people in the place were a small guard of British soldiers and as we walked down the street we seemed to be making an awful noise. There wasn’t a building that hadn’t been struck and most of them utterly ruined. Churches, schools, hotels large stores and houses were either piles of brick and stone or else with one or two walls still standing alone. There was one church – of St. Jean, I think – which had two sides of its tower still standing up like a big skeleton. In the Cloth Hall you could see fragments of the stained glass and the beautiful carving on the stone work. Most of this destruction was entirely unnecessary and useless. The Germans could do some good by shelling roads, corners, stations etc. with shrapnel but here they just poured H.E. on the buildings. In every place they have shelled, the church seems to be the first target.
I am sending a couple of bullets etc. home. I will send more later.
I have some heavier stuff but I am afraid the Customs people won’t allow it to go through.
I am sending some works of art – “Fragments from France”. You can’t possibly know how good they are unless you have seen the real thing.
Everybody you know is well, including myself.
I will close now – it’s time to eat.
Your loving son