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Date: March 9th 1917
Malcolm (Mac)

Mar 9, 1917

My Dear Dad,

Work lectures and all are over for another day and if the estaminet stays quiet for a few minutes I’ll try to tell you that I’m still on terra firma and kicking – and that’s what many a fellow isn’t over here. I see in the Chronicle that Lieut A. Levy M.G.B. has been wounded and have no doubt that it is Mark for the name is not a common one. Here’s luck to him hoping that he’s got just enough to send him to Blighty and no more.

Our course covers about everything in signaling from flag drill down to wiring etc. We get quite a bit of buzzer work and I’m learning to read gradually. If my practice will only hold good for the other code I’ll not want for a job après la guerre. They’re teaching us quite a bit about the instruments we use and they’re considerably more interesting than the Alexandria phone. I’m finding plenty to learn more about what once was a hobby.

Mail has refused to come my way and the consequence is a sort of isolated feeling. I guess I’ll go out into the garden and eat worms. There will be an upheaval in the Cn mail office when I get back – a week’s time for there is no reason why 3 weeks should elapse without my mail coming.

I haven’t heard from Ewan for quite a while before my leaving the unit. He will hardly enjoy his stay in Sandling as it’s a mighty muddy spot in winter. But he’ll not make matters better by coming to France where it’s worse.

Ted said that Ewan had been up to Muswell Hill to see the Mills family. I’m very glad he went for they’ll appreciate it. If he gets my letter of directions how to get up there after his trip up he’ll laugh fo I described the routes fairly minutely.

Ted has, at last, got his commission and was to leave the battalion Mar 3 to take an officer’s course in France. Our colonel has asked for him as an officer so that speaks pretty well for him. Rex Gu has been an officer in the 73rd for 3 months – also Vincent (you remember him?)

There was a rumour about before I came here that our battalion was being broken up and being replaced by a Nova Scotia unit. As we have “made good” on every possible occasion since we became part of the Division I am very sorry that Canadian politics should interfere. But there is a chance for us and for all I know our danger may be over now – on the other hand I don’t know but we may have been bust up in my absence and I may return to a strange unit.

We should worry though. I wrote to Mills Johnston to see if they could give a home to a signaller in their battery but I guess I won’t leave the gang if we retain our identity as a unit.

It will soon be time for you to thaw out, Dad, and get rid of your cold I hope it hasn’t gone too hard on you this winter. May too should have her throat swell up and show signs of the frost coming out. Mother no doubt thinks as much of Allie as usual.

Saturday Mar 10/17

And a holiday all afternoon. The fates have at last favoured me and a deluge of 13 letters almost overwhelmed me today.

As one who was not “acclimatized”(I don’t get the exact significance of the word but it listens good) the effect of so much word from home would be a huge lump in the throat and a pair of misty eyes but, to a certain extent, one can avoid that. I confess that I do feel as if I’d be happy with one arm round your neck and the other round the stovepipe. I have again left the billet (an attic) in favour of the Estaminet and am making myself quite comfortable in the kitchen while Madame and the two demoiselles are having their after dinner chat. If the landlord were sitting in the armchair reading the Gazette the pictue would be complete.

The mail consisted of Mays letters of Jan 29, Feb 2, Feb 12, Feb 5, Mother’s and Allie’s of Jan 28. Charlie’s triennial, Winnie Mills written Nov 18 to me in hospital. Ewans 20/2/17, Dave’s Feb 5. And one from Marjorie MacDougald.

I am very glad indeed t ohear of your own improvement in the Grippe line.

I laughed at Charlie’s commencement of his letter. It was this …. Arrived here in Billtown at 3 P.M. and if you ever spent a Sunday afternoon in this burg you’ll know why I’m writing letters – I compris.

I got your weather reports and situation reports OK, Dad. I think I can see you picking the letter out of the rural mail box and marking it up. That was from 62. I also got the one from 72. I had a letter from John too telling about the price of eggs – 75 d. Will we beat him out by a few cents for we have to pay $1.00 per doz, and even then we try to make ends meet on $6.per mo. I landed $14. In one slap on a/c of coming to this course so can indulge.

I can tell you I was more than glad to hear of the arrival of my watch and it’s companion. I prized them both very highly as they were with my pen and tunic badges) the only things I took from Canada.

When Canadian mail was cutoff for a while we were sort of out o’ luck for parcels but Ewan came across with a complete set of underwear and a pair of sox. Was I glad?! I hadn’t had a bath or a change since Dec 10 and that landed Feb 15th. You may perhaps imagine the state I was in but I’ll make it more vivid by a little yarn. One night I thought to get a little respite by reversing arms and putting my shirt on inside out. While I had it off and after I had turned it the phone buzzed and I had to turn to “O.K. the line” when I came again to my shirt a few second later it had turned itself back again . I wasn’t surprised though for, about half an hour previous, I had been telling Jim Robertson of my intention and noticed a spider stringing telephone lines up to my chin. They must have had an outpost out and learned the plan of battle.

In answer to May’s saying about the book of Birds I might say that as I see no leave for me this side of October I think it much better that Capt. Currie should keep it for the present at least, for I never know when I am going to lose all my belongings. When the kettle is boiling over here one loses everything excepting what he’s got on him about twice a month. But I’ll see the Capt at the first opportunity and see how he stands for leave. If he gets to England before I do he can either post it from there or send to Mr. Mills until Submarine warfare subsides a bit. I’d like to see it on it’s way very much.

Answering all the letters in one return is too much. I must switch to someone else. Love to the old circle and all at home.

Your loving son


Cpl MacDonell

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Original Scans