Dear Mother & Father & Sisters & Brothers:-
It is a never ending source of surprise and disappointment to put it in a mild way that I do not receive any letters. It is now one month and six days since we landed in England and still no letters. I know that the Army P.O. at London is taxed to its utmost with mail also that it takes a long time for mail to get here but since coming to France I have only received one letter from Tina dated the 5th Nov. Well I suppose they will arrive in due time. While I think of it I would be glad if you could send me a small nickel Waterman’s Fountain Pen travelling ink bottle. I have a wooden one now but it is a little large to carry and everyone is using it so it soon goes. If I get to another place I will keep it out of sight.
We have been doing very little work except a little drill just to keep the men in shape and to get the new men accustomed and acquainted with the old men and with the officers. Yesterday I was informed that I was to take a detachment of 30 other men from this Reg’t and report at a town about 10 miles south of here to a tunneling B'n to relieve some of them. We are to be there on Tuesday the 19th so yesterday I went down to see the O.C. and learn the road, etc. I had to go on my own provided means of locomotion i.e. they did not give me a horse or anything. So I went to the Bull Head, as the station is called and got on an auto truck with an officer who was very nice to me and told me that he would see that I had lunch at his headquarters which was on the route of my itinery (is route superfluous here?) and put me on another truck which would go quite near my destination.
So he did and at his mess having lunch, he introduced me to a Capt. Blackwood from Winnipeg. Of course I told him I was one eighth Blackwood and asked him if he was any relation to the "pop bottle" Blackwoods of Winnipeg. Well it seems that talking family trees was his specialty so I played the part of a good hearer occasionally dropping a remark as near as I could in accordance with what I had heard you tell about Aunt Blackwood. If I remember correctly she was your grand Aunt was she not? (By the way, do you remember once when I was at home I wrote our family tree out at some length and put it in your desk. I wish Ina would make a copy of it and send it to me so that if I happen to run across any more relations I will be able to tell them just what branch I belong to). Well this Captain knew the tree from root to branch. He is a lawyer in Winnipeg, was born in Ireland but says his progenitors crossed from Scotland about the 16th century but he claims relationship to the Scotch Blackwoods. He has reddish hair and looks like what I imagine a Blackwood should. He knew about Temple & Clarence who were brought up by their Aunt Anne Woodstock and of course knew your cousin who drove you around Winnipeg when you were there. I promised him I would write you and tell you I had seen him also would try to give him more definite information as to my Blackwood blood. As I understand it, your Mother's name was Cameron and her parents were Cameron & Blackwood.
Well I left there by motor and travelled at 2 p.m. - the motor did not go to my destination but they were to put me off at a point near it. However, by mistake they put me off about two miles before they should have done so as I had a map I quickly discovered this. There are sign posts at all places corners and turns giving the distance in kilometers i.e. 1000 39 to the next places. Well at the next place I stopped to ask an officer the direction just to take sure I was right so he not only told me but gave me a horse and was very nice to me saying that I need not hurry back if I wished to stay all night at my destination.
Well I took the horse and got on very well, saw the object of my trip and arrived back at place where I had got the horse just in time to have some tea and left about 5 p.m. although it was quite dark and tried to intercept the motor truck on its return trip at the place where they had set me down. When I had arrived at this point I found that to all appearances the motor had gone so I went to the house where there were artillery officers and asked for sheets for the night - it was only about 5.30 p.m. and they being English also were just finishing tea so I had more tea and bread. Then at eight we had dinner not a very wonderful affair but substantial and I retired to a bed of blankets on the floor about 10 p.m. Before returning a messenger came in and reported to the officer in charge that one of a party of men who had been taking up ammunition to a gun had been severely wounded by a bursting shell. The guns were about 4000 yards in rear of the lines and about seven miles from the battery Headquarters where we were. It was the first casualty I had heard reported first hand and made me think how near the line I was.
I left there this a.m. about 9.30 after having had breakfast and catching a motor soon arrived at the town where I had lunched the day previous with Capt. Blackwood. From there I succeeded after only a very short walk in getting another motor right into our own headquarters here arriving here about 10.30 a.m. I have no idea what sort of work I shall have to do on this trip but surmise it will be on what is called "working parties'" and it may be a very safe job at least for some time or it may be quite otherwise. The battalion for which we are to do the work is an English Reg’t commanded by a young Canadian from Toronto. I do not know his name. Please address all letters as before C/o 38th B'n, Canadians, Army P.O. London. Will write as soon as I find what I am doing.
With love to all,