Pte David L. Reekie
#838674. 147 Bn D Coy. C.E.F.
Shoreham Camp Sussex,
“Home Sweet Home”
I have a little time to spare tonight, so will drop a few lines, we have done seven or eight miles in full marching order this afternoon, so I feel more like writing than going downtown because these roads are hard and 30 or 40 pounds of equipment make it hard on the feet.
How is everything around Camperdown and suburbs? Everybody well I hope. I suppose you will have real winter in Canada now. Skating too, by the time you get this. I wrote once before, Nov 27, telling about our trip I hope you got it alright
We are having nice weather, not very cold. We have lots of rain here, but economy is nearing the perfection point here I think it only rains on Sundays and at nights, and we have to waddle in mud all day. A route march is alright but drilling on the parade ground is pretty slushy work. We generally get fair meals, although we had it pretty slim for the first two weeks that we were here, then we had enough till the last few days but it has been very poor lately so our NCO’s are being paraded before the Colonel tonight to lay complaints. So we will be sure of a square deal from him. He will either find where the trouble is or give us less work. He is a gentleman. But Major F.O.S.B. College (I can't give his name) is the most disliked man in the capital Bn. Everybody dislikes him, even the officers,he is always fighting with somebody. He uses us like dogs. He is never satisfied with anything, and it is the little things like making the men “slope arms” two or three times before dismissing us after heavy marches when we feel “all in” But I don't think he will go to the front not over any 147th men because we will go in drafts. A lot of our junior officers are at the front now. Our platoon Lieut. went this weekwe presented him a cigarette case and holder. He alway fought for “Sixteen’s” rights and would often come down to the hut at nights to talk. He used everybody square and had the men put confidence in him. So we all done our best for him. He was only a boy about twenty two. He felt very sorry when he had to leave us, and we all felt his loss too,he was very different to a lot of officers. But we have been lucky in getting another very good officer, I heard today that he told he liked Sixteen better than any he had ever had, I hope he does.
We are to be made a Reserve Bn, we will be called 8th Reserve Canadian Greys, and will be increased to about 2500 men 640 are coming in tomorrow so we will likely send out our first draft soon. Maybe next week I will be in it. I got my web equipment and entrenching tool today It is much better than the Canadian issue (Oliver equipment) It is all canvas the Canadian was partly leather. I suppose you will have already heard wild rumors of the “147th Bn in Action” “Badly cut up” and etc. but it does not pay to believe anything these days till you see it. We hear great news every day, but cannot depend on anything. So dont worry about anything you hear about us till it is official.
We havent had very hard work since coming here at least not as hard as I expected, altho’ we get some tough night marches. I always heard that they had all the spirit worn out of men before the left England. So if we get to France soon we can consider ourselves lucky. Our stay in Amherst encouraged the men to show spirit in marching (so much street parading) and we get lots of physical drill here so we will be in pretty good shape when we leave. Quite different to the men returning from France. They look broken down and spiritless, and not anxious to go back.
One thing about this country, we go through lots of villages when route marching, they are so close, and there is always something to see. Today I saw an aeroplane loop-the-loop it swooped right down from a great height then turned under like this [tiny sketch of aeroplane path inserted here]. Do you see? they can do some great stunts, sometimes turn right up on their sides when they make a short circle to land, then they seem to skid straight down, but they soon upright again, they are very interesting to watch.
Stan Boyd an I went up to London on our six day pass, and saw all the sights. We visited the Tower, St Pauls Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, National Art Gallery, Kensington Museum, The Waxworks, Regents Park, and Kew Gardens.
At the Tower we saw all the Crown Jewels including King Edward’s Crown and a coronation chair, also the gun carriage used at his funeral, besides all armor and swords, pistols, rifles, cannon since the “stone age” and several instruments of torture, including thumbscrews and the block and axe used to behead Mary Queen of Scots and Sir Thomas More.
It is a great tower well protected by moats, drawbridges, and porticullises but a lot of the dungeons are not open to the public now you only go where you can be closely watched by guards. And in Westminster Abbey we saw Wolfe's Monument, it is covered by the colors of nearly all the Canadian units. I guess ours will be placed there. We did not get a chance to spend much time there so did not see the Vaults of the Sovereigns as we were only on the main floor.
In Saint Pauls, we saw the colors of battalions that served in the Crimean War, badly tattered, and memorials of men of literary and military fame. Also Florence Nightingale's Memorial in White Marble showing her nursing the wounded with the inscription, “Blessed are the Merciful,” and the funeral carraige used for the Duke of Wellington. The waxworks is another place worth seeing, all the models of men and women of note,and a clay model of France and Belgium are on exhibit.
We certainly had a great trip, more fun than one man ever told another about. Everybody used us good and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Made fun of everybody and everything. We have an invitation to Glasgow to Barclay’s relatives if we ever get one. We might not get a last pass if we go soon
War is certainly showing its effects in this country all towns are in darkness, and old men and girls do the work sugar, flour, and meat is getting scarce. Girls run most of the trams, buses, elevators, and ticket offices in London. We didnt fully realize the wastage of war till we came over here, where so many wounded men are to be seen.
Discipline is very strict here. We are on Active service so get Active Service punishments, so have to be pretty careful and take what we get. There is not many offences now.
How is the 248th Bn coming along? It is to be hoped they dont recruit a lot of kids, because it takes a man to stand this life, both the work and the temptations, a fellow has got to look out for himself or nobody else will, and it takes strength to hold out on marches. But they dont send anybody to the front under 19 now, they send them to the Boys Brigade. But we never see anybody fall out of marches like we did at Niagara. It was there that we were given the hard tests, fellows would fall down stiff and do nothing but shiver. I never felt very bad on a march without water, but some fellows cannot stand it. But they were never allowed any so long as they could stand. We had harder work there than at Borden, but the heat of the sand kept a person in misery all the time. But give me Borden rations to what we get here anytime, I don't fancy living on fish, mutton, and rabbits that taste and look like sewer rats. But we expected to get bum grub before we came over, and we sure got it for awhile.
We had a good Christmas dinner, turkey, plum pudding, nuts, raisins, oranges, and apples but we could hardly believe that it was Christmas. Our thoughts were more on those we hope to see next Christmas. It was very different to any I ever spent before. It was a nice warm day more like Thanksgiving. But we are all in hope of seeing a real winter next year.
Well Mary I started this last night, but it is very hard to write here at nights, somebody is either arguing or singing all evening. It will be worse after this when there will be more in the huts. You see we have to make room for the draft that is coming. So we have been working all day getting mattresses up from the store-houses and filling them because the men will be tired after an all day march, 22 mi. I was on guard last Sunday and on fatigue duty today. I dont mind six days, but I hate seven, of course we can expect it soon but I don't think it is necessary in camp. Well they are blowing “fall in” again so must go. This certainly is some Sunday. They must be trying to end the war in 1916. It is 4.30 now. The 110.th Perth has just got here. They are an old Bn, they were in Borden with us. But I think their officers were dismissed about Sept. I guess that is why they are going into a Reserve Bn.
What do you think of the Peace talk? I think the enemy are getting “fed up” with war. So they are putting out a few “feelers”. Everybody wants and needs peace but not on their terms. The first contingent has been practically wiped out, so we should avenge their sacrifice.
I got a parcel from home the other day posted Nov. 18, it must have been at the Army P.O. a long time. I have three others on their way if they ever get here before we move again. Things are so uncertain now, we may be here for days or months we never know one day what is coming the next
I am back in the ranks now, most of the signalers are with their companies, only men who were ready to qualify were kept, the number has been decreased in all battalions. I was sorry to have to drop it but there is always a bright side to everything. My best friend (rifle excepted) Stan Boyd was in an advanced class as he went into the signallers in April, I just started in Sept. So when we both went to the ranks we had a better chance of going to France together and a friend means a lot here. But signalling gave a person a chance to learn something if I had known what I do now when I enlisted, I would have spent the winter in a garage then went into the Mechanical Transport it would be more interesting for me, maybe a little harder though, longer hours at least. It would be something useful after the war.
How is your uncle keeping this winter? I hope he is well. I suppose Jimmy is still at home. So there is a license on hunting now eh?
January 1st. Well this makes the next start. I was busy all day yesterday and went to church at night so did not have much time to do anything. I get this letter will be rather broken up but maybe you will excuse it when you know the conditions we are working as usual today, and go on a route march this afternoon. It is dinnertime now but I must finish this and write one home tonight. I am kept pretty busy answering letters in my spare time
Well I must close this as you will be tired before you understand this. Hope all are well as it leaves all here, Everybody happy and enjoying themselves.
Your old friend
P.S. Please remember me to all.