Dear Mother, Father, Brothers, Sisters and Friends:
I am a little late with this letter but will have to be excused this time as I had a week of rest from my duties and I included letter writing among them. Although I was sick enough to stay in bed or go to a hospital I was feeling out of condition and did nothing but lie around the camp and sleep. I am back into my old track now again and am feeling first class.
My last letter was written just after we landed at Kilindini about two weeks ago on a Sunday in the Y.M.C.A according to my diary. During the past two weeks we have been repairing and cleaning our cars and having some drill for exercise but have not got into hard work yet. The only drawback at our last camp was the flies which were the thickest I have ever seen. The mosquitoes however were very few so we could rest in peace at night. We all were issued with mosquito nets for covering at night but up to the present I have had no use for one except to keep away flies in the daytime. They come in handy to spread out on stakes and sit under to eat your meals. The weather has been damp since we landed but the ground around camp is very sandy and the water soaks in very quickly. The bathing beach which was only a quarter of mile from camp is sandy and free from rocks and the water was the warmest I ever was in as far as ocean bathing is concerned. We went bathing almost every morning and night so kept fairly clean and felt better for it.
There was a big Canadian mail arrived on May 4 and I expected to get some from home. The Victoria and other Canadians got some and one of them said there was two letters for me. I ran over to the tent and got them but soon found out one was from Wallie in Belgium, under date of Feb 23 and the other from Nellie Waddel, the little Scotch girl that used to be in Collister’s but moved back to Scotland last summer. Both of these letters were answers to cards I mailed from London while on leave.
In Wallie’s letter he spoke of getting leave and wanted to meet me in England but I guess it is too late for that now. However I wrote and told him where I was the following evening from the Y.M.C.A.
I went down to Mombasa several times to see the town. It is very old fashioned in most parts having narrow crooked streets and old fashioned buildings but in other parts have fine buildings and well kept grounds around them. The whole city is very clean, a thing which is most essential in the hot climates where fevers are very common. I got some post cards of the people and place which I will send this week. The native blacks for the most part speak very little English but some of them do fairly well. The stores are mostly native but there are a few run by white people. The prices on goods of English manufacture is a little more expensive than at home, unless you buy it at the army canteens, but the prices on local stuff is fairly cheap. The natives here mostly live in huts of grass and bamboo with thatched roofs of grass but some of the wealthier class have wooden or stone and cement or plaster houses which are nearly all painted white.
We left the camp at Kilindini last Friday and came up here via the Uganda Ry arriving Sunday morning about 2 am. The engines on the railway are fairly large although they use a narrow guage track. The coaches are very small and have galvanized iron roofs and look like small freight cars unless you are close to them We travelled third class on the trip and our cars have doors all along the sides, the seats running right across the cars the same style as the English coaches. The sections were a little over crowded for sleeping purposes but the boys got out and slept on the station platform after we got to our destination.
The town here and surrounding country is about 5870 feet above sea level so you can imagine how fine the weather is here. The days are not hot and the nights are cool with a breeze blowing all the time. The Garrison Institute have a large canteen here in which you can write letters or purchase any thing you want at reasonable prices in fact far cheaper than in the stores uptown. I have just finished dinner now which I bought at the canteen. It consisted of roast beef, potatoes, vegetable salad (onions, cucumbers, beets and tomatoes) bread and butter, tea and pudding. This spread only cost 62 cents which amounts to 20 cents in Canadian money. The meal was good and there was plenty of it so what more could you wish. I think I explained before that the money used here is similar to Canadian money 100 cents= 1 rupee, the value of 15 rupees is 1£ in English money or $5 in Canadian. We get paid regularly enough to have money all the time, I dont know yet whether we are to get 30 or 50 rupees a month but it will be plenty anyway.
Last night just after supper the mail came and we waited patiently till it was sorted out in alphabetical order After waiting an hour the quartermaster called for names beginning with A and going down the list. When he came to D I was right on the job and sure was well awarded for my waiting I got 17 letters and a parcel of the clippings from the paper. As this was the first mail I got from home you can imagine how I beat it for the tent and got a place near the lamp to read them. I got through the pile in time to get to bed but had to read them over again this morning. The letters I got were from Mother 3, Mary 2, Ruth 5, Aunt Dell 1 Reita 1, Dean 1, Clara 1, Miss Gordon 1 (a little girl I met going through Renfrew, Ont.) and the one from Miss Hosker. The parcels you mentioned I havent received yet but we expect more mail to day and tomorrow from the same boat As none of the boys have got their parcels I am not worrying for a couple of days.
As far as the snow and severity of the winter was concerned I got a good description, that from Victoria papers the last mail (May 4). I also saw a small account of Jack Gordons terrible death in Victoria Paper on the same date. That news seemed the worst drawback of all it came so sudden but the newspapers show between the sickness and accidents that bereavement is not confined only to the parents whose sons are abroad for King and country.
The letter I read first was evidently the first one written and was held over till Feb 28th for mailing. I got the enclosure from Roberta and Mary and would like to write them a letter but I think they will be satisfied to read the family letter for this time. The card I sent from the boat was not mailed on account of the time of sailing and name of boat being kept quiet. Instead it was carried to England and mailed on her return mail. I was glad to hear that you had so successfully lived through the cold weather with good health and no sickness as it must have been awful for the old people and those who did not have the means of properly providing themselves against it. I see by your letters that Grandma and Grandpa are still well and able to get around. I suppose though Grandma had to stay pretty close to home during the bad weather. I dont think I ever met but one Miss Percival but perhaps I am mistaken. Just give them all three my love anyway and I will meet the other two later. If they would like to write once in awhile the letters would be greatly appreciated as the old saying holds good here the same as anywhere else “The more the merrier.” It is quite a thing at mail time to see who gets the most. In our tent a Victoria boy had the lead with 21 but I was a contented second at 17. Speaking of the ocean trip, it was a mere trifle with the second one and the second was as pleasant as it could be. As for socks the heavy ones are the best to wear even in this country as the boots are far too heavy for the light socks. I am glad to hear so many are reading the mail and I thank them for their wishes of Good Luck. I have had the best of it so far and am looking forward to more. It worries me to hear that Dad is out of work but I expect he has had some long before I got the word, I hope so anyway. Mary adds at the bottom a pin or a button. My Canadian pins I think were stolen if not I lost them somewhere and I will have to send some buttons and our English badges. As for the ink for that ribbon, they are not the style down here. The women wear big iron or brass rings around their necks and arms some of them put on when young and left to cut in as the people grow.
Mother mentions the feather pillow. I was going to throw it away several times as my kit grew larger but I still have a little room for it. I use it every night and also might add I havent washed the pillow case yet. My intentions in this line have been good several times but I never think of it till bed time and then is too late. My drill pants, tunics and my underwear have all been scrubbed by my hands several times in facts I wash my pants and shirt once a week and socks twice. I am getting pretty good at it now and think I will take in washing for a living when I get home. I dont think I told you about the last week on the boat where I had to wash a shirt, a pair of pants and a pair of socks every night. Thats going some for me.
In the second letter under date of Mar 5 I got the enclosure from Obbie and Slim and must thank them very much. Tell them they are in on this letter till I get time to address a card or letter to them. The other letter had the Great [?] pamphlet in it and some clippings. I get all kinds of health lectures here about fever, sunstroke etc but this is the first consumptive one I have had. We all got a book on health before we left the boat. I wish to thank the contributors to my birthday box right here although I havent got the goods yet. The quality may not be very good by now although I hope it is. One fellow got a parcel last mail and had to carry it right to the garbage can hankies and all. Well I think I will have to close for now but I will read these letters again and see if there is anything I missed. I wrote to Miss Hoskes on May 6 a good 4 page letter so she has no kick coming for awhile. The others I will have to answer today or tomorrow, perhaps they will all get home together. Well Bye Bye for this time with lots of love to Dad, Yourself and the rest of family and friend I remain
Your loving son
Tell Dad all carpenters here are Hindus.