24 May, Empire Day.
Dear Lal, —
Today is Empire day — do you remember at school the old rhyme — “if you don’t give us a holiday we’ll all run away”? And later we called it Empire Day. I remember as kids we were always taught everywhere to know Queen Victoria as one of the most wonderful persons who ever lived — perfect type of woman and queen. But today I am afraid most of us know she was only a very silly old woman. Some one has recently published a book about her, and I suppose she’s now dead long enough for the truth to be told without hurting any one very much. It appears she was always dead set against anything ever being suggested, even, to the detriment of Germany — thought the Kaiser a great friend of England, and in fact was altogether just about the opposite of everything we believed as children. As most everything is. I believe if King Edward, wasn’t it? had had no children, “Big Bill” would have been King of England. Maybe I have it wrong, but anyhow it seems to have been a narrow squeak.
I am getting most awfully keen on games and have developed into an ardent baseball fan. There is a league: other Canadian Hosps, A.S.C. etc. We have a great team. . . .
I was glad to hear S—— had joined the Signallers and not the Engineers. It is a much better corps for him in every way. You ask what they do. Well, of course, all that flag-wagging which he will be doing now ceases when he gets out here, though they might do a good bit of it in Shorncliffe. (Imagine how long it would take Fritz to pick off a flag-wagger, when it isn’t safe to show a finger over a parapet!) It will, however, put him au fait with the code, and help if he should be needed on the telegraph instruments. What he will do, will depend altogether on the circum-stances — luck — and proficiency. If I were he, I would study the telegraph instrument hard — wireless, too, if he could. Most signalling is done by telegraph. . . . A lot of his work will be fixing telegraph lines and some are used as “runners.” It’s a nice decent job all round, and he’ll meet a lot of decent young fellows. Yes, I guess he’s wild — a bit. He tends that way, and of course coming here won’t improve him. It would be lucky if he could land a stripe. Then the little responsibility might steady him; but he’s rather young for that. Shorncliffe will do him much harm, as they are not so strict there. I suppose he’ll take his leave in London — and all the rest of it. He’ll just have to take his chance, and have a fling with the rest. If I had a boy, I shouldn’t try to stop him. I’d tell him the risks — and leave it to him. S—— will come out alright, I firmly believe. When he comes to France, things are different; all the rough stuff must go. A “drunk” only draws 28 days No. 1 Field Punishment — with the horrors of being tied up every day. That you may have heard of. You are in the B.E.F. then, not the C.E.F.
The baseball game was just great, we had two generals in the bleachers, but again we got licked. I wish you could see one of the games — the grounds surrounded with the blue hospital coats and the Sisters’ uniforms. The Sisters are good rooters, believe me. The rooting takes a more personal tone than in regular games and includes’ a man’s personal appearance — his uniform — his work — any old thing at all so long as we may get his goat. The utmost keenness is shown by every one. I’m afraid the cricket eleven takes a very back seat; baseball has the whole show.