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Date: September 1st 1917
Beulah Bahnsen (wife)
Ralph Watson

[Book annotation: “Pinned at the head of the sheet is this clipping. (Editor.)”]

The night falls now, and softly flow
   The red lamps, stretching far;
And rest is here for lads who know
   The blood-red night of war.

Still peace and quiet days at last,
   Grey walls and spreading flowers —
A haven from the raging blast
   Of battle-shattered hours.

Now overhead the hour strikes slow.
   The last birds softly call;
The night falls, and the red lamps glow —
   And God’s stars over all.

September 1, ’17.
V.A.D. Hospital,

My very dearest Lal, —

Well, I’ve got all settled down, though I only came yesterday. To come here after France — the front line of France! It’s the limit! But let me tell you.

The house is an English country home. It’s lent to the Government as a V.A.D. Hosp. and is used exclusively for Canadians and Australians. I guess it holds about fifty. The staff are all English ladies. Don’t look for their pictures in a “sister uniform of costly and studied simplicity” doing “War Work for our soldiers” in a high class English society paper. It won’t be there. They are here to help us get well, and apparently make us happy. They succeed completely. Not a man but loves the place. The amazing thing — there are no rules, yet these fellows, fresh from the line, never swear, are intensely polite, go out of their way to help, and generally conduct themselves far better than they ever did in their lives — and like it. Yet the majority of “brass hats” and such like would say it couldn’t be done. The presence of just one “military guy” would spoil the working of the whole machine.

It is quite a large house. We sleep in beds, above each of which is a card saying it is kept up by one firm or person in B——. The only work we do is make this bed. There are several bathrooms, and tons of hot water. The whole place is free to you to run over any time of the day. As I say, there are no rules at all; yet the place is the most orderly, where soldiers have been, that I have ever seen. There are large grounds — I have already played tennis — and lawn golf. You are asked not to touch the fruit trees; every tree is loaded with fruit, and is untouched. In France, they put armed guards over fruit trees, and every one, in spite of it, is rifled and most of the branches broken off. In the grounds are open-air sleeping huts for patients needing air. Most of the men here are rest cures; my own case gets no treatment other than fresh air and rest. There is no treatment anyway for gas. There is a billiard room, cards of course, and all games, piano, gramophone, all the latest magazines, etc., and a library, a peach. (I am starting on Ian Hay’s books.) In the lovely big rooms are really easy chairs, not the near variety of a Y.M.C.A., and open fireplaces with fires in ’em already. Always there is something doing. Last night a whist drive, tonight a concert. There are also passes for any one to go to B——  any or every day, or to any place you want, from two to seven. I am as happy and contented as I could possibly be. I haven’t mentioned the meals. Breakfast bell rings seven‑thirty, a really breakfast. Dinner is positively scrumptious — two vegetables and meat, and swell dessert, lots and lots of it. Tea four o’clock, and then a meal, a proper meal, at six-thirty or so. And to think! A couple of weeks ago I was a filthy object in the trenches — nervous — verminous — hungry! Sometimes I think I’m going to wake up; it’s only a dream.

Tomorrow is Sunday, and I am going to try and go to church. I see there are services. Do you know I don’t think I’ve realized all this yet. I’m quite contented to sit here by the fire and read. The war is miles and miles away. Now that I’m civilized again, I must get back to living and thinking again. I realize what a different me it is than the one that left Canada. To begin with, I am horribly irritable, short-tempered, and nervously self conscious. I don’t think alike on hardly anything I did. I always detested superficial people; now I hate ’em — ten times worse — I like really people ten times more. I dunno’ how you’ll like your new husband at all; he’s altogether different. One thing, though: he likes his wife better than ever he did; he’s quite sure of that. Also he’s got an awful longing to see Miss Billie. She wasn’t real in France, he never thought he’d see her, not really; but now it’s different, and she’s most awfully real — and a thousand possibilities open up.

Sunday Evening.

I had a set at tennis; it’s been raining a lot, and the court wants marking again. I think I’ll do that very special job tomorrow. I’ve read all Ian Hay’s books. There are so many here it’s hard to choose which to read first, but I’ve just decided on one of W.L. Locke’s. In the desk where I am writing, in the French window of a lovely big room overlooking the gardens, are albums for fellows to ink stuff in, a sort of memory book. Most of the stuff is weak and rotten, but now and then something good has come along. I must put something on myself, but I don’t know what yet. I also came across a list of men’s names who had been here, the date they came, and the date discharged. This list was interesting because I see a month here is all that can be safely expected.

Original Scans

Original Scans