From Lieut A.H.M Copeland, Offizier Gefangenenlager
Schweidnitz in Schlesien Germany
To Miss H.R. Lailey, 26 Whitney Ave., Toronto Canada
Jan. 5th 1918
For the last half hour I have been trying to study German but my think tank does not seem to run to modern languages to-night. Not that it ever did for I remember being told at Harbord once upon a time that all the French I knew might be put into a thimble. Since coming here I have tried to be real studious and do a couple of hours a day on German but somehow or other it is difficult to do even that much. Noise, cold, cooking [several words have been either censored or erased] all seem to combine to make the days slip by with nothing accomplished or at least very little
This is a cold part of the country. There has been snow and ice ever since we came nearly a month ago and even the optimists tell us that the worst is yet to come. Tonight there is the nearest approach to a blizzard that I have seen for many a day. We had hoped to have skating on the river which runs just below the lager but are not going to be able to so are building a small rink between two of the huts. This will give us a sheet of ice a little more than half the size of a hockey rink. As there are a large number of Canadians here we should have some fine matches. I hope it does not fall to my lot to keep goal.
Christmas went off much better than most of us expected. Dinner especially was very successful. In many cases several of the messes joined forces. My mess mate and I had dinner with some of the old Agustabad crowd. Twelve of us, including five merchant skippers sat down to a repast prepared by two of the sailors and it certainly did them credit. We showed our appreciation in the usual manner. I should like to give you the menu but it is too long. Christmas pudding and mince pies were there besides blanc mange and jellies. At the end I felt quite like a small boy who had been allowed to go the limit. New Year’s Day is apparently not celebrated on this side of the Atlantic as it is at home and passed very quietly.
Life here is very different from Agustabad. In the first place, the old timers are missing, so the camp is full of recent captures mostly flying men. Instead of small rooms we live in large dormitories. Still I expect one will grow used to it in time. Up to the present we have done most of our own cooking, some cooking too let me tell you. This noon I intended to have fish cakes and was extra anxious to have them turn out well for I had asked a skipper to lunch. I boiled rice early and when the time came mixed it with potatoes, salmon and a little flour but in the pan the cakes absolutely refused to keep their shape and before long there was nothing but hash. Someone suggested that I add curry powder so I did and the result wasn’t too bad. I had a lesson the other day in making scones and shall try my luck soon. Twice I have tried pancakes on my mate and he is still quite fit.
Two days later.
Yesterday there was a thaw so that all our work on the rink has been spoiled. To-day it is still mild but has been snowing and the trees look quite like fairyland.
The theatre is again in full swing but has opened under a name that is hardly auspicious. Instead of the A.A.D.S it is now the S.A.D.S. In spite of the name the first show was quite a success. On the programme were such acts as the Strong Man from Montenegro, Mr and Mrs Turnanyastle – world famous dancers –, magicians, comic singers and an impersonator. The stage manager lives on one side of me, the electrician – my mess mate – on the other and several actors and musicians are scattered about so you see that I am moving in theatrical circles these days.
Since coming here, I have met some of the men I knew in France and have heard news of many of my old pals some of whom have done good work and been decorated. A good many however have been done in poor fellows.
Many thanks for your letter of Nov. the sixth which arrived about Christmas time. You must have your hands full with the Choral Club Red cross and other work. Getting up at five-thirty to go to the Ex. in the winter time is not much fun and I guess by the time the day is over you are ready for a well earned rest.
This is a long letter for me and mostly full of nothing; but there is little that is exciting to write about these days Regulations here allow longer letters but not so many. Even if I don’t write as often as I should like to I shall do my best and for the rest my friends will have to take the will for the deed. That is about what they have been doing for the last year
We spend a good many evenings playing bridge. Just now there is a tournament on. So far I have won three matches and lost three with one more to play. With any luck I won’t take the consolation prize but that is about all I can hope for. Some day I may learn to play the game
My stock of news is exhausted, the limit allowed has been reached and it is just time for lights out. Three reasons why I should say good-night