Nov 25th 1918
You certainly are a prophet for great changes have taken place since Sept 17th and in a few days we P.O.W.s will be on our homeward way. Three months ago most of us here fully expected to have to wait for another “spring offensive.” Well I have yet to meet the man (with the possible exception of our former much hated camp commandant) who is not tremendously bucked with the change in affairs. It is a little hard to realize what liberty will be like but I guess it won’t take long to become used to it. The camp has not been too bad since Nov 11th. Parcels, when they come are now given to us unopened and letters uncensored by the Germans.
Talking of letters, I had a run of bad luck for three months when all my mail went astray. In some way or other, the record office got hold of Mainz as my address and, as I have not been there and they did not know where I was, nothing happened until a stray card arrived from Mainz through Berlin. Then I got busy and followed up the clew [meaning: ball of yarn/thread] and managed to get some letters sent on. About the same time my correct address seems to have reached London so everything is lovely again. Your letters of July 20th and Sept 17th both came within the last three days. Thank you so much.
Last week we had several good walks for we were allowed to go out for the day. The weather was fine, bright and cool enough to make walking pleasant. One day we covered fifteen or sixteen miles. In some of the little villages, we stopped for a glass of beer which I am sorry to say was not very good. Most everything in this country has gone to the dogs in the last few years if one may judge from what one hears. Cocoa and chocolate are now practically unknown. Ground acorns are substituted for coffee except by the wealthy. Rope is made of paper, shoes for the poor of paper tops and wood soles. You know the paper lunch boxes which workmen often carry. It is material something like that which the uppers of the shoes are made of. A couple of months ago anything like a decent cake of toilet soap would have cost at the very least ten marks. You see they have had to do without some things. Still the country folks showed no signs of hostility toward us though it might be very different in the cities. One day my mess mate bought a chicken at a farm house. Next day I roasted it for dinner and though it may have been left in the oven for another ten or fifteen minutes it was not half bad and was a change from tinned grub.
You may have guessed by now that I do not intend to give this letter to the Germans to read. I shall post it on the first opportunity I have after leaving the country. There have often been things which were amusing or interesting of which I could not write for fear of getting in wrong with the Central Powers or of letting them know things which were not good for them to know.
As I may be here for some time I shall just add a line now and then as the spirit moves me.
For the present. Good night.
Good news from Berlin to-day. It is expected that this camp will be cleared within a week. Some of the boys have gone off on their own but considering the weather it is likely that most of them will return to the fold shortly.
Your letter from Ferndale came to-day and was not as you suggested uninteresting. I always like to hear about the lake country for I love it and sincerely hope that next summer I shall be able to spend a few weeks in a canoe getting acquainted with some of the Ontario waterways. Except for the last four years there have not been many summers that I was not, at least for a short time, in the woods. I think I might almost feel kindly towards mosquitoes now.
Still here and no fresh news of a move. Time drags yet each day is a day nearer home. Your letters of Oct 6th (direct here from London) and Aug 4th (via Mainz) arrived yesterday and to-day. Am very glad that the Mainz letters were not all lost. Thanks for the snaps. I wonder if you have received my letters more or less regularly. You mentioned only a card.
Was very sorry to hear that Muriel and Miss Rooke - almost said Glen for that name is so much more familiar from your letters – had been ill. I hope that they are both better by this time. You must steer clear of the Spanish flue – Spanisher krankheit [translation from German: “Spanish disease”] it is called here – for it certainly makes one very miserable. In July and August it swept the camp and not one in ten escaped. Fortunately there were no deaths. I was one of the lucky few. In the town deaths ran as high as sixty a week for a while. That is high for a place of less than ten thousand.
A few days ago a letter from my brother informed me that I was now a full blown captain. It was a surprise for I had expected to finish my career in the army as a lieut. Still I was not sorry to get the extra pip. A sort of consolation prize I suppose.
You are not far wrong in supposing that one gets fed up with this life and longs for the comforts of civilization. It is not so much the actual physical discomforts as the being away from friends and always being under the thumb of these blasted Germans that makes this life get on the nerves. There have been times when I have felt very much like hammering one of them and taking the consequences. Sorry. I should not be telling a tale of woe at this stage of the game. At last the allies are making the Hun regret his misdeeds and it won’t do any harm to rub it in a little. In victory the German is a bully of the worst kind; in defeat he cringes, whines and would lick the boots of the victor. We can thank God that we were victorious for had we been defeated life would not have been worth living.
The great news has come at last. Monday we start on our homeward way via Holland. Holzminden Kriegsgefangenenlager will be no more. Troops will probably move in but the Englanders and the barbed wire will go. Let’s hope forever.
On one pretext and another they have kept us in the camp for the last week. The last excuse was that seventeen thousand troops were to pass through the town on the Great Retreat.
Hilda, you have been a perfect angel to write as you have for the last two years Your letters have cheered me up. I shant apologize for the poor, few uninteresting scrawls I have sent for under the circumstances I have done the best I kin do. Still it is difficult to write to someone from whom you seldom hear and I certainly appreciate all you have done
Will just leave a small space in case anything special happens before I post this.