Cheriton Camp, Kent, England
Oct. 3, 1916
Dear Dad and Mum
I got my five day leave last Saturday but managed to get away Friday evening. Well, Brind corporal of adjoining tent, and myself arrived in dark old London at about eleven o’clock at night. The first thing we did was to try and find the “Mapleleaf” club from Charing Cross. We could no more get there than fly. We must have covered about seven miles before we finally found ourselves outside Bowe St. Police station from where a bobby took us to a nearby hotel.
The hotel overlooked the square in front of Covenant gardens which is a huge market centre.
Next morning Brind went off to his relatives whilst I set out to find Sloane Street. Of course I was hopelessly lost before I had covered three blocks. Anyway I kept awalking until I found myself on the Thames embankment with Westminister Abby close by, while just overhead was “Big Ben” the big clock. After seeing a policeman I caught a bus which put me down in Sloane Street. When I reached Uncle’s he was out for a weekend holiday. As no one else was down I walked on to Hyde Park and after hiring a boat had a dandy row about the Serpentine for an hour. Gee its was lots of fun. Well I then returned and found cousin Doll was down. She introduced me to her chum, the sister of that fellow Shackelton’s expedition who had dinner with us some years ago in Kamloops. I think the name was “Maher or Mathers”. In the afternoon I took a train to Watford and paid a call on Dorothy. She is very pretty but is a lot thinner than when I saw her last. We were going to take in a show the following Tuesday but didn’t as you will see. She is staying with relatives on her father’s side - very nice people. Well as I had to catch a return train I only stayed there and hour - was introduced to two parsons and some other people, had afternoon tea and took a hurried departure. Dorothy saw me off at the station. She is eighteen years old and acts like a sober grown up. I think, however it is because she has been living with elderly people.
I returned to Euston Station London caught a bus and arrived safely back in Sloane St., had supper and took in a swell show at the coliseum.
Next day, being Sunday, Doll Penny and I went past Buckingham Palace to a nice church just in front of Trafalgar square. We had to pass through thousands of people who were going to see the French Republican band now on tour in London. We heard a fine sermon. We then returned to Sloane St. and had dinner. After dinner Aunt Florence took me to see Aunt May.
Aunt May has now been laid up two months with some internal trouble and is shortly undergoing an operation for appendicitis. I didn’t find her the snappy little specimen I always understood her to be but a rather sweet little aunt. She was very eager to hear about you all and showed me that photo in which we were taken in a group and in which Keith was frowning at Joan for putting her arm on his shoulder.
As Adrians grandma and aunt lived but a block away I arranged to go and see them and return to supper with Aunt May. Well I went and paid the visit and met in Adrians grandma the most wonderful old lady I’ve ever come across. Although ninety-two years old she is as bright and active as most women are at sixty. A week or so ago she played the piano at an entertainment given to 1100 soldiers. Although very deaf she persists in carrying on conversations with everyone. She asked me if I knew that Adrians relative, G. Thrupp, had long ago known those at Sloane Street and told her I did. I met some very nice people there and was just thinking of leaving when I’ll be darned if I didn’t receive a phone message from Sloane St. telling me a telegram had come recalling me at once to Cheriton. Therefore I tore back to Sloane St. got my overcoat and kit bag and beat it back to camp without even seeing uncle Barney. And here I’ve been ever since. The darned fools called me back because we were shortly moving into winter quarters at Bramshott. However, I am in hope of getting the leave over again as I only got two of five days.
Who do you think I saw yesterday? None other than our mutual friend Jack Greenhouse who had just come over with Army Transport. For the past two days it has been raining so we usually go for a five or ten mile route march. The wet weather isn’t so bad. It is the blinked mud which we find impossible to keep out of the tent.
The cheque you sent me arrived at the precise time it should have, the day before I went on leave. But please don’t forward me any more of my reserve pay as I have plenty of money from my monthly pay. I wish you would however give Joan a check on my pay for two dollars as a birthday present. I meant to send her something but am cussed if I know what she wants. I heard from Dug.yesterday. He has just had leave and wrote in high spirits. I hope you like the photo of our tent. It is a typical group of us in our everyday get up only on sunny weather we just wear our over shirts without our tunics.
I tried smoking a clay pipe the other evening and after the second pipeful had to make a dash outside the tent and lose all my nice supper on the ground. I have to put up with all sorts of joshing about this now. For instance Ambrose always presses me to try a pipe full on every occasion.
Please ‘scuse the scrawl as I am writing this sitting on our tent floor with the pad propped on my knees.
Ambrose and Brown are putting in time cussing each other (in fun) Ambrose says “Brown you shut your goll-dahned mouth or Ill pitch Webb’s kit at you”. Webb says “you just lay your hand on my kit and I’ll wipe the floor with you”. Ambrose is about forty-five while Webb is a little older. Everyone goes on like a kid even if they are fifty. Gee though we all laughed one night at Brown and Pemberton. Both had enough beer inside of make them feel good. Well each got angry because he thought the other was hogging too much room for his blankets. It finally ended up by Pemberton rearing up his six foot and some inches and challenging Brown of five feet to mortal combat. Brown declined the others kind request but in turn said he could beat the former at a foot race. After a lot of jawing they both lay down and soon fell asleep. Brown is fifty seven while Pemberton must be fifty-four if a day. I am shortly sending home some comic books of facts taken in the trenches. The books are somewhat scarce so I would hang on to them if I were you.
Please tell Keith I’ll write soon. I find it hard to find news these days as things are getting rather dull
So with lots of love to all,
I am your loving son,
[Editor’s notes: The photos referenced in the letter have been included below. The “photo of our tent” was taken at the training camp at Cheriton, Shorncliffe, England, in Sept. 1916, (front row, l. to r.) Webb, unknown; (back row) Ambrose, Adrian Thrupp, Sydney Winterbottom, Boyd, Pemberta Brown. The “photo in which Keith was frowning” is of the Winterbottom family in 1912, (l. to r.) Keith, Joan, Sydney, Helen, John, Jennie & Arthur. Letter transcription provided by collection donor.]