From: Mallorytown, Ont.
4 Apr. 1916
To: Gladys in Athens, Ont.
My dear sister -
You certainly deserve a nice big letter - bigger than you will get, I am afraid. I got both of your letters all right and it was surely good to get them. Your last one was brought to the hospital to me together with one from mamma and one from Joe Greig who went overseas when Mills Johnson did - with the 46th Battery.
It was on Mar. 8 that I took sick. When a person is sick in the barracks, he goes on sick parade and is excused from all the parades that day and has to see the doctor when he comes around. So, I paraded sick on Thurs. Fri., & Sat. and saw the doctor each day. It was influenza he thought I had, but I think now it was more like pleurisy as I have a slight pain in both my sides when I take a deep breath. On Sat., he sent me to the hospital. Students here in the fall have a chance of buying, for $2.00, a sort of pass to the Gen. Hospital. I used that and so had a fine private ward and the very best of care without further charge. Without that, I would have had to go to the public wards or pay for a private one.
I had written to mamma the day before I went to the hospital, telling her I thought I was getting better. When she didn't get a letter next week, she was worried and wrote to me but that letter was delayed and so she came to Kingston to see me. I was sitting up with my uniform on the day she came and was feeling pretty well. She went back that evening. I got out of the hospital the day after my birthday. I then applied for leave of absence as I didn't feel strong enough to start drilling right away. I got it on Thurs. and packed up trunk and everything and left that evening for home. They gave me six days leave. I will have to go back tomorrow evening.
I have had to miss nearly half my classes since Xmas and then 2 whole weeks when I was in the hospital. So, I am not going to try any exams this spring. The professors did not seem to expect that I would. There are about eight other students in the Battery and they aren't trying exams either. They will probably give me pass standing in all my classes. I wanted specialist standing in Math & Physics but they can't give that and I couldn't have got it by writing.
In your first letter, you spoke as if I had joined the engineers. You understand now, do you not, that it is the artillery not the engineers? I am not called a private as in infantry but a gunner. In the engineers, the men are called sappers. Mills Johnson went as a driver - one is just about as good as the other but I think I would rather go as a gunner.
The Battery that left on Feb. 3 is called the 46th. Those that were left behind were to form the nucleus of a new battery - the 50th. Quite a few have been joining lately and now we have about 150 men in it - a battery requires only 138.
You know I joined in Jan. just two or three weeks too late to get going with the 46th. It was over strength when I joined. If I had joined before Xmas, I would probably be in England now. I knew a great many in the 46th - over half of them were Queen's students, some of them particular friends of mine. Just a couple of days before they left, my name was posted with them as going overseas as a driver. But, I thought that too short notice and I wanted more than a few hours at home and thought I might better stay and have a chance of going as a gunner with the next bunch. So, I had my name taken off and someone else went instead. We have a fine bunch of fellows in the 50th and I know most of them. The majority of them are from Vancouver - well-educated fellows, some of them lawyers, a great many bank clerks and some college fellows. There are a good many Queen's graduates among them and fellows who went here for a year or two, so this is a Queen's Battery alright as much as the other.
We have to get up in the mornings at 6 o'clock and after 20 minutes allowed for dressing and rolling blankets, we are called outside, then roll is called and we usually go over to Queen's Gymnasium for physical exercise. Then Breakfast at about 8 o'clock. Those taking classes took them instead of the parades and took what parades they could. We have had a good deal of foot drill, rifle drill and section gun drill - the latter is learning the parts of and how to handle the big 18 pounder quick firing guns such a battery as ours is supposed to use. We have two or three old guns at the barracks to drill with. Since I went to the hospital, they got ten or eleven horses and have been riding quite abit since then. When I go back, I will have to learn to ride too.
We have comfortable quarters in an old collegiate near Chalmer's Church. There is a recreation room in it where we have a piano and a canteen where they sell smoking supplies, oranges, chocolate, etc. There are five rooms used to sleep in and a large mess room where we eat. There is about 28 bunks in a room - two tiers of them, lower bunks & upper bunks. Each has a tick filled with straw called a palliasse and three heavy blankets. I have always been warm enough and it is more comfortable then one would think. We are not on army rations but run our own mess and have better meals than the other batteries in Kingston. There is a good cook there who makes fine pies & puddings. Long tables are set in the mess room which are now nearly filled with the 150 soldiers. We use granite plates, bowls, cups and saucers and, of course, silver spoons, knives & forks. You'd laugh to see us all lining up at meal time before the mess room door. As soon as the trumpeter blows his trumpet, in we go. Everyone grabs his plate and a spoon and makes a rush for the potatoes, meat, etc. as they soon go.
Everyone has to take his turn at guards and fatigues. That is how I missed so many classes. For quite a while after the 46th left, there were only a few in the battery and your turn came round pretty often. There is a kitchen fatigue (there are now 5 men on that each day) who have to set the tables, wait on table, do the dishes, peel potatoes, etc. and believe me, it is quite a job. You are busy at something the whole day. Then there are two or three men on barracks fatigue who have to sweep all the floors, scrub certain rooms, and keep the place clean. Lastly, there are the guards. There has to be a sentry marching up and down before the barracks with a rifle over his shoulder night and day. Each day, at nine o'clock, the guards are changed. The guard is made up of a non-commissioned officer and 3 men. These 3 men take turns for 24 hrs. in doing sentry duty. Each man has 2 hrs. on and four off when he can usually get some sleep at night. Each man has 8 hrs. on the beat altogether and, let me tell you, it is enough. Three or four times when the 46th was here and lately about twice a week, we have an ammunition guard. You know the Locomotive Works, a great big concern which employs hundreds of men, is running night and day now making shells for the allies. This place has to be guarded by soldiers all the time. The different batteries and battalions in Kingston take their turn at it. The guard is made up of about 30 men including 3 non-com officers and a lieutenant. This guard goes on at 9 o'clock one day and is relieved at 9 o'clock the next. Usually, there is six sentries on duty at once at different places around the works in the day time, and nine at night. We carry rifles and about 35 rounds of ammunition with orders to shoot at night after a third challenge. In the daytime, we have one hour on and three or four off, and at night two hrs. on and four off. Officers come around at uncertain periods to see if we know our orders and are wide awake. I believe I would rather be on this guard than on headquarters guard as it is more interesting. And, I believe I would rather have a guard than a fatigue so I consider myself lucky in having had only 2 kitchen fatigues, about 5 barracks fatigues and about 12 guards. As I joined on Jan. 7, and have had no guards or fatigues since Mar. 5, you will see that my turn came pretty often. I would miss over 19 days of school in those two months as very few of them came on Sat. or Sun. and a guard means nearly two days missed.
Well, Gladys, I like it fine and am not a bit sorry that I joined. I am going to get my picture taken soon when I get looking a little better and, of course, you shall have one of them, and cousin Grace or Clarence too. Dear me, Gladys, I haven't written to either of them for a long time now. I guess mamma is the only one that I have written to since Christmas. It is too bad but I am such a poor hand to write letters. It always takes me so long to write one and then I often think they are hardly readable. You can write such lovely letters, Gladys, and it doesn't seem to be much of an effort for you. When reading them, I couldn't help but wish that I could write as well.
Mamma and I would have liked to have driven out to Athens on Saturday but the roads were so bad and it was such a rainy, wet day, and it was so hard to get a horse and buggy that we had to give it up. I think mamma is going to send out some things with McAvoys this weekend. It is now but three weeks till Easter. You and Harold will get home then for a well earned holiday I guess.
Soldiers in the army are entitled to 3 days leave of absence every month, so that I am in hopes that I will be able to get home again sometime during the Easter holidays.
Well, I hope I have given you some idea of what it is like to be a soldier, and remember that I am in the artillery (field artillery) not the engineers. Artillery is considered a higher branch of the army than infantry and there is all the difference in the world between the class of men in the 50th battery and the men they are coaxing off Kingston streets to join the 146th battalion. Claude Watson should make good in the infantry but our O.C., Capt. Anglin, would not have accepted him for our battery.
And, now I really owe Harold a letter too but if you share this with him he ought to be satisfied. If you want to, you might let Knowltons read it too. I will still owe cousin Grace a letter of course, but she might be interested in this.
My address, while in Kingston will be - Gr. R.G. Brown, 50th (Queen's) Battery, C.F.A., Kingston, Ont.