Pte. C.D. Richardson
P.P.C.L.I. C.E.F. France
April 28, 1916
France at last - just exactly 6 months to the day from the time I enlisted. I shall always remember Easter Sunday this year for that was the day we spent crossing from England. It took us about 6 hours to cross the channel.
At the present moment I am sitting beside our tent using a pile of blankets for a writing desk. I cannot tell you everything that is here, but being the Base, the troops are here for only a week or 10 days before proceeding to the firing lines. I expect we shall go about a week from today. Upon arriving this far Steve and I found that Jim Brown had been gone about 3 weeks, so we are anxious to catch up to him again.
I can say this much about France, as much of it as I have seen that it compares very favorably with England, so you know it is very beautiful. The leaves are just coming out and the fruit trees are in blossom. I hope I shall have a chance to visit a few orchards here when the fruit ripens.
Our training camp is situated in such a position that we have a 2 mile march uphill with full pack every morning and the return trip each evening. The weather is fearfully hot, like a day in July in Sask. or Man. Today we had a route march of about 7 miles, and the sweat of an honest 10 days work was plainly in evidence at the finish.
It is interesting to look down the lines of tents just now and notice what the fellows are doing. At every angle and position imaginable, some are writing, others smoking and talking in groups, others are cleaning rifles, some are singing, particularly around the canteen, and so many other things peculiar to a military camp that a civilian would find a visit quite a novelty. We do not notice it ourselves. It is now about 7 o'clock and still quite light. Steve is in the tent. I think he has the bed made ready for me. We have a good bunch in the tent with us, all of our company. In fact I have enjoyed the week here so far very much.
I am getting a pass, (Steve & I, I should say) to go to town tomorrow. No doubt we shall have an interesting time trying to talk French. Steve has the advantage of me there, in having lived in Quebec so many years that he has learned a good deal of French. However I am learning.
During our march from the point where we landed a distance of about 6 miles, the French children flocked around us like sheep, asking for pennies, biscuits, bully beef, and souvenirs. They knew that much English anyway.
That reminds me that bully beef & biscuits form a very large part of our rations nowadays. I wish I could send you a biscuit as a souvenir. They are made from whole wheat flour and I believe are very wholesome. Their chief properties, however, are their lack of taste, and their resistance to external forces, for of all the creations of modern bakers they are absolutely the hardest. However a biscuit goes a long way with a bottle of water and a can of bully! I do not mind the fare at all. There is lots of grumbling, but that quality is only a sign of a good soldier.
We have every Thursday off ordinary duty for the purpose of cleaning up the lines, washing our clothes and generally trying to recall the fact that we used to be civilized. Saturday afternoon is generally a holiday too and there is only church parade on Sunday so this may pretty properly be termed a ‘rest camp'! Last but greatest of all, we don't have to blanco equipment and polish brass and buttons. The ceremonial frills and useless formality of Shorncliffe days are done. What we do now is learn those things we need to know and forget the rest.
I have not heard from you for over 2 weeks but I expect there is a letter or two somewhere in this little world, that does not seem quite so large as it used to, so I shall wait.
Excuse pencil - circumstances you know - and keep an occasional line and thought coming in this direction. They will both be returned, the latter with interest.
Till next time,