Search The Archive

Search form

Collection Search
Date: April 4th 1916

4th Universities Company
West Sandling
April 4, ‘16

Dear Edna:

What have I done or said that you should stop writing so suddenly? It is over a month since I heard from you and I cannot wait any longer in silence. The only explanation I can imagine is that I have said something you did not like, or else that you are ill. If it is the former I have no doubt you would at least let me know, so that I might have a chance to explain, if any explaining were necessary. Since you have not written at all, the other alternative, that you are ill, seems to me the most probable, and I am very anxious to know and to hear that you are better.

Yet I cannot help but think about you every day and wonder if it is possible that I have done something or said something that you did not like. I shall be patient, however, and wait, knowing that whatever is wrong, you will do the right thing, and help me straighten anything out that needs straightening, though for the life of me I cannot think of anything that should have made a change. But I am meek and humble, ready to take anything back that you say.

Now that that lengthy introduction is disposed of, are you still interested in the doings of your obedient correspondent? For, since I wrote you those few lines from Cornwall, I have been very busy.

I left my uncle greatly improved in health and travelled up to Surrey to see a cousin of my father's, a maiden cousin, not so young as she used to be, but very nice. She lives about 12 miles from London at a place called Surbiton. From there I went to London and took a taxi and drove around to nearly all the notable places, such as the House of Commons, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's Cathedral, Buckingham Palace, Whitehall, The Tower, London Bridge, Marlborough House, Albert Hall, The Royal Mint, The Strand, Leicester Square, Picadilly Circus, Hyde Park, The Serpentine, The Horse Guards' Parade, Rotten Row, and such famous statues as Nelson's, Wellington's, Queen Victoria's and Prince Albert's.

I was only in London a day on account of wishing to spend as long as possible in Cornwall, but I had a good guide and a good car and I made use of every minute there. I did not have a chance to go inside of any of the buildings so could not spend that few minutes for you around Poets Corner, but I shall reserve that experience for my next visit. I thought of it when we went to Westminster Abbey and asked my guide if we had time to go in but as I had to catch my train in half an hour, I was afraid to risk it.

Coming from London to Shorncliffe I found that during my absence the battalion to which we are attached had been moved from St. Martin's Plain to West Sandling about 4 miles away and I set out in the dark to find the new camp, which I eventually did with much difficulty.

Arriving here I discovered that Steve and Brown were warned for France to leave in a few days. On account of being away, of course, I missed being chosen. However, it was discovered that more men were warned than were needed and Steve's name was one of those struck off. So poor old Jim had to go without us and is now "Somewhere in France". We hear from him every few days and he reports having a good time at the base.

The next day I was made a Lance-Corporal and was detailed to take an instructor's course in physical training and bayonet fighting. This meant that I would be kept here to act as instructor for the other companies coming over and that, I did not want to do, for I could not stand sticking around here all summer, so I went to the authorities and asked that I be reduced to private's rank again and allowed to go to the front with the rest, and finally succeeded; so I am as I was before.

The first draft from our company left just 15 days ago and today we got word that two of the boys were killed already. The first day in the reserve trenches, a shell came over and killed them. They were both from Edmonton, Alberta University and enlisted together and were chums. Do you remember me telling you about the Soldier's Field Day in Montreal? It was one of these boys that won the 100 yard dash that day.

I spent last week at Ashford, a town about 20 miles from here. I was sent up with 3 others of our company and about 40 of another company to guard the ammunition and stores that the Canadian Ordinance Depot have there. It was one of the most pleasant weeks I have spent since joining the army. A friend of mine from Saskatoon was with me and we were billeted at a private house with a very nice family, and it was almost like home again. You do not know how we appreciate anything like that, that brings back memories of real civilian life again.

While there, my friend and I went to Canterbury to see the famous Cathedral and it was certainly wonderful. I could not begin to tell you of its beauty of architecture or its historical connections. A guide showed us all through and pointed out the tombs of the archbishops, that of the Black Prince and hundreds of others. He showed us the spot where Thomas a Becket was murdered and where Henry VIII came and did penance for his many sins.

Yesterday was one of our big days when Sir Sam Hughes inspected all the Canadian troops at Shorncliffe. All the battalions from our camp marched down in the morning and the parade ground which is about a mile square was almost a solid mass of soldiers. It was a most extraordinary sight and I never saw such splendid drilling in the review. It is well worth seeing to stand and watch thousands of soldiers going through manoeuvres all at once, and they were done exceptionally well from what I have seen of reviews before.

I have written very hurriedly tonight, not because I want to get done in a hurry for I could spend hours writing to you and enjoy every minute of it, but I must get things ready for tomorrow, as I have to go to the ranges and act as target signaller. We are working every minute these days, harder than at any time since we came to England. I shall tell you more about it next time, that is if you are going to allow me to write next time. Please drop me a line and let me know what the trouble is for I am worried.

I know you are busy. I have been thinking about your exams, and I hope you had no trouble in disposing of them. I know you would not have.
We had a letter from Ramsay today saying that he had passed the doctor and was declared fit to don the khaki so we hope we may yet see him over here.

Again let me remind you that I am waiting, and watching for the letter that never seems to come, but that I am confident will sometime before long appear.

By the way, I got my January and February Gazettes yesterday and was very much surprised to find a letter in one of them from myself. I had no intention of it appearing in print. It was simply a personal letter to Hopper, so I was very much surprised.

As ever,



P.S. I am looking for that photo that I am to carry to France with me. - Dick