4th University Company
St. Martin's Plain
Dec. 12, 1915
Dear Edna: -
You have probably forgotten all about this guy by this time since it about a month since you heard from me. But you must remember that it is longer than that since I heard from you, and still I have a faint recollection of someone about the size of a wee little girl, still lingering in my memory, and expect to hear from you sometime in the near future. I hope you will not keep me waiting very much longer since you now have my address.
It is certainly a long way from Manitoba but yet it seems hard to realize it for this is a Canadian camp and all the boys around here are from the home towns. It is surprising to find that about 75% of the fellows seem to be from the Western provinces. We had a couple of M.A.C. boys over to see us today from one of the other camps. Blows and Blake were their names. The latter was there last winter. There are several others of the boys near here. Cogland, Hughes, Rogers, Kerr, and half a dozen others are not far from the Princess Pat's camp. There are only 2000 in this camp. It is one of the smaller ones.
At different places around Shorncliffe there are other camps in which there are in all about 50,000 troops, I am told, but I do not know whether it is absolutely correct or not but is a very military part of the country anyway. Betts of our class is still here in the same battalion as we are. He is an instructor in musketry and will probably go over to France with us instead of with the 3rd Company which went over about 2 weeks ago. Jenkins was with them.
It makes it very pleasant to meet so many old friends in a strange land. I don't think I could every content myself to live in England though. Everyone seems about 100 yrs behind the times. Little shops, hardly big enough to turn around in, streets so narrow one can almost jump across them, and rain, - it has rained every day since we landed and the parade grounds are ankle deep in mud.
We have been here a week now. You wonder why I did not write sooner, but I can say with a clear conscience that this is really the first opportunity I have had. This is Sunday night and I am sitting at a long table stretching from end to end of a 60 ft. hut or shed, we would call it. There are about 25 other fellows sitting around some smoking, others talking or reading, and some like myself writing. There are 40 men in each hut. They are overcrowded as the buildings are intended for only 25 men. We eat and sleep here. I have been on duty today as hut orderly, that is I have had charge of the getting the meals and keeping the hut in order. A different man each day is on that job. There is a central cook house from which all the huts draw their rations.
There are villages all around us at distances varying from 2 miles to 4 or 5 and they are all characteristic English burgs with their old stone buildings and rough stone roads and straight, well trimmed hedges.
You wanted me to you about the ocean voyage. Well there is very little to tell for it was a long tiresome trip, though interesting in many ways because of its novelty. We were switched off from Montreal on the Intercolonial Halifax and kept us on a colonist car for 2 days and 2 nights. We went directly from the train to the "Lapland" and sailed the next morning, Sunday. There were 2700 troops on the ship and our little company of 250 looked pretty small.
As we sailed out of Halifax and saw Canada disappearing from view, one could not help but feel something like Scott felt when he wrote "Breathes there a man with soul so dead - " The docks were crowded with people who sang "Auld Lang Syne" and we sang in return "O Canada"!
Our company traveled first class all the way over having the same accommodation as the officers. One would never know but what he were in a hotel on board except for the slight rolling motion. I had a state-room to myself with every accommodation. We were more than fortunate than the rest of the troops as they had 2nd and 3rd class cabins. However we all go the same food, and it was fierce. We were glad to get to Plymouth in order to get a square meal. We came by train from Plymouth to Shorncliffe. On board ship we drilled every day that weather permitted. The "Lapland" is one of the largest troop ships used at present and there are 5 decks, each about 600 feet long so we were not crowded as much as one might think. We had a life-boat drill as well and every day had to take our places to get used to it in case of attack. The last couple of days and nights we kept our life belts on all the time in case the Germans got busy with their torpedo boats. However every precaution was taken such as putting out all lights at night and every corner of the ship was guarded night and day. I was on guard myself one night from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.
I was lucky in not being at all sick. I never missed a meal, poor as they were. Steve was the only one of our bunch who went under at all, though Crawford was not well on account of vaccination. You might not believe it but I am to be a policeman this week, for a full week. Our company had what are called brigade duties this week, arresting drunks and guarding barracks, ammunition, etc.
There is danger from Zeppelin attacks here and all windows are kept covered when lights are lit. Tomorrow I go to a small village about 2 or 3 miles away and stand around a hotel there for a week. A pleasant job to anticipate isn't it?
Well I must close. I know this letter has been very dull and uninteresting but I shall try and do better next time. If you had ever tried to write in a place like this you would realize how difficult it is. Do not forget to write often. I feel that I may be imposing upon you when I say that, but I do want to hear from you. If you do not care to write so often let me know, for I would not ask you to do so if you do not care to. But I do hope you will not feel disinclined to keep in touch with me though the distance has increased so much. Distance only enhances the pleasure your letters give me. I hope some day, some time, in the future, I may not have to write in order to talk to you.
It takes a long time for a letter to cross the water. Will you write, say, every 10 days or so if I do?
A faraway friend,
P.S. Some book this is eh!
P.S. No. 2.
Dear little kid:
I almost forgot to wish you the happiest Christmas time of your life. It is so odd to do so, so early, that I did not realize it will be Christmas time before this reaches you. Eat an extra piece of plum pudding for me. It is my first Xmas away from the home fireside.