4th Universities Company,
St. Martin's Plain
Dec. 23, ‘15
Dear Edna: --
You certainly made a pretty good guess at my address for your letter came straight to me. It was a delightful surprise to hear from you so soon. So I am answering it without waiting for you to reply to mine, for since it takes about 10 days for letters to pass from here to W'pg or vice versa it will be a long time before you receive mine. You said you thought there was very little news in your letter but in that I have to disagree with you for it was full of news from beginning to end.
Am glad you received the photo and the little roll of music. If the photographer had any material to work upon the photo would have been better but under the circumstances he did his best. I have never heard you play or sing, and I would give a great deal to sit near your piano tonight and listen to "A Little Bit of Heaven" or "My Little Grey Home in the West" instead of having to sit here and get the benefit of the bar room music that reaches me from the canteen about 20 feet away.
This is a fairly comfortable room though. It is called the "Regimental Institute" and is provided by the authorities for writing, reading, playing games, etc. At present Brown and Steve are playing "500"over in one corner. Billington, our last year's basket-ball player is reading in another part of the room and the other places are pretty well filled. Billington has been here for about 2 months, but we just met him accidentally a few days ago.
Speaking of accidental meetings, I was very pleasantly surprised the other night upon going into a restaurant in Folkestone to sit down to a table where an old school mate of mine was sitting. He is a final year Medical student in Wp'g and is returning to finish his course after spending a year in hospitals in France. I have known him all my life and never thought of meeting him here for I thought he was still in France. These little incidents that occur so unexpectedly are often the more pleasant for their novelty. I am going with him to Canterbury on Sunday to hunt up some of our school-day friends who are in training there. A brother of my brother-in-law - can you fathom that? - is with a cavalry regiment about a mile from here and I saw him last Sunday. Another friend of mine from Grenfell is with an artillery regiment in this camp, and there are a number of others at short distances from here so it seems almost like Canada here sometimes.
I think I told you about so many M.A.C. boys being near here. There were 12 of us together last Sunday and had a good talk over old times. Since we cannot attend the "Old Boys' Re-Union" in W'pg this year we are arranging one of our own on Jan. 8th in Folkestone when we expect at least 20 will be present - a big dinner - a toast or two and then I guess we will all get full and march home yelling "Boom Chicka". Shocked, are you? Well, I am afraid I am fast reaching the stage where I find it impossible to be shocked at anything, for in spite of the fact that such inspiringly patriotic sentiments are given utterance to by the after dinner speakers who have only seen a soldier's life in their imagination, the realities are not as lurid as the pictures the paint. But I have decided that it is possible to keep straight and if the war lasts till Doomsday I shall never be ashamed to tell of anything that happens in my weekly letters home.
I was very pleased to hear from our mutual friend Esther. Tell her that I shall write her a good long letter as soon Christmas dinner has become thoroughly settled and Steve asks me to return with compound interest those little remembrances she inserted. I shall return those she sent to me, personally, for I would not allow you to do that for me. They are no good second hand. I would like to enclose some for you too but I know I would get my ears slapped by wireless if I did. I was glad she wrote for another reason too for I got the inside story of how my little fair haired friend behaves sometimes after the lights go out. I am sure you were not given a chance to censor that letter.
When you spoke of writing an essay on "The Sign of the Cross" it reminded me of how a little remark of yours was the means of about 40 or 50 of our men reading that book.You did not know you were exerting such an influence on the 4th Universities Company of the Princess Patricias did you? Shall I tell you? I happened to see the book in W'pg and Toronto. When I reached Montreal I put it on the table in Molson's Hall where we were quartered and soon the boys started to read it. Others came along and those who had read it recommended it to them. Soon there was a waiting list ready to keep it going and before we left nearly all the fellows in the hall had read it. It certainly is a splendid story and I am glad for my own sake you mentioned it., and many others would be grateful to you if they knew who was the means of them reading it. Doesn't it prove how a little thing my mean so much?
Here we do not get much chance to read anything good and I miss it. At home I have always used to a big library that my father has all his life been gathering together and that room was one of the coziest and best in the house to me.
It was funny to hear the commotion the arrival of my photo caused among those curious girls. I hope you keep them guessing! You didn't guess right about that person who remarked to me in W'pg about you. It was our friend Lohr. So Miss Polly was curious too, was she? Just between ourselves, I think there are very few things that estimable young lady does not know. I had a card from her a few days ago which I have not answered yet. I don't know where she got my address.
Those clippings from the Free Press were very welcome and it was indeed thoughtful of you to save them. I had not seen them nor have I seen a W'pg paper for a month. I have not seen the Gazette yet, though Billington has copy of the first issue which he is going to lend me. Leslie wrote me and asked me to write something for it. I may do something for the Feb. issue, the "Old Boys' Number".
You are pretty busy with your theatre parties, Red Cross, and Literary meetings to say nothing of Soap factory inspections and Bread samplings. They are certainly more pleasant than tramping 15 miles through mud up to the ankles as we did yesterday carrying 65 pounds on our backs as well as a rifle. But this is the life! I would not change it for any price until those Germans are driven back where they belong.
Here I am at the end of the 6th page. Just imagine the rest. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and "Snookie" will be home. I can send you good wishes for Xmas now only by telepathy, for it will be over long before this reaches you, but here's to the New Year! All the good things possible!
As ever, Sincerely,
Here I am again. Have just come in from parade. We have been down at the miniature ranges today firing 22 cartridges from army rifles. It sounds like school boys play doesn't it, and you would think many of the things we do very foolish if you could see them. For instance the sum total of my mornings work was loading and unloading a rifle. We have to practice day after day until we can load at least 30 rounds a minute and button our ammunition pouches after every 5 rounds. Then another day we spent 4 hours doing nothing but learning the correct way to press the trigger not pull it, for that is a thing unknown in the army now. Other things they spend a great deal of time on are getting up and down from the lying and standing positions and taking the firing position. One on the outside does not realize the attention that is paid to the slightest details. They are so numerous that I could not begin to tell them.
The weather since we came has been simply - damnable, that is the nearest I can get to it without using anything stronger. It rains day and night. The mud is up to ones' boottops but still we have to shine our shoes and buttons every day and look as though we liked it.
Since writing you last night I have read the "Gazette" and it looked so familiar that it was like meeting an old friend. I noticed your name among the winners on Field Day and I understand how you were the only one of the field small enough to go through the eye to the needle as the enterprising reporter stated. I think the paper has made a good start and I believe it will get even better as the other issues appear. I have great faith in Leslie for that job, but I must confess that I was surprised to see some of the staff he has to assist him. Our greatest trouble used to be to get your side of the house interested enough to do something though some like your roommate were perfectly splendid.
I have applied for New Year's leave to go to Scotland for 4 or 5 days but do not know whether I shall get it or not. I have always had a great desire to see the rural life of the Old Country. I don't care so much for the towns. What I have seen of it is certainly beautiful. Think of Christmas time and the fields and hills greener that they ever are in Canada. Fields of cabbages, cauliflowers, turnips etc, and flowers in profusion in the gardens! For that reason as well as others it does not seem like Xmas.
Well, I am really going to stop now. I am sure you are relieved.
Again adieu and every good wish,