4th Univ. Co. P.P.C.L.I.
St. Martin's Plains
Feb 22, ‘16
My dear Edna: --
First - let me explain for daring to write to you using such note paper as this. The fact is I am in quarantine and will be for 3 weeks more. We have orders to write no letters but that is an order I am going to break for as it is nearly two weeks since I wrote to you and if I do not write any for 3 weeks more, you would surely stop writing to me, and that would be a calamity too great to imagine.
It is as cold as Greenland in this hut and I am afraid you will have a good deal of trouble reading this scribble for my hands are stiff and blue with the cold. Our hut has only a little stove about one foot across and three feet high, and with every window open, and there are nine of them, it is not very warm. There are 32 of us in here and beyond being very cold we are very happy. What is the use of being otherwise? When one of the boys took measles the other day the authorities immediately placed a guard at the door and our orders are simply, "Stay in."
These are momentous days in other ways also for we have a real Canadian snow storm going on. The ground is covered with about 4 inches of snow already, and it is still coming down. This is the first snow in England this year and of course excites a good deal of interest.
It just happens too that my writing paper is exhausted so you understand that I am making use of the next best substitute. But before the war is over I may have to write on worse paper than this.
I have been expecting to hear from you for the past few days but I suppose if I wait a few days longer I shall not be disappointed. We have 2 men from the Company who bring us our meals, letters, etc., so we get the necessities of life without much trouble. Brown and Steve are in here too. We spend our time reading (when we can get anything to read), playing cards, playing leap-frog to keep warm, and making toast. Tomorrow, I believe, we are going out for a walk which will help to keep us in shape. Otherwise a route march would put us on the blink.
Steve and I applied for leave to go away for a week but this quarantine has put a stop to that for 3 weeks at least. I had intended to go to Cornwall to see my uncle and to stop in Surrey and visit a cousin I have there. Steve was going to Scotland. I doubt whether I shall get away now before going across the Channel.
You remember Hughes of last year's fourth year? He went over last week with a draft to re-enforce the 8th Batt.
We heard from Mclnytre, Dunlop, Ramsay, and Lohr last week. The last three say they are going to enlist in the spring. There will be lots of room for them for the need was never greater than it is at the present time. The general feeling here is that if the enemy is not driven back this spring they will never be absolutely crushed. For that reason the greatest effort is being made to pile up munitions and get such a mass of men to the front that nothing can hold them back in a great spring drive.
Of course everyone agrees that our lines will never be broken. We hope so anyway, but, I still believe that a total blockade is going to be the chief factor in bringing about permanent peace for without food supplies they cannot hold out.
It seems pitiful that the people of any country should be forced to suffer such hardships from lack of food and other necessities and it is always the innocent and those incapable of protecting themselves that suffer. Yet it seems the only way, and the sooner it is over, the better.
I had just got started on a course in bombing at the Canadian Military School, about a mile from here. I happened to be one of the 25 chosen to take the course. It lasts 10 days and if any of us want to continue we may take the instructors course which lasts 2 months and then act as instructors here for some time afterwards. I have not intention of taking the second course for I would have to stay here too long. It is very interesting though. We learn to handle all kinds of bombs and throw them. I had no idea there were so many different kinds. Some are made of jam tins, others of slabs of guncotton tied to pieces of wood with a bullet cap attached. These are made in the trenches. There are others manufactured and they are all timed for 4 seconds after the fuse is ignited the bomb explodes. That gives time for it to be thrown. Others are shot by spring guns, catapults, small trench mortars and rifles.
There are about 35 officers taking the course as well. One day one bomb was shot by a spring gun and lit on the parapet of a trench where there were over 50 men working. It happened that they saw it coming and ducked so it did no damage except to fill in part of the trench. Everyone was more careful after that.
We have been thinking about the "Old Boys' Reunion" and wondering who were back to the College during the week. I am sure you will tell me all about it. It happened , quite unexpectedly too, that the night of the banquet - it was the 17th wasn't it, - a bunch of us were sitting around a table in the "Lord Roberts' Hut," which is our rest room and happened to think about it being the night of the Old Boys' Banquet and talked of old times for awhile. Bob Hughes had come over to say goodbye before going to France and there were Betts, Stevens, Brown, Hawthorne, Crawford and Billington, Hughes and myself there. We drank the health of the "Old School" (in coffee). Of course the ‘15 class is in the majority and we were wondering how many of our class would be there out of the 27.
It will certainly be fine if the boys are allowed to vote for prohibition won't it? Then with woman suffrage in force I suppose Manitoba will be the personification of purity in elections and every thing else. Second only to Saskatchewan of course!
Oh! I hope you won't forget to send me a copy of your poetry. You know I am very fond of poetry too. Wouldn't it be great if the M.A.C. were to produce a real live poetess? When I come to think of it, it would have been funny if I had had to mark your essays and poems, instead of Mr. Murchie wouldn't it? It never occurred to me until you mentioned it. Oh! Wouldn't I have made you work? Of course it would have been necessary otherwise, I might have been accused of favoritism. It's a good thing you don't take me too seriously.
Word has just come in that there is another case of measles and that the whole camp is to be quarantined. If that is so we will get our usual drill but will not be allowed to go outside of the lines.
Just now there is so much noise going on that I can hardly see this paper, so if I talk rather erratically you must excuse me. There is one thing about using this paper, I can write about 25 pages and still get it all in an envelope, so you may have to read this in instalments, a little after meals 3 times a day. It might spoil your appetite before meals.
It would take a good deal to spoil mine these days. It seems as though army life is about the most appetizing kind possible. We used to think M.A.C. meals were very plain. It would shock you to see some of ours now. Of course they are good wholesome rations but always the same.
That partly accounts for the welcome that such boxes as you sent, receive at the hands of the boys here. You could not possibly have prepared a more delicious treat than that which was contained in the box you sent unless of course wonders never cease.
It was very nice of you to say the last year's fifth year is missed at the College. Did you ever stop to think that there is satisfaction in being just missed. Of course a crook is missed when he goes to the pen but we hope it is not in that way that there seems to be a vacancy.
I cannot in a clear conscience go on any farther for fear some one sees you reading this and notices that I have written 15 or 16 pages. I am looking for a line or two or more from you in a few days and as this is probably the last time I shall be able to write to you for 3 weeks a reply to your next letter may come rather late. It may relieve you a little anyway.
You will be plugging for exams now I suppose. You have my sympathy. This is the first year in about the last 7 or 8 that I don't have any exams to pass, except what the Germans may set. I hope the boys of the ‘16 class are enjoying themselves in their competition for your company. I am sure you are capable of keeping them interested.
When I come to think of it, I did not know you very well until we started writing, but now I feel as though I am getting acquainted - don't you know - as they say here in England, and my suspicions are fully verified that you are just as nice as I always thought you were - and more so.
Let me see, haven't I told you that before? My only regret just now is that you don't live in England somewhere for awhile so that I could see you occasionally.
Well here goes for au revoir for 3 weeks unless something fortunate turns up.