On to France 03/25/2010
 
Evelyn to Fred Owen Sound,


Sep. 10, 1917
My Darling:-
... It seems rather strange to me that you should not have been chosen to be on the instructional staff, and I feel sometimes a little bitter that you have to go in reduced rank. However, that is a small matter compared with the fact that you are going at all, and I try to think this, that "All things work together for good, to them that love God." This is the time to show whether our religion really means anything to us. You have shown yours does, I shall try my darling to prove mine liveable. Dearie, if you should want to cable me, will you send it to the apartments. Then I should know it came from you. I expect to go back to arrive home about the middle of October, but I haven't seen the doctor yet. I do not need a doctor however to tell me I feel better.I am letting father read most of your letter. He has been trying to think that you'd be kept in England as an instructor, now he says maybe there's as much danger in England as in France. But there is no use worrying - it can't help you any. It isn't heartless not to worry - it's only common sense - if one can do it. I have thought of you so much these last few days, and in such a way, that I was not surprised to learn from your letter where you probably are. I don't feel like writing any more tonight dear. ...... Your negatives came through all right. I'm so sorry you hadn't received the box when you wrote, but you should have had it in a day or two.
Goodnight my own sweetheart.
Your wife.

Sep. 11, 1917, Tuesday.
My sweetheart Ferd:-
... we packed boxes - one for you and one for Art. I do so hope you get yours, it's the best one since the Hamilton box. It contains about three pounds of sultana cake, about 9 dozen rocks, a dozen sultana biscuits, a package of cream cheese, tooth powder, walnuts, sugar, after-dinner mints, chocolate and a face cloth. ...A vetirnary - I don't know how you spell the creatures - came home tonight. He saw Art a short time ago. He says he is well in the rear - out of danger. I am sincerely glad for Ora's sake. She knows this man's wife, and one day the latter told Ora that vets were about the same as doctors - that their studies were about the same. Fancy! Ora was quite insulted. Of course this man is a captain. His wife was a milliner, and they had nothing. She went back to her trade this last winter, but this spring she bought a car and has been on a five weeks' tour. She was telling father tonight some of her experiences and he says the money she's had to spend is shameful. I guess the women who get money from the Patriotic Fund aren't the only ones who spend foolishly.... Oh my own darling, I hold you close. Good-night.

Owen Sound, Sep. 12 1917
Dearest Ferd: -
... You are very near me all the time sweetheart: If thought could help you, you would be helped indeed.The news from Russia is not very cheering but one never knows what is going on there. The best thing to do is to expect no help from them - I made up my mind to that long ago.... Do you honestly mean you think I don't criticize much? I don't want to, but it seems to me I do a lot. I felt ashamed of what I'd said, for dearest, daddy and mother are so good to me, and so are your father and mother, but of course they don't have the same chance. Why dearie, I don't know what I'd do without them when you are away. I wish I could tell you how much I love you. And you mustn't say I have the hardest part. You have never complained a bit about going away, and you have had more to give up than many. May God keep you in every way, my true brave and loving husband.

Your own wife.


Fred to Evelyn
Somewhere in France.


Sept. 12/17.
My dearest, -
This is Wednesday evening and I haven't written you since last Friday before leaving Bramshott. Since then so much has happened and the hours have been so full I haven't even written a word in my diary. I am sorry that the censorship doesn't allow me to give names of places nor any military information, but as I said before you are not to worry about me and always consider no news as good news.Well we fell in at 8.10 last Friday night on our battalion parade ground for inspection. Despite the fact that many of the fellows were "broke" they had managed to get enough beer and other things to make them happy and lively - a few even being fairly well "tanked." Of course practically all of the battalion came to see us off. After waiting around for nearly an hour we marched to the brigade parade ground where we were joined by drafts from the other battalions in our brigade. Here we had another wait of more than an hour.... About 9.45 we started off accompanied by the bugle band and also the battalion brass band which has come over here with us, and will henceforth be on duty with the 50th in France. The night was cloudy and on the road to the station, where the trees overarched the road, it was very dark indeed and needless to say, our fours were sometimes fives, sixes or even sevens. But it was a happy crowd and as we passed through Liphook, the darkened streets were lined with citizens, many of whom reached out their hands to grasp ours as we passed - and more than once the outstretched hand contained an apple or a pear. We had not very long to wait at the station for we pulled out exactly at 10.50 p.m. We eight serjeants-that-were - Swanson, McKenzie, Farrant, Anderson, Davidson, Jones, Hayden and myself managed to get into the same compartment. Even with only 7 the place was full enough, what with equipment packs etc. ...Farrant immediately stretched out on the floor under the seat. Swanson occupied the aisle and the rest of us did the best we could on the seats. After a few fitful dozes I came to the conclusion there were too many jagged edges about for comfort and I too slid down on the floor beside Swanson. Before midnight there were so many halts we didn't expect to reach our destination before morning so it was with a start that we jumped up at 3 a.m. in response to a gruff "Hey there pile out!" No extra 40 winks for us! We lost no time in scrambling into our equipment and tumbling out on to the platform where all the men were already lined up in their respective platoons. It was one on us, for although we all (with the exception of Anderson who obtained his stripes in France) had been reverted to privates the day we left, our stripes were still on and we were expected to help the conducting N.C.O's. Being 3 a.m. it was quite dark but we had only about 5 minutes' march to our billets. Do you remember the place we visited 3 years ago where in the afternoon we had quite a chat with one of the sailors from a warship in the harbor? That is the place we sailed from - and the end of our railway journey. Our billets were in residential hotels along the water front - a great long row of which have been taken over by the government and used for purposes of a rest camp in the transportation of troops. A considerable area right down to the water's edge is enclosed by barbed wire fencing, thus giving the use of part of the beach for the troops. The hotels are used as barracks or billets, all furniture having been removed, of course. Long low buildings have been erected on what was formerly the street for wash houses, cook houses etc. Several thousand troops can be accommodated and I believe there is a constant stream of arrivals and departures. The night we were there I believe there were about 7,000 troops in these billets. No lights were allowed. We were marched to the hotel fronts and then told off - the required number to each room and hurried in - up dark stairways - scarcely knowing who were behind or before - but we got in somehow. Our room was about 20 ft square and 25 men occupied it. Hayden & I were the only 2 serjeants. We had no idea where the others were. ... Each man flung down his pack & equipment and sank down on the floor beside or on top of it as circumstances would permit. It was only a few seconds before loud snores told us that at least some of the fellows were not sighing for feather beds. Hayden and I were side by side and had fairly clear floor space to stretch out upon except that Mike Clarke, whose boots are number 11, couldn't find space for his huge bulk without stretching his feet out either on or under ours. As he had imbibed rather freely it wasn't easy to get him to move. ... we doubled and twisted our feet around and over his as best we could. An inordinately sharp knee bone tried its best to bore a hole through the small of my back, but in spite of these little discomforts I slept soundly until about 4 o'clock. ... At the reveille there was no lingering in bed - save the mark! We all tumbled out and washed & shaved - in cold water - and lined up with mess tins for breakfast. Each house or hotel had orderlies, who brought the grub from the cookhouse and stood at a small table cafeteria-fashion, in what served as a hall in peace days. Those billeted in the house lined up on the street and piled in getting each a piece of bread, a large slice of cold beef or bacon - very good ladleful of porridge, and a cup of tea, as he passed. It was a very good breakfast indeed. We took it up to our room and ate in Japanese fashion sitting on the floor. After breakfast we had a couple parades for roll call etc. and the rest of the time to ourselves. We wandered down to the beach and watched the bathers in the adjoining area. It was a lovely morning - and the sun shining through the blue haze made a lovely pathway on the water. Scarcely any boats were in the harbor - only a few life-savers as I took them to be, manned by a single oarsman who watched for bathers in distress. Some of the men went in for a dip, but after I watched the scene a short while I returned to the room and shined my equipment etc and then had a nap, ...Dinner was at 12 - and very good too - especially the pudding which contained a lot of stewed plums, apricots etc. After dinner we had another parade then were allowed out in the town from 2.30 to 4. I strolled up through some of the same streets, - along the same promenade - which was lined with soldiers in khaki and hospital blue. Scarcely any men except a few old ones could be seen in mufti. Of course there were women, but nothing like the scene of pleasurable life of ante-war days. I stood on the same spot from which we watched the warships 3 years ago, and longed for your presence, dearest. After the war we shall visit the place again shall we not? One thing struck me about the town - that the trees all looked blighted. The leaves were dead and withered, not because it is time for them to fall but from some other cause. I wonder if it is from poisonous fumes.
Saturday evening Sept 15/17
My darling,-
I did expect to finish this before but ever since arriving here last Monday we have been on the jump from 5 a.m. until after dark. We have no lights except a little candlelight, and anyhow when night came we felt like going to bed. Have been at the Canadian army base depot, and tomorrow morning we leave at 6.30 for our brigade depot. Expect to ride nearly all tomorrow in boxcars. The day following we shall have a march of about 15 miles - not quite so far as we had last Monday. In addition to our equipment & packs from here we take rifles & bayonets, ammunition, steel helmet, gas mask & gas box respirator, so we shall have load enough. I am so sorry I haven't written but I simply haven't had time. Don't think though I am not well for I feel fit as can be. The grub here has been much better both in quality & quantity than at Bramshott. We are well fed. This week's experience shows me dearie, that I may not be able to write every day hereafter so please don't worry if you don't hear from me but I shall do the very best I can. If it doesn't jolt too much tomorrow I'll write then. But now must quit so as to get a good night's sleep. Have been short of sleep this week - from 5 to 6 hours per night. 

Good night my own dear wife. God bless and keep you. Your Ferd.

P.S. It will probably be some time yet before we get into the front line.
 


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    A box of old letters, discovered in a basement, turned out to contain an absorbing, first hand account of life in Canada, England and on the battlefields of France during the early part of the 20th century. The correspondence between an exceptional couple spans the time of their early courtship, engagement and marriage and their separation when Fred Albright went overseas in World War 1.

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