The Last Letters 03/30/2010
 

The wishes and aspirations held by Fred and Evelyn for their life together after the war were not to be realized. Frederick Stanley Albright was reported killed in action at Passchendaele on 26 October 1917. It was his first engagement.

Fred's last letter to Evelyn was the one written on 19 and 20 October 1917. Evelyn continued writing to Fred, her last letter to him being that of November 8th to 11th 1917. Fred did not receive any of the letters that Evelyn wrote in October 1917. These were returned to her, much later, with the announcement "Killed in Action" written on the envelopes. Evelyn learned of Fred's death in a telegram from the Director of Records in Ottawa, dated November 10, which read: "Deeply regret inform you 895173 Pte. Frederick Stanley Albright was officially reported killed in action between October twenty third and twenty sixth 1917." In August 1919 she received a formal death certificate from Militia Headquarters, Ottawa. 


Evelyn to Fred Calgary,
Nov. 11 1917 
Dearest Ferd: - One year ago to-day was the Sunday when the gas was off. That was a memorable day, wasn't it? And to-day was so warm that I didn't even wear my little fur around my neck, much less carry my muff. I took David to church this morning and Mr. and Mrs. Peters kindly brought us home. David kicked up a row, but I did not tell his parents as they would have felt very much humiliated, and I'm not sure that a spanking would have done him any good. I gave him a good talking to tonight when he was in bed. He needs a very firm hand, and he's just at a very saucy age. Mr. Dagleish preached this morning about the halo on common things. It was a good enough sermon, freely interspersed with quotations from the poets, Ruskin, etc. I wonder why that stuff seems so academic to me now, whereas it used to appeal to me very much. The church was very well filled this morning and the music was good. Wilfred gave an Organ Recital yesterday afternoon, which I did not attend, but if he keeps them up all winter I hope to go often. ... Last night, in the night I woke up, and an utterable longing for you swept over me, and so dearest, I prayed for you, and then I went to sleep again. I had just received your letter telling me you were reading the 46th Psalm, the night we read the bad Russian news, and I read it and felt comforted. ... There are some things I'd like to tell Wray, yet I do not want to preach at him, and I can't say some of them without making him think we were discussing him at Beamsville, which as you very well know we were, so I had better keep my mouth shut. Well dearie, I'll have a birthday this week. How funny you should think it was in October, ... Mr. Clarke told Miss Playter she was to get $40 after she had been there two months, the same as they gave me, but I was there 5 months before they gave me $40. And if she gets $40, then why shouldn't I get what Fitch, Roy and Bryenton have been getting? You don't think me mercenary, do you dear? Of course, I know I'm not worth very much to the office just now, but that's not my fault; I'll work if I get it to do. I had a good story to tell you, but I've forgotten what it was. Maybe I'll remember it to tell you tomorrow. Goodnight dearest. I'm going up to get in bed now, and I'll write to my parents there. You seem far away tonight dearest. I wonder why. 
You are ever uppermost in my thoughts. 
Your wife.

Fred to Evelyn France,  Fri. Oct. 19/17

My darling wife, -
This is Friday - one of our lucky days. For me it has been largely a day of rest - and writing. This morning we had a route march from 8.45 until 11.15 but it was without packs or haversacks and so seemed very light work indeed. This p.m. we are supposed to be cleaning up for another inspection tomorrow - this time by the Canadian Corps commander but most of the fellows haven't started yet - at 3 pm. ... How have you spent the day? In the office I suppose.

Most of the contents of your box are gone. There's still a piece of cake some cheese & biscuits & sugar. By the way, dearie, don't bother sending sugar for since coming to France everything has been sweetened sufficiently. The rock cakes were especially good and the candies - in fact everything. Nothing broke or crushed although the sides of the box were crushed in somewhat.

Our walk this morning took us through a lovely bit of farming country - and a couple of quaint villages. In one place they were threshing from the stocks with a little box of a separator, quite similar to those in use in older Ontario - and with an old fashioned portable engine. All the crops about here are now in barn or stock except sugar beets and potatoes, which are being gathered and put in large pits.

Everywhere the meadows are still green with rich timothy or clover pastures. Farmers are busy drawing manure and plowing, and the rich warm odor of upturned earth was pleasant to smell.

There do not appear to have been many flower gardens, but here and there one sees asters or dahlias slightly frost-tipped. The buildings are nearly all thatched with eaves of red tiles. The walls are of brick or white plaster. Under peace conditions this would be a very interesting and pretty country - although the hedges roadsides and house plots are far from being as well kept as in Eng.

One sees very few vines here - and as I said, not many flowers. Speaking of flowers, I had picked 5 or 6 different varieties in the trenches on Vimy Ridge which I was going to enclose in a letter to you, but they spoiled and before I got a chance to get others we moved away from there.

 
8 p.m.

I have just finished my shining & cleaning - having been at it steadily since 5 p.m. and about half an hour before that. I have gone over every one of my 120 cartridges with brush & cloth, have shined every bit of brass - cleaned my boots & arranged my haversack & equipment - we don't carry packs tomorrow.

It appears when General Currie last inspected our battalion he was much displeased and as a result we have had more shining to do ever since. But if he isn't satisfied tomorrow he doesn't deserve to be satisfied with anything.

I almost forgot to tell you that when passing through a village today I saw the sign "Massey Harris Implements." It was the only English sign in the place.

I'm so glad the doctor's examination was encouraging. Are you sure it was a thorough one? And I am not quite certain what he did to correct the difficulty which he found. Is it nothing but rest? At any rate I'm glad that you have been feeling better and enjoying your holiday more. Now that you are back at work, you will be careful dearest to rest when you feel ill, will you not?

... Am going to bed now dearest as reveille is at 5 tomorrow morning Good night my own loved one.

 

Sat. morning Oct 20th.

Shortly before 5 this morning I was awakened by the orderly serjt.'s voice calling to our platoon serjt "Inspections Off" - a welcome announcement indeed, so I rolled over & had another good sleep for reveille didn't go until 7. As we expect to move again tomorrow there's to be a church parade today at 10.45 - and no other parades have been announced thus far. We have all cleaned up and are now pursuing our customary several spare time occupations. It is a fair morning again and the sun is shining, but it is so low in the heavens and there is always such a haze that it hasn't much power.

All last night there was a terrific bombardment - by far the heaviest I've heard yet. There was no let up and about 4 o'clock it was particularly heavy. Then too, at any time of the night, if one were awake he could hear the hum of vast numbers of aeroplanes overhead. There's an aerodrome very near hear and every night recently raids in force have been made over Fritz's lines.

No, Mr. Clarke hasn't written me. In fact I haven't heard from anyone in the office except for the letter from Roy in May and the short note from J.M.

That was nice of Art to send you the present. I think he has been where it is possible to buy things. I have been on the lookout for something for my darling for Xmas - I don't think I'd be able to send Xmas presents to anyone else - but I haven't been anywhere where I could buy a thing. I don't know where the French country people do their buying, for the villages I have been in have no shops at all - merely little places where the barest necessaries are sold. Of course the people don't buy much anyhow. Their clothes are simple and made to wear a long time - and they produce most of what they eat. I am hoping that I shall be going into or through a town before long, so that I can get you some remembrance.

By this time you should have received the birthday book. Did it arrive in good shape & did you enjoy it? If it [is] as good as the one I saw - and I am sure Sergt. Rounce would do his best - I think it is very fine. There are 2 or 3 pictures of Tennyson's home that are especially good.

Yes dearest I would be glad if you would enclose a few sheets of paper in each letter. The pad Mother O sent is almost gone. I don't know what I should have done without it. Ordinarily one can always get Y.M.C.A. paper, but for the past 10 days there hasn't been a Y.M.C.A. anywhere near and the canteen has been completely out of paper. When we settle down again I dare say I shall be able to get paper, but in the meantime Mother O's contribution has filled the gap.

That tooth powder you sent is lovely. Perhaps I can take it along after all. ...

Am going to send your last 5 letters to Elmer to put in the trunk. I don't want to destroy any of them.

I hope October weather in Calgary is pleasant and that you are enjoying life. I always thank God for you and pray that you may be kept safe while I am away.

Your Ferd.

P.S. How is Mr Brown. Remember me to them & tell Mrs B. that I am carrying her Belgian coin for luck.
 


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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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