The Sad Letters 04/01/2010
 
Two weeks after Evelyn Albright received the telegram from the War Office telling her the awful news that Fred Albright had been killed at Passchendaele on October 26, 1917 she began to write down her thoughts and feelings in a notebook. Evelyn expresses her overwhelming grief in the form of actual letters to Fred, letters which can never be received.

The poignancy of these ‘post death’ letters to Fred displays the total loss, loneliness and complete devastation felt by Evelyn in the early months of widowhood. 


Taber, Alta
Nov. 23, 1917

Dearest:-

It is not yet two weeks since I wrote my last letter to you, not two weeks since I read that awful telegram that told me you were gone from me.

I suppose it seems silly for me to write to you, but if you know, you’ll understand, and nobody else need know. But it has come to me that time might dim your image and the knowledge of your dear companionship, and I cannot bear to think of that. Then too, my darling, oh my darling, I sometimes cannot believe that you are gone, and I go on pretending as I have ever since you went away last March, that you were coming home again. And if you should - why then you’d be glad of a link between the times. It is so easy, sweetheart, to lose myself in dreaming, for whenever hard unpleasant things have come, I have always made believe things were as I would have them. But in this case, the coming back to Earth is hard.

I think it has been like this, sweetheart. I could not, would not face the thought that you would not come back: I interpreted those psalms we read together, as meaning that you would be kept safe from accident, danger and death. When I knew that you were in the thick of things, I went calmly to sleep at night, believing that you were in God’s hands and that He would keep you safe, for I could not, and do not yet believe that it is His will that any of you should fall. Some of the time, while I so calmly slept and went about my work, you were lying dead Dead! Oh my darling, as I have so often called you - the light of my life.

I have thought of late dear one, that I did not fully realize what it meant to you to go. I was so filled with my own grief, with the thought of my loneliness, and with the dread of what you would have to face, that I did not fully realize what it meant to you to give up all you did and to leave me, fearing that you might never come back. You have always said I wrote cheerful letters; I am glad if you thought they were, for I tried to make them so for you had enough to bear, without me making your lot harder.

The woman is coming up to sweep, so I’ll stop. But my dear one, it almost seems as if you’ll read this some day. Or is it that you are reading it over my shoulder as I write? In any case, you know I adore you, my sweetheart and my friend. Oh darling, I shall try to live on cheerfully and well, but it seems that I am like a tree, half killed my [sic] lightning. Such a tree, I suppose is not expected to give the shade of a whole one - but the question always comes, why should it have been marred and blighted? Do you know now?

Your wife, for wherever you are, my darling, I shall always be that. 


 
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.
 
 

Evelyn to Fred Calgary,
Oct. 16, 1917.


My Darling: -

It seems as if I had been home much, oh, very much longer than two days, though it isn't really home, but it's more that then any other place. Mr. Robertson to-day said my face was fat and that you would hardly know me. To this I replied that I only wished you had the chance, but he said I didn't mean it that as long as one had enough to eat and wear, one was satisfied.

Say honey, when did you think my birthday was, in October? If you did, you're just one month ahead of time, but I don't care. The book of pictures arrived to-day, and all I can say is that it is a work of art. Our people would enjoy the pictures too,... I have been showing them around and everybody thinks they are excellent.

I shall not expect you to write so often darling, much as it means to get your letters. I want you to get all the rest you possibly can. Someway, I am not able to visualize you as being there. This makes it easier for me, but I am afraid I do not suffer with you as much as I otherwise might.

To-day it has snowed all day, and yesterday was such a glorious day. The first snow always makes me think of Christmas, and of my own sweetheart. But, it's very strange, something seems to hold me back, most of the time, from worrying about you. That Something seems to say "He is safe." May you be ever protected, and soon come home to your own wife.

Oct. 17/17.

Dearly Beloved: -

... Yesterday Mr. Macleod gave me a little work to do, but so far that is all I have had. I have started Underhill on Torts. I am satisfied to get a little reading done now for likely I'll soon be busy enough. Mr. Macleod asked me how I'd like to read with Mr. Clarke. That would be a good opportunity for me, would it not?

Tonight is a Congregational meeting at the church but I think I won't go; I don't want to go out to the Adamses' alone, and at any rate, I want to go to bed early. ... Mr. Macleod does not want me to go into the suite alone again; he says I'll be underfed and melancholy. I am to write to Arm.-Sergt. Rounce to tell of the arrival of the book. I love you darling for your thought for me. You always try to make things as easy for me as you can.

David [Adams] said last night to his mother. "If I prayed to God for something, I'd wait until he did something." I am waiting for Him to "do something" for my darling.

With my heart's love

your wife.


Fred to Evelyn France
Wed. Oct 10/17
My darling, - ... We were to have had the pleasure(?) of a general inspection - whether by the Brigadier or Gen. Currie.(1) I don't know and in preparation for it all parades were called off yesterday p.m. to give us time to clean up. And believe me for a general inspection a half day for cleaning & shining is none too much. It's hard enough to keep things clean & bright in the best weather, but when it rains every day, as it has here for a week the task is well nigh impossible. However as yesterday afternoon there was no rain I washed a pr. drawers 6 pr. socks, 2 handkerchiefs, 1 towel, 1 shirt. ... I then hung them on the fence to dry, but about 6 p.m. the rain started again and my things are still wet. This a.m. I managed to get madame of the farmhouse to allow me to hang my drawers up near her stove. Perhaps later I can get the rest dried the same way, for there is no sun this morning. It has been raining steadily and as it's an ill wind that blows nobody good the inspection has been called off because of it, ... Yesterday p.m. we had a field day for greybacks. [lice] I was told in Eng. that I'd be lousy before I was 2 days in France, but I managed to keep free of them until 2 days ago. Then the blankets we got here were reeking with lice & of course I received my share of their attentions. Yesterday they were so bold they crawled right out on the outside of our clothes & we picked them off by the dozen. Then we sought the sanitary serjeant & got a bottle of creosote solution. We resolved on stern measures & fairly saturated blankets, greatcoats, sweaters etc. Apparently our work was not in vain for last night we all slept undisturbed. Last Sun. afternoon we left the place from which I last wrote & marched here - about 3 miles in a steady downpour of rain. ... The place where we are now is a little French village whose only feature of interest is an old castle said to have been built in the 12th century and also reputed to be the scene of some of the adventures of The Three Musketeers. It's so long since I read the book I don't remember the incidents myself. Except for the castle the village consists only of farm buildings with the ubiquitous manure heaps, cobblestone streets flanked by filthy gutters through which wallow unlovely children, slatternly girls & haggish old women in wooden sabots or dilapidated high heeled boots run over at the heels. And mud everywhere. Mud! Mud!! Mud!!! Most of the billets here are worse than at the last place but as there were not enough our company commander got 4 tents & bought some straw. The 2 McKenzies, Edwards & a couple other fellows & I got one tent to ourselves. For a franc we purchased 3 more bundles of straw and we've had the most comfortable quarters I've seen since I crossed the Channel. The tent doesn't leak much. The straw keeps the ground dry and makes a soft bed, and 2 blankets apiece, together with our greatcoats provide bedding enough to keep us warm as toast Consequently since Sunday we've had 3 long nights of refreshing restful sleep. I'm quite caught up for sleep now. Did I tell you that on Monday we went back to standard time? A couple days ago I received 2 lovely pairs of socks from Hazel. I kept one & gave one away. Socks are a great asset here, and by the way you might tell anyone who knits soldier's socks not to be afraid of getting them too thick. They have to be thick for marching. I have a couple pair now - lovely ones but too thin for marching so I just keep them for changing off at night & sleeping in. When one gets his feet wet & is marching he should change socks every day, and I am well supplied. Today I am sending a bundle of your letters to Elmer to put in my trunk. I don't want to destroy them & I can't keep them here. Did I tell you I broke my ring in the trenches? I was carrying a stretcher and the trench was a narrow my hand caught & twisted the ring right off. I am keeping the pieces however. Most of the good wrist watches fall down in the trenches. They get shell shock. Mine went bad in the trenches but I let it stop and now it runs all right again However I think I'll send it to Elmer & get an Ingersoll. That kind seems to do as well as any other . Don't you bother, dearie, to send one from Canada for I can get one here just as cheaply. Now for a few answers to the questions in your letters Aug. 16 to Sept. 2nd. You ask about underwear & pajamas I think I have already told you I can carry only 1 suit of the first and the army furnishes that - and as for pajamas - their weight is too much to carry even if there were opportunity to use them - which there isn't. I still have 2 good pairs in my trunk at Bramshott. I'm glad you ordered the Varsity. It will be nice to have. And I'm so glad your health improved so that the last half of your visit both at 'Aux Sauble' Beach & Beamsville & Owen Sound was more pleasant than the first. Of course you are back in Calgary now. I wonder who is living with you. Please dearie, don't work so hard as you did. I hope you are in the office more now & have less walking & standing. Remember me to all enquiring friends. There are many to whom I expected to write when I got to France but now I find I can't. Will you explain to them? You speak of your letters being uninteresting and short. They have been anything but that. On the contrary they are bright & helpful and breathe so of love. I'm sorry my own have been so disjointed lately, and I'm sorry I haven't been able to write more frequently, but you know you are ever in my thoughts and whether I write or not my love always remains the same - the same? - No! for it grows each day from more to more. Yes it would be nice if you kept a diary, but it makes a good deal of work and if you start one, promise me you will not write in it if it interferes with your rest, will you please? Yes, I agree with you about both father & Margaret. I too wish Margaret could get away to some more hopeful wholesome environment. I wish we could help her. She has wonderfully good qualities but is inclined to fly off at tangents - and lacks poise. Perhaps after the war we can do something for her. ... About writing paper - There's no use sending much at any time for I can't carry it. A few sheets at a time would be all right but when we are moving about every few days one doesn't want any extra weight. I now realize what is meant by the marching at the front. It seems to me war for us is not fighting at all but consists solely of marching & working. Similarly with parcels - It would be better not to send large ones - for they might arrive as the last one from Beamsville - just before we are moving & then we can't carry it with us. Besides even when we aren't moving there often isn't a place to keep them. So it would be better to send smaller ones more frequently. The last corrugated cardboard box carried all right but as a rule tin ones are best - especially as they often have to lie around her in the wet. About Wray - I can't tell you all I know and I realize that his attitude looks bad, but there is a reason - and it's hard to be misunderstood, as he is. I can't say anymore. He is suffering partly, if not largely, for someone else. It is now 11.30 & I must do a bit of shining. The orderly serj. just announced too that at 12.45 we'll fall in for a bath parade - the first in more than 2 weeks. Hope there'll be some letters today. But letters or no, I always love you dearly my own wee wifie. Fred.
 
 
Evelyn to Fred [Calgary]
May 17/17


Dear Darling:-

... I have been wondering about going home. I hate to go, and yet I think I need the change. I ought to go about the middle of June, and if I do, you should start sending your letters home... I have not really made up my mind to the fact that you are going to France. Dearest, it seems as if I cannot let you go, and I am so powerless. Maybe I ought not to feel so, but you are my life. I didn't know it so well when you were here, but without you, there is not much joy in life, it is duty and work. And nobody really wants that, especially one who is young.

I wish you'd send a letter to the paper, something like the one you sent to Mother O. I cannot bear to think our country is so indifferent. It might wake us up a bit if we had a real taste of war. Why do you call the Germans "Cannibals." We have heard that they have boiled their own dead for grease. Is that what you mean? That seems to me almost more brutal than things they have done to the living, though I suppose it isn't. Mr. Fallis says that if they can do such things, extermination seems to be the only thing for them.

Goodnight my own sweet lover. I thank God for you. Whatever would I have known of the joy of life without my own darling?

 

May 18/17

Dearest:-

I have just finished packing your box. This time it contains rocks, chocolate, nuts, sugar and gum. When I get the right shaped boxes I'll send your salmon, canned fruit, etc. I had a letter from Mother to-day and she said she would send a box next week - Let us know if you need socks. She has a pair, Hazel has some ... and Mrs Adams says she'll soon have a pair for you.

Miss White, the dressmaker, was here to-day, and nearly finished a white skirt for me; she also cut out a waist which I shall make myself. I hope you don't think me extravagant; I have to get clothes even if I care more about other things.

... The evening papers, I am told, say that some form of conscription is going to be put in force at once. I wonder what Wray will do. And our Ray too, for that matter.

... Did I tell you about P. Harcourt O'Reilly asking me "Do you ever hear from Fred?" It runs in my head that I told you that, but it struck me as being very funny.

This isn't a very lovey letter, and yet it is. Did you know that you kissed me on the street to-day, right in front of Chapin's? Well, you did. I kiss you now, a million times, my lover.


Fred to Evelyn France,
Monday Sept. 17/17


My darling, -

... We arrived here about the middle of the afternoon. Here refers to a small dilapidated French village used as a billeting place for moving troops - and it appears to be deserted of all civilian inhabitants except a few decrepit men, bedraggled women and ill clothed boys and girls, who are much in evidence with heavy baskets of green peas, indifferent apples, poor chocolate and an occasional tomato.

Ever since we landed in France our line of march has been beset by these amateur vendors crying "Apools, chocolates!" They have a very peculiar way of mixing the coinage. For example today I asked the price of a package of chocolate. "One franc 4 penny" was the answer. We thought the troops were "soaked" in England, but what they do there isn't to be compared with prices here. Apples and pears are very plentiful and yet the cheapest is 3 ha'pence [halfpence] each.

The chocolate in France is very poor in quality and the pieces are about 1/2 the size in England, with the price, quality and the pieces nearly twice as much per bar or piece. I think possibly the reason they give prices in terms of francs and pennies instead of francs and centimes is because at present prices the centime is too small a unit to reckon with.

Our bunch has stuck together well and we intend to sleep tonight under a near-by stack of wheat sheaves rather than in the place where we were billeted. It is a long rough shed with ground floor, and is to accommodate 70 for the night. It isn't comfortable. It's almost sure to be "crummy" [lice] and noisy, and the stack looks very inviting. Last night was our first experience of billets and it was too good to last, but more of that anon - I'll resume where I left off in my letter yesterday.

... By 10 o'clock we were all entrained - I don't know how many for there were Imperials as well as Canadians - possibly 3,000. Except for officers, the accommodation provided was box cars about the size of those you saw in England. Each was supposed to hold 40 men but we had only 36. But at that, what with equipment and packs - there wasn't room to stir about much. Fortunately we had plenty of ventilation, for the big sliding side doors were open and there were also smaller sliding doors near the top of the car on both sides. As for myself I felt the need of sleepand I, Swanson & Nease & a few others stretched out and contorted ourselves around and over our equipment.All told I slept about 3 hours. ...

I didn't see much of the country we passed through until late in the afternoon, but I know that for the first couple hours it was very unkempt and forsaken looking. The villages don't look clean and neat like the English hamlets, but the squalid mud or plaster huts and farmhouses opening out into the barnyards seemed quite in keeping with the unkempt, bedraggled looking peasants. One has to visit the continent to see what is really meant by a peasant class. They can't be compared with the English working class.

I know the country is drained of its men by the war and that the women and children are war-worn. Such a dazed and sad look as seems so settled on the women's faces - and how much black one sees! Of course many of the peasants can't afford black clothes but even at that the frequency with which one meets black crepe dresses tells its own tale of how France has been stricken.

At first we passed through many orchards, and the trees, despite lack of care in pruning and cultivation, seemed well laden with apples & pears. Beans were much in evidence and the eaves of every farmhouse and cottage had their strings of beans hung up to dry. The grain fields were in stook and looked fair, but as we got nearer our destination the appearance of the country changed. The crops looked full and the countryside showed evidences of careful and intelligent tillage and farming methods.

Fine herds of cows were grazing on clover or lucerne, second growth. Field after field of beautiful sugar beets, in clean straight rows, showed that although the men might be in the army women and children were doing their part in keeping up production. To look at the farms in this part one could hardly think that nearly all men of military age were away, did we not see women in the fields and boys of 9 or 10 years driving binders or the heavy French carts. And everywhere one saw the same look of resigned determination and saddened weariness.

Although yesterday was Sunday, shops were open and work proceeded as usual in the fields. And that reminds me - one of the most striking contrasts between France & England is this: In England the prominent feature of every village & hamlet is the church. In France churches are for the most part conspicuous by their absence and even where they are to be seen somehow they give one the impression that they are neglected and play but a small part in the life of the community. The estaminet(3) is everywhere, but the church is of little importance, I fear, in the life of the French people.

About 3.45 we arrived at XXXXX.(4) After detraining we had to wait around in the public square until about 4.30 when we lined up at the cook house for tea, biscuits and mulligan which we ate under the trees. The we were marched about 3/4 of a mile to the outskirts of the town of XXXXX for our billets. 20 of us were allotted to one billet and there appeared to be some mix-up so our bunch of 9 - Farrant, McKenzie, Swanson, Hayden, Nease, Hunt, Carman, Riggs & I struck out for ourselves.

I made use of my half-forgotten French & finally found a farmhouse which had accommodation for 10 on the barn floor with fresh straw for a bed. You must understand that the French farm buildings are in the form of a quadrangle with house joined on the one side to loft and on the other to cow shed, pig pen & hen house, with the barn proper opposite, the central opened space being the farm yard - which being interpreted means the manure heap. ...

 

Wednesday morning, Sept 19/17

My own sweetheart,-

Darkness compelled me to stop at this point Monday night and I haven't been able to resume until now, when for a wonder we were told by the R.S.M. to "bugger-off" for a couple hours i.e. - to "beat it." I am in a Y.M.C.A. tent a few miles nearer the line than on Monday - in fact at Canadian divisional headquarters. It is a lovely sunlit morning and I should like to stroll about outside in the fields or woods if it were not that I'd rather talk with you.

I was telling about our Sunday night billet. We got located about 7 o'clock and at once set out to make ourselves comfortable. We hung our equipment under the loft, changed our boots for light canvas shoes and then madame invited us into a spotless kitchen where the charcoal stove shone like a mirror. She arranged wooden chairs around the room and we talked for a time as best we could - I and Hunt being interpreters. If not exactly fluent the conversation was at least intelligible.

Things looked so nice we ventured to ask madame to make us some tea. "La thé? Non!" but she would make us café au lait, after the cows were milked at 8 o'clock. That sounded good. Meanwhile we busied ourselves in washing at the street pump near by etc., etc. Monsieur brought me a large basin of hot water & I had a nice hot footbath. About 8 o'clock the boy of 12 drove in 3 beautiful cows and soon madame was busy with the milking. Farrant got a cup from the kitchen and went with it to the stable, as a result of which he, Swanson & I each had a cup of warm foaming new milk fresh from the cow. Hunt, Carman & Riggs had gone up town, so coffee was prepared for the other 7 of us. By this time we had all gathered into the kitchen where the father & son were joined by a little girl of dix ans, and another fine self possessed daughter of 17 who greeted us with "Bonjour messieurs!" as she entered the room. There is also an elder son away in the army.

While chatting about the stove, where, by the way some of our socks were hung to dry, we decided to have a little party and asked the family to join us. Two small tables were drawn up. Goblets were placed for the coffee and we brought forth from our packs 2 tins bully beef. 1 of pork & beans 1 of jam & some army biscuit. The coffee was poured - Such coffee, and then from a large earthen pot about 1/3 of a glass hot milk or cream was added to each goblet. We sipped it. And you may imagine the beatified expressions on our faces as we settled back in our chairs with real enjoyment.

A happy thought occurred to Farrant so I turned to madame with "Voulez-vous donner nous du pain?" "Oui, monsieur!" and she went to the pantry and returned with one of the great flat round French loaves of real home made bread. It may have been made of rye and barley flour, I don't know, but it was sweet and light and oh so good. We each had 2 large slices, a second helping of coffee, and the jam and other things disappeared quickly too - all but the bully beef and biscuits and these we left for the family. The reckoning was 5 francs 7 pennies, and in addition we gave a franc to the little girl.

About 9 o'clock we left for our beds of straw, satisfied we had had one of the most enjoyable meals ever. There was a truly homelike atmosphere and we enjoyed the social intercourse possibly nearly as much as the café au lait and bread. The people are not exactly ordinary farmers, neither are they of the real peasant class. We were much surprised to see electric lights and a modern cream separator showing a degree of prosperity about the ordinary peasant proprietor.

I don't think anyone had better billets, if as good. Some we saw were horrible - dirty filthy stables to sleep in, and stinking manure heaps to wash in! The French villagers seem to have a wonderful liking for manure odors - and some of the tumbledown, dirty streets we passed on the way to our billet looked like a very hot-bed of filth & disease. I suppose things are much worse than in peace time because there is no one left to keep things in repair & cleaned up - but even in ordinary times many of the places we saw were not fit to be called by the name of home.

We all slept soundly & well, until 6 a.m. Then we arose, washed & dressed and walked about a mile to our cook house where we each got tea, army biscuits & a tin of sardines - packed in Norway - and very poor they were. However I am getting to like the army biscuits very much, and they are so nourishing. I can always do very well if I only have plenty of them. The grub so far in France has been superior to what we got in Eng.

Oh, I almost forgot to tell you that the opposite side of the street from our billet was a sloping hillside with magnificent oak, beech & plane trees and in the morning while dressing I listened to one of the most charming bird songs I ever heard. Again the war seemed far away and I thought if only my darling were with me how we should enjoy the quaint French town the green grass, the beautiful trees, the birds - everything.

After breakfast we got ready to march again. There was a long delay in starting. We had to draw rations for the day & the following morning's breakfast each man getting a cotton bag containing biscuits, & 2 tins of bully beef. Then to our great surprise and delight, we were ordered to turn in our packs and they would be transported for us.

About 10.30 we set out and marched with only one halt until 1.10 when we had half an hour for dinner. I enjoyed the march very much. We passed through lovely farming country - wonderfully well tilled - particularly the sugar beets. Sleek cattle grazed on the clover. Women & boys were harvesting wheat and oats. Some binders were used but for the most part scythe, sickle or cradle were the implements. The country is quite hilly and our march was up and down one succession of hills. We went through a couple towns and saw in the distance huge slag heaps from the famous mines of this district. Still there was not much evidence of the proximity of the battle line, although aeroplanes were more frequent.

After dinner we marched only about an hour before we halted for the night at the place where I started this letter - truly a tumbledown deserted village if ever there was one. We slept well by our oat stack though all got rather cold. Still I think we were as warm as those in the shed - and we didn't have any "crumbs". We are very fortunate in escaping so long. Nearly everyone has them before he gets this far. It's dinner time now, so will close & write more as soon as possible.

Don't worry though dearest if letters are irregular for it's awfully hard to get time to write every day.

God bless and keep my own dear wifie.

Fred.

 

I have been thinking dearest, that my next letter may not reach you before your birthday so in this I'll tell you that before I left Bramshott I left instructions to have an album of photographs taken in around Bramshott by our armourer serj't, Serjt. Rounce - sent to you for your birthday. I think they are excellent & I hope you receive them in good shape and enjoy them - both for their own sake and because it is intended as another slight reminder of my unchanging love.

May every succeeding anniversary of your natal day be happier than the last.

Your own husband.

 
 
Evelyn to Fred [Owen Sound]
[Sun. Sept. ?16 or Sept. 23, 1917


My Own Lover and Sweetheart:-

... When not at church, eating or working, I was sleeping and resting and thinking of you. Do you know what most of my thoughts are about? The time when you'll be home again ...

Yesterday when we reached home there was a parcel here for Ora. She had told me to open it as there was a napkin ring in it for me, and that I was to take my choice but I want her to see them both, so I think I'll send them on. I think they are supposed to be made of shells. One is gun metal in colour, with a raised design on it of a bird - a swan or something like it, with an arrow in its breast, and a crown over its head. I like it best I think. The other is brass, with a shield and a wreath of leaves around the shield with "Ypres" engraved on it. Then too there was a jewel case from Nice. I don't know what the wood is ..., Ora will be so pleased with it - It is her birthday present ...

I didn't tell you how much I appreciated your letter telling about Tennyson's home. That was a good description, dearest. I should like to pass it on to my friends, and I must type it out when I get time, or get Miss Scott to do it. I wonder how you've spent to-day. One place you have been - that is in the thoughts of your own wife. 

Fred's Description of Tennyson's Home From Aug 21/17

"I didn't tell you about my visit to Tennyson's home did I? Well, after dinner on Sunday I asked Jimmie Barnes and a couple others to join me but they had made prior arrangements so about 1.30 I set out alone. ... I didn't hurry at all but walked leisurely and arrived at Tennyson's lane about 2.45. I think I told you before, it is about 2 1/2 miles from this point to the house called Aldworth. For fully a mile and a half the lane winds up a steady slope under overarching oaks, beeches and pines. Then one comes out upon an open heath stretching out like a peninsula about the surrounding country which falls steeply away to a level perhaps 3,000 feet lower. ... You can perhaps imagine the view on 3 sides - a vast expanse of undulating Surrey landscape of meadow, cornfield, park and woodland - with the ubiquitous hedgerows and here and there peeping out from their covert of sheltering trees, cosy farmhouses andmore pretentious country seats with which this district abounds. ... Soon the road took an abrupt turn to the left but straight in front was another lane with a sign post bearing the word "Private." This, I had been told, would lead to the house so I followed it for perhaps another half mile over the bare moorland until suddenly turning to the right I came right upon the gate bearing the name "Aldworth." Just inside was the gate house and stables. ... My first thought was - "How far away from man's haunts, and how much alone Tennyson must have loved to be. I wonder what the house itself is like." I soon learned. Following the driveway, which circled around the gatehouse into what seemed to be a regular forest of enormous pines, with an occasional patriarchal oak or beech, a couple hundred yards gave me my first glimpse of the house nestled right against the hillside, with great trees all around it. ... I soon saw that Tennyson had chosen for his home a site almost on the nose of the "peninsula" where the slope was heavily wooded, in marked contrast to the open heath above and where it fell abruptly almost in a sheer precipice for 250 or 300 feet. The cattle grazing in the fields below looked very small and far away although so near. No water was visible although if the horizon did not always disappear in a blue haze it is possible that one could see the channel. ... One thinks he has seen the whole when lo! an opening in the hedge reveals an unexpected nook or bowling green, or tennis courts or flower garden. Paths lead in every direction and through the fence down the hillside. The lowest terrace is one great flower garden filled almost entirely with old fashioned flowers. I did so long for your presence, dearest, for you would have known their names. Such a variety of color as there was - and such a sweet perfume. I could almost hear you say "Isn't that a lovely smell?" and bend down to caress the lovely petals. ... The house is not open to visitors. In fact the grounds are only open on Saturday & Sunday to Canadians in khaki. Some day, dearest, you and I will visit it together, shall we not? Another of the bright things to look forward to!"

Fred to Evelyn France
Sun. Sept. 16/17


My darling wife, -

It is now 8 o'clock a.m. and our draft is out on the parade ground with rifles piled, equipment & packs lying on the sand beside them, the men standing or sitting about in little groups talking, or an occasional one lying stretched out with pack for a back rest reading or writing. ...

We fell in at 6.30 had roll call & inspection then paraded to the cook house for our rations - each man getting a can of bully beef 4 army biscuits and a bit of cheese tied up in a clean cotton bag. After that we were told to strike tents & clean up our lines which we have done. I understand we are to have a church service shortly and that we shall probably entrain about 9 o'clock.

Our tent party is going to try to keep together in the car. ... Here at this base camp there have been 12 in a tent. It has been fairly crowded but being more accustomed to stow ourselves & belongings in a small space than when I was at Sarcee, I think I have been as comfortable here as there. The only bedding we had was a blanket each and we found it sufficient.

We will travel today in box cars - 40 in a car. In addition to our rations our party has 1 can pork & beans 2 cans jam, 1 can McConachie - ie - a prepared ration of beef, potatoes beans & other vegetables, all cooked together - some Huntley & Palmer biscuits, & some margarine left over from breakfast. So we should fare pretty well.

In my last letter I left off at our port of embarkation, didn't I? That was last Saturday. At 6.15 we embarked. There were 3 boat loads and we were packed in until the decks were black. We had an escort of course of several destroyers which formed a screen around us. The passage was smooth and lasted only a couple of hours Very few got sick. About 9 o'clock we were all disembarked and began a march of about 2 miles - possibly 3 - through a large French city to the rest camp on the outskirts.

The night was cloudy and it was very dark. Every window blind was down. Not a street lamp was lighted and only when here and there a door opened to a small slit as we passed and a bit of light fell across our pathway did we get any evidence that the city was not deserted. Scarcely any one was on the streets except ourselves and the measured tramp of our feet upon the uneven cobblestones had become far too common a sound by now to excite more than a passing interest. One is fairly staggered as he thinks of the millions of armed men that have tramped that same road in the past 3 years. The last mile to the camp was up a long steady hill and no one was sorry when the top was reached. It didn't take long for us to get allotted to our tents. Are moving off Goodbye dearest.

Love. Ferd.

Am writing this now but will write more on the train.

 
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.
 
Three Years Ago 03/24/2010
 
 Evelyn to Fred[Calgary]


June 14/17 Darling;- 
... Three years ago to-day we sought for some time in vain for a church to enter. Do you remember? I'll never be sorry we spent our honeymoon trip the way we did. Because of going where we did, particular days stand out in our memory, and we can say - - years ago, we did this or this, or were here or there. Did you see anything of the last air-raid? It was simply fiendish. Think of the mere babies, torn to pieces. I wonder those pilots aren't dashed on rocks for such hellish work. ... I am really looking forward to my trip east - If only, if only, I knew you were safe, I could stand the separation. Mr. Fallis prayed for me tonight, at least it seemed to me he did. I think dear, the essence of the Christian religion is in hope, and love of course ... - When things turn black here, there's always the hope of something better farther on. ... The paper tonight says that Major Silken, having been missing for some time, is presumed to be dead. "After the war" won't mean much happiness to some people, will it dear one? Every time I write to you, I'm thankful for paper pen and ink, the postal service, and intelligence which enables us in some way, to communicate with each other. 
Your sweetheart.

June 16/17 Saturday afternoon - 
Last night I packed your box and washed my hair in preparation for having my picture taken, and when I got through it was time to go to bed. Now, having finished my lunch I'm going to have a sleep in order to look fresher in my picture - you see, I'm doing my best to have a nice one, and if I don't succeed you really can't blame me very much, can you dear? Three years ago this morning I nearly made you miss the boat. I won't do it next time, I promise you. Just give me the chance. Goodbye for the present, my dearest one.

Fred to Evelyn Hertford, Herts.
June 12 1917


My darling wife,-

June the twelfth! What memories this day brings forth. I awoke this morning with the thought "this is my wedding day." On the way to the drill grounds the tramp of the feet beat out the same tune "This is my wedding day." During the drill exercises, my mind was thousands of miles away and I would bring myself back to the present with a jerk from the thought "This is my wedding day."I wonder, dearest, how you have spent this - our first anniversary apart. Have you been terribly lonesome or have you been thinking as I have with joy and love and gratitude for the past and expectant hope for the future? Oh, you have been with me - no- I have been with you all day. You must have felt my presence, for my every thought has been of you. I never imagined 3 years ago that I could love you as much - not half as much as I do. I can't tell you how much but you must feel that you are in very truth my love, my life, my all - And isn't it wonderful how we have grown together - help-meets in the truest sense - with the same ideals and aspirations each striving for the others' welfare, with life's rough places made smooth and it's difficult places easy by love's magic power? When I try to look back and think what manner of man I was 3 years ago - and then contemplate the change that you have wrought, I thank God that he gave you to me - and pray that I may be spared to show in some degree by life service that I am trying to live up to the best in me which you have called forth.The mail man was kind for once. He didn't let this day pass without a message of love from my darling. Yesterday brought two of the longest and best letters you have written ... No, dearest, I don't think you "spill over" and I do want you to write just as you feel. If you can't tell your troubles and worries - big and little - to me, then to whom can you tell them? And don't think I am having things so hard. Here at Hertford we are being fed and housed well and I really am not undergoing hardships. I only wish you were with me and that we could enjoy the beauty of England together. In tonight's paper I saw an article suggesting whereby any Canadian officer who so desired might take a special course of lectures for 6 months or a year. Wouldn't it be lovely to do that after the war with you here? ... Evidently friends are still very kind to you. I am so glad dearie that we have so many real friends. Anyone who is good to you while I am away will have a sure place in my good books. I wonder how you celebrated our anniversary day. My especial celebration consisted of a bowl of strawberries & cream. I had a great deal of trouble getting them. I tried several tea shops but without success. Finally I bought 1/2 pound of berries at a fruiterer's for 6d. Then I hunted for cream & sugar but the former seemed equally difficult to obtain. At last I was directed to the Jersey dairy I told my troubles to the shop girl. Yes, she could sell me cream, but sugar? No, they didn't sell sugar. However I finally prevailed upon her to take a jardiniere off a marble table and allow me to eat them. She brought a small cup of cream - probably 1/4 pint for 4d. - with a bowl of sugar a teaspoon & a plate for 3d. additional. Just at this juncture the proprietor came from a back room & I asked him to replace the plate by a bowl. Certainly! And soon he reappeared with a cut glass round shallow dish. I paid 6d for berries, cream, sugar & service & set to. I hulled the berries, cut them with my spoon in the real old way, put the sugar on to soak & then poured on the cream - lovely rich yellow cream from his own Jersey cows - as the man proudly informed me. It wasa dish of real strawberries & cream. Oh, how I enjoyed them! At first I had not intended to get them, they seemed so dear. But then I thought you would want me to do so if you knew, and I'm glad I did. In one way it hasn't been like a wedding anniversary today but in another it has for we have been together in heart & spirit. I pray tonight that, if God wills, we may spend the next together in body too. So I kiss you goodnight my own dear wifie. God bless and keep you

Wednesday June 13th.
Three years ago today we spent at Niagara Falls. Do you remember the lovely breakfast in the breakfast room of the Clifton House. ... It was a warm day wasn't it - almost as hot as today has been here - especially in the evening at Niagara Falls N.Y. when I found there was no diner on the Buffalo train and rushed about trying to get something to eat. Supper that night was rather a comedown from the morning wasn't it? It has been just the opposite with me today. ... Breakfast was the same old slice of fat bacon & bread & butter & jam & tea: but the rations were supplemented by 2 cookies from Corp. Weatherby of Amherst N.S. and 2 pieces of fruit cake from Sergt. Armstrong of the 191st. Both of these men received parcels today. So did I - the one without eats in it - like the first one it arrived in fine shape, but it did seem rather incongruous to come in the barrack room with perspiration oozing from every pore and running in streams down my face & arms - and then opening the parcel to find for my comfort - bed socks and canned heat - I felt as if I were a parcel of animated canned heat myself.Just the same both the socks & the canned heat will come in all right a few months later - and it was dear of you to send the things. I think I have a sufficient supply of aspirin now. And thank Ruby for the bed socks. They are so soft and warm they will be lovely. Oh it has been hot today - and all morning there was a haze over the sky making the air heavy and muggy. Before breakfast instead of the usual hour of physical drill it was our platoon's turn for the swimming baths. How we did revel in the fresh running water! This is to be a regular thing so our turn will come every four days. Between 10.15 & 12.30 we drilled on the Meads. Several times during the course of the morning we heard aeroplanes but only saw one - yes and a dirigible balloon that came down quite close to the barracks & circled around 3 or 4 times just after breakfast. Well about 11.20 the air raid alarm sounded and we were ordered to lie down under the trees. When we marched back to barracks for dinner each platoon came by itself. But nothing happened here. We heard this evening that the East end of London was raided. Evidently some of the planes we heard this morning were German, for their usual route when making for London is from a point on the coast North East of here - then following down a stream just about 3 miles east of here, right into London. So you see we are near their path. What have you been doing today I wonder. Has it been hot in Calgary? It must be lovely there now on these long evenings. Perhaps you are at prayer meeting tonight. I wish I could hear one of Mr. Fallis' prayers again. They seem to touch one's real needs don't they? Must quit now to write some notes. I kiss my darling goodnight.

Thurs. evening June 14th 
If only you were beside me now. It's 7 o'clock but the sun is still up at least and hour. All about are evening sounds the hush following a hot day's varied labours making the shunting of a railway engine in the valley below stand out with peculiar distinctiveness. From the distance comes the soft coo-ing of doves while nearer at hand in bush and tree are subdued chirpings and twitterings with now and again some bird singing his evening song. Nearby is a rabbit preserve with tall brake from & into which they are scurrying by thousands. As I lie under the shade of a large lime tree on soft green turf I can look eastward across the valley in which Hertford nestles to the woods and fields beyond. All about the field in front of me are elder bushes now in full bloom of beautiful white. Behind me is the home farm of Ware Park with the farm buildings peeping out of the trees. I am under one of the many trees that form the finest avenue of limes that I have ever seen. Ware Park is a private grounds between Hertford & Ware, - and is reached by a lane just beyond the Mead where we sometimes drill. Approaching it that way one first climbs by a well worn footpath a rather steep heath covered for the most part with tall brake. Then a magnificent avenue of beeches - wonderful trees comes into view running at right angles to the path which leads into the lime avenue along which I am now. This last must be nearly a mile long with enormous trees forming a complete arch overhead - about 10 yards apart, except where here & there mammoth, upturned roots tell the tale of a terrible storm that visited this part of the country several months ago. ... 3 years ago today we were in Boston. That was a hot day too, wasn't it dearest. Next time we go there we'll know how to make better use of our time & will enjoy it more shall we not? Do you remember the dinner - fried chicken, Boston baked beans etc., etc., etc? Yesterday's air raid was much more damaging I fear than the newspaper reports would lead one to believe. There was another one this p.m. which kept us in barracks for a couple hours. We didn't see any planes however & don't know where they attacked though it is rumored that they dropped bombs north of London. The roses are coming out beautifully now. This morning I saw a lovely cluster of perhaps 15 or 20 peeping over a wall - they were of the deepest red - and perfectly formed. While crossing a brook tonight I plucked a wild rose bud which I'm enclosing. It made me think of you - so modest, sweet bright, lovely and true. Now I'm going to have my supper. I have opened the jar which I thought contained jelly and find that it's blackcurrants. They ran out a little at the top, but otherwise have carried all right. I am enclosing a few more prints that are only indifferently good. The films seemed to develop well but the printing was a disappointment. I don't want however to send the films home until I know that the prints I have already sent arrive safely. It is so quiet & restful here, I hate to leave but have to do some work when I get home, so must close. Goodnight my own dear love

Fred.
 
 
Evelyn to Fred [Calgary]
May 23/17 

Dearest One:- ... 
The boiler burst yesterday; the janitor said it was choked up with mud - I'm thankful for the gas grate, but I don't like the fumes, and so I keep the window open. But then, I always think about you and what you're enduring, and things here seem paltry in comparison. 

This afternoon at the Court House, there was a dollar lying on the counter and I pretended to take it. Mr. Kelly said "You need it, don't you?" Then he went on to say, "I've just been picturing my wife doing what you are, living on an allowance, with the three children." I answered, "But I don't live on it; I couldn't." "No," he said, "You couldn't. And my wife isn't abusiness (mark you) woman like you; she wouldn't do what you are doing." "Well," I said, "You won't be going." He straightened up and said, "I'd volunteer before I'd go as a conscript." I said, "No, I used to think that too, but I've quite changed my mind, and think that the system, as it obtains in France or Germany is the fairest one, if there has to be war." ... 

If this were a truly democratic country, there would be a living separation allowance, and those who stayed at home would go without as many things as the dependants of those who went. When you see the new cars this spring, you have ample proof that that isn't the case, for you may very sure it isn't the soldiers' dependants who are buying cars. ... 

Last night about twenty to five I asked J.M. if I could speak to him a few minutes after five, and he said right away. So I broached the subject of holidays and he said he was glad I spoke, that he'd forgotten about them. ... Then he told about the old days, how long he went and how long you went without holidays; described the old offices to me; who came in and when; how you used to file your papers, ... At six he remembered he wanted to call up a woman and tried to but she'd gone. He finished by saying to go when I wanted, that they could arrange matters, ... I'm not counting on going east till near the end of June. Then Ora and I will be home most of the time together. ... 

I was making up a few of our accounts tonight, but it made me very, very homesick for my chum. Your handwriting, entries of "lunches" made me so homesick. Oh, how I long to put my arms around your neck and lay my head on your shoulder and know that you are safe and comfortable again. One does not get used to the loss of what one loves most, though I shouldn't say that, I should say physical absence. 

Sometimes, early in the morning, I wake up for no conceivable reason. I wonder if it is you calling me. This morning it was 5:30, and I awoke from a dream that we were sleeping in single beds, and that you were just stretching out [y]our arms for me, and we were just almost kissing each other. It seemed as if some strong force just made me wake up. 

Good night my darling.

Fred to Evelyn
Hertford, Herts.
22/5/17


My dear wife,

This has been another strenuous day - no less felt because the air was hot and sultry. I may not have told you before that we actually fall in 10 minutes before the hour named for parade and we are never dismissed before the hour - generally from 5 to 10 minutes after. In the course of a day this means in the aggregate about 1 hour more work than would appear from a reading of the syllabus. Today was particularly offensive in this regard and the space between periods was cut down to about 5 min. each time, which gave us very little opportunity for doing the cleaning that is expected of us.

To add to the already full day's work we had our tea time shortened by a 10 minute speech from a C of E. clergyman who gave a talk on the benefits of baptism & confirmation, and an invitation to have these rites performed if they have not already been done. However we all survived and immediately after the lecture tonight I made for the bath house, and soaked for about 15 min. in a hot tub bath. Now I feel reasonably free from perspiration and quite fresh again.

Last night I went to bed about 9 o'clock and fell asleep immediately. About 9.45 I was awakened by one of our boys asking if I'd like some Devonshire cream & cakes. In the army no word is so potent to waken a man as the name of any kind of food and I sat up immediately. Carman then produced a pint jar of real Devonshire cream, sent to him from Devonshire by his sister-in-law. He also had a couple biscuits for each of us. These with a generous thickness of the cream sandwiched between made a most palatable supper. I can't tell you what the cream tastes like, but it's a sort of combination of cream & cheese in flavor, very nice indeed. In a few seconds after I had despatched mine I fell asleep again & knew nothing more until reveille.

I do wish you could see this place now - and especially the field where we drill. It is encircled by magnificent trees and they are also scattered here & there all over the grounds - or park - whichever you wish to call it. This morning we came back to barracks by a new road - between green hedges and for the greater part under overarching branches. Fruit trees & flowering shrubs with horsechestnuts in bloom in the adjoining fields made the whole look like a beautiful garden spot. In fact I'm not sure but we came through a private estate. I'll find out later.

At one turn of the road there were 2 large lilac trees - one white the other blue - simply covered with flowers - and beside them was a larger tree smothered in flowers - I don't know what kind, though they look a good deal like japonicas. If you were only here you'd know all of their names. ... As soon as there's a bright evening I'm going to take a picture. For the past several days every evening has been cloudy. Now I'm going to copy out some notes. Goodnight my darling.

 

Wed. evening, 23rd May.

The same tale of the same driving speed, with no let up from our reveille to 6.30. - Today was slightly hotter than yesterday but one of the afternoon periods was devoted to a lecture instead of drill, hence was by that much the easier. Otherwise today was largely a repetition of yesterday and there is not much new to report. Tomorrow is the 24th but in Eng. it is not kept as a holiday - so we gain nothing by it other than the usual Thursday afternoon early quitting of work at 3 o'clock. We were also told today that next Monday - Whit Monday(6) - the afternoon will be devoted to sports and I suppose that for the majority of us that will mean nothing more strenuous than looking on.

Last evening we had a lecture on gas by a lieutenant locally called "wretched" - a cognomen that was given to him and has stuck ever since the first day when he said to us as we were fidgeting on parade - "Why don't you keep your wretched babies still?" He may be a good enough officer but the men do not take kindly to being bawled out for not looking smart by a specimen like him - vacant looking with protruding teeth & receding chin, and legs looking as if each hated the other and wanted to get away from it.

Our own platoon commander on the contrary is a man whom everyone likes. He is soldierly in appearance & a gentleman in his manner. A large crescent scar on the back of his neck bears silent witness to his service in France The school commandant has also seen service there and now goes about with an artificial leg and an artificial arm. Our company serjeant major is a fine man - well liked and efficient if ever there was one. The regimental serj. maj. is also a wonderfully good drill man - with a magnificent military figure and a voice like the bull of Bashau. You can hear his whisper across the parade ground.

In tonight's paper I see an item of Canadian news that there has been a rush to enlist since Sir Robt. Borden's announcement that a compulsory service bill will be introduced shortly into parl. I wonder if this is really true, and if so how many of your pet aversions have donned the khaki.

No Canadian mail yet. I wonder whether you get my letters or whether you too look in vain when the mail man calls. I hope not. I must copy some notes now so again goodnight - my own dear wife.

 

Thurs. evening 24/5/17

My first 24th May in England would have failed absolutely to give even the semblance of a holiday had it not been for the timely (?) appearance of a hostile Zep. It seems this vicinity is a favorite hunting ground of the Zeps, - and of course there are standing orders what to do in case a Zep. alarm is given.

Last night at 1.25 we were awakened by our platoon serjeant with, "Waken the men on each side of you. Dress and have rifles & bayonets handy, then lie down again until further orders. On no consideration strike any light." We rubbed our eyes and amid much grumbling at the disturbance of our rest groped in the dark for socks, boots, tunic etc, occasionally glancing out of the windows at the searchlights playing across the sky, which last night seemed more brilliant and numerous than usual.

Everyone was dead sleepy and in a few minutes we were again all asleep or dozing, but in about a quarter of an hour, the serjeant again appeared and ordered us to put on great coats belts & bayonets and then lie down again until further orders, but again we fell asleep ruefully thinking of the precious minutes taken from our rest.

... The next thing I knew was the announcement in the dim morning light that there would be no parade before breakfast. A great wave of relief swept over us and we all turned over again, happy in the thought of the extra hour's sleep this would give us. So you see the Zep was a blessing in disguise to us - for while it robbed us of possibly 15 min. sleep it gave us a whole hour additional and besides saved us the trouble of dressing this morning.

We learned this morning that it was some distance away and so far as we know it did no damage. However some of the staff here were up nearly all night. One of the cook house orderlies said to me this morning "Hi wouldn't mind so much hif they'd Honly coom. Hit's 'aving Hall the trooble fer nothinck what Hi 'ates. 'Ere Hi am Hup from 'arf pawst twelve to 'arf pawst foh - and then the bloomin' thing never turns hup."

Of course this being Thursday we knocked off work at 3.30. Some of the men had to practise for the sports next Monday, but I took a couple pictures - went down town for some stamps & have done a little studying. Tomorrow will be a big day again but Saturday will be short. We expect an exam. next Monday. I have now caught up some of my lost sleep - though I don't know when, for I haven't had more than 7 1/2 hours any night this week - At any rate I feel all right again, - and on Sat. afternoon if it's nice Nease & I are going to the park where we drill and are going to do some studying under the trees. I'm also going to try to get some more pictures on Sat. & Sunday.

There are a lot of things here that at first glance strike one as a waste of time in the midst of war, but after all they are all good for discipline and physical training . I find my muscles are losing their stiffness, and respond more readily to the nerves than they have for years. I have an appetite like a horse and the grub continues good and nourishing. In this regard we are much better off than at Bramshott.

One of the things we at first thought silly is stick drill - ie - drill in the proper carrying of a stick when walking, saluting, etc. It's astonishing how awkward we are in the simple motions of changing a stick from one side to another etc. We had one hour's drill at it last week & one again today. I don't know how much more there will be, but if when we leave this school we don't "swank" it will not be the fault of our instructors.

... I wonder how you have been spending the day. Happily, and out of doors, I hope. Perhaps next year we can spend it together again. Then we'll not work but keep a real holiday, n'est-ce-pas? I'm sure that we'll know better how to enjoy life after the war and that we'll take and make more opportunities for being out of doors than we have in the past.

Today the commandant & the adjutant rode into the barrack square on their horses beautiful high spirited well bred animals and I thought - some day we'll have horses like those. Won't it be glorious to ride over the prairie in the early morning or in the long summer evenings? So many of my dreams have come true more gloriously true than I had dared to expect. Surely this one will.

I find I forgot to enclose those flowers in my last letter. I'm putting them in this. I don't know flower language, but they are meant to remind you that I am always thinking of you as the beauty and brightness of my life - in very truth its flower.

Fred.
 
 

Though written on different dates, these entries were all in one letter.


Evelyn to Fred [Calgary]
Apr. 12/17


My Dear One,-

I won't write much tonight, but I must talk to you a little. I was thinking to-day that you are really more in my thoughts while you are away than when you are at home. This is our wedding-day the twelfth, and tomorrow will be too - Friday. I have been planning your homecoming, and how we'll live when you get home. You are so very, very dear to me. ...

Mrs. Coutts said that evap. [evaporated milk] has gone up within the last two weeks - Pears [soap] from 2 for 25¢ to 2 for 35¢, Sunlight from 5¢ each to 4 for 25¢, Criscoe from 35¢ to 50¢. How are people going to live? ...

I won't write any more tonight - this is rather sketchy, I know, but it carries a lot of love from your wife.

 

Friday Apr. 13

Dearest One in the World,-

I wonder where you are tonight, my dear one. I am selfishly glad that you are somewhere in England - not somewhere in France. The papers seem full of news of victory, but full of news of sadness too. I'll be so glad, so glad when I get a letter from my sweetheart, though I know I can't have one for a couple weeks yet. I hope you will think to send to the R.C.I. as soon as you have an address. I have just been thinking that there will be letters there almost as soon as you reach there, and that will make it seem like home, won't it dear one?

The boys - Percy Scott and Art Lilly, came in tonight to go over some of the work. It's all right for me to have them, isn't it dear? Of course I have to be careful, but I hardly see how there is any wrong - there is no wrong of course - but lack of convention in it. ... Did you know that Jack Eaton had been killed?

I went up to the dressmaker's tonight, and will have my suit tomorrow. I've figured up that the dress, with the coat will cost me about thirty dollars. It is pretty, and I think you'd like it if you were here to see it. And I think I really needed it. If one must go on about one's daily tasks, one must have something to eat and to wear. And I have something to love - the dearest best gift in the world, my sweetheart, friend and husband.

Goodnight. . . . it's six weeks since you left.

 

Apr. 14/17

Dearest:-

I'll just scribble a little and post this before I go home. It's Saturday morning - or nearly noon. Mr. Nicoloson showed me a cheque from the C.N.R. this morning, but told me just now that it is not going to be distributed. It doesn't make so very much difference, but it would have provided for that $250 insurance. However, I am going to ask for enough of $50 monthly trust funds to pay it, unless I haven't spent what is in the bank on C.P.R. ... I think I had better get it though, for the reports from the Western front seem so good that it will send it up, I'm thinking.

It's a nice bright day. Laura & Elmer are going to "meal" with us, as they are all packed up. Laura has to do the work, so that's easy for me, isn't it?

... to-day the Broads got word that Ted was killed. We do not dare look very far into the future, but I try to trust that all will be well.

Your loving girl.


Fred to Evelyn Bramshott
4th May 1917


My dear wife,-

The vagaries of the mail service are hard to follow. Letters of a later date often arrive ahead of those written first. On my return last evening to camp I found awaiting me your letter of Apr. 9th along with one from Pat. Today brought a short letter from Art and yours of Mar. 25th. Your letters are like oases in a desert.

Yesterday I slept in pretty late - had breakfast about 10 o'clock consisting of porridge without sugar (sugar is no longer allowed with porridge) a roll, butter, haddock, a small sausage, marmalade & coffee. Then I did a bit of running about to get ready for leaving London, had a small lunch of cocoa & 2 poached eggs on toast, and went to the matinee to hear the first performance of the Carl Rosa Opera company, in English, at the Garrick theatre. Yesterday the offering was Tales of Hoffman I went in the "gods" for 1s. 2d. and had a seat from which I could both see and hear very well. There was an all-star cast and as far as I can judge it was excellently played. I enjoyed the music thoroughly, but I had never before heard this opera and was rather disappointed in the plot. I should like to have heard the same company in some of their other operas eg. Faust, Madame Butterfly etc. Oh my darling, some day we must enjoy these things together. Life is not half living apart.

I came out of the theatre about 5 and strolled up to the Circus [Piccadilly] looking in Swan & Edgar's windows to see if there was something I might get for you. While standing there, L/cpl Hutton of 191st from Macleod slapped me on the shoulder and confessed he was bent on a similar mission. I found a collarette - (Is that what you call it?) - that took my fancy and so we went in. Finally we both bought the same kind of thing, and he very kindly helped me pack mine for mailing as he had formerly been a dry good's clerk himself. I do hope it pleases you and that the color will harmonize with your dresses. I was afraid it was too large, but the salesgirl assured me it would not be. I thought the collar and cuffs looked very pretty when displayed on the salesgirl. I sent them by registered mail so they should arrive safely.

I wish you were here dearie, you would let me know what size of glove you take. If I had known I would have bought you a pair or two. Gloves are still cheaper here than in Canada I think.

By the time we had got our parcels off it was 6 o'clock. We hurried into a restaurant, had tea & poached eggs on toast and then had 15 min. to reach Waterloo station in time for the last regular train for Liphook, (the Bramshott camp station) True, there was a special train for the soldiers leaving Waterloo station at 10.30 but that would arrive here at midnight with a 2 mile walk afterwards and I didn't relish the idea.

It was a beautiful evening and I enjoyed the ride (1 1/2 hours) very much. Vegetation had advanced a good deal since we left, and the fields now are quite green. There are very few flowers out yet nor are the leaves out but surely another week or two will bring them.

Arrived at Liphook at 8 - I went into an eating place for soldiers where I got a ham sandwich and 2 glasses of good milk for 8d. It was getting dark when I arrived back at camp. - only to learn that a mobilization order was out and everyone had to draw his Webb equipment - (You know we discard all the leather equipment in England), - and get ready for leave at a moment's notice. This kept us busy until about 11 o'clock. After that I slept the sleep of the just until reveille at 5.00. We had a muster parade at 5.30 and then were told to be ready for a route march with full equipment after breakfast.

... As I still fell a little weak after my grippe, the serj. maj. told me not to go on the route march but to report sick. So I got some tonic pills from the M.O. and stayed in my hut. I slept about 2 hours this morning and 3 this afternoon, & feel much better this evening.

Patterson again reverted to a private in order to go to France ahead of his time - only to be quarantined on the following day for mumps. - He has now been in quarantine for 2 months and he is chafing under it.

I find I can get pictures developed here without danger so will do so at the first opportunity. I have just found the developed film I took in Canada, with a few of the prints I am enclosing them. ... I am also enclosing some little flowers - (are they daisies?) that I picked at Dryburgh Abbey. I hope they don't wither. In their brightness and sweetness they remind me of you. You are in very truth the flower of my life.

Must close now for tonight. Goodnight and pleasant dreams to my sweet love.

 

Sat evening, May 5th.

... We haven't done much today. All who were on the route march yesterday returned tired and hot and dusty. Yesterday was the hottest day of the year unless perhaps today beat it. So they were allowed to sleep in this morning until 6.30! After breakfast we started to polish the brass on our Webb equipment. When I tell you there are 72 pieces of brass in a set you will understand why it took all morning. As a matter of fact my job extended even to the afternoon. But it looks good now. We had only an hour's parade today for the purpose of dividing us into classes for training. One of the orderly room serjeants - who used to be a stenographer at Lougheed & Bennetts - told me I was chosen as one of 6 to go to an N.C.O.'s school at Hertford, but I haven't heard anything official yet.

Last evening I strolled into the Y.M.C.A. tent across the road. Several officer's wives were helping. They take turns in coming, and some of them make very good waiters. The Y is greatly patronized. It puts on a good concert once or twice a week - provides a reading & writing room, - sells eatables etc & conducts services every Sunday evening - and occasionally during the week.

Our church parade is at 8.30 tomorrow morning. I think I'll go on it and to the Y.M.C.A. service at night. I suppose at this hour you are just leaving the office for the day. How I wish I were able to spend the afternoon with you. You were right in saying we'll make better use of our Sat. afternoons when I get back. We'll work less and play more.

Goodnight sweetheart

 

Sun. evening [May 6]

I'm in the "Y" tent now waiting for the evening service. If I were to tell you the truth I would say there was another reason for coming over here early - to get out of the way. Of late there have been small fires raging in the vicinity and yesterday's high wind has evidently made some of them dangerous. North of the camp, dense clouds of smoke have been visible all day. About an hour ago a party of 100 men with 2 or 3 serjeants set out to fight the fire and just before I came over here another party was called for. It was rather amusing to see how scarce everybody tried to make himself. I had no compunctions about skipping out because I expect to have a heavy week and there are plenty of serjeants who haven't done a thing for 2 or 3 weeks.

... We had a short service but the sermon was very good. The hymns were "Onward Christian Soldiers," "Rock of Ages" and "Abide with Me." We have an A1 band and the singing was very good. After church service I spent an hour with Charlie Taylor in his tent. He was greatly cut up at learning of Everett's death and is going to write Mr Fallis of whom he thinks a great deal. I don't know whether to write to him or not. It's so hard to say what one would like to say. ... I wasn't sure until yesterday it was Everett and was hoping against hope it was not. Poor Mrs. Fallis! I don't know that she feels it more keenly than he but somehow she seems less able to bear it. At any rate they both have the supreme consolation of knowing that through all Everett remained pure and true to his manhood and his God - and that's a good deal in the army, especially for a boy as young as he.

When the wind fell a little this afternoon I went with 3 other of the boys for a walk to Haslemere - about 3 mi. away. It would be a lovely walk a little later when the trees and flowers are out. Even today I enjoyed it. Of course the road was fairly active with soldiers. Sunday is their only day off, and they get out of camp as fast as they can. Haslemere is cosily situated in a pretty little valley, with a couple fine country seats just visible through the trees on the hillside. ...

I found out today that Serjts. Armstrong, Choate and myself and 6 corporals - of whom Fred Nease is one, are to take the school at Hertford - reporting there on the 12th - next Friday. I understand the course is 6 weeks. It is an Imperial school so we shall probably have to work pretty hard. Another welcome bit of news today appeared in Battalion orders - that henceforth we may send letters postage free to Canada or the continent. Until now this privilege was extended only to soldiers in France.

I haven't written any letters except to you and one to mother & one to Mother O., but last night I sent off several cards. Oh I changed my mind dearie and sent that little volume of The Lay of the Last Minstrel to Aunt Sarah instead of to you. I remembered how fond she is of everything Scotch, and that you said once you didn't care much for Scott's poetry so I thought you wouldn't mind. I know Aunt Sarah will appreciate it so much.

I wonder what kind of day it has been in Calgary and what you have been doing. It is such a comfort to know that people are good to you. Apparently you think more of the Wrights than you used to - and of Lena also. I am glad of this, for Lena's faults are largely the exaggeration of her virtues. She is really very kind hearted and one of the best intentioned people in the world. Of course the Coutts are tried and proven friends.

I see wheat has been going to dizzy heights lately. ... I also see the C.P.R. stock has been dropping a bit and is now about 167 1/2. I think it would be wise if you have a bit of money to buy some as long as it is in the fifties.

 

Later

There was a really good service - mostly song. Each week the "Y" brings down 3 or 4 artists from London. Tonight there were a cellist and soprano soloist, - both very good. While the soloist was singing I was thinking of you dearie. - Among other numbers she sang A Perfect Day How really perfect the days will be when we are together again. ...

Goodnight my darling.

Fred.

 
Boats and Colds 03/20/2010
 

Evelyn to Fred [Calgary]
Mar. 28, 1917
Dearest One,- I did not write last night but went right to bed. I had a cold, and as soon as I got my work done, I took a hot bath and went to bed. Mrs. Coutts came down and gave me some hot lemonade, and shut up the doors and opened the window. I said it felt like being put in a box. Lena heard I was sick and came over tonight. She took my temperature, (it was normal) and my pulse, which latter, she said, was too fast, showing I had had a temperature. Really dearie, I should like to have her come here, in a way, but I'm afraid it wouldn't work very long, so I think it's better to have her come when she feels like it. She is very good to me. ... Then Mrs. Fallis and Mrs. Jackson called and wanted me to go to dinner tomorrow. But Lena says I had better not go tomorrow, especially as the cold is in my head. Ruby was in too, about six o'clock, on her way down town. So you see, I have not had a lonely time. ... I was busy at the office all day yesterday except for about half an hour, and I'm just not going to go when my eyes bother me. You will probably know before you get this that the 191st is broken up. ... The officers, I understand, are to be given a month's leave of absence. You know what that means. Capt. Bennett was lucky to go as a Captain. This morning's paper says there are to be no more commissions granted in Canada. Don't worry about me. You see, people are so very good, and I never have anything really very much the matter with me. I wonder where you are tonight. My dearest one. I have been thinking about you all day, but not worrying much. You are in God's hands. Did you know that Mrs. Brecken's brother whom they thought dead, is a prisoner-of-war? He says he is recovering, and pays high tribute to the German medical skill. Just the same, I'd feel safer if he were in some other's care. They do such cruel, wicked things. The day seems incomplete without a little talk with you my chum. Maybe there'll be a letter tomorrow. I was somewhat disappointed when I opened that thick letter yesterday - only to find some of my own letters. I really don't think they're worth much, not to me at any rate, but I'll keep them till you come back. And may that be soon. Your loving one.

Fred to Evelyn
On board S.S. Saxonia.
Tues. evening, Mar 27/17


My dear wife,-

Three letters from you today surely deserves a letter tonight whether or not it goes before we arrive on the other side of the Atlantic. I don't know how you could have written more helpfully or lovingly than in those three ... What wonderful current of power and love finds its terminal in you and me! If my letters express but an infinitesimal fraction of how I feel toward you, you must know that you are my lodestar - and yet wholly a woman "not too bright or good for human nature's daily food." I wonder if many husbands and wives are so completely one as we are. I don't believe there are.

I have had a very busy day. We didn't get aboard last night until about 11 o'clock, although we loaded up our packs and all kit at about 7.30. Then we marched out of the train and then had a long wait in the darkness on the tracks. Then we marched to the docks - about 1/4 mile, - Another long wait & finally on board.

We have excellent accommodation - we are on the saloon deck near the centre of the boat. The serjeants have the second class dining saloon and the grub is very good. Breakfast porridge, without milk, bread & butter, steak or fish & coffee & jam Dinner soup, bread (no butter), choice of meat or fish & potatoes. Supper - tea or coffee, bread & butter, choice of meat - chops etc. & fish, potatoes, jam & marmalade. The meals are well prepared & served.

To resume, there are 4 berths in our cabin. My roomates are all 191 serjts, . ... The other 191st serjts. are in the adjoining cabins. The ship was loading troops nearly all night so we were late getting around this morning - got up about 8. After breakfast went on deck & got several snaps. They should turn out fairly well for it was a beautifully clear morning although in the afternoon a dense fog arose and still continues this evening. About 7 o'clock this morning the ship pulled away from the dock and anchored in the harbor just inside the submarine net, where we have been all day. Don't know of course when we shall sail.

Very soon after breakfast I learned that no arrangements had been made for the men's meals. And that for breakfast they had to forage for themselves as best they could, getting a hand out of tea & bread so we got busy. You may imagine it was quite a task to arrange for meals for about 2,200 men in a dining saloon that would seat only 850. Mess orderlies had to be appointed (there are no regular stewards) and sittings arranged for and at noon the confusion was terrible. There are a great number of small units on board and in some cases the officers didn't appear to be looking after them at all - and these kept "butting in." Finally we got our men fed by about 1.45 and then we had our dinner. Tonight it was better but still a great deal of work. We hope it will be better tomorrow, as all the officers are meeting tonight and organizing mess arrangements etc. for the whole trip.

 

Wed. morning.

Was interrupted last night I had running around of one sort or another until nearly midnight. Up at 5.30 this morning & have been very busy all morning. Just received the mail, 3 parcels - and your letter. Haven't opened your parcel yet as I'm in a hurry to get this off on the mail. Don't worry dearie about the rent. I wouldn't move if I were you, though Dr Patrick should lower the rent $35 right away.

It has been foggy & raining all morning, think we'll pull out today, but of course I don't know.

Your Fred.
 
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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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