In today’s world of emails, texting and twittering, it’s easy to forget that not so long ago communication over long distances wasn’t instantaneous. Letter writing and telegrams were the most common way to contact home during the First World War. It took weeks, sometimes months for letters to find their way to a soldier or to make it home to Canada. Often a soldier would receive no mail for weeks and then a stack of letters from the past month would arrive all at once. This was partially due to the long distances these letters traveled, but also had to do with the complex bureaucracy of the Army. The letters had to make their way through multiple camps before they made it to where a soldier was stationed at. Letters going home also had to go through a screening process so that confidential information concerning army placement or attacks was not revealed. What a letter contained often had to do with the personality of the person who wrote it, but there are some universal qualities of letters written to and from Canadian soldiers in the Great War. Often the letters were written in a more formal style than communication today. This combined with the poetry of language that often comes from placing pen to paper resulted in longer and more descriptive communication than we see today. Here is an example of a letter sent from Evelyn Albright in Calgary to her husband Fred Albright who was at the time training and about to be shipped across the Atlantic. Evelyn to Fred [Calgary]
Mar 20, 1917 Dearest darling:- There was no letter this morning, but it was here to welcome me home tonight. You don't know how like a really truly live welcome it was, dearest. I'm so sorry I do not know where to send your letters, for I know how much it means to get them regularly. However, I'll go on writing and sending them to Halifax in the hope that they'll reach you. ... let me promise you and myself this, that this summer is not going to pass by without some attempt being made by me to put on paper some of the ideas that keep running through my head. You may yet be proud of your wife, lover. Eldridge once told me that some day I would be famous. I haven't seen anything to prove him a real prophet, but we shall see what we shall see. Miss Cummer, Miss Scott and I went looking at suits and hats tonight. I am going to get a suit made, I think, and I'll have to have a hat. I hope you don't think me extravagant. I know you don't. But I hope you don't think I think too much about clothes in these times. No, I know you don't think that either. I do have to have something to wear. ... I am going to Mrs. Morton's for supper tomorrow night - a full day - a lecture in the morning and one at night. Our lectures, on the whole, have been pretty poor this year. ... Must close now, darling. I am not worrying about you much, but from that you will not deduce that I'm not thinking about you. I'm thinking about the time when my best beloved will be home again, with his loving wife. Evelyn writes not only of her love of his letters and how she thinks of him often, she writes about her daily life, which went on, even as her husband was being sent to war. Being told about life at home reminded soldiers of something beyond the trenches and was received as comfort. Much of Mary’s Wedding is told through the letters from Charlie to Mary and this epistolary structure is reminiscent of how Mary would have received news from the front. Letter writing may be a declining art, but this play emphasizes the power of letters and their ability to communicate the feelings of a person’s innermost heart.
Letters from William Lester Broome – Lord Strathcona’s Horse Regiment
[beginning of letter is missing]
Canadian light horse are first back. In the Straths again. I don't know wether the McQ[?] boys were transferred or not I must go over and see some night soon. The Germans haven't been bombing us latly. I don't know whats happened I guess our air fleet is getting to strong for them I have run across a couple of fellows here that knows the Vances and a few others around Bethune. They wont let any more men in the Flying Core unless they have been out to France I was going to transfer but I was to late [the remainder of the page is missing 1/3 of the page] in the mounted brigade [?] gun section the other day If I have been shoved over here I would have had [?] there. Its at Brighton. It's a three month [?] I don't know what to do about the [?] for Hilda. I'll have it to you but you [?] If you see what [?] does about [?] he pays that. It will likly be to there [?] what they do with it. Well I guess I [?] to stop this scribbling for this time. [?] this will fined youse all well as it [?] In god health so write often as you [?] love to all
Yours Truly for you [?]
William Lester Broome.
#2293368 Pte L Broome
Lord, Strathcona's Horse,
Shornecliffe Kent Eng
[?] 4th 1917
Dear Mother -
Just a few lines to let you know I am well the weather Is fine here again I have two more days to put In at the ranges I don't leave the barracks until eleven oclock so I though I would try and write I am going out to a party In Folkstone tonight I was there before about amonth ago and had a big feed I am doing pretty good shooting this time they might pick me for a snipper yesterday I fired fifteen shoots at two hundred yards and put twelve of them In the bull's eye and I only had one minute toget them of so If It had of been a germans head he would of got a few holes In It and he wouldent of had much time to think about It Well mother I got your box and It was fine I wrote to dad last saterday I suppose they are starting to thrash out there now has the conscription called on any of them slakkers at Bethune such as Jim Martin there Is more men over here from France or leave them there Is training In England I wish I could get another pass up to London but Its pretty hard to get a pass here when this war Is over I would like to get three months over here before going back to Canada you ask me In your last letter to send you some souvenirs of England I haven't got any to send In this letter but I will get some before writing again they may write and ask you If your Hildas gardian If I can't get It all I think I can get thirty five dollars any way well mother I guess Ill have to get ready for that five mile march so Write soon hoping this will fined you all well
I remain your loving son
W L Broome
Lord Strathconas Horse
Shorncliffe Kent England
August 5th 1917
Dear Brother -
I received your card a short time ago and was glad to hear from you This leaves me quite well hoping you are the same I answered mothers letter a few days ago but didn't get dads yet I told mother In her letter that I was sending her a couple of snap-shots but I for got to put them In so I will send them to you and you can give them to her It was raining last Tuesday when I wrote last and It never stop't till Saterday first long rain We've had all sumer the crops are looking pretty poor there all laying down from the rain I had a Shake hands with Breeze that youst to work In Bethune Bank last night down In Folkstone he Is a Corp'rl now hes station Just a mile or so from here I expect to go to France before long I hope so any way for I am sick of this burg all the returned Strathes say they would sooner be In France then here the way I look at It the sooner I get there the sooner Ill get out of this bloody army I did'nt get this letter finished yesterday so will try and get It a way tonight I am riding every day now I'll be able to ride anything after I get out of this outfit you should see what we have to go over as many as six jumps all In a line all the way from three to five feet. I was on stable pickeot last night the nights are pretty cool here for to have to sleep out side I was talking to the McAree boys tonight there both looking well. Well Lornie you're a lucky boy I wish I was working on a farm back at dear old Bethune well as there's not much news to tell and It getting dark I geuss I will close for this time so good bye write as often as you can to
Your loving brother
# 229368 Pte. L. Broome
Lord, Strathcona's Horse,
Sept 4th 1917
Dear Mother: -
Just a few lines to let you know I am well the weather Is fine here again I have two more days to put In at the ranges I don't have the barracks until eleven oclock so I thought I would try and write I am going out to a party In Folkstone tonight I was there before about a month ago and had a big feed I am doing pretty good shooting this time they may pick me for a sniper yesterday I fired sixteen shots at two hundred yards and put twelve of them in the bulls eye and I only had one minute to get them of so If It had of been a germans head he would have got a few holes In It and he wouldn't of had much time to think about It Well mother I got your box and It was fine I wrote to Dad last Saterday I suppose they are starting to thrash out there now Has the conscription called on any of them slakkers at Bethune such as Jim Martin There is more men over here from France on leave then there Is training in England I wish I could get another pass up to London but Its pritty hard to get a pass here when this was Is over I would like to get three months over here before going back to Canada you ask me In your last letter to send you some souvenirs of England I haven't got any to send In this letter but I will get some before writing again. they may write and ask you If your Hilda's guardian If I cant get it at all I thin I can get thirty five dollars any way well Mother I guess I'll have to get ready for that five mile march so Write soon hoping this will fined you all well
I remain your loving son
W. L. Broome
Some where In France
Dear Father -
I received your welcome letter yester-day and was glad to hear that your all well as this leaves me [?] very best It did not [?] my last letter long to reach you Just about twenty one days Its seems to take longer for the mail to come this way Yes mother mentioned In her letter about you having rheumatism In your shoulder I have been having light touches of It myself for a while this Spring but nothing to speak of I was Inoculated the other day again the first one Ive had since I left the peg I was dodging them but I though I wa better with It as It keeps away all sickness now Lornies letter did'nt go estray I received It a [?] or so ago I Answered It [?] It was a nice raise [?] wadges You got but as you say It don't compare with the cost of living If they had of got that three or four years ago It would have been more like It I believe the farm Is the only place now and for a long time after this war Is over to What was the trouble with Emerson I shouldend of thought he would be turned down I should say your place Is at homedon't you ever think of leaving I know you would like to come alright but Its not possible I Guess ther'll be quiet a few like Sid I don't believe I could be contented myself now but I emag[?] that civilian clothes wo[?] look good to me now for a change I am beginning to think that I would have been further ahead if I had of stuck to the three years that I Joined up with at first with the Strathcona's the way thing are looking now. Yes I had an Idea that It was May Bell that Jim married but I was'nt sure Yes you bet the Scotch are allright I think If I get another leave I will go and see Scottland That fast time will be alright at night but oh you morning Farrell's boy must of start[?] to grow at last he was [?] the same size the last time I saw him as the first Duncan was after Fergison to buy the home stead when I was there a half Is enough for him anyhow has Jim got any more then the quarter yet I forgot to mention the weather Its simply grand the nicest Winter and spring that the boys has had In France Well I guess this Is all for this time write soon soon to your loving son
June 28th 1918
Dear Mother -
Just a few lines In Answere to your welcome letter I received yester-day glad to hear that you are all well as I am quiet well myself at present I heard that you were having a very cold spring It genearly Is back ward when the snow goes early It Is fine here It Isnt as hot as you have It In Sask but the days are clear a warm and cool evenings every day the same for about two months now the Cherrys are getting ripe now. In the gardens some of witch the people have left close to the line so you may be sure we have a feed I did write to Lornie some time ago Who Is that old Mr Reid that died was It that Nurse Reids father that bought Chester Gilliuses house. I did'nt think that Fitzpatrick was that kind of a man neither but Its quiet commen Now adays may be he drowned him self If not he may turn up yet. Yes I don't like the Idea of Jacks having Hildia either but you know what she Is I thought It was the quickest way to settle It for I did'nt wont to hear no more about It I had another letter from her a week ago She sent me a picture of Hildia She Is looking fine and growing well It sure made me lonesome for I would Just love to see her once again that Is just the time I like kiddies best when they are learning to talk and walk but we can only live In hopes of seeing her some time It may be another three years but we'll have to cheer up and wait She says She did'nt get nothing from Bob Jack for the horse I did nt figure she would for his no good for anything She says she has put two hundred In the bank for me that's all right If she leaves It thers but I don't figure on It being very safe there Its to easy got out but cant help It anyhow I guess. She has got the remainder from October to present for I got my book balanced and Defered pay was nil I have about fifty dollars balance avallable to draw up to present when I get leave off I ever do I don't think I will go to England for leave when I do I'll stay on this side of the Canal till the war Is over the
July 26th 1918
Dear Mother -
I hav'nt had a letter from you for some time so I though I would drop you a few lines to let you know I am getting along alright I had a pretty bat cold from sleeping In a damp dug-out but I am over It now I suppose you are having fine weather over there Will soon be at the harvest We are having little rain storms every day but Just enough to freshen the Air How Is Dad getting on he has'nt Wrote me for some time tell him to write often as I can write better when I get a letter then when I don't although I don t make much of It at any time but I d
Dear Mother -
Just a few lines to let you know I am well hoping this will find you're all the Same I received your letter some time ago I haven't wrote much lately but I will try and get started again I suppose the thrashing will soon be over now what kind of a crop did Jim have this year and Ducan I supposed he's pileing up the money the old tight wad It's a wonder he don't get [?] Turtles are doing [?] pretty near time [?] Bob was Cutting That out don't you think So. That's were Harry Is hanging out I thought there was some thing In Moose-Jaw that was drawing his attention Well Mother I'll tell you one thing Its not a very health experience out here but I could tell you lots If I was back home lets hope It wont be long fore I have had all the experience I want for the rest of My life I will send you some more pictures when I get my leave and also some pos[?] they sure have lots [?] post-Card In Engl[?] would like to be back there now and have a ride on dads Car I Geuss It does make a big difference to the days work alright. Has Lawrence Mead got back Yet he was luky he did'nt have to come all the way for Its no Bon out here the only time I ever liked the army was when I was on leave and you don't get much of that out here. Does Sid Jennings be around Bethune much and how does he like the Flying-Core Is Nelly Richardson still with you Say Who Is Lornie his girl Well Mother I wish I did have the phonograph here It would be alright here I am writting this letter down In a German tunnel Its about sixty feet below ground and Its all boarded up In little rooms with big looken glasses on the walls table and chairs Why Its Just like a palace Well I geuss I better close for this time If leave opens up goo I May get mine before a great time say would you mind sending Fifty dollars to Loyds Bank London as soon as possible so I will have It when I get over there I would sooner get
[end of letter is missing]
Dear Mother -
Its so long since I last wrote to you I don't hardly know how to start this one but there's no use making excuses now We did'nt go to Germany as I though we would when I last wrote the third division Just went as far as Bruxells We spent xmas In a small town about eight miles from Bruxells We had a very good xmas to the best I've ever had In the army Right after xmas we started to march back I have been working In the [?] stores since the armitic was signed so did'nt do any of the marching We came back near Lille were we stayed For a month I went on leave from there to paris for fourteen days I had a very good time and saw many things worth seeing paris Is a very nice city much niced then London I Just came back to the Batt for two
[end of letter is missing]
Letters to and from John (Jack) Davey
Bamfield Creek BC
Aug 16th 1914
My Dearest Kate
Just a few lines in answer to your most welcome letter. I was glad to hear that you had a good time at the picnic but sorry to hear that you had such a nasty tumble & hope you are not feeling any the worse for it. It seems funny that when you go away anywhere that something is always bound to happen It’s not my fault this time anyhow but I guess I have to take the blame of all the rest (I should bibble[?]) You must please excuse writing as my writing table is a cardboard box on my knees in the guard tent this is my turn on guard so I am taking the opportunity of writing to you while I am quiet. Its no use trying to write in the room where all the fellows are as some are boxing some punching ball some skipping & the rest playing cards so its almost impossible to write letters there. I have managed to swipe a pen & ink to write this with while the owner was not looking I guess Jim is feeling pretty happy away from [?]cia (I dont think) If he is feeling like I am a couple of hours on a nice quiet beach or an Island (when the tide is not coming in) would do him a lot of good, but I guess we have to grin and bear it for a while but making up for lost time will be great what say you? I hope you are not mad at me for joining this crowd I had no idea of joining when I left you on the Tuesday night or at least not so soon, but when I got in town I went around to see the bulletins the crowd were so excited & the notice was in the window saying the 88th wanted recruits so I went down & enlisted. I saw Jack Hibberd at headquarters & he got me in his company & we had orders to parade the next day at eleven oclock but we didn’t leave town till nearly two we were kept busy all the morning getting our equipment strapped up In fact I hadn’t time to go home to dinner or else I should have looked in to see you before I left sorry to hear you felt so miserable on the Thursday night but cheer up dear I will be back again some day Sorry to hear you are getting so rushed about at the store. I guess the war makes quite a difference to you there with the crowds around reading the bulletins but I suppose the bands cheer you up some. The band that took us to Esquimalt played the Girl I left behind me. I guess there are lots of them these days. This bunch here must have left quite a lot behind as they are always receiving letters & sending them some of them get two or three letters twice a week. In cases like that it should be the Girls I left behind I should like to be in Victoria for the next Picnic at Deep Cove as I have never been there & I believe it is a lovely place but never mind Dear we’ll have a picnic on our own when I do get back again I hope those pictures Frank took of you come out alright as I should like to have one of you by yourself in a group I think I have all I need for the present in my kit bag. Thanks very much for offering to send me anything I require I may be wanting something after a while but we can get almost anything we want at the store up here Yes they are looking after us pretty good considering but a nice mattress would be a luxury now after sleeping on a board floor for nearly two weeks still manage to sleep pretty good Tonight we have Salmon steaks for supper quite a treat after Bully Beef & Beans. The cook has made one batch of real good bread but the one we are eating now is awful He say’s we eat too much when he makes it good & there’s a lot in that too There is a rumour going around here now that some of us are to be sent to Fanning Island that is a cable station in the Pacific about 3,000 miles out & the latest is that all those who volunteered for Foreign Service are going back to Victoria so if that’s right it wont be long before I see you but we can never depend on yarns we hear up here. We have been clearing land here lately & putting a barb wire fence all around the place & a lookout tower for the sentry We only work 4 hrs a day on that work so it’s not too bad & we are all trying to beat the next one at hiding out of sight & pretend to be doing something when the officer comes around Well Dear I dont think I have any more to say just now so will close with heaps of love & kisses for yourself & kind regards to all Friends hoping to see you soon XXXXX
Pleased to say I have got rid of that cough
Since writing this we have had pretty reliable news that those who volunteered for foreign service are to return to Victoria ready to be shipped to Quebec for training. Expect to leave here about Tuesday if report is correct Jack
Aug 30th 1914
My Dearest Kate
I am writing a few lines as we are crossing the prairies. I tried to write wile we were in the Rockies but the [?] made it so dark that I gave it up. Please excuse pencil & writing as its rather shaky in the train I tried to write with ink but couldnt make it. We arrived a Calgary about 2 oclock this morning I got up & went out but didn’t see anything of Jim I should have wired him & told him I was on my but it is such a crush every time we stop & the train only stops to take on coal & water. We are having great receptions all along the line at Mission Junction they had lots of fruit & magazines for us & we brought a lot from Victoria that the Daughters of Empire gave us We are having good food on the train The CPR are feeding us & they have supplied us with straw mattresses & pillows which is quite a luxury. Yesterday we got out & had about 15 minutes exercise and lots of the boys had a swim about 7 oclock in Shuswap Lake. One of them was nearly drowned there he went down twice before he was noticed luckily he was pulled out alright. They say that one of the Highlanders jumped off the train soon after we left Vancouver & broke his next I dont know if it was as bad as that because the train didnt stop but I think one of them did jump off I guess he had cold feet We are having great weather for travelling I hope it will keep fine until we are properly settled in camp. They say that an epidemic has broken out there & the camp is quarantined If that is correct I dont suppose we shall be sent there & its probable we shall be sent right to England to join the regts we are not sure about that yet If we do go right to Eng I will wire & let you know so as you wont be waiting a week or ten days for a letter & then be disappointed Well Dear what did you do with yourself today Did you to Deep Cove or Wilkerson Road I hope you enjoyed yourself but I expect you felt a little blue never mind dear cheer up I’ll be back some day & when I do come back I’ll never leave you again like this. I was afraid I was not going to see you in the crowd at the wharf I had my eyes skinned all the way along from Govt St trying to pick you out in the crowd & when I heard you call my name it was such a relief as I was afraid you were away back in the crowd & couldnt get through I think tats the biggest crowd I ever saw in Victoria the wharf was swarming with people & along the Dallas Road people were out to give us a shout as we passed. I met Jim the night before I came away got on the same car so it wasn’t him that went with the 5th You know that horseshoe Andy gave me I think I must have lost it on the sand coming across from our Island you remember hearing something drop I think it must be that as I missed it early next morning. I guess the tide has washed it away by now but if you do happen to find it will you send it on to me when you know where I am Well Darling I think I will close now with tons of love & kisses XXXXXX
Ever yours Jack
P.S. Remember me to Alice & Billy Mrs Skelton & family Sorry I could not see them before I left
Dec 8th 1914
16880 F Coy
1st BC Rept
Can Exped Force
Lark Hill Camp
My Dearest Kate
Please excuse pencil but the fountain pen is gone wrong again as you will see by the above. I am pleased to say I am feeling a little better tonight a little but my head ached pretty bad while I was on parade. It seems as though the cold air effects it because after I have been in the warm a little it passes off. I was had up before OC today for overstaying my leave but was admonished & had to forfeit the pay for 4 days that I overstayed. I am going to try and get that altered as I had a doctors certificate sent to the Commanding Officer but he is away on leave & I guess he has but the letter away & of course the Major only had my word for it but I think I ca fix it alright when the Colonel comes back There is no crime recorded against me but I dont like losing the money when I have done nothing wrong Well Dear we are fairly comfortable here now although the boards are pretty hard yet but I guess we shall get used to it in time anyhow we are much warmer here & have a chance of drying our clothes when we get wet I was glad to hear you had a good time at the Whist Drive & dance but sorry you couldn’t sleep after I guess you were tired on the Friday but I hope you have got over that long before now It was too bad that you weren’t even able to win the booby prize but thats you usual luck at the whist drives No Dear I didn’t go to London for the opening of Parliament as there was only one man from each company sent & they were all Canadian born It was a [?] sent from our company. Sorry to hear Billy has had his wages cut down but thats better than being out of work altogether. Business must be pretty bad in Victoria alright I had a letter from Mr Ault he said the firm he works for are going to close down altogether this winter He has worked for them quite a while & kept on wen all the others were laid off so I suppose he will be idle now I hear that the Dominion Trust Co are gone under Mr Ault said he had just $35 in it Thats the Company Audy used to do his business with I hope he was lucky enough to get his all out before the smash came I am not quite sure Dear if I sent any more letters to the Gen Delivery before leaving Canada after that one with the badge in That couldnt have been very long before we left but I know I wrote again before leaving but couldn’t be sure how many times. I think the reason you didn’t get my reply saying I received the horseshoe was because it wasn’t delivered until I had been in Camp for a few days & then I got the letters that were sent first, last I hope you have been getting yours more regular now. Yes Dear we enjoyed our band concert fine lots of the other tents had a band going the next night I am sorry to hear you have had such rough weather in Victoria They had some very rough weather in Camp while I was away Lots of the tents blew down & the rain was so heavy that it drove right through the tents that were standing so they weren’t much better off. I couldn’t go hunting on the Wednesday at home as it came on too wet. They didn’t have a very long run They killed at New Bridge a little farther down the river about [?] oclock The meet was at 10 am & they had to turn the stag out after that so it wasn’t a very long run for it I think you have a view of New Bridge with that bunch I sent you I hope you got them alright at the Gen Delivery Yes Dear I have kept fine & warm up to now although they told me Sunday night was very cold in the huts IT was a very sharp frost that night & the floor of the huts are about 2 feet from the ground & its hollow underneath so the wind blows in under & keeps it cold as we have to sleep right on the floor & that night they hadn’t got enough coal to keep the fire going. Yesterday we swiped about three cut[?] of coke & coal so we have a good supply for a few days. The huts are built of corrugated iron & lined with building paper one stove in the centre & 40 men in each hut. We have a lot more room for our stuff here than in the tents as we have shelves all around & nails to hang our stuff on & there’s no fear of it getting wet now & we are much nearer the station now They tell me its only half an hours walk to the station from here. We are about 15 minutes walk from Stonehenge. I saw it today whilst on parade. Of course its nothing to see I can’t see what people pay a shilling to go in around there when they can see just as much outside. I saw it last time I camped on the plain 4 years ago Well Darling I think this is about all I have to say now so will close with heaps of love & tons of kisses
Your Every Loving
Please remember me to Bee & Will Necia & Jim Alice & Billy Mrs Skelton & all the family I hope Leo is able to hold his job down during these hard times Is he still doing hard training in the House Guard
16880 F Coy
1st B.C. Regt
Can Exped Force
Lark Hill Camp
Dec 17th 1914
My Dearest Kate
Many thanks for papers which I received today I was beginning to think you were sick as I hadn’t had any news of you for ages (it seems) I am hoping to get a letter from you in a day or so now I am pleased to say I am feeling fine again now Have been vaccinated this afternoon (couldn’t dodge it this time) so I am again expecting a pretty sore arm again in a few days I am going home again on the 23rd for six days leave so I shall have a turkey dinner after all for Christmas. I am going to spend a couple of days at New Barnet with my Aunt to finish up my leave as this is the last chance we have of seeing our friends before we leave for the front We expect to leave England about the middle of January but there is nothing official given out to us except that this is to be our last leave I hope this naval engagement at Scarborough wont stop us from going home at Christmas I see that one of our boys has written to his people in Victoria that we are being sent out in sections & that eight sections are already at the front I am afraid somebody must have been peddling “hot air” to him & he was soft enough to believe it I don’t think there is a single man of the Contingent left England yet. They say the regts going out there for the first few weeks get the pleasant job of burying the dead & burning dead horses to harden them up before going to the firing line. That’s what the Territorials have had to do out there I believe. If we get that I guess we shall see some pretty bad sights. Harry is somewhere in Hampshire with the National Reserve He was moved from Barnstaple about 10 days ago Did you get the views I sent you from home the last time I was down. I sent them to the Gen Delivery. We are not doing much training now mostly fatigues such as building railroad or rather doing the grading work I haven’t had anything to do today as I was on guard yesterday for 4 hours so couldn’t get much sleep that’s the reason we get the next day off duty to rest up We have had three fine day’s on a stretch now which is what we haven’t had now for a long time but I think it will rain again before long. I walked over to Stonehenge last Sunday then to Awesbury & back got back just in time as the rain simply pelted down just as we got in Stonehenge is about 15 minutes walk from here we can look out of the window in the hut & see it but its not much to see in it just a lot of big stones piled up on end & so on but I suppose it’s the history of it that attracts the crowds They charge a shilling to go inside the enclosure but you can see just as much from the outside the only difference is that a guide takes you around & explains the history to you Well dear by the time you get this I suppose we shall soon be moving from here & then I don’t suppose I shall have so many opportunities of writing you but I will do so where possible. I don’t suppose I shall be able to give you any news about what we are doing as all the letters are censored& even postcards & the post office stamps don’t give any information as to the exact place where it was sent from all that the people know here about their friends is that they are on the continent somewhere but information as regards their movements is marked out by the censors or anything they think they will cross off I think they use their pencil pretty free too. I am going to get you a wrist watch as much like the one Bee has (that is if I can) when I go on leave will send it by registered mail so you ought to get it alright I couldn’t see any I liked when I was home last time or I should have got it then. I have heard you say you would like one like it & I hope you will like the one I am going to s end you Let me know dear when you write again when your birthday is I forgot to put the date down before leaving Victoria & now I have completely forgotten it I should like to send you a card but I don’t suppose I shall be able to get any out there (that’s if we are there) but I can write you a letter anyhow & if I know the date I can send it so as you will get it somewhere near the day anyhow I guess you had better mark my letters “Please Forward” again although this address ought to find me anywhere Its long enough anyhow (must suspend operations for supper now) After Supper Am feeling a little better now but couldn’t enjoy dessert as the jam had a very strong taste of gasoline with it we opened three tins & they were all the same that means a kick to the officer in the morning Well Darling I think this is all I have to say this time Hope this will find you all well Please remember me to everybody Heaps of love & tons of kisses XXXXXXXXXX
Your Ever Loving
Has Jim left Victoria yet?
Boxing Day 1914
Kitty received letter & card & wishes me to thank you for it she will write to you soon
Bye bye Jack XXXXXX
My Dearest Kate,
In answer to your most welcome letter of the 3rd Dec which I received last Tuesday before leaving camp. I received a letter from Bee & Will also Necia & Jim all on the same day so I had all kinds of Canadian mail for Christmas I left camp Wed at noon arrived home at 11 p.m. Had to hire a bike at Liverton to come out here that night as there were no trains at that time of night I hadn’t received the parcels up to the time of leaving camp but I expect to get them when I get back. Thank Bee & Will for sending them & tell them I will answer their letters in a few days. I have got you a bracelet watch which I hope you will like I am sending it on by this mail to Clay’s & hope you will get it safe. Christmas has been a very quiet one at home. Harry was not able to come home & Edie is gone to her people’s home at Liverton to spend Christmas. I am going to my Aunts at New Barnet today to spend the rest of my holiday. I have to be in camp Tuesday morning at seven. I hope dear you had a good time this Christmas Did you go out anywhere for the day? Do you remember coming home from Billies last year when you fell in the ditch I hope nothing like that has happened to you this year Have you played ‘Brother Jim bobbed’ this year We have had some good frosty weather for a couple of days but the weather has changed again today & its raining in torrents I see by the papers today that a German Taube[?] has dropped a bomb at Dover but no lives were lost & very little damage was done. The bomb was evidently meant for Dover Castle but missed its mark by about 400 yards & dropped in a garden. Some of their aircraft was seen over Sheerness also & one of our airmen chased it & fired on it but it escaped in the fog so you see we get a little excitement at times in England. If it wasn’t for things like that & seeing so many soldiers about one would hardly think that this country was in the biggest war ever known in history. The motto is “Business as usual” & they certainly are sticking up to it. I was glad to hear dear that I had made a mistake about your working half time as I know it would have made an awful difference cutting the wages down too. Yes Dear I think it would be fine to run up against you over here all unexpectedly but I guess there’ll be no such luck for me. I am afraid dear if I were to draw old Swills mug & he was to see it that it would mean hospital for me so I wont attempt it this time. I think if you look at that picture of the bunch taken outside our tent when we were having lunch you will find him laying on the bed in the back row I cant explain his looks to you but probably Miss Swers[?] will recognize him from that. I should like to see you taking your singing lessons I should like the job of holding the mirror for you I guess you did feel a bit soft doing that at first but I suppose you have got over that by now Now Dearest I think this is all I can say now as I have to pack up for London Town Am going to a show on Monday night. Monday afternoon I am going to have tea at Buckingham Palace (special invitation from the King) Uncle is on duty this Christmas so I shall have to go there to see him Wish you were coming along with me Well Goodbye dear for the present tons of love & kisses From your Ever Loving Jack XXXXXXXX
The vaccination has not taken on me at all this time
Sunday Jan 10th 1915
16880 F Coy
1st BC Regt
Can Exped Force
(Mud) Lark Hill Camp
My Dearest Kate,
I was more than delighted to get your letter yesterday to say that you had received my letters & postcards. I was sorry to hear that you had been suffering with neuralgia so bad, but I hope that its better by now & that you are feeling alright again. I am suffering from the same complaint myself I guess I shall have to go to the dentist again I got the picture from home today & am sending it on to you by this mail, also the maple sugar I have managed at last to get a fairly decent piece of paper to wrap it with. I think the picture is pretty good for a copy but think it would look better on a darker mount. I hope you will get it alright & that you will like it. If you don’t want to keep the both pictures you can give one of them to Bee or Alice I believe you told me that you gave Necia one of the others. Glad to hear that you liked the views of Bampton. Yes: dear I hope to be able to take you around some of those places some day. I was sorry that I couldn’t let you know that I was sick but none of the boy’s in the tent knew which hospital I was in so they couldn’t come and see me or else I may have asked one of them to write to you. However if I am taken sick again & have to go to hospital I will get someone to write to you if I am unable to write myself My people didn’t know that I had been sick until I got home. I sent them a wire that I was coming & they thought I was just down for a few hours before leaving England. I wish you could have been here to nurse me too dear. I am sure you would have nursed me better than anyone else & you would have recommended me for a long rest I really ought to have had another couple of weeks rest & should have if I had received the Colonels letter in time but as I hadn’t heard from him I though I had better return (even if I had to go sick the next day) to save getting into trouble, but had I known that letter was coming I would have stayed. No dear I didn’t have to walk from Devizes[?]. I left home by an earlier train & was able to go right through to Lavington & four of us hired a car to take us to West Down & when I got there of course the Regt was over here so I had to hustle around for a tent to sleep in that night & came on here next morning but I wasn’t fit for the walk (about six miles) I had to sit down on my kit & rest about a dozen times on the road & it was cold too. We had a very charp frost that night & my head was very bad I hardly knew what I was doing you can bet I was glad when I found the camp so that I could get in bed. I had a bad headache for a few day’s after but I am pleased to say it has left me now. It used to come on as soon as I got outside in the cold air & would pass off again after being in the hut a while I had never had headache before in my life & I certainly don’t want it again like that Yes: Dear I was glad that I had a home over here I wouldn’t care to stay in that hospital for long I was really more comfortable in my own tent but of course we have to obey orders in the army or you are put under arrest for insubordination & they don’t make the hospitals too comfortable here or some men would want to be there all the time I was sorry to hear dear that you had such a hard day the day before writing your last letter. I hope you weren’t overworked at Christmas so as to make yourself ill. I was thinking about you at Christmas time & wondering how late they were keeping you at work & wished I could have been there to see you home. I would much rather have spent Christmas with you than here in England. Of course its nice to be here & able to see my relations, but Victoria is home to me now, I don’t think I shall ever want to come to England again once I get in Victoria. The five months I have been away from there seems much longer than the three & half years I was away from England & it seems a much longer distance from this side too. I hear that any man wishing to get an honorable discharge from the contingent can get it & have his transportation paid back to Canada. I would apply for mine at once only they will say I have cold feet. I don’t think you would like to hear that said about me would you? A rumour came in here saying that we were going to be disbanded & sent back I dont believe that but that about the discharges is correct as its out in orders. I think there is something funny going on around here. We had a church parade this morning & the parson was preaching to us about adverse criticism & telling not to criticize our superior officers & those at the head at the War Office & so on. I though he was trying to quieten the fellows down a bit as a lot of them were sore when they read in the papers that Kitchener said that the Canadians weren’t fit for foreign service & that they weren’t included in the first six armies that were to be sent to the front immediatly. You should have heard them calling Kitchener down this afternoon when the rumour came from the Sergts Mess that we were going to be disbanded especially after the sermon we had preached to us this morning. I was trying to write home at this time but had to give it up as the noise was something awful. I dont know what’s in the wind at present but shouldn’t be surprised if we are split up & formed in fresh brigades with regular battalions or something like that In fact we are about ready to receive anything just now but I dont think we shall be in France for some time yet. I think Edith must be pretty fond of rum to put so much in the sauce for the Christmas pudding. I should like to have had some of it as the last lot I had there was so good Please remember me to them all when you see them Glad to hear you had been having such fine weather in Victoria. I wish we could get some here, we get nothing but rain & wind with an occasional fine day in between. How would you like a job washing dishes & cleaning the hut with me tomorrow dear? I always’s think of the time when we used to do it together at Pau’s[?] when I have the job of mess orderly here but it seems ages ago to me, and how we used to go out on the beach at Spoon Bay or on our Island. I think somebody must have been on that beach before us or else they must have known that we were going there to give it a name like that anyhow it certainly earned its name. Have you been to Ross Bay lately to see if our log is still there? Those pictures of the flood didn’t come out in the papers but I believe there are some picture postcards of the bunch of us at Awesbury[?]. If I can get down there this week I will get some to send on to you. One of our fellows saw some there on Friday & he said they were very good of all of us. You will see by them that I have removed the eyebrow from my upper lip. I took it off New Years Eve so as to start the New Year with a clean face. I was tired of the thing. In fact I never did like them but I thought I would let it grow for a while. Did you get the papers I sent you the other day. I tried to get a “Daily Mirror” for you that day but there was none came around. I was going to Micheldever today to see Harry but found that I couldn’t make the round trip in one day so had to put it off. I had quite a nice letter from the secretary of my lodge the other day. He told me Audy Chater was elected president for this year I guess I should have had that job if I had still been there. I guess I shall be able to get back in office again when I get back if I care to but I dont think I shall bother with it as it takes up too much time to attend to it properly. I wrote to Audy from Valcartier but never got a reply & I wrote him a letter the other day I suppose he is still staying with Mrs McKay at Burnside Road. I guess he missed Mitchell at first especially when the dancing season started. I dont suppose Frank has returned to Victoria yet? Remember me to him when you write. I am hoping to get another letter from you dear in a few day’s I got your last one on Friday that was written on the 21st Of course dear I wouldn’t expect you to write Christmas week when you were working late as I know how tired you would feel after a long day in the tea-room (I have had some myself) & I know that its not easy. I used to be glad when Christmas was over Its awful tiring work & everyone seems to leave all their shopping until the last day & they are all in a hurry to get served as soon as they come in. Its very good of you dear to make those socks for me I dont know how to thank you for it as I am sure I have done nothing to deserve such kindness from you Dont forget to let me know what day your birthday falls on & if there is any particular thing you would like as a birthday present let me know & I will get it for you Let me know as soon as possible dear as we cant get away any time we like & I dont want your birthday present to be late like your Christmas present was so dont forget will you dear. You wouldn’t let me get you anything last year & this time I want to get you something that you would like. This may be my last chance of buying you a birthday present, but I sincerely hope not, but one never knows so now dear its up to you (excuse slang) Now Darling I think I must close as its getting near bed time & I think I have told you about all the news for the present Please give my love to Bee & Will Necia & Jim Alice & Billy. Tons of love & thousands of kisses for you dearest XXXXXXXX
Your Ever Loving
I hope you will get the candy & photo safe
Feb 2nd 1915
16880 No 4 Coy
1st B.C. Regt
1st Can Exped Force
My Dearest Kate,
I received you letter of the 16th Jan today just one day later than the one of the eleventh. I was rather afraid that I wasn’t going to hear that you had received the watch until we were in France. I knew that you would write as soon as you got it but it takes the mail so long to get across these days. I was glad to hear that you were so pleased with it dear. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to get one as I enquired in two or three jewellry stores: have I spelt it right? before I could get what I wanted. The store I got it at was just a small one & they only had two of them so you see I hadn’t much to chose from so you can guess how glad I feel that you like it. You must have been eager to get it to slip out of the store for it. I hope you didn’t have to pay much duty on it I should have paid that on this side but I always understood that the duty was taken off things like that for a certain length of time before & after Christmas. I guess Miss Newton felt a little disappointed that she hadn’t received her parcel after all that time but I hope she has got it before now as its very annoying to have to wait so long for anything when you know that it has been sent away. Tell Will that I didn’t send you the watch to make you get up in the morning We had a raffle on a Waltham watch in the hut last night the drawing was on while I was writing your letter so if I made any mistakes you must excuse me dear as the row was awful. My pal was the lucky winner & everyone has been asking him the time about every five minutes since. I think if I do the same with you when I get back you will wish the watch somewhere else. No putting it back to keep me out late at nights because you know I always like to get home early (I don’t think). Sorry to hear dear that you felt so lonely that night when you were waiting for Bee but glad that you were feeling better at the singing class. I often feel the same myself when I am alone especially at night when I am on guard & if it’s a starry night, I keep looking at them & counting them & wonder what you are doing. Of course you are not doing the same thing at the same time as we are a little ahead of time here to Victoria, but I always think about the time long ago when we used to sit on the beach & count them together & long for that time to come again. I am afraid I shall miss the last car home the first night or two (but we should worry) I think you will have to give me some singing lessons when I do get back as you must be pretty expert at it by now. I think it would just suit you too: to watch me opening my mouth in front of a mirror. I hope Oscar isn’t a German spy. Its too bad dear that you made the cholera belt too small as it must be quite a job to make those things. I have been wearing one of them ever since I was sick & I think they are a fine preventative against chills especially on this job as we often have to lay about on the damp ground for an hour on end perhaps after an hours marching or skirmishing around when of course we get pretty warm. I think these belts have helped to keep me fit ever since I have been using them. We have had a wretched day at the range today from eleven oclock until 4.30 & raining the whole time & we had to lay around the whole time we only fired 15 rounds each which we were supposed to get off in one minute. We had to lay down with the ammunition in our pouches & we were supposed to take the chargers out & load & fire the 15 rounds in 60 seconds I don’t think any of us got them all off as we were supposed to take careful aim at every shot. I managed to get seven off & put on five hits on the target which was not so good as I have done, the last time I got off nine for nine hits. I hope you were able to get the two weeks holiday & that you had a good time but I hope you weren’t broke when you got back to work. I hope the photographer will please you better than the last one did although I think that was a very good picture. Dont forget to send me one when you get them What do you think of the one I had copied? I hope you got it alright. Two of the boys here have just come back from a visit to the 16th Batt where those boys from Victoria are for the present. They are feeling pretty happy about it too at present they are singing? a duet. The boys from Victoria are attached to the 16th Battalion (Highland Brigade) but I think they are trying to be attached to us until the time comes for them to join the Princess Pats I believe they want them to wear the kilts over there & they dont like the idea so they are trying to be attached to the British Columbia’s. Yes dear I am feeling fit for the best German that ever lived, after all they have been doing to the women & children over there, just imagine them doing the same in England. Its been bad enough here with the bombardment of the East Coast & the Zeppelin raids but that’s nothing to what they have done in Belgium. They don’t deserve any mercy at all after that & instead of keeping them as prisoners at the country’s expense they ought to be shot at once & that would be a better death than lots of them deserve. We have a marching chorus for the B.C. Regt. It goes to the tune of Maryland I think its pretty good & it goes pretty good on the march I will write it down for you for your approval & if you like it sing it to Oscar to see what he thinks of it This is how it goes
We’re the boys from the west of Canada
From the Province they call B.C.
We are out to do our best
Along with all the rest
All for the cause of Liberty
Oh! Motherland dear Motherland
We are one of the family
We’re the boys from the west of Canada
From the Province they call B.C.
I dont know who the poet is but I think he is one of the boy’s in the Kootenay bunch. I think this is all I have to say now dear so will close with tons of love & thousands of kisses XXXXXXXXXX
Your Ever Loving
P.S. Don’t forget that photo when you get it. I shall be on the lookout for it in another week or two Please remember me to all
Good bye dear
Field Service Post Card
C/O Clay’s Tea Rooms
I am quite well
I have received your letter dated Jan 19th
Letters follows at first opportunity/
I have received no letter from you lately.
Date Feb 22nd
Feb 23rd 1915
P.S. Shall expect one of those pictures so don’t forget XXXXXX
My Dearest Kate
I received your welcome letter of Feb 1st today that is the first since the one of Jan 19th so I am expecting another one between those dates in a few days. I sent you one of those Field Service postcards yesterday. I should have written a letter but was given to understand that no letters would be mailed from here. We expect to go in the trenches at any time now so that by the time you get this we shall in all probability have been under fire I saw Cecil Small the other day but had no chance to speak to him. He was looking pretty well but was rather in need of a shave. That was the first time I had seen him since he left us at Val Cartier. I had a letter from Necia & Jim the other day, they said your brother & Will’s were both out here now so I may drop up against them some day You might let me know what bunch Will’s brother is attached to so that I should have a better chance of locating him. I have your brothers address & if we happen to be near them at any time I will look him up. I had the sad news of my Fathers death the other day. He died on the 8th Feb & was buried on the 13th I got the wire on the Friday afternoon to say he was ill & he died on the Mon morning so he didn’t have a very long illness at the last. I was glad to hear that Harry was able to be home to see him before he passed away. I am writing to Mr Ault about the deeds of my lot which I want you to keep for me until I come back & if in case I am not allowed to come back you are to keep it for yourself. If you don’t hear anything from them in a few days after you get this you might go around & find out if they have received my letter. I am writing them by this mail so they should get it about the same time as you get this. No dear we hadn’t left England at the time you had it in the papers over there but we weren’t there very long after. Glad to hear that you got the Maple Sugar alright & that you enjoyed it. You didn’t say if you had received that photo or not but perhaps you told me that on the letter which I have not received yet. I sent that on the same day as the sugar. Well dear I think this is all I have to say now Please remember me to everyone & let me know as soon as you get those papers I will write again as soon as possible. I think it would be advisable for you to mark all letters to be returned to you if undelivered to save them from getting lost altogether Heaps of love & kisses XXXXXX
I have sent two cards since coming to France on ppc & one Field Service card
April 8th 1915
My Dearest Kate
Just a few lines to let you know that we arrived here O.K. on Easter Monday about 2 p.m. wet through & pretty tired. We left our last billet at 7 a.m. so you can guess it was a pretty decent hike. I saw Cecil Small at the place we halted at for lunch, he offered to take my pack on his car for me but I knew that our billets were scattered all over the country so I hung on to it as it may be a week or five before I see him again. Of course it would have helped me out a whole lot but I wanted my pack to use as a pillow besides some things I had in it. We are in a large barn again with lots of straw so we are fairly comfortable. When we got here on Monday I turned in just after three o’clock & stayed there until nine the next morning some sleep that about eighteen hours. I think that beats some of my Sunday morning’s rests in Victoria Well dear I haven’t received that letter from you yet . I guess when I do get it there will be two or three together as the mail must have been delayed. The last one I had from you about 10 days ago was mailed on March 9th I have been expecting to hear from you since then to say you had received the card & letter I sent you after landing in France. Its just eight weeks ago today since we sailed from England. We have done quite a bit of travelling since then but we are not much farther from Canada than we were on Salisbury Plain so we have quite a distance to travel before we reach Berlin. We have a band? in this Company now composed of one flute, three mouth organs, one accordian, four biscuit tins for drums & a pair of cymbals made of biscuit tin covers & for a triangle an entrenching tool with a marlins spike to beat it with (some band) It helps us out a whole lot on a march though yesterday afternoon we had some fun with a couple of footballs the whole company was divided up in teams & we sure did have some fun. We have running exercises every morning now at 6.15. The C.O.E. [?] inspected us this morning & of course complimented us on our smart appearance also on the work we did in the trenches, he said the brigades that took over from us said they had not had such good trenches before since the war started. The Division used up 150,000 sand bags in the trenches besides wire [?] for the parapet besides building [?] so we were not idle while we were there considering the work on the parapets had to be done at night. We expect to be here for four or five days after that we shall probably go in the trenches again. Well dear since beginning to write this I have received your two letters of March 18th & 20th which I had been looking for the last few days. Yes dear I think I have got all your letters up to date but they are a little late in coming at times but that is no fault of yours for instance the last two were mailed one five days after the other & both arrived here on the same day. Sorry to hear that your watch was not working good but hope it will be alright after you have had it fixed. Yes: I got [?] & Jims letters addressed to Salisbury Plain. I heard that they were cutting the addresses off the letters, thats the reasons I haven’t put it on the last few times. The address you ahve been putting on the letters will find me alright as long as I am around. So you have left Clay’s at last. Well I guess there are more jobs around. I think a place where you can get more fresh air will suit you a lot better than the other & I hope you will be lucky in getting a good one I am glad to hear that you are feeling better & that the new Doctor is doing you so much good & I hope you will keep improving until you are quite well & strong again. Glad to hear that you had got my letter & card but you should have had a picture post card written on the 14th Feb but probably that was thrown in the waste paper basket I think I wrote one about the 9th but wouldn’t be sure as I was a little worried at that time. I hope you will get them regular now as I have written every time we come out for a rest. This makes the fourth I have written this time out. Its two weeks tomorrow since we were relieved so this is the longest spell we have had up to now. I have just received the papers but have not opened them yet as I want to finish this letter first I had a box of cigarettes form Harry but you can bet they were opened right away as I have been bumming smokes the last day or so. Harry say’s Mother is a little better now & as you say I hope she will improve. Edie is not very well & the Doctor has ordered her away for a month or so I hope the change will do her good. I was glad to hear that you had got the deeds of the lot alright but sorry to hear that you had been bothered about the taxes but I will forward the money to you as soon as I can see the Paymaster. I think it will be an order made payable to you from the record office in London & it will probably be some time before you get it but I think it will be alright. I haven’t been to the pay table since leaving England but will have to at the next pay parade as I want to send some home too I dont want any for myself for some time yet that is if the money I have out amongst the boys comes in on pay day & I think it will. If this war lasts much longer I shall have quite a stake if I go on like this over two months pay coming now & I can go another two as far as I am concerned. Yes dear I have priced everything alright in my will so I dont think there will be any bother. I knew those taxes were due from 1913 but never had any papers about them. Please let me know if there is anything else to pay on them & I will send it out to you. I have written the Sec of the lodge to know if the $100 funeral bought is still payable or if it is that is to go to you, am expecting to hear from him any day now. I have divided the $1000 insurance between Mother, Kitty & my two Brothers & all back pay due to me to go to Mother. I think I have everything priced alright that way. Thanks so much dear for Wills brothers address I may run up against him some time. In fact I saw some fellows the other day with [?] on their shoulders so he may be around here somewhere. One of the boys in our company ran up against his brother (who is in the Regulars) the first week we were in France Well dear I hope you will enjoy your long rest & that you will get in with some real nice people when you start work again. I dont think I have any more to say now so I will close with kind regards to all & tons of love & kisses for yourself XXX[repeated many times]
Your Ever Loving
P.S. Dont swallow all you see about the Canadians in France as some of the hot air is really too strong judging by that cutting you sent me this Division was the whole cheese at [?] Chapelle. I havent seen a german yet but have been on night duty most of the time in the trenches as far as its being a delightful change I think a day or two at Cadboro Bay would be a delightful change Jack
Sunday April 11th 1915
My Dearest Kate
A few lines to let you know that I am still alive & well. I guess this will be the last letter I shall get the chance of writing to you until we come out of the trenches again. I think we are due to go in again in a couple of days now. We were inspected by Gen [?] Horace Smith Dorr[?] this morning. After the inspection he had the Officers & Sergeants out & passed a few complimentary remarks as to our discipline & good work done whilst in the trenches If we get much more of that stuff we shall all be suffering from an severe attack of swelled headedness. He also told them that the line of trenches we are to take over in a day or two was a very important section to hold & that when the troops were relieved there they were always relieved by the best available troops (thats us) I dont think I should like that kind of compliment in civilian life that is to put a guy in a ditch where someone is firing at him all the time. I suppose we must take it as the highest form of compliment out here though Anyhow I dont think it will be so monotonous for us there as it was in the other trenches We were always glad to be relieved there as by the time our three days were up we were just about bored stiff & sometimes we began to wonder if there really was a war on or not I have just received your letter of March 22nd & was surprised to hear that you had not got any more of my letters by then as I have written on an average of at least twice a week since arriving in France This is the fifth one since two weeks last Friday when we came out of the trenches last. I guess by now that you have received some of them all in a bunch the same as I get yours sometimes but you ought to get them regular in Victoria unless the censor is. Glad to hear that your first day’s holiday was a fine one & I hope you will get good weather right through. Its a lovely day here today but we have had some pretty rotten weather lately I hope when we move again we shall be lucky enough to have a fine day for a change. So you really intend to make up for lost time & go to church every Sunday now. I guess when I get back I shall have to do the same as I havent been to a religious ceremony of any kind since leaving Lark Hill. Thank Alice & Billy for their kindness in sending me the tobacco I can assure you it will be most thankfully received when it arrives. I see by the Victoria papers that they have started a fund for tobacco & cigarettes for us. We haven’t done so bad for smokes since coming here as we get an issue occasionally & most of our bunch have arranged with friends at home for a regular supply Just over a week ago we had over a thousand cigarettes in our little family & two or three of us have had some sent since but they are all gone now except for a few woodlines & an issue of two packets each just received I get a box of Players every week from Harry & I have written to some of my Aunts asking for some have received one parcel of 150 from one of them up to date am expecting some more every day now. I have only had to buy Belgian tobacco once & threw half of that away (after receiving some from home) as its rotten stuff to smoke also the cigarettes. I really think if I could get nothing but that dope that I should give up smoking altogether so you can guess what its like when I say that. Yes that was some catch of Audy’s & T.G.s I guess they are proud of themselves now The address you have is quite alright dear & will find me anywhere whilst I am on the job, but we are officially known as the 7th Batt & not 1st B.Cs but that will find me alright & I think I have received all you letters up to date Well dear I think this is all now so will close with heaps of love & kisses XXXXXXXXX
Your Ever Loving
P.S. Please remember me to all friends hoping this will find you all well. Guess you wil be starting the picnics soon Hope you will have lots of them & have a real good time & think of me on another kind of a picnic but I dont think I shall have the job of lighting fires & boiling water on this job
C/O N Spencer Esq
My Dear Jack
Many thanks for your three letters of the 14th, 18th & 21st of March, its funny how they all come together isn’t it? I wonder if you get mine like that. I was awfully glad to hear that you were alright & to hear that you were having a rest from the trenches. I’m sure it must be heavenly to get away from them for a time, especially after the “hunting” expeditions, but I suppose you have those in the billets too. I guess you would appreciate the bath & clean clothes after wearing the others for so long. I suppose I wouldn’t know you if I met you when you had just come out of the trenches all over clay & rather badly in need of a shave. Guess your glad you don’t need to shave so often! (You never did care about it very much I think!) I’m glad you got the photo alright, it seems such a long time since I sent it to you, I think you’ll like the big one better, but its no use sending that to the ‘front’. I’ve been sitting on the verandah to write this, but its too hot out there now, so I came inside. I was nursing baby when I started this, so please excuse the scribble. I was sorry to hear about the boy that was shot in the head & killed, it must be terrible to see anything like that, & there must be hundreds of such cases, doesn’t it make you wish you had never gone when you see all the dreadful slaughter that is going on? I’m afraid the very thoughts of so many dead buried around would be enough to make me a coward, its to be hoped they are buried deep down or it will be awful in the hot weather, you’ll all be ill from the smell. Do some of the Germans speak English? it must be difficult for you to understand what they say. I can’t quite make out whether you are in France or Belgium as the addresses are always torn off your letters. Ought I to write 4th Batt. on your address as I see by the papers that you are called that now? I should like to hear you all singing especially after the rum. Am glad they give you something to cheer you up a bit. Shall expect you to help us sing when you come back. Its lucky thing your blanket wasn’t on your back when the bullet hit it. I’m glad you were able to “celebrate” a little bit on St Patricks day, it would relieve the monotony a bit. It must be sad to see the ruined houses the Germans have left behind, doesn’t it make you long to crush them right out? I see in to-days paper that two more zeppelins have visited England & wounded quite a lot of people. I have not heard from your mother yet; I hope she is keeping well. Glad you & C. Small manage to have a chat sometimes, kindly remember me to him & to J Hibberd when you see them again. I think March 21st must have been a glorious day from the account in your letter, no wonder your thoughts roved to Cadboro Bay! its always sunshine there isn’t it? Didn’t you think a little bit about Cordova Bay too? I hope you succeeded in getting some smokes from home, I don’t like to think you are short. Am still having a good time here, kept busy going out to afternoon tea, & I must say I like it. Now dear bye-bye for the present, fondest love & kisses
Your Loving Kitty
(Thats my name here)
April 20th 1915
My Dearest Kate
Many thanks for papers of March 21st & 22nd received today. I was in hopes there would be a letter from you but was disappointed again. The papers had been held back until we came out of the trenches the other mail being all English. The letters are delivered in the trenches but the papers & parcels are kept back until we come out. We were in for five days this trip & are out now for four day’s rest unless anything happens that we are wanted in before the four day’s are up. We had several casualties this time in from shell fire which was pretty heavy at times. I guess you have seen the casualty list before now so this will be no news for you. We had to keep under cover by day to avoid being shelled too much Most of the casualties happened on the first day when we were all out in the trench but after that we all hid ourselves from dawn until sunset. One of our boys had a very lucky escape. He was in the dug out when a shell came right in on it & smashed the whole thing up His ammunition on one side was hit & exploded (he was wearing it on the equipment) several holes were made in his hat the heel of his boot torn off & his bayonet twisted all up, his valise which was laying beside him was all torn to bits & he himself was lucky enough to come out of it wounded which will give him a few weeks holiday but he probably wont be able to sit down a while without lots of cushions. You would laugh to see us in our shelters. the one I was in was about eight five with a hole for us to crawl through. There were four of us in it & as we have to wear our equipment the whole time we are in the trenches you can guess how wer were packed in & we had to stay there almost fifteen hours out of 24 our only [?] allowed out at a time to make tea & get grub for the rest The weather here just now is fine but a little cold at nights but we didn’t notice that so much as we were working all the night that being the only time we could do anything to the trenches. One of the engineers had one [?] over on him the last night we were in. They were digging around there & one of the boys came across a corpse which he promptly left as he couldn’t stand the [?]. The engineer came along & saw the arm of the corpse & thought it was one of his party taking a rest so he shook him up & told him to come out of it as they wanted to dig there but “never a word spoke he” Judging by the smell around the trench I think there must be a lot of soldiers buried there within a few inches of the surface (but they are not British) I hope dear that you have been getting my letters more regularly by now. I am afraid some of them must be lost as it was over a month ago since I got your last letter saying you had only received one letter & card from me since I got your last letter saying you had only received one letter & card from me since leaving England so that I was expecting one from you today to say that you had got some more from me. I hope to get one from you tomorrow to that effect. I haven’t seen the Paymaster yet & I dont suppose we shall have him around this time as we are not allowed out of our billets on account of being so near the firing line so we dont need any money here. Our billet this time is a cowshed with stalls in it and just room enough for two in a stall “This is the life” I suppose you are still keeping a holiday & I hope you are enjoying it & having good health. I am pleased to say that I am in the best of health & getting lots of fresh air these day’s. I think this is all I have to say this time dear so will close with heaps of love & kisses & kind regards to all friends
Will write again before we go back in the trenches
Your Ever Loving
Miss K Watkins
c/o Mrs Chadwick
Rec’d October 2nd 1915
Aug 12th 1915
My Dearest Kate
Still no news from you. I am beginning to think that I am never going to hear from you again. I hope dear you are alright & that you are getting my cards & letters alright by now. You will be pleased to hear that my name is gone in for the next exchange of prisoners but I dont know when that will take place hope it will be soon. No more to say now Tons of love & kisses from Your loving Jack XXXXX
Aug 30th 1915
Kind Regards to all friends hope to see you all before long
My Dearest Kate
I guess you will be surprised to hear that I am once again in Old England I should have written to you before but we have been kept so busy with visitors that I haven’t had much chance of writing I should think half of London has been in here since we arrived last Wed night My Uncle & Aunt & Kitty came to see me yesterday (Sunday) & I expect Mother will be up next Sunday Its needless for me to say that we get better treatment & food here I get hot fomentations twice a day on my leg & sometimes in the night if I am awake A little different to being dressed once in four days with Vaseline We also get our backs attended to as well so I ought to soon get well now The nurses here cant make out what the German doctor was doing with my leg to take it off so short & the bad work they put in on it I have to have some more bone taken off but I dont think it is a very painful operation then after the stump is got hard enough I shall get a leg fitted on but that wont be for a few weeks yet They are fitting them up with good artificial limbs here Our Lady was here the other day & said she saw one man with two artificial legs run up & down steps & another with two hands able to do almost anything with them I received three letters from you & one from Necia on the afternoon before we left [?] I was wondering if anything was wrong with you as I had not heard from you for such a long time but when I got your letter saying you had you had been writing to Aldershopt I knew the reason. My letters to you must have been lost or the mistake wouldn’t have been made as I wrote to you at least every fortnight (shall be able to write more frequently now) I had to laugh when I read you letter where you said you thought it was too true that I was in England & to think that I was leaving the next morning for England. I guess Will has had a letter from Audrey to say that I was there. They came around with a list of missing men in July & I saw my name on it but not the regiment just No 4 Corp Canadians I gave them my regimental address & it was sent back to London About a month after another letter came back to say this other fellow was in Aldershopt & who it was enquiring for me & that they had written to mother to ask her if she knew Will & of course she wrote back to say she didn’t know him That other fellow was in my company He came from Alberni now dear I suppose I must tell you about the journey home. We left Camp at 5 a.m. travelled 1 ½ miles to the station there we were put in the train for Colon arrived there at midnight. Our first meal that day was at Cassel at 2.30 p.m. nothing to eat before we started & then we went until 10 p.m. before having any more to eat we stayed in Colon until 5 a.m. & then left for Aachere where we were inspected We stayed there two days & were treated well there we left for Flushing & landed at Tillbury Docks on Wed last about 5 oclock in the evening We had a fine trip on the boat & the Dutch people were very kind to us many of the nurses cried as we were taken off the boat Well dear I guess this is all now so will close with heaps of love & tons of kisses XXXXX
From your Ever Loving
Will write again in a few days.
C/o Mrs C[?]
Dec 5th 1915
My Dearest Kate
I received you letter of Nov 4th just after I had written & posted my last letter to you. Thanks so much dear for the picture of the High School pupils Nora Ault comes out fine in it. I must write to Mr Ault in a few days I haven’t written to them for a long time now I guess they will think I am dead I got a letter from Jim & Necia the same day that I had yours, theirs was posted on the 9th. They gave me a severe reprimand for writing so many letters & told me to wait until I am stronger before doing so much pencil pushing. One would think that I really am sick by that & if I get any more like I shall begin to think I am too! Don’t worry about me dear I only write when I feel like & it helps to pass the time away I have been thinking if its because you are afraid I wont want any nursing when I get back. If it is you can set your mind at ease on that score I’ll promise you that you shall have enough of that for a time but I hope you wont get tired of it too quick. The doctors orders to me are that I have plenty of sea air but must be quiet with a nurse in constant attendance on me These orders only apply to Victoria BC He said she need not be a qualified nurse just one to keep me amused & to do a little spooning once in a while. I told him I thought I could find one to suit the requirements. What do you think of the job eh? Just fancy you telling me not to write you long letters. Would a postcard do? (I dont think) No dear I wasn’t scared a bit of the Zepps. In fact I thought it was a grand sight to watch but of course I regret the damage they do & the lives lost in the Air Raids but it was just like old times with the shells bursting in the air but there was no necessity to duck under cover because they were quite a distance away from us I am glad in a way that you are not coming to England although it would be fine to have you here when I am on furlough but it wont be long now before I am on my way back to Canada a couple of months or so wont be long going by & then I shall be counting the days until I reach Victoria. I think I shall stay at Jims place on the way out for a few days or a week as I haven’t seen him since he left home in 1906 & it costs so much to get there from Victoria so it will be better to see him on my way back. I am still at Shorncliffe but hope they wont keep me much longer. Am enclosing a card to wish you the compliments of the season & I hope you will have a right good time Will send you a present later but its impossible to get out here to get anything so you must forgive me if it arrives late. I have no more news for you this time dearest so will close with best of love & tons of kisses XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Your Ever Loving
Have a good time for Xmas dear – let me know how you enjoyed yourself Jack.
Dec 12th 1915
c/o Mrs Co[?]
My Dearest Kate
I received your two letters of Nov 11th & 18th this week but have not yet received the books of views yet. Naturally they would take a little longer on the road & Aunt Mag may be keeping them for me until I go there. She is keeping the papers for me so that when I do get there I shall have lots to read. You will know by this that I am still at Shorncliffe & out of ink. I am pleased to say that I am keeping in the best of health & I hope dear that this will find you all well after the Xmas festivities. I haven’t heard from the Red Cross about that [?] you sent, but probably they will write in a few days. I think I will do as you suggest dear & have some food sent to a fellow in Germany who did me lots of good turns when I was so bad there. He is in the Durhams & after I had my leg amputated he did all he possible could for myself & the other poor fellow that died after coming to England. He was with us two from about 7 in the morning until after 8 at night as we were in a little room by ourselves at the time. He did everything he possibly could for us & I am afraid he had something to do to put up with us at times. This was all voluntary work on his part as he was wounded himself though not serious & needn’t have done anything for us. I think he deserves a little consideration from me dont you? When I get out I mean to send him some parcels myself So my namesake has arrived home He was a big tall fellow rather dark & a red face but I guess he is at home in Alberni. I see Kelly has arrived at Alberni. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Richard here any day as he said he expected to be at Shorncliffe before Christmas He was wounded at Testubert[?]. I should like to see him & have a talk about old times. I guess you would like to hear us talking about our different experiences too: Never mind dear I will tell you all about some day that is if you would like to hear them some of them will make your flesh creep but thats nothing as a soldier on active service has to get used to creepy things some of them are “whoppers” too, with black spots on their backs. If I feel like I do now when I come back I think I can stand the journey alright. I dont think that will be as rough as my journey up into Germany & back was. I dont think you really mean to be jealous because that girl came to see me also of Connies sister for writing to me No dear Wilfred didn’t have much to say to me when he came with his mother but she said he was all jaw at home. He is very much like Alice. Dora had a little to say but not much I dont think she resembles any of you as much as Wilfred, but they are both fair & pretty kids too. Mother sais she had written you some time before she came to see me and was expecting a reply when she got back. Its quite likely her letter went down on the “Hisperian”. I am sorry to say dear that the few “souvenirs” I had I threw away with my pack. I had some German ammunition & a few other things for you. I brought some coins home from Germany too I had them in my purse & the other morning I went to my purse to buy a paper & it was gone purse & all from my locker. I also had my lodge button in it too. There was only about five pence in English money in it so the guy that took it didn’t benefit much by it. This happened last week since then I have moved to another ward. There was a fellow there discharged from hospital one morning the same day got his hand skinned pretty badly that day & came back again at night & slept in the bed he was in before, next to mine my purse was in the locker & he & I were the only ones in the room as it was married quarters there now used as hospital wards. The orderly woke me up in the morning & asked me where he was I thought he was in bed but evidently he had beat it & never came back. He was only a kid about 20 years old & hasn’t been to the front yet perhaps if he had he wouldn’t have acted so mean. I know what he would have got in my company if they had found him out doing things like that. Its not the value of the thing that I look at but the dirty mean action
I am afraid Jack Hibburd has gone west as nobody seems to have heard anything about him. Probably I should have gone too if I transferred with him. He wanted me to go with him but I had made some good pals in No 4 Coy that I didn’t care much about changing. I didn’t know Mr Ault had joined the colours although he told me when I went away not to be surprised to hear that he had done so. Glad to hear that you had a good time at the whist drive. I’d have done Archie out of his job though if I had been there. So you really have beaten Necia at Whist (wonders will never cease) I should like to have seen your face when that partner of yours trumped in at the wrong time Wouldn’t it have been fine if I had been playing against you. Glad to hear that you got the picture of the hospital dear the picture of the bunch of us didn’t come out at all good the nurse hadn’t got the camera focused right. I had my mug taken at Bromley by one of the boys there. He took my address & said if they came out alright he will send them on to me but I haven’t heard any more about them. I will have some more taken when I get out of here. I see they are giving the boys a great welcome when they reach Victoria. I think I’ll try to get in on the first boat early in the morning as I dont want a crowd to meet me there (two’s company) Now dear I must close or else stand the risk of another calling down from you for writing too much. Hoping this will find you all in the best of health Kind Regards to all friends. Will close now dearie with tons of love & miles of barb-wire entnanglements XXXXXXXX
How much holiday am I to have in Victoria before starting to work?
Your Ever Loving Jack
NO LATER than 10 at night
P.S. Have just had an invitation from my cousin that used to send me the cream she wants me to pay them a visit wish you were here to go with me.
Have also been invited to spend some furlongs at Torquay lots of cream & dumplings there too!
Central Military Convalescent Hospital
Dec 26, 1916
My Own Darling Kitty
Many thanks for letter & card with Christmas wishes which I received today. I also got Mollie’s card and letter this morning, and a letter from Jack Hibberd, which was sent on from Victoria. Please thank Mollie & Jim for the card and seasons greetings for me dear. I was glad to know that you were still keeping well & hope this will find you the same. It must be cold out there now, be sure & keep yourself well wrapped up when you go out darling and not get your dear little nose frozen, as that would be an awful catastrophe. Its not so cold down here but we had quite a snowstorm on Christmas Eve. Its quite a novelty to see a real white Christmas, this is the first I have seen for years. Yesterday was a lovely day. I went out about eleven oclock & spent the rest of the day until almost midnight. On the whole I had a good time but not so good as I had hopes of before I knew anything about coming down here. I hope next year wont be such a disappointment for us sweetheart. Surely this rotten luck of being separated at Christmas cant go on for ever Yes dear: its just as well not to send anything in the way of a present to me here because as you say I shall only have to pack it back again and I shall have more to take back then I brought down as it is. When we get back to Victoria will do for that. I think the card you sent me is very nice honey and I notice we each chose cards for the other with the same words. A bit of telepathy about that don’t you think so dear? Jack Hibberd wishes to be remembered to you honey & sends best wishes for the season He is still keeping well & is back from the line on a staff job, for which he is very glad as he say’s he ahs a real bed to sleep on every night which he prefers to a draughty & lousey old barn. Well darling one week has passed since I was measured for my leg. I wish I could say that I was to have it by the new year so as to be able to start the year on both feet again. It will soon be two years since I walked like a human being. It seems a long time to talk about it, but I can picture those fields & imagine I can see the exact spot where I fell as though it only happened yesterday I guess it will be a long day before I forget it. I feel that I owe Kaiser Bill a debt of gratitude for bringing you and I together in the way that he has. Because at the time war broke out I had a feeling that I would never be in a position to ask you to be my wife so there is a good and bad in war as in all other things isn’t there dear? But I hope all the dark days are behind us now sweetheart and that we just have to be happy & live long to make up for it all and I feel sure that you will contribute your share towards it. Wishing you all Joy and Happiness in the coming year & hoping that this will be the last Christmas that we shall be separated and that all future ones will beat any in the past for happiness for both of us tons of love & millions of kisses XXXXXXX
Your Ever Loving
A good long lingering kiss to start the New Year
Central Military Convalescent Hospital
Dec 31, 16
My Darling Kitty
Just a few more lines to finish up the year 1916 with. I wish that I could say that this would be my last letter to you before leaving Toronto. I guess that will come in time though dear I am afraid I haven’t much news for you this time darling so you must excuse me if this is a short letter. I just thought that it would be a nice ending to the year to sit down and write you a few lines as its impossible for me to be with you to see the New Year in. I suppose tomorrow morning all kinds of resolutions will be made and broken before the day is out. I hope the coming year will be a much better one than this year has been for you dear. For myself it promises to be a much better one than any previous one has been. The best one so far has been this year, I came back to you early in the year, which in itself was a time never to be forgotten, March 11th 1916 was one of my Red Letter days. Then Nov 30th was another one. The day (or rather night) we became engaged. The day of days is to be in 1917 and the sooner it comes along the better because on that day I, at any rate, cease to just exist and commence to live a real life, and one worth living. Well darling I guess you will think I am feeling a bit mushy by this letter. But I think at this time of the year its usual for a person to look back on the old year & recall incidents that has happened, and to look forward to what the new one has in store. That is just what I am doing as I write this, and I look forward to the New Year full of confidence & hope for what it has in store for me. I hope sweetheart that this will find you in the best of health and that you have as much confidence in the New Year as I have, and that you will never regret the promise you made to me on that Thursday night. Well darling I guess this is all for this letter so will close with tons of love & millions of kisses XXXXXXXXXXXXX
Your Own Ever Loving
P.S. Give my love to Jim & Mollie & the two boys, Am going out for the day tomorrow, car coming at 11 a.m. Bye Bye sweetheart Jack
My Own Darling Kitty
Your welcome letter of the 5th arrived yesterday morning. I was expecting one from you on Friday but I suppose you didn’t know whether to write or not as you were expecting to hear that I had started back. Well darling I hope to be either on the way by the time you get this or else to be getting ready to leave here. I am going to the factory tomorrow & I hope to be through with them then so that I can get right after the doctor. I think the leg is as good as they can make it except that the ankle has a little too much movement so that the foot makes too much of a bump when I put it down flat. Perhaps that is because I am not quite got on to the way of putting down properly. Anyway if they alter it it wont take them long & I can wait in the shop until its done. It’s a little bigger around the ankle than my good foot is too, but I don’t think they can improve on that much as its rather difficult for them to get them exactly alike except it’s a rubber foot and they have no ankle movement. Then again I have a pretty small foot (swank). I think on the whole I have a pretty good limb though and am getting pretty well used to it now. I can walk as well as some that have had their legs for a month or two & have longer stumps than I have. I am practicing now to see what I can do without the cane. Of course I shall have to use a cane for walking any distance but will be able to manage around the house without it. Well dearie I had an enjoyable time at the party on Friday night, but didn’t sleep much after on account of having some coffee before leaving so I had a good rest yesterday and feel alright today. Its funny that my letter went astray like that. I guess they took Mollie’s name for the name of the town, but surely I write more distinct than that. Yes sweetheart I will put the number of the train & the time its due at Calgary on the wire, but if its too cold & you have to wait long at Calgary I wouldn’t bother about being there dear. Of course I shall look for you honey & if I don’t see you in the depot I shall know that you didn’t come up. If I have to wait long I can put in the time at the Returned Soldiers Club its only about three blocks from the station & there will be some of the boys around there to keep me company. I think I shall be back before Christmas alright dear. It’s a year ago today since I sailed from England. It certainly doesn’t seem that long to me, but it does seem a long time since I was wounded nearly two years now. Those people must be getting anxious about you & I getting married darling. I suppose they wanted to know something about the event & thought that was a good way to pump for it. I am glad the weather is a little warmer for you honey. I guess the worst of the winter is over now & we shall soon be having spring with us. It was lovely weather at Carmangay when I was there last spring. I think it snowed one day & a chinook wind came up & soon took it away again. Its too bad that you had to wait so long for the concert to start dear, but I am glad you enjoyed it. How did the other come off? The one you were going to take part in. I am sorry to hear that Mrs Ridd had been so ill, but I hope she is much better now. I guess it made Molly feel a bit blue when she got the news. I was glad to know that Billy was fortunate enough to be able to see his people so often. I guess he made the best of the opportunity too. I hope he has been able to see Will & Molly by now. I guess Necia will be worrying about Jim going overseas now on account of the subs, but I don’t think there is much danger of a troopship being torpedoed. They navy seems to look after them alright or else its just luck that they have only got one so far. Its marvelous the number of troops that have been transported so many miles in safety. I see in last nights paper that the British have captured 200 subs altogether including the Duetchland. That’s not an official report but I shouldn’t wonder at it as they keep those things very quiet. Well my darling I think this is all the news for now You may get a wire before this. In any case dear I think I shall be on my way before I could get a reply from it so you needn’t answer it. Tons of love & millions of kisses XXXXXXXXX
From Your Own Ever Loving
Letter from home to a soldier who was already killed in action.
Mr Dearest Will
I was so delighted to get your letter this morning and know you are quite alright. I am pleased to say I am alright myself and hope dear this will find you the same. I was so pleased to hear darling that you had such a nice enjoyable evening, It was quite a treat I am sure. I don't suppose you do get much amusement.
I am glad you are getting my letters dear, I am not waiting until I get your letters dear now before I write because it would make it so long for you to wait for a letter, and I guess you are pleased to get as many as possible.
I can understand darling your not being able to write as frequently. I shall get used to waiting for your letters soon I guess, but at first it seems so strange after being used to having them so regularly.
Well darling I don't know any more to say now and I am feeling sleepy. Oh I wish you were here darling, but its no good wishing. Fondest love and lots of kisses from
your everloving little girl Emily
Company Sergeant-Major James Milne to his wife moments before he was ordered over the top.
It was to be delivered in the event of his death - but luckily James Milne survived and was later reunited with his family.
July 20, 1918
My own beloved wife
I do not know how to start this letter. The circumstances are different from any under which I ever wrote before. I am not to post it but will leave it in my pocket, if anything happens to me someone will perhaps post it. We are going over the top this afternoon and only God in Heaven knows who will come out of it alive.
I am in his hands and whatever happens I will look to him in this world and the world to come. If I am called my regret is that I leave you and my bairns. I go to him with your dear face the last vision on earth I shall see and your name upon my lips, you the best of women. You will look after by Darling Bairns for me and tell them how their daddy died.
Oh! How I love you all and as I sit here waiting I wonder what you are doing at home. I must not do that. It is hard enough sitting waiting. We may move at any minute. When this reaches you for me there will be no more war, only eternal peace and waiting for you.
It is a legacy of struggle for you but God will look after you and we shall meet again when there will be no more parting. I am to write no more sweetheart... Kiss the Bairns for me once more. I dare not think of them my Darlings.
Goodbye, you best of women and best of wives, my beloved sweetheart. May God in his mercy look over you and bless you all... May he in that same mercy preserve me today. Eternal love from
Yours for evermore
Laurie Rowlands to his sweetheart Alice.
DL Rowlands, who served with the 15th Battalion Durham Light Infantry, also described his part in the battle of Brookseinde, at the third battle of Ypres.
Now barring accidents you will get to know all about it. I know you will have a big surprise when you get this letter - I hope it lands without mishap. If anybody in authority was to see it -!
Of course you have guessed by now where I had my first experience of the line. Yes, it was on the Ypres salient... Oh it was a lovely 'baptism of fire' that night. We had to dig ourselves in and early in the morning Fritz started straffing.
Oh Lord, if ever a fellow was afraid, absolutely frightened to death, it was this child. Then one of my Section took shell shock when a big 'un dropped a couple of yards off the parapet and then the instinct of the leader, or one whose place it is to lead, came to the top and I became as cool and steady as a rock. I had twelve men when we went in, I came out with three. Oh it was ghastly.
Perhaps you would like to know something of the spirit of the men out here now. Well the truth is (and as I said before I'd be shot if anyone of importance collared this missive) every man Jack is fed up almost past bearing, and not a single one has an ounce of what we call patriotism left in him. No-one cares a rap whether Germany has Alsace, Belgium or France too for that matter. All that every man desires now is to get done with it and go home. Now that's the honest truth, and any man who has been out within the last few months will tell you the same.
In fact, and this is no exaggeration, the greatest hope of a great majority of the men is that rioting and revolt at home will force the government to pack in on any terms. Now you've got the real state of affairs 'right from the horse's mouth' as it were.
I may add that I too have lost pretty nearly all the patriotism that I had left, its just the thought of you all over there, you who love and trust me to do my share of the job that is necessary for your safety and freedom. It's just that that keeps me going and enables me to 'stick it'. As for religion, God forgive us all, it hasn't a place in one out of a million of the thoughts that hourly occupy men's minds...
God bless you darling and all those I love and who love me, for without their love and trust I would faint and fail. But don't worry dear heart o' mine, for I shall carry on to the end be it bitter or sweet, with my loved ones ever my first thought and care, my guide inspirations and spur.
Au revoir my own sweetheart and God will keep you safe till the storm's over, with all my heart's deepest love. Your own loving
P.S. There are only I believe about 40 in this company due to leave before me now, so I may not, with any sort of luck, be more than six or eight weeks after this epistle.