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Monday, August 8, 2016

26 Dec. 1916 C.C.A.C. Hastings, England

Dear folks,

Well, Christmas is over for another year. Hope the war will be over and that we will all be home before next Christmas. I had a better time here than I had in France last year. Every soldier in Hastings was provided for at some place yesterday. All the soldier's clubs etc. undertook to entertain so many and the people of the town were very hospitable in taking individual soldiers into their homes. At the mess room, a big feed was put on with a concert afterwards. I was at a social in the Presbyterian Church and had a good time. The people here though, haven't got any idea of what a real tea-meeting is like. They did their best, however.

We had a holiday all day and could go anywhere we liked. In the afternoon, Doug, Joycey (another old 5th boy) and I went to an orchestra concert on the pier ...... it was pretty good. We just got out of there in time to come down here for our eats. It would have made it more like Xmas had have come through. I haven't got any yet but it is all on account of the Xmas rush. I suppose most of it went to France and it is hard to have anything returned from there at Xmas. I never should have told you to keep on sending it there. Just while I think of it, you might tell Miss Fairbairn to sent the news to C.A.M.C. Depot, Dibgate Camp,Shorncliffe. I'll be there before long

Well, there isn't much news to tell about my doings here for I'm not doing anything but I'm getting tired of my job. We can't go away from our houses until after 4;30 unless we are on a fatigue party and there are lots of those.

I'll finish telling you about my leave although you will no doubt have had it all from Bill before you get this. while we were in Edinburgh, we looked up the directory and found a Mrs. A. Skilling so we decided that we would take a run out and see who they were.

We found the address after a little trouble and had to ring 2 or 3 times before we could get them to answer the door. They live in an apartment house and anyone who rings generally goes right on up the stairs. At last, they came down and so we told her that we had seen their name in the directory and just thought we would look them up as it was such an uncommon name. she was very nice and invited us upstairs. After we had sat down. she proceeded to give us the history of the Skillings as far as she knew.

Her husband was an Andrew Skilling , a Captain of a coasting steamer and died of enteric fever (Typhoid Fever) that he contracted at Calais. She was left with two children, a girl, and a boy. The son is called Andrew and is at present in France (19) and her daughter (17) is at home going to school. She is quite a singer and could play the piano too if she had some good instruction. she is training for a teacher.

Mrs. Skilling's mother lives in the same flat with them. I can't remember her name. They seem in fairly comfortable circumstances and live in a respectable place. She told us a lot about her husband's brothers and father and grandfathers, but it was such a conglomeration of names etc. that I couldn't begin to write it out. Probably Bill will attempt to tell you. I can remember that she had her husband's people traced back to a Jew who went from London to Jamaica and married a Negress. He was very wealthy and what concerned Mrs. Skilling most was that some lawyer went through the estate for them and then disappeared.

They gave us an invitation to come back and see them anytime we were in Edinburgh. I would like to go back there again in the summer time. The fall is certainly not the right time of the year to go up to that country.

We left Edinburgh for Yorkshire next afternoon but I think I told you about that before.

Your letter written to France (#18 Gen. Hosp.) has not arrived yet. It would no doubt be forwarded by them to the Canadian Records Office and they would send it to CCAC. The month I was away on leave was the cause of the big ball up in my mail. I am sure there is mail at the CCAC post office for me that I can't get. There are thousands of parcels there unclaimed. They don't seem to make much effort to find out where they belong. I don't think it is worthwhile sending any more as long as I am in Eng. for they will only be an expense for nothing because I'll likely ..... some of them anyway. And tell Rose not to bother with the papers as they have to be handled so many times too. This is the end of my paper so I'll have to ring off.

Lovingly,

Harold

Friday, August 5, 2016

18 Dec. 1916 C.C.A.C.Hastings, England

Dear Folks,

It seems a long time since I wrote a letter home, but when I was on leave, it just seemed impossible to get a letter written to anyone. It was rather a remarkable coincidence that Bill's leave and mine should each be exactly 4 weeks and end within a day of each other. It certainly made  it much more pleasant.

We stayed at Mitford's most of the time we were in London and they seemed glad to have us and made us feel very much at home. We just came and went as we liked. We had Millie and Edith out several times to hear two Grand Operas, Faust, and Aida. Also, Edith came down to Bramshott with us to see the 160th (Bruce Battalion).

During our stay in London, we got around to most of the principal things that neither of us had seen. We got to two afternoon sessions of the House of Parliament. The first time we missed the Question Hour which was what we particularly wanted so we came earlier next day and heard Mr. Asquith, Sir E. Carson, Mr. Tennant etc. We did not hear Lloyd George. Mr. Asqith can keep the House guessing. He shut up nearly every one of his questioners without giving them the least bit of information.

I think we spent most of our first week trying to buy a few Christmas presents for the people at home. It is a worse job here than at home because it is so hard to get suitable things that could be sent by mail easily.

We finally ended up in Robinsons & Cleavers, the big linen house, and found the best things there. We sent a draft to Mother. Thought she could make better use of it when away from home than a few articles of linen.

After about 10 -12 days of tearing around London, we decided to go on up to Scotland and drop off at those people in Yorkshire that you know, Mr. Balmer (or Bulmer). On inquiring, we found that we could not travel on the line going through their town on our up journey but could come back that way. We notified them , and also the Munros as to when we would likely come.

We left for Glasgow Friday midnight and arrived Greenock 10 am Sat. Mrs. Munro was at the station to meet us and we went right over to the house. That was the day Bill was gazetted. He cabled as soon as he found out.

I should judge Munros to be typical Scotch working people - except that they don't booze. They live in a 3 story building on the top floor and are crowded. They all seem very happy though and were glad to have us visit them. Their hospitality is very superfluous and they wouldn't let us eat at the same table as themselves or the kids but stuck us off in our own rooms and fed us there, with the door closed. They made us feel kind of uncomfortable by doing things like that all the time. They bought things to give us to eat which I don't think they could well afford.

They have a dandy ...right family and they all seem to be doing as much as they can to help in the upkeep of the house. The eldest boy , about 18, is a boilermaker's apprentice and earns 30 shillings a week for 72 hours work. They work overtime 3 nights a week. He doesn't look strong enough to stand it and when he comes in at night he looks "all in". The eldest daughter is a dandy singer; she is about 14 and has a good voice. she sings in one of the city school choirs. Mae would like to get hold of her.

We had them all singing one night and the youngest, Molly, about the same age as Gracie, said she could sing. We said "let's have it then". That made her shy so she said she knew one " in me ain hymn book". We said " well, sing that one". She squirmed around a bit and then said " oh, but I must have my hymn book wi' me".

There isn't much to see around Greenock , especially at this time of year as it is so foggy all the time. They only have about 7 hours of daylight on clear days, but on misty days , it is never really light. We rented a Kodak to take up with us but we couldn't get enough light to take more than 3 or 4 snaps. We saw nearly all the friends of the family during our stay but there were so many and such flimsy relationships that I couldn't begin to tell you who they were.

Mrs. Skilling, Mrs. Munro's mother, came over to see us a couple of evenings. She is 65 but looks older. Just the same, she gets up every morning at 5:30 am, gets her own breakfast, and takes a car at 6:30 am for Port Glasgow where she works at a hemp mill. she doesn't seem to mind. she is a Catholic and seems quite satisfied that our ancestors came from Germany. It doesn't make her like the Germans any more however. Frank Skilling ( her son) was away to sea, so they thought, so we didn't meet him.

We decided that we would go on to Glasgow Wed. pm and spend the rest of the day and all day Thursday there, and go on to Edinburgh after dark. When we got up on Wed. am, we found that neither Mrs. Munro nor Charlie had gone to work; they said they slept in but if they did, I think it must have been on purpose. The rest would not hurt them if they could afford to lose the time. We got away on the 2 pm train. Mrs. Munro and Charlie came to the station to see us off.

I had an idea that Glasgow was something like Greenock but it didn't take long for me to change my mind. it is a dandy city and we had a dandy day there. We went to see an exhibition of war relics at night and went through a large art gallery in the same building. We had tea under the wing of the monoplane in which Warneford V.C. brought down the first Zeppelin.

Next morning we looked through the City Hall. It is a gran' place and also the University and the civic art gallery. It has a lot of the masterpieces of the London galleries which have been removed from London for fear of being destroyed during some of the raids. We intended going out for a car ride along the docks but left it too late. We went but the darkness prevented our seeing anything.

We caught a train for Edinburgh just about 6:30 pm and got in there at about 9 pm. We looked up a hotel and then tried to find an eating house. There didn't seem to be one open so we wandered back to the station and got there just in time to be too late for the dining room. Nothing was left but the free buffet for soldiers. We went in but they wouldn't serve Bill because he was an officer. We managed to get them to give us something in behind the scenes but only after talking quite a while.

Edinburgh was enveloped in a mist all the time we were there and we couldn't get a view of the city at all We (took) the bus one day out to see the Forth Bridge but could only see one span of it. The fog hid all the rest. We had a good look at some of the interesting places though, Edinburgh Castle and part of the old town.

We left on Sat. pm for Yorkshire and after a very exasperating journey got into West Rounton  about 11:30 pm.  We missed connections at Darlington on a/cc of being delayed by an accident on the line. The last train stopping at our nearest station to West Rounton had gone so we had to hire a trap to take us out, about 9 miles. Fortunately, the people were not in bed and gave us a hearty welcome. They are Mr. and Mrs. Hazeltine. We stayed there until Tuesday afternoon and then came on to London.

Their place is quite near Middlesboro and if I had had your letter telling about Mr. Yeo's people I would have had a chance to go over. It has not arrived yet but I think some of my mail is down at the CCAC Depot here and I might get it yet. Send all mail to 609 Finchley Road, Hampstead, London c/o Mrs. Mitford. I'll likely be changing my address quite a bit during the next few weeks so I can always send there for it. I'm afraid I'll lose most of my Xmas parcels especially those that go to France.

There is not going to be any Xmas leave from CCAC at all as all railway facilities are being reserved for soldiers on leave from France. The Presbyterian church here is going to entertain 150 soldiers on Xmas day in the church and I'm going to try and get an invitation. It is going to be a sort of tea meeting or as nearly one as they can get in this country.

Well, I'm getting run out of news for this time so will ring off. We are in dandy billets here and have nothing to do but wait for a board. I'll write more often now that I have come back off leave.

Lovingly,

Harold





Wednesday, August 3, 2016

11 Dec. 1916 East Rounton Church Postcard

East Rounton Church
North Yorkshire, England


28 Nov.1916 609 Finchley Rd, London, England

Dear Mother:-

Have been having a whale of a time since coming here and it seems harder to get started at a letter here than it is in France.

Things just worked out fine for Bill and me to have our leave together. I got here just 1 day after he did, and will possibly be away longer than he will. I suppose you knew that I had gotten 4 weeks convalescent leave.

Since coming here I have been running around with Bill & between us, we have done all the Xmas shopping. We have everything sent off but yours. Since you are away visiting, we thought you would rather have a small "draught" than anything else we could send from here so I am enclosing a draft for $10.00 from Bill and me.

We expect to go up to Scotland for a week or so sometime this week. Bill is expecting to be gazetted anytime and will be on leave until he is posted to a Battalion. I am off until Dec. 16 so we are going to have practically all the time together.

We have been very lucky as regards weather. It is just like October at home, clear and frosty at nights. It is generally very wet at this time of year in England. Do my letters go out to you regularly? I always send them to Father at Teeswater so that they will go the rounds as usual.

Well, I think I told most of the news in my regular letters so I'll ring off as I am in a hurry. Give my love to Merren and Gert and hope you all have a very Merry Christmas.

Your loving son,

Harold

Note from Bill Skilling to his mother below:

Dear Mother, it seems harder even to write while on leave than when we're working. It's no use trying to tell all we're doing till we're back to our unit again, then the full account will come. In the meantime, short notes will have to do. We're staying at Millie's & having a great time. All thru my course. Best of love to you and all. Merry Christmas. Hope the junk got there ok. Your loving son, Bill

13 Nov. 1916 CCAC Shoreham (Near Brighton)

Dear folks,

This is Monday and I have been travelling all day from Shorncliffe. We had to change trains 3 times and finally arrived here at about 4 pm. Everyone has a different version as to our disposal here but I guess I'll see tomorrow.

I was sent for from Armstrong College last Thursday to be transferred to a Canadian hospital. We left Newcastle on Friday and arrived Shorncliffe at about 1 am Sat. night (via London). We stayed there over Sunday and this morning we were sent to CCAC (where I am now). I'll have to sleep on boards again tonight. It will seem different than a bed but I'll have to get used to it sooner or later again.

There is so much red tape and herding to go thru' here that we are all thoroughly disgusted. We can't get any satisfaction out of anyone. I am going to make a good bid to get away by Wed. on furlough for I understand medical corps men are only sent away on Wed. so that if I don't get away this week, it will be another before I go. By that time Bill will have put in a week of his and in all probability her will not get more than 7 or 10 days.

I'll likely have to spend all day tomorrow answering roll calls etc. and waiting my turn to go before a Med. Board to be passed upon. After I've been boarded, I'll go to another camp & await leave there. In the meantime I'll have physical drill or whatever I am passed as fir for.

After my furlough I return here and do more physical drill until I am thoroughly fit and then I report to  my depot (med. training depot) at Dibgate camp Shorncliffe. From there I may be sent out on a draft to France at any time or detailed on any medical corps work.

Sunday (yesterday) I was walking in Folkstone and ran across Harry Lewis and
Chas. Stewart. I also saw my CO Col. G.D.Farmer. He seemed glad to see me and broached the subject of my commission. He rec'd my application and said her would recommend me but that I would have to be paraded before a General. Possibly I'll follow it up from my Depot when I get back there.

I guess you will be wondering how I feel more than all this other stuff. I am just about alright again but I think if we get much more of this trotting around on starvation rations, I'll have a relapse. For the last week nearly I've had to depend on charity and free soldier's buffets for my meals. I can't get any money and we have been o the move so much that I have no address long enough to have any sent from Bill. I think we can draw some money now though as long as we are here. I got mother and Maude's parcels ok but the strawberries of mother's were all soaked into the shirt & sox. A good wash will fix them though. Maude's arrived in good condition. Both had to go to France. I didn't expect them at all. Don't send very much to me at Christmas and mail it to Med. Corps Training Depot, Dibgate Camp, Shorncliffe, Eng.

Well I must ring off and get into bed as I'm pretty tired tonight. I'll write as soon as anything is done with me & let you know all about things.

Lovingly,

Harold

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

2 Nov. 1916 Holeyn Hall Wylam-on-Tyne

Dear folks,

I suppose you had quite an anxious time during the period between cables. You will likely have the note I sent from France and possibly some of my letters from England by this time. so there is no need for anxiety. I am just as fit now as ever I was and would ask to be marked out next time the doc. comes, if it wasn't for Bill's leave. As it is, I am going to request another week here. I think it will be granted when they know the reason. The Sister in charge seems very decent; I have explained to her.

Had a letter from Millie Mitford and ...ith Howson this morning. they gave me a very pressing invitation to stay at their place during my stay in London. I'll be glad to go there and to lose sight of soldiers and barracks for awhile.

I have been taking some nice long walks during the last few days. the weather has been just like Indian Summer - only not so nice. The country up around here is not nearly so pretty as it is in kent where 2nd Division trained last summer.

Friday Nov. 3rd

Was interrupted yesterday and did not get any more written. The weather is not so nice today so I am not going out but will try and get some more letters written. I have been having some good times with the Victrola during the last few days. It was away getting repaired so I didn't bother to look over the records. There must be about 200 or so and all big ones. I never listened to such good ones before. There are lots by Caruso, Melba, Scotti, Kubelic etc. All the grand operas etc. I could listen to them all day. The thing's never stopped going all day. I'm scared someone will be busting it or some of the records. Some of them cost 1 pound and some a guinea.

I was talking to the Commandant ( a woman) last evening and told her about wanting to stay another week. she said it would be alright if the Canadians did not have to be transferred to one of their own convalescent homes. she had had a communication asking how many Canadians were here that were fit to travel. there are only two. She expects some word from the RAMC doctor on Monday. If we are not marked out on Monday, everything will be "jake".

Tell Mae and the Toronto people not to send along a lot of stuff just yet anyway. I'll send for things I need after I see what I am issued in shape of kit. I'll be able to get nearly everything I need as I am in England now and won't require so much as I would in France. I am afraid most of the parcels that have been sent will go astray because likely everything will be sent to France. All my letters have been coming through ok. It keeps me pretty busy answering them.

There is nothing very eventful happening here and consequently not much news. Will let you know anything that turns up of importance.

Lovingly,

Harold