Friday, April 19, 2013

30 December 1915 Somewhere in France

Harold writes his last letter of 1915 to his mother in Teeswater.

Dear mother,

Well, I am back at the Château again and busy from the time I get up till I go to bed - in fact I have a 24 hour duty shift to commence at seven tonight, and I am just trying to get a line or two written this afternoon.

I got my discharge from the hospital on Tuesday after being transferred to our new divisional rest (station) ( D.R.S.). I was among the first batch of patients to go there. It was a pretty draughty place when I was there - only two days - and I was not a bit sorry to get back to my section again even if it is to be a general "flunky" at the Château.

I will not get very much time to write while I am here and it seems an age since I have written any letters. I have a big bunch to get done too, for the people who have sent things to me at Christmas all have to have an acknowledgment sent and there are quite a few of them.

Parcels have been very slow in coming and I have only gotten two that I had any notification of so far. The one from Mrs. Rumble which arrived on Christmas day and the one from the Teeswater Patriotic Society which arrived today. Everything in both of the parcels was okay and the sweater is just dandy and fits like a glove.

I have not tried on the shirt Mrs. Reid sent but it came at a very opportune moment. I'm crummy and I've had to burn an undershirt and it was the last clean one I had, as I lost another while I was in the hospital. I had taken it to a woman in the village before I took sick to be washed and she moved away before I got better.

I'll try and write each of the ladies a card anyway and thank them for their part in the parcel. Oh yes, I got Gert's while I was sick too, and have not written to her yet. Ettie's and Bathurst Church's came during the first week. Mrs. Rumble's apples have not arrived; they were reported to have been sent about November 1. The chicken has not arrived either but surely none of the rest will be long now.

I suppose you will be getting ready for New Year's celebrations. Was Bill home for Christmas? I guess you would always have a big crowd during Christmas and New Year's. I got Maud's papers and also the Teeswater News are coming along OK and the last I got was December 9th. Where did you get the idea that I got those clogs while scouting for wounded in Ypres? When I was up there I was scouting for firewood etc. We used to have to depend on that place for our firewood to supply our cookhouse and huts; also that was where we got the stones for the huts. That was how I got access to the houses hunting for stones and pipes etc. I got those boots in another village though, made on the premises.

I guess you will be wondering what kind of a time I had at Christmas. Well, I was sick all day and things were not very bright. But we had a fairly decent day all the same. A Christmas stocking was given each patient in the morning from The Toronto Patriotic League and then we got a turkey dinner with a Victrola concert in the afternoon. Mrs. Rumble's parcel came Christmas night and was transferred to D.R.S. on Sunday morning and came over here on Tuesday morning. On the car I came over here on last Tuesday, Charlie Scott a member of "B" section came along and was on his way to Canada. He is going on with three others to finish their courses in medicine and come out with commission in R.A.M.C. when they get their degrees M.B. (M.D. ?). The others are Bill Scott, Walter Barnes and Harold Irvine who was in London with me. I told Charles Scott, who is son of Rev. Dr. Scott of Toronto, to phone Orville when he gets there. I had no chance to see any of the other fellows before they left.

I didn't get time to finish this last night so we will try and get it away on the mail tonight. I am off the latrines (?) job and I'm holding down the desk today. I hope I'll get a chance to catch up with my correspondence here. I think I'll stop trying to write to very many and confine myself to about two or three letters a week. A whizbang will have to do any others that want to hear from me.

I just got out of the hospital in Bailleul (?) in time, as the village was shelled on Wednesday and over 100 shells were dropped around the village. One fell about 50 yards from the front of the hospital. There were 18 casualties but only three killed, 2 soldiers and a civilian. None of our boys were hurt. P.P.C.S.I. were just marching through at the time and had to lie in the ditches for a couple of hours.

Things are pretty quiet here now however after the big cannonade (?) we had the Sunday and Monday preceding Christmas. It was north of our lines and none of our brigade was hurt except that the gas the Germans sent over, drifted over part of the line. We were coughing away back at the hospital and were getting pretty husky throats before it cleared away. It was not bad enough back where we were for us to put on our helmets, but up at the front line they had to use theirs and they say they worked like a charm. When the Germans started to charge behind their gas, they didn't get a hundred men over their parapet. The artillery had the range perfectly and just blew them back - and up - so quickly that it was the only attempt they made to come over. Our guns kept at them though and from all accounts will take some few work parties to make their trenches habitable again.

Be sure and write soon and tell me all about your Christmas etc.

Your loving son,

Sunday, April 14, 2013

20 December 1915 Somewhere in Flanders

Harold writes to his parents from somewhere in France on his father's business letterhead.

Dear Mother and Father and the rest,

Here I am a patient in our own hospital but I'm not very sick, just stiff from lying down. I came in late Tuesday night and have been here ever since. I will be out in a day or two however and I will be good and hungry so that I'll be able to enjoy my Christmas eats. If I get all the Christmas parcels that they say they are coming, it will be a miracle if I don't get sick again. It is lucky that I had not been indulging before or I would have blamed it on too much eats. But I was playing football last Monday and Tuesday for a while and I got a good sweat on and then caught a cold. I will soon be okay now but will write more fully about Christmas and answer your letters as well. I got Mae's and Mother's and one from Rose (his brother Orville's wife). I am glad that the picture got there but I hope the boots are not lost. I had them parceled in a strong cardboard box and of the two parcels, it was the more securely tied up. No I do not think I wrote any letter between those two dates not that I have any recollection of anyway.

Everything points to a pretty good Christmas here, as good as we can expect for active service anyway. There will be lots to eat and lots to eat it too. According to the description of the contents of my parcels, there is about enough stuff coming my way to start a young store. Don't send anymore clothes for goodness sakes till I get what are on the way and see what is in them. I expect a job doing rifle guard next week so maybe I'll be glad of all that yet. The trick is to carry it when we move. We had a slight sniff of gas yesterday morning (German), not successful though. I find this is the last sheet of paper I have brought in my pack so I'll have to ring off now and get this away on the noon mail. I will write more fully later.


Thursday, April 11, 2013

8 December 1915 Somewhere in France

Dear Mother,

This is Wednesday morning and I am trying to get a small bit written at this while I can. It is a splendid morning and is a great one for walking. I had an easy time easy night last night and had intended going up to the next village to see Billy Redburn. However the S.M. put that idea on the blink by announcing a muster parade for inspection of gas helmets and of course everyone must be on that parade. Since there is no use going to bed and no time to go to see Billy I'll just try and get this written.

I hope you get the few little souvenirs I sent for Christmas. They are not very much but the choice of stuff here is very limited and it is hard to get stuff through the mails. I sent to Toronto and told Orville and the girls to get something for you and father for me. I hope it gets there by Christmas too. It no doubt will if it is not delayed too long by the extra rush. The parcel you sent on November 5 got here on Monday December 6, just a month from the time it was posted. The cake in the bottom of the box was in fine shape and is a dandy cake. Several of the fellows who sleep close to where I do, had a piece and ever since they are hovering around at meal time like flies around a tin of jam. The cookies were pretty dry but good just the same. I guess it is not very practicable to send eatables such as cookies and doughnuts so far, at least when it takes a month to get here. The maple syrup and nut candy and nuts were all fine and dandy. I have been about the luckiest fellow with parcels the last week or 10 days and have sure been living high. I had a great big parcel from "the Bathurst Patriotic Club" and it had nearly everything in it that you could imagine. There was not much to eat (except chocolate bars)  but in a big pair of socks they had crammed two leather bound pocket diaries, a toothbrush, shaving powder, two pencils, envelopes and one bar of Ivory soap, a housewife with scissors in it, a towel. Each article was contributed by a different person and nearly all had a small Christmas tag on it. It was a good parcel for a soldier and I can tell you I appreciated it too. I had another one from Ettie the next day and it was peach. Two pair of socks one pair from Laura Haynes. They are dandy and both pair fit like a glove.  They are the first ones that Ettie ever knitted too, a pair of wristlets and a couple of handkerchiefs. Say by the way, I have about enough of them. I also got your ? There were three or four in the Bathurst parcel and also a can of insect powder and a comb. ha! ha! Mighty handy stuff too for most of us are getting like a cage of monkeys now.

There was a lot of eats in Ettie's parcel too. Peanut butter, candy, etc. etc. and of course it was good. Aunt Aggie had one land along too and it was full of figs dates candy and nuts. I had a letter from Mae and she says there is another one from Toronto on the way and that Mrs. Rumble also was sending one. They are not to hand yet but will no doubt soon be here. Some of the fellows do not get very much and when it comes pouring in to me, it hardly seems as square deal. I try and divey up as best I can and they all seem to appreciate it.

We are not getting very much to do just now and we have only been having an occasional wounded man where a while ago we were getting from 5 to 15 a night. It is a pretty good record for the 4th Brigade considering that they hold the trenches  (which hardly deserve the name ) that have seen some of the heaviest fighting of the war and where the Princess Pats made some of their famous charges.

You were asking in your last letter if I was getting fat. Say you would hardly know me. I cannot button my tunic when I have on a sweater and it is two sizes larger than the one I had last fall when I joined. If I wasn't getting fat I should worry because I am not doing enough work to take anything off me and with the parcels I get.

It is such a dandy clear day that the air is chuck-full of airplanes and au pom-poms and anti-air guns are busy. They very seldom seem to hit anything but I suppose they keep the airplanes from taking too many liberties etc.

Well this is Friday morning and if I get this away by noon it will likely leave England on the Saturday midnight mail and probably get home before New Year's.

I got a big Canadian mail yesterday and there will likely be more along today
but it is coming very irregularly now and will no doubt be worse as it gets near Christmas.

I think I have received everything that has been sent to me and I always try to acknowledge it. I guess I'll have to drop a "whiz-bang" (a field postcard) whenever I receive anything just when I get it and then you will know as soon as possible. In Mae's letter she seemed to think that possibly some things had gone astray. I do not think I have lost anything yet. Don't worry about me writing too many letters. I only write two or three a week. I try to write one home at least once a week and that will do for everyone. I might sometimes drop a letter to Ettie (and) to some of the others when I have time. By the way I'll enclose a letter I received from Mrs. Skillings of Scarborough. I got it sometime ago but have not answered it yet.

Oh yes the boxes I get are fine but do not weigh them down with fruitcake please. There will be lots of that and Christmas pudding etc. floating around here by Christmas  -that is if it can float-  and the hospital will likely be full of fellows with gout etc. they will all be calling it "trench feet" though. We get all the clothes we can possibly use or carry so any extra you have, send it to the Red Cross first and the fellows in the trenches will get it. If you have a good hot bath you might send it across. I haven't had a good one for nearly a month so possibly you will see how the insect powder comes in handy eh! I haven't had to use any yet but I have a "little 'itch in my arrangements".

Well I must ring off now and get this posted and then turn in.

Yours lovingly,

Thursday, April 4, 2013

6 December 1915 Somewhere in France

An incomplete letter to his mother in Teeswater.  

Dear Mother,  

Received your letter of December 12 yesterday and as usual was very glad to hear that everyone was okay. I guess you would be so busy at Christmas time that you could hardly turn around. I see that you expected your usual crowd at Christmas.  

I got your parcel with Ettie’s, Mrs. Nixon’s, Mrs. Calvin’s and Mrs. Hughes’ contributions but failed to find your own. In its stead was a note from the postal authorities to the effect that, as the enclosed parcel of potted chicken was in a high-state of decomposition, it had been removed and destroyed and the remaining part of the former parcel repacked. So I guess it is not practicable to send stuff like that so far. Everything else was in good condition and I must write to them all and thank them. I have written to Mrs. Nixon and will drop a line to the others to as soon as I can.  

We are at the Château yet but expect will be leaving in another 10 days or so for our D.R.S. I don't know for sure just how long we will be there but I guess it will be a month at least and from there we will go on to our dressing station where we were last.  

Yes, we have been seeing quite a bit about Ford's peace expedition but I am afraid it is not going to be of much value. Oh yes, it was our own hospital that we were building the sandbag barricade for. It is not sand we put in the bags, only earth or anything else like that, that we can get.

Since we left our advanced dressing station there has been quite a bit of artillery firing around there and on one occasion two or three days after I had been sent on to our D.R.S., the village got quite a drubbing from the German artillery and the hospital handled 18 casualties in the afternoon. Our men got off okay and there were none hurt at all. I understand that since that bombardment (these were about 100 shells thrown over) there is a big dugout being built (bombproof) for the patients from the hospital to be carried to in case of a bombardment (say excuse this mixed up composition but I am writing this at the desk and people are continually…

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

3 December 1915 Somewhere in Flanders

 Harold sends Christmas greetings to one of his sisters.  

Dear sister,

Just a short line to wish you a very happy Christmas and all kinds of enjoyment and prosperity in 1916.  

Was out on pass yesterday and did a little bit of shopping. Am enclosing a small handkerchief as small souvenir of "La Guerre". Everything over here is scarce and when we ask for anything that they have not got, they say, "Apres La Guerre".  

Hope you have a big time at Xmas.