Tuesday, August 27, 2013

11 March 1916 France

Dear everybody:

It seems an age since I have written home or received mail from home either but there ought to be a Canadian mail along today surely. I have been so busy since we moved here that there has not been much time to write anyway. Last Saturday we moved from the Château over here. This is the DRS for the 3rd division and it will not be very bad here when we get settled. As the weather gets better we will not have so many patients. We have room for about 120 or so but at present we have only about 15 patients here. We only keep them for seven days and then either discharge or evacuate them to some other hospital. It is quite a change here from the Château. But I suppose we will soon get tired of it here just the same as it gets monotonous at all the other places. 

There is a village here and a railway but not very many troops. We are the only Canadians here and when the other section first came here they were considered quite unique by the French but they will soon stopped showering us any favors when they find out that the British Tommies do not like it.

When we were at the Château we got a bunch together and started to learn a few songs but when we came here we were lost without a piano. The other day however one was discovered in a house at the other side of the town. They were only too glad to let us use it and whenever we can we are going over there for an hour or so to practice. She sets out coffee for us when we are through and won't accept pay for it.

We can only stay for an hour as there is a rule that all soldiers must be in their billets by 8:30 PM. We get nearly got pinched by the MPs the first night we were up. We were making too much noise in the streets after hours. We bluffed him out however.

Our billets are pretty fair but not as good as at the Château. We are in a loft over a driveway and it is pretty draughty. It is dry anyway and we can pinch enough blankets from the hospital to keep us warm. It is not necessary for us to be there very much so we do not mind if they are not very elegant.
The hospital is in an old factory with most of the machinery taken out. It has all been nicely whitewashed inside and looks real clean and bright. I am working in the surgical ward and have considerable bandaging to do. We occasionally get a real serious case and these are immediately sent down to the casualty clearing station (CCS). I think quite a percentage of the accident cases are incurred when the patient is drunk. We have 35 here now who were hurt when they were drunk. One fellow was run over and we thought for a while that his leg was broken. Another was riding a bike when he was pickled and fell off and broke the bike and hurt himself. He was taken away this morning to court-martial. Any cases like that do not get much sympathy from the medical officers and they are sent back to their unit as soon as they are able to do light duty. Very often they get punishment besides. I think that is one reason why they do not pay us anymore than (£ or $ ?) 6 a month.

I am writing this on Tuesday p.m. and this makes it two weeks since there has been a Canadian mail and I guess it's about the same length of time since I have written home. The weather has been splendid this last few days but there is very little to do just yet. The artillery still keep banging away at each other. I suppose you have seen before now that we have had one death. One of our farriers had been so badly wounded that he had to have both legs amputated and died the day after he was hit. He was working in a civilian blacksmith shop next door to the hospital at LaClytte, not here and a shell came along and wrecked the place. It just missed the hospital by a few yards.

I suppose Bill is in England by this time and I am looking for a letter from him every day. I have written care of Jeffs so he will get my letter just as soon as he arrives in London.

I am enclosing a few snaps of the village here. I would not even attempt to spell it myself it is pronounced 'God wears velvet' and at couple of Bailleul. There is a place downtown where they have a camera and I am going to try and get some photos taken. They do a pretty good job in postcards. I'll have one taken with my new equipment on.

Well there is nothing startling to write about so I'll bring off. I'll write you when the mail comes in and let you know if I get any. 
Your loving son and brother,
Harold Skilling