Army Diary Kept By Fred Albright, Whilst In Training In England,
Before His Departure For France from June 1 1917 to September 1 1917
In late March 1917 Frederick Stanley Albright went overseas for training to England with the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force and then to France in September 1917. While in England Fred kept a daily diary from June 1, 1917 to September 1, 1917. Although some of his activities at this time are told to Evelyn in his letters to her, the diary gives a day by day chronicle of his army experiences. The account includes his comments and personal thoughts about food, accommodations, fellow recruits, training, historical sites he visits, religious services, English countryside, weather, Canadian politics, progress of the war, German air raids over England, friendships, social observations and camp life in general.
Despite the obvious hardships it is clear from the diary that Fred is rather enjoying his experiences. It is a way of life that appears novel to him. From some of Fred’s early letters it might appear that as a boy he most probably did not engage in the type of strenuous outdoor regime that the military demanded, so in a sense he is making up for lost time.
Fred’s handwriting is in a closely written and cramped style, which makes the diary difficult to read in places. Words that are indecipherable are denoted: ?
The diary begins as Fred, who is a sergeant, is stationed at the Imperial school at Hertford undergoing training. He observes: “This is the fourth diary I have started. That fact should indicate of itself that the others have all been short-lived as was indeed the case. I hope this one will prove of longer duration.”
On Monday August 27, 1917, a few days before embarkation to France, Fred writes: “...Am now all ready except that the rain has prevented my clothes from drying & I don’t want to close the trunk until these things are put in. Have just been up to sign my request for reversion to the rank of private to go overseas.”
The following is inscribed on the inside front cover of the diary :
895173 Sergt. F.S. Albright
21st Reserve Bn C.E.F.
Bramshott, Hants. Eng. and of Calgary, Canada
Hertford, Herts, Eng. June 1/17
This is the fourth diary I have started. That fact should indicate of itself that the others have all been short-lived as was indeed the case. I hope this one will prove of longer duration.
It will be 3 weeks tomorrow since I came here to the N.C.O.’s school and this week has either been a little less strenuous or we have become so accustomed to things that we take them more easily. Several times I have thought of the words of the chap in the tea-room the night we arrived. “Don’t let them break your heart, boys, in the first 2 weeks. They’ll try to do it, but don’t let them.”
It’s 4 weeks today since I received any Canadian mail. I’ve almost given up hope of any, - and yet I am really deep down in my heart half expecting some tomorrow. We shall see.
Tea tonight came dangerously near being a failure. Bread & butter, tea & anchovy paste were on the table but the paste was uneatable so we grimly ground away at the bread & tea. In the evening Choate & I went downtown. First we had each 2 glasses milk, some cake & biscuits in a little shop kept by 2 dear old ladies. Then we strolled about, looking into various pubs, where, early though it was in the evening, - the usual crowd was gathering, - standing, sitting or lounging by bar or in one of the many little rooms adjoining, which seem to abound in every Eng. pub. house. The bleared eyes, the bloated & blotched faces, with their vacant expressions - and the miserable, stunted & deformed bodies all bore mute witness to the ravages of rum, poverty and filth. Now that the able-bodied men are all away to the war, the population at home in Hertford seems unusually weak and diseased. Choate was on the lookout for a couple cycles for the week end, but couldn’t get any. It appears the cycle shops have been “stung” by soldiers & now will not rent bikes to them on any consideration.
In the course of our quest we wandered into the stable yard of the Salisbury Arms, a typical inn yard. I wish I could describe it, - a square courtyard - paved most unevenly with rough cobble stones, all swept and washed clean as doorsteps; numerous doors & passages leading off in all directions; partially covered by lofts & overhead passages - with the centre open to the sky; here and there hostlers, stable boys & others were chatting in groups, while near the centre of the square sat an old couple at a table spread with a meagre supper. One could easily imagine this to be a scene of the bustle and animated life in the old coaching days, but this evening all was quiet and restful. Later we each had a sixpenny(1) ice - the best I’ve had in Eng. I think. The one I had the other night decided me not to try another in this country, but tonight’s was really good.
Today while drilling in Ball’s Park, I looked across the hedge and saw the first wild roses - yes - and smelt them for unlike so many of the flowers here they have a perfume. They were in a lovely setting with the woods for a background while on both sides from bayonet dummies to the road were hawthorn, snowball lilac, horsechestnut & other blossoms whose names I don’t know.
Saturday June 2nd 1917
Breakfast time was indeed one of joy today, for at last the mail serjeant had his hands full of Canadian mail - and few were the Canadian whose names he didn’t call. I got 5 - 4 from Evelyn & 1 from Fred Graham. None of us lingered over breakfast but all hurried to our quarters to snatch as much time as possible from rubbing & shining & polishing to lose ourselves in the news from home.
Being Sat. we of course knocked off work at 11.30. In the p.m. I took my letters & writing materials to Ball’s Park & sought the shade of a spreading oak, but not before I had plucked a few of each of the different kinds of flowers I saw yesterday. The roses are so short lived, but I picked a few half opened buds to press, - and a few others to smell as I lay on the grass re-reading my letters. About 3.45 I returned to barracks for tea, which today was in marked contrast to yesterday’s. So many of the serjeants were away on pass, there was all the jam we wanted. I really don’t know how much bread & jam I ate, - but it was a great deal - and some of the last helping of jam was real strawberry. I believe I had 5 cups of tea.
After tea the men all scattered and soon our barrack room was deserted. I wrote & studied a short while then went uptown also. Left 2 rolls of films for developing, bought a volume of Tennyson to read and a stick of electric cleaning material to take the spot out of my trousers which the rifle oil made yesterday. I asked the shop girl for gasoline but as I had no bottle to put it in, a bottle would have cost more than the gasoline so on the girl’s recommendation I bought the stick. Also bought 2d of peanuts which I ate as I strolled about through the overarching avenues of trees which skirt St Andrew’s churchyard. The peanuts were only indifferently good but the evening was delightful after the early showers and the spot was so quiet & restful. In the graveyard were many new mounds of earth & several new stones. A few women were putting fresh flowers here & there. As I strolled along I couldn’t but be amused by the inscriptions, many of which seemed more that usually malàpropos. Here is one;
“Sacred to the memory of John Crecher who died on Easter day Mar 23rd 1913.
Late corporal in the 4th Dragoons he served in the Crimean War. He fought at the battles of Alma, Inkerman, Balaclava & Sevastopol, and died at the age of 80 years.
What think ye of Christ?”
Sunday June 3rd 1917
A quiet day. Church parade this a.m. falling in at 10.15. arriving home at 12.15 - heard a fairly good sermon from a long winded local preacher. Congregation nearly all soldiers & children - not more than 15 other people. Slept a couple hours this p.m. and at 4.30 went to Rev. Hogarth’s for tea, at 11 Queen’s Road. Mr Hogarth was at another appointment [sic]but I spent a pleasant time with his wife & father-in-law - a fine old Londoner who now lives with them. Went to church again tonight.
Mr. Kennedy (the minister’s father-in-law) said Hertford had reason to be frightened of Zeps.(2) Apparently they are after the powder & other munitions factories at Waltham(3) - a few miles away. Hertford town suffered one raid - 36 bombs dropped - several building wrecked & 14 people killed. Then from here they saw the Zep brought down at Cuffley about 5 mi. away and the 2nd one at Mile End only a few miles farther away. Am going to bed early tonight.
Monday June 4th 1917
I don’t know whether or not this is summer but if July brings us any days brighter or hotter the longer June remains with us the better At 9 o’clock parade L/cpl. Garland fainted in the ranks. Perhaps he made too merry yesterday. But the day’s work was slightly easier. We started platoon drill this a.m. At dinner I received a parcel from Calgary which arrived in perfect condition. I ripped open the sewing of the cotton & took off the cover & took out a few chocolates and candy & left the further exploration of the box until after tonight’s lecture for which I’m waiting now.
From 3.30 to 4.30 we had an exam. at which “Wretched” gave an exhibition of himself that was disgraceful. He may be an officer but he is neither a gentleman nor a man.
Later - I’ve opened the box again and delved to the bottom, finding chewing gum, chocolate, salted peanuts, a can of pineapple, one of pork & beans a few oatcakes, some lump sugar, paper drinking cups, aspirin etc. I’m going to keep the sugar for Bramshott, but the other things will not last long.
The butter at tea today was green and rancid but the jam was strawberry, which compensated a little. We had tea bread & jam.
Tues. 5th June 1917
I intended going down town this evening but about 6.30 just as I was ready, orders were issued forbidding anyone going out because of a threatened air raid, - and a few minutes later a further order for everyone to keep under cover. So perforce I am in the barrack room alone with all others who didn’t get out before the gates were closed. No one is at all excited about it and several are grumbling because of the enforced confinement.
However nature is a strange thing. Many of these same foolhardy fellows would scheme to get out if they possibly could & in spite of the raids of the past complain that the present precautions are all fussy nonsense. It’s remarkable too that no one is the least bit excited. Perhaps the still evening air, bright sunshine and evening birdsong make the danger seem very unreal. Certainly no one would guess its presence from observation.
Today has been very hot & for the first time we paraded this p.m. in shirt sleeves. Got another letter today from Evelyn undated but posted Apr. 26 addressed to R.C.I. [Royal Canadian Institute] This went there & was readdressed. Also received my first “Globe” today - of issue May 15th and I read it cover to cover.
Wed. 6th June 1917
Nothing much new today - the same old round but it wasn’t so hot as it was cloudy & threatened rain. We learned that last night’s raid was of about 16 planes on the Thames estuary & that 2 were brought down. Our loss of life 4 killed & 17 wounded, with some property damage. Today we heard heavy distant firing both morning & afternoon.
2 letters today one from P.D. Sprung dated Apr. 25, & the other from Evelyn posted Apr. 30th. enclosing letters from Elleda & Rev. S.J. For the first time I learned from P.D’s letter that a total of 16,000.00 was raised by the Committee before the opening services - Hurrah! And yet they told me I was crazy to think of 15.000!
Thurs. 7th June 1917
I’m sure I perspired at least a quart today and that this p.m. there were 5 streams going down my face and body everyone of which is as large as half the things they call rivers in this country - The air was very “muggy” and the sun was awfully hot too - This p.m. being a half holiday after 3 o’clock, I hastened to the bath. My underwear was about twice its normal weight when I took it off. It did seem strange on such a day to read Evelyn’s letter of May 1st - one of the 6 Canadian letters I got this morning - in which she was sympathizing with me for being cold and talking of sending bed socks. It was a nice bunch of mail today, - one of the letters being from father & mother. So Aunt Agnes is dead. How quickly the John Moyer family is going now it has made a start, I suppose Aunt Amanda will be next. Evidently there are 3 more parcels on the way. How good everyone is to me. But be boxes never so good I wish I could put my legs under mother’s table and eat a few of the 10 dozen eggs father gets every day. Just think of it!
Apparently the last air raid was pretty much of a disaster for the Germans. Today’s papers announce that 10 of the 18 were brought down. It does look as if the German machines were being made of poorer material for we are bringing down a constantly increasing number without proportionate losses. We also learned unofficially today however that the recent Folkestone raid caused much more loss of life & damage than was reported. One of the boys here said 40 of his batt. were killed & that a total of 200 Can. soldiers were killed. One orderly room at least was blown up.
Fri 8th June 1917
This morning’s papers were full of news of the commencement of Haig’s new tremendous offensive, and of the blowing up of Hill 60(4) near Ypres. All the boys here take the war as a matter of course - many of them having seen war first hand - & so they don’t get excited. All the same the news caused a good deal of satisfaction. I wonder if the firing we have heard the last 2 or 3 days is some of that on the Western Front. We heard it again this morning.
Recently we have seen a number of aeroplanes also generally 4 or 5 every day, and occasionally a balloon.
This morning instead of P.T. all our platoon went for a swim - a welcome change. I’ve been swimming all day for it’s as hot except that the sun has been under clouds - as yesterday. Mother’s parcel came at noon today. The other serjeants are beginning to envy me as I get something every day now. the box contained 1 pr socks, a large nut loaf, some cookies, peanuts gum, raisins & a small jar of jam or jelly, which ran out a little. There were just 22 cookies, enough to go around the room with 1 each. I gave a generous slice of nut loaf to each of the Canadian boys - and needless to say both cookies & nut loaf were greatly enjoyed. Sent £2 10s to the bank by 10.00 p.m. tonight. Also had my semi-monthly haircut.
Sunday, 10th June 1917
I didn’t write any last night because, long as the days are, daylight strong enough by which to read or write doesn’t last after “Lights out” at 10. 15 and at that hour I was just finishing pressing my trousers - by the accepted barrack method of laying them on the table wetting them (with a sponge of course) and then putting them under the palliasse. - and I hadn’t my bed made, so of course I couldn’t write.
Yesterday was a red - letter day. I had succeeded the night before in getting a bike for the day for 1/6 & after a moderately cosy 3 hours’ work in the morning I hurried to the bicycle’s owner - a jeweller beyond the Castle grounds off Fore St. & left my watch to be repaired. It had been injured during my fall last Wednesday -& paraded back to the coy. office for my pass. Though I didn’t expect to stay away overnight I had asked for & obtained a week-end pass - good until Sun midnight. After a wash & brush up I hurried back downtown to the photographers & sat for my picture. Called for my prints but they were not finished. Back again to barracks for dinner of roast mutton rice, greens & pudding. Then made preparations for the trip. Put in my camera with an extra roll of films, a large piece of mother’s nut bread & Evelyn’s can of baked beans with a spoon to eat them with - Tennyson’s poems & some writing materials if perchance I should have spare time. While getting ready Carman said he’d like to go too, but he hadn’t a bike so he took mine & went off to hunt one. Was gone until 1.50 p.m.
I went back to the jewellers for my watch & on my return met Carman walking beside his wheel - a puncture. We hunted up a shop where a chap now convalescing after 2 years in France patched the inner tube for 6d. But we no sooner started than the tire blew out again. This happened twice more & finally a second hand tube was put in for an additl. 6d. Isn’t that cheap work? And new bicycles are fully 50% higher than before the war & it’s very hard to get them at all. Finally we started from Barracks at 3.10. My bike had 3 speeds. I put it in what I thought was low and by the time I got to the top of the long hill I was puffing like a grampus. And the next hill was a grind too. Being uphill nearly all way to Hoddesden - 4 mi. - I was feeling “willy-” when we arrived there. Went into a shop & got some oil & tightened up the seat which helped considerably but the wheel still ran hard: And it’s no wonder I wasn’t so soft as I imagined in spite of not having been on a bike since 3 years ago when on our wedding trip in England - for I learned when I returned the bike this evening that I had been not on low - but on high speed - geared to 108!!!
We followed along the road to Hoddesden, Broxborough & Cheshunt to Waltham Cross(5) - a delightful ride. Passing through Cheshunt we saw Paul’s famous greenhouses on both sides of the road - miles & miles of them. I never saw such an extensive plant before. I learned cover 1000 acres. The famous roses were out in evidence. I hear the greenhouses this year contain tomatoes & other profitable edibles. But all around Cheshunt are evidences of the nearby ? in beautiful flowers & shrubs. I saw domestic roses in bloom for the first - single & double white, yellow & red. - climbing & bush varieties. Oh, it was lovely!
In Waltham Cross we tried to have tea at “The Four Swans” but learned that they are closed temporarily, so hunted up a nice little shop where we had 2 glasses milk each bread & butter - very thin- raspberry jam biscuits - & a cup of tea for Carman for 1/6.(6)
On our way from Waltham Cross to the [Waltham] Abbey(7) we could see to north & south the tall smoke stacks of the immense powder factories - the largest in the British Empire I’m told. These have been the objective of the air raids that have passed over this district. The employees were on their way home from work, men women, girls & boys and we had to thread our way along the narrow street. Spent about 1/2 hour at the Abbey which was rather disappointing, - there’s so little of it, then after looking in vain for Harold’s Bridge(8) saw the old gateway & Romeland & returned to the Cross. Spying some strawberries in a fruiterer’s window we dismounted went in & on being told they were grown at Southampton bought 6d worth at 1/2d per lb. Going outside into the adjoining lane we soon despatched them - beautiful luscious berries they were - and the first of the season. Oh they were good!
And now came the most beautiful part of the trip. Taking a private road running S.W. from Waltham Cross we cycled for 2 or 3 miles under an archway of fine trees past fields of fat sleek cattle & contented sheep “Knee deep in June” past a beautiful woods where rhododendrons made a perfect riot of color, to Temple Bar. Then turning north east we made for Cheshunt - past more rhododendrons, more old woods & 2 lovely old churchyards with roses snowballs, & various other flowers neatly trimmed shrubs & hemlocks, spruces & pines. In this last churchyard which was formed thus ? and set in a little village surrounded by forest -there is a quaint low church of rubblestone. If the evening had been younger, we would have tarried longer. As it was we strolled in and then out & on through narrow lanes, flower embowered - to High St. Cheshunt. At another inviting side road we branched off - stopped in a field meadow & ate our supper lying in the grass amid buttercups & daisies. Then back to the London road - stopped for a drink of Devonshire cider at Broxbourne - and then leisurely homeward in the cool of the evening. At Hoddesden I walked up the long hill feeling pretty tired also at Haileybury school. But the last 3/4 mile was a coast - and we arrived at barracks about 9.00 tired but very well satisfied with the afternoon’s outing - Only one thing was lacking - that Evelyn was with me.
I hurried to the bathhouse & soaked in a hot bath until last Post. Then to bed after pressing my trousers.
When I got up this morning I found the pressing was not wholly successful - the crease in the right leg being more to the side than in front N’importe! Others had similar troubles. Davidson had about 3 creases in each leg.
After breakfast I leisurely cleaned up & sorted out my parcels - putting all in one box. Oh, yes, I forgot to say, I got a “Globe” yesterday morning and this a.m. 2 more. One of May 16th together with a letter from Elmer Wright saying he is at Bramshott. About 11 I took the bike back but no one was at home so I returned it to barracks & came out to the Meads, writing & just drinking in the beauty of meadow, flower & song. I’ve done the same this p.m. and this evening. I’m now away on the north side - or slope under the trees and for the past hour there has been a continual chorus of bird song. I wish I knew the names of the songsters. Once I said the Eng. birds only chirped or whistled. That was true of the early ones, but now these are real warblers. Oh, if only Evelyn were here to enjoy it with me. I can’t describe the beauty of the place but some day, I hope we’ll visit it together.
Mon. 11th June 1917
Today the same old round - with the air hotter than ever nothing new, except that I got 2 letters from Evelyn posted May 15th & 16th. Last evening I strolled across the other side of the Meads up a winding road past an old deserted church yard, - down across a meadow & up again into Ware Park. The footpath lead past heath & bracken to an avenue of the finest beeches I ever saw - and running at right angles to these was another avenue of beeches. Looking down the vista it seemed and I believe is fully a mile long. Here and there were gaps and the upturned roots told the tale of the severe storm a few years months ago which uprooted so many old trees hereabouts, but in spite of these the ranks were almost full. And such trees as they were! Giants in very truth whose arching branches met overhead and formed a canopy for those passing beneath. Formerly this was the main driveway to Ware Castle - a brick mansion partially ivy-clad on which the setting sun cast its rays. But now there is a new road a little on one side and there is only a footpath under the trees. Evidently the vehicular traffic was injuring the roots of the trees. It was a lovely evening for a walk with birds twittering & singing in the oaks and beeches on either side. Last night I heard a cuckoo call more distinctly than ever before. If only Evelyn had been along!
This evening I went down town & saw my photo proof - was only fairly well satisfied but let it go - also got my prints which were a disappointment after seeing how well the films had developed.
Oh, I almost forgot, - yesterday a letter came from Dr (Capt. Elmer) Wright from Bramshott. I hadn’t known he was over though from Evelyn’s letters I had guessed he had left Calgary.
12th June 1917
My wedding anniversary! Three years ago this evening we were at the Clifton House, Niagara Falls. What a lovely June day it was - and quite hot too though not so swelteringly hot as today. There wasn’t much opportunity to celebrate today - The same round of perspiring work, - oh, how we did perspire. For a wonder the powers that be allowed us to drill & attend lectures this p.m. in shirt sleeves. Even at that we sprinkled the dust, - and our food at tea time - for it was just as hot in the mess hut - in fact hotter than outside. After tea we had our lecture in Ball’s Park, marching there in “ walking out” dress. Later I went down town & celebrate the day by having some real strawberries & cream getting 1/4 lb. strawberries for 6d. at one shop, then going to a dairy shop & getting a place & utensils to eat with, & sugar & cream for an additional 6d. But what I had was worth a shilling, and no mistake. I see by tonight’s orders reveille will sound tomorrow at 5 instead of 5.30.
Wed. June 13/17
This morning for the first time reveille sounded at 5 a.m. making a pretty long day. Just after breakfast a dirigible balloon circled very low over the barracks 3 or 4 times. What perfect control the pilot appeared to have and how gracefully it turned and rose or fell. I took 3 snaps with the camera. One of them should turn out all right. I’m doubtful of the others though.
Later in the morning while drilling on the Meads the air raid alarm sounded, so we piled arms and lay under the trees, but after 15 or 20 minutes we resumed drill, - returning to barracks at noon however by platoons instead of as a company. This evening we learned there had been a raid over East London. Don’t know what damage was done. This has been another terribly hot day. Fortunately we had were allowed on all parades in shirtsleeves.
Thurs. June 14/17
Another hot day and another air raid. According to the papers in yesterday’s more than 450 were killed & wounded 147 being killed but it is believed the damage was heavy & the casualties much greater than reported. Don’t know what happened this p.m. except that it drove us from the parade ground in Ball’s Park to barracks & kept us there for an hour & a half. This evening I went for a walk in Ware Park - lay on the turf writing & eating blackcurrants & nut bread. It was a lovely evening & I had a lovely walk. Saw some beautiful roses - and smelt some new mown hay. It seems hard to realize haying time is here.
Fri. June 15/17
Reveille at 5.00 & first parade at 6.15 this morning. No butter for tea - only dry bread & jam. After tea - another air raid scare, which of course meant C.B. for us. Some of the boys were quite aggrieved - apparently more because we haven’t seen anything than because the air raid is on. The bread was the hardest & toughest & mouldiest yet. At tea time my knife slipped while I was trying to cut a slice & I skinned my knuckle on the crust.
Sat. June 16/17
A hot sultry day. I had planned to walk to Hatfield this p.m. but it was so hot I decided to wait until after tea. Spent the afternoon in cleaning & sleeping. At tea the butter ran like oil - but we had strawberry & black currant jam. Later the sky became overcast & it thundered threatening a real storm. It hasn’t broken yet (6.30 p.m.) but looks certain to do so soon so I’ve postponed my walking tour. It’s very inconsiderate of the weather man to rain on Saturday.
Sun. June 17/17
Last night’s threatened storm didn’t materialize here, though it rained furiously in London. However it didn’t cool Hertford where today it is swelteringly close. Last night’s low visibility brought another German visit and at 12.10 we were roused & had to sleep the rest of the night in our clothes with belt & bayonet on, much to the disgust of the men. We heard this morning that 2 Zeps visited Eng. & that one was brought down. Another raid is expected tonight. This is my second Sunday on duty - this time along with Choate as telephone orderlies nothing to do but hang around, - but I think that’s about all I’d have done anyhow on account of the heat. Will have to snatch what sleep I can tonight sitting up. But I’m getting accustomed to short rations of sleep & don’t much mind it.
Mon. June 18/17
How often an unpropitious beginning for a day is but the forerunner of a happy ending. So with today. I was awake - really awake this morning at 4.30. From 2.15 on I was supposed to be awake in my capacity of telephone orderly. Choate & I having flipped a penny to decide which should sleep first and I having won the toss. This meant sleep for me from 11.30 to 2.15 & for Choate from 2.15 to 5. But I dozed fitfully during my period of watching awakening every 5 min. to look at my watch & then finally arising at 4.30. We were exempt from P.T. and during that period I had another half hour’s sleep. Then came the breakfast fiasco. Yesterday there was an influx of 4 R.S.M’s & P.T. instructors and no provision was made for their messing. So when we reached the mess tent we found every seat occupied, with at least a score of men waiting to be fed - no bread no bacon no dishes & only one waiter. After a good deal of grumbling several of the men left in disgust & got their breakfast at the canteen. Choate & I stuck it out & finally got fed, even getting some jam in addition to the bacon, but the last half an hour in the process making it a rush to get on parade. Noon wasn’t quite but was nearly as bad. The grub is getting worse each day. The butter is uneatable & the bread has been mouldy every time for 3 days past.
Well the compensation came in lighter work for they really are easing up on us - and in 5 letters from Evelyn & 2 Toronto Globes - such good letters as they were. I have read & re-read them already.
Yesterday Corp. Hunt reports that he saw the zep bro’t down about 5 mi. from his home in Sussex 3.25 yesterday morning - It was a great sight.
Today has not been quite so hot & there have been a few abortive attempts at thunder showers. Rain is badly needed for the crops.
Tues. June 19/17
This a.m. Choate had a letter from Smith saying Cornett & ??Kinnett had been put on the 2nd draft to leave in 2 or 3 weeks & had been reduced to sergts. While all of the 191 sergts who came over with us had been reduced to lance sergts. Evidently I shall not have much surplus pay to bank henceforth.
Had the first lesson in musketry today. Our instructor is a mere boy & I doubt whether he will teach us much.
For breakfast this morning we had Canadian canned salmon the best fish I’ve had since coming to Eng. All the boys appreciated it, & it helped to compensate for the confusion incidental to a second sitting & the mouldy bread & rancid butter which very few ever attempt to eat.
Today brought another box from Owen Sound.
Wed. June 20/17
The days are flying past. Here this week is half gone & it seems no time since Sunday. It will soon be time to leave here. I hardly know whether I’ll be glad or not in spite of the mouldy bread - and it was better today. For breakfast & tea I had the butter that came in Mother Kelly’s parcel and though it was very soft it tasted like real butter. Several of the other boys at the table helped to make it disappear, - and indeed they were not slow in accepting the invitation I gave them. Tomorrow we’ll try some of the cheese.
This morning I took the last of mother’s nut loaf & bought strawberries 1/2 lb for 4d. - & took them to the Jersey Dairy where I had cream & sugar and ate them from a cut glass dish. They were good.
Had a letter from Ken. McLaws today. He says they spent 7 weeks in quarantine then went straight to France without any leave. Our first exam results were published today. Nease was top man with 39 out of 40 Choate & I each made 35 - for 6th place. Our platoon had the best average of the lot.
Thurs. June 21/17
Today completes my first year of military life. Looking back to June 21st 1916, the time seems very long in some respects, while in others it seems but a little while. And yet I have got very far away from the office work, and I dare say there have been greater changes in me than I realize. One fact is outstanding - that I am several years younger physically. The past 6 weeks at Hertford have done wonders for me, and if I were ordered to France tomorrow I would feel that I was going with half decent chance of holding my own with the other fellow.
Nothing new today except that it has been rather easier than usual. Being Thursday there was only one period this afternoon and it was a lecture on musketry. Oh, yes, one thing of note did happen. Another box arrived from Evelyn. I haven’t opened it yet but will do so soon. At present there is a roomful of fellows making a great racket.
Fri. June 22/17
Another day nearer the end.
Sat. June 23/17
Intended studying a lot today but slept all p.m. After tea went down town for a few minutes and afterwards Choate & I argued on Socialism etc. until 8 o’clock. Then all 191 men except Carman had a feed in the canteen of my sodas, cream cheese rock cakes and some biscuits & coffee the other boys bought. Had a good time which smoothed over the asperities of Chaote’s morning awakening of “Arr” & Heenly. For tea tonight we had uneatable butter bread tea & and some stuff they call cake, not being able to eat the butter I had tea dry bread, & a small piece of so called cake.
Sun. June 24/17
What a change in temperature from last Sunday! Today was very cool & I feel really chilly this morning so I put on my undershirt again. Feel as if I might be starting a cold as my throat feels ticklish and so took some aspirin. Went to the Baptist church this morning, - a very nice church with a much larger and better dressed congregation than the Wesleyan Ch. but the sermon was so prosy I slept a good deal. This p.m. I wrote. Tea was almost a repetition of last night - tea, dry bread, and a very meagre portion of salad made of lettuce, onion, cucumber and an infinitesimal bit of tomato. A few minutes, gave a hiccough and said “There goes my whole blankety blank supper.”
Mon. June 25/17
This was blue Monday for most of the boys, whether they were slacker than usual or whether the officers & instructors were more critical I don’t know but fault was found with everything - drill, rifles etc. It was the same in both companies. Fortunately I escaped. This morning I still felt tough & my throat was ticklish, so I paraded sick. The medical serjt. gave me a gargle & when I asked to be excused duty for the day, I was surprised at his consenting. I intended to write & work a great deal but did little of either. This a.m. Sergt. Buller came in & talked for fully and hour & this p.m. I slept from dinner until tea time. It was great fun this morning watching the R.S.M. drill the class of sergt. majors in platoon drill. A couple more weeks will reduce the rotundity of some of them. Our own R.S.M. in particular looked like a rolling porpoise when doubling on the square. Weather - cloudy this morning with a little sprinkle about 8 a.m., later clearing & fine moderately cool.
Tues. June 26/17
From 3.15 on we were busy scrubbing. Thought there might be some Canadian mail today but there wasn’t though Armstrong got a box sent May 1st. Breakfast was a new departure in that we had bully beef & marmalade too. Otherwise the day has been much as usual only more so. I think we are all becoming rather stale.
Wed. June 27/17
Another day nearer the end. Had a swimming parade this a.m. with the water 59° Fahr. I enjoyed it but think I caught a little cold. Saw a dirigible baloon [sic] tonight. It did look graceful, but to the layman’s eyes not half so useful as an aeroplane. Nothing new happened.
Thurs. June 28/17
It has threatened rain today, but only a few sprinkles fell. It has looked favorable for an air raid - but haven’t heard of any. Examinations are on. I had mine in squad drill today. Did only fair.
Fri. June 29/17
Steadily falling rain made a welcome sound this morning as we rubbed sleepy eyes in response to the reveille bugle. It had rained all night and gave every appearance of making a day of it so most of the fellows rolled over & continued their sleep. I answered orderly serjeants when it was announced the first parade would be at 9 o’clock. I hurried back to the room with the glad news then leisurely shaved, shined etc before breakfast. As it continued to rain all morning, we had no drills - but instead there were lectures 9.00 - 10.00 & 11.30 - 12.30 with an exam on Map Reading in between. It was an easy one & I should do well. Time will show whether I did or not. After noon it rained too but not so hard. We had one hour of musketry in the barracks & then a lecture 3.30 - 4.30. with nothing after tea. The rain does freshen things. It will do an enormous amount of good. Perhaps it will make strawberries cheaper.
Everyone is beginning to ease up in the work. - As one serjeant remarked at tea tonight, “It’s like approaching Xmas holidays.” Very different from the subdued atmosphere during the first week of the course.
Sat. June 30/17
The morning broke cool & cloudy, and we shivered a little as we lined up on the parade ground at 6.08 a.m. bareheaded and in shirt sleeves. But it was not for long. S.M. Mundy evidently thought we needed a little extra attention because of yesterday’s rest, so as soon as we reached the top of the hill he gave the signal “Double march.” and we kept doubling with two brief interludes for about 20 min. and when we finally reached Ball’s Park we were all pretty warm. Then we had a stiff half hour of P.T. but I for one felt the better for it. When I sat down to breakfast I felt as if I could eat even the dishes.
Breakfast brought 3 letters from Evelyn posted June 6th 9th & 12th. All were addressed to Hertford, so they preceded the regular Canadian mail. As I sat reading them today Armstrong called out, “Say if you want to read those letters, go in the other room where the rest of us can’t see you.” How letters do bring one closer home again. They give distinctiveness to the dimly hazy pictures of some of the places we have not seen for so long. How far away & yet how near Calgary seems.
Mailed my mounted photo to Evelyn tonight.
Sun. July 1st 1917.
With today my little diary enters on its 2nd month. Thus far it has really been a pleasure and not a burden, but how humdrum it seems. Perhaps after we leave here there may be more change and then recorded events will be of more interest in the days to come.
Dominion Day! A year ago I was in Calgary spending my last work day at home before starting military life, and a beautiful warm summer day it was. I wonder what it’s like there today. Here it is by no means hot, but the sun is shining brightly and the clouds have all disappeared - an ideal day for a holiday. But being Sunday, I shall only go to church - write a little and perhaps take a walk. One of the boys remarked a while ago that probably the Canadians would celebrate this day by capturing Lens(9), which is being steadily encircled by the Eng. and Can. troops.
Certainly the Maple Leaf boys would like to. Let us hope it may be so. The capture of Lens would mark a definite success for British arms and besides would menace the strong fortress of Lille(10). How slowly we progress when all is said & done. At the time of the Vimy Ridge fighting 3 months ago some enthusiastic war correspondents said Lens was being occupied by our troops, - and they are still outside. When one stops to consider these things he realizes how unlikely is an early ending of the war. If only people at home could get a better perspective than they have.
A great fuss is being made in the papers about the first contingent - presumably a division of American troops which landed “somewhere in France” a few days ago. Truly it is an epoch marking event, but one becomes rather “fed-up” with the fulsome fawning of the a certain section of the British press. But it was ever thus and of course the “Statesers” lose no opportunity of self advertisement.
Mon July 2nd 1917
July has witnessed the commencement of 2 tremendous new offensives - one by the Russians who started again yesterday in Galicia with the capture of 8400 prisoners, - the other by the authorities here at the school who gave us the hardest time today that we’ve had for 6 weeks. Did I say some time ago they were easing off? Well they changed their minds today. To begin with S.M. Mundy took us for a run instead of P.T. We must have gone at least 5 mi. - doubling nearly all the way and that on an empty stomach before breakfast. Many fell out, and others were on the point of doing so. We all came in hot & with aching muscles. If we could have had a hot bath we would have felt better but no, we sat right down to breakfast & then went at cleaning up. All the rest of the day we were kept steadily at it, marching, marching, marching, and tonight everyone is weary.
It’s good to know the Russians have started again. Yesterday too the British crept nearer Lens & it looks as if it would have to fall soon. But on the other hand a new German offensive against the French is making some headway. Judging from Lloyd George’s(11) speeches last week at Glasgow & Dundee he doesn’t look for an early ending of the war, nor is there any suggestion of it in any of the Eng. papers.
Today has been sunny and moderately warm, but July isn’t beginning nearly so hot as June did. We aren’t complaining for we can work up enough perspiration as it is.
Tues July 3rd 1917
This has been another warm, strenuous day. Went bathing this a.m. instead of P.T. Wanted a hot bath tonight but the hot water was all gone & I had one lukewarm. Still it took off some of the perspiration. But the rigours of the day were compensated for by the mail. I got 8 letters - 3 from Evelyn, 1 from Margaret 1 from Don, & 3 newsletters from the Univ. of Alberta. The mail serjeant said when I asked if he had any for Albright, “Yes - a wheelbarrow full. Armstrong got 13, even Choate 2, Nease 6 or 7. Margaret’s letter contained surprising news - that Ray is home with Diabetes. How his plans do get thwarted! I do hope the case isn’t so serious as Margaret fears.
Last night our Map Reading exam reports were published. Heeney was top man with 50 out of a possible 50. Carman 2nd with 49 & I 3rd with 48. Just think! Only 2 more whole working days here.
Wed. July 4th 1917
This is the glorious Fourth. Low visibility again brought an air-raid, this time of 15 planes over Harwich about 7.15 a.m. According to tonight’s papers 8 were killed & 14 wounded & a little property damage done. It is not certain that any machines were brought down. The whole affair lasted only a few minutes. The alarm sounded here just as we came away from breakfast & we were hoping to escape a parade or two but at 8.40 - “All Clear!” sounded and out we went. But we didn’t hurt ourselves today. At 6.30 nos 1 & 4 platoons went to coy office in eights to receive their final grading by the coy. commander. It was merely a case of Quick March! Halt! Right Turn! Left Turn! Quick March! and almost before we knew we had been in we were out again. From 11.30 to 12.30 the whole school paraded in similar fashion into the Commandants room who told us each what recommendation was being made. The R.S.M. had charge of our ingoing & outgoing & believe me, we stepped lively. Armstrong & I were the first free of our platoon & when we got the command Right Turn , Quick March “Army” shot out of that room, through the orderly room & into the square like a coyote chased by a dog. I had difficulty in keeping him in sight, to nothing of keeping abreast of him. We were both nearly splitting with laughter & I couldn’t straighten out my face until we reached the other side of the square.
The final results are a farce. Some good men are recommended for promotion, but for the most part those marked out for special mention were by no means best or even good in their work, but had bought numerous drinks for the serjeant instructors. Such things are disgusting. For example, Heeney & Nease - 2 of the best corporals in the school are recommended to retain their rank & be instructors in map reading. This was my sentence too. Carman is recommended for another stripe, but the other 191 men are merely recommended to retain their present rank. I feel particularly sorry for Nease. However, we are all glad the end is near. The lecture tonight was “called off” so we have a long evening.
It has threatened rain all day & is sprinkling a little now, with prospects very poor for a good day tomorrow. Nease & I intend going for a bicycle trip instead of to the sports, if the weather permits.
Fri. July 6/17
After my return last night from Hatfield I finished a letter to Mother Kelly & one to Evelyn and there wasn’t time enough left to write in the diary. The morning was cloudy & threatened rain making some of the sports look blue but by noon the sun came right out and the afternoon was fine. I didn’t do much in the morning. Wrote a little, shined a little & went downtown & made arrangements for a bike for the p.m. for 9d.
After dinner Nease & I started out with Hatfield as our objective. Taking a circuitous route past Lord Desborough’s estate, Pausanger Park along lovely shady roads until we came to the German prison camp. A short chat with the sentry acquainted us with the fact that all the Bosches were away working during the day, so we rode on to Hatfield. Fortunately Hatfield House(12) was open yesterday to visitors and we had an exceptional opportunity of going through, escorted by one of the housemaids, who was much more leisurely in her tour of the rooms than the ordinary guide in peace time. Before going through the house we paid a visit to Queen Eliz’s Oak - which is about as much of a disappointment as the famous Big Tree in Stanley Park. It is protected enclosed by an iron fence, supported by wooden props - and further protected from the weather’s ravages by concrete. Of course nothing remains but the stump.
The house is very fine - not so mediaeval by far as Warwick, or Hampton Court, or other famous houses I might mention but yet not too modern. The happy combination makes one think it would not be a bad place to live in now. One of the chief beauties of the house is the collection of famous paintings - nearly all portraits - several by Van Dyke & Romney. On account of the prominence of the Cecil family in statesmanship, there has always been a close association with royalty and many are the relics & gifts and associations with the Kings & Queens crowned heads not only of Grt. Britain but also of continental countries. For instance there is the room Queen Victoria used, - and adjoining it a smaller one used by the Prince Consort. There is King James bedroom so named because of the statue of him over the mantel. There are the bedrooms occupied by the present King & Queen (King George V & Queen Mary) when they visit Hatfield House. Mr. Balfour(13) is a frequent visitor of course & he has his especial room. The late Lord Kitchener(14) was also a close friend of the present marquis as is attested by several paintings & photographs of this great general & numerous coats of mail & armour of various kinds given by him to the marquis. A monster painting of the Kaiser used to occupy a prominent place in the picture gallery but since the war broke out has been replaced by one of the ancestors of the Cecils.
We were shown the bedroom once occupied by the Kaiser(15), yes other rooms and by many others whose names I have forgotten. Among the curios are the garden hat and a pair of silk stockings worn by good Queen Bess. We were told that the present palace or house was built by the first Earl of Salisbury in the reign of James I. All that remains of the original palace is the banqueting hall a couple hundreds yards to the west. It was for a long time used as a stable until just prior to the beginning of the war when the marquis began to restore it which work has been held in abeyance during the war. The old palace was built a couple hundred years earlier - and was one of the royal palaces. Here Queen Elizabeth spent her childhood & girlhood and was virtually a prisoner during part of the reign of her sister Mary. It appears that in James’ time he coveted the home of the first Marquis of Salisbury & so commanded him to trade for Hatfield Palace. The earl didn’t want to do it but liked still less to thwart the royal will so Hatfield became the property of the Cecils.
In the hall we were also shown an unexploded bomb dropped near Epping during the first Zep raid. We each tried to lift it and I should say it weighs about 75 lb.
Later we had tea in Hatfield & I got a puncture in my front tire repaired. On the way back to Hertford we wheeled around to the prison camp again & after a little trouble and some liquid refreshment in the canteen we saw some of the Bosches at a distance of say 100 yds - waiting outside the orderly hut within the compound for distribution of parcels from home. Though warned not to do so, I risked taking a snap, almost under the nose of the serjeant of the guard. The prisoners were quite contented & orderly looking. The serjeant who took us around told us they are quite contented & are quite certain that the war will terminate in Germany’s favour. One very fine looking chap was pointed out as being a lance corporal - a university graduate who had taken post graduate work in Eng.
Today has been a hard day. Mr. Tyson returned yesterday and he put us right through the mill today. Instead of P.T. we had all played at clearing up in Ball’s Park, striking tents, taking down hurdles etc. and we fondly thought the day would be an easy one. Alas for such delusions! Owing to a visit of some Canadian staff colonel we did company drill all morning after B.T. until 12.45 with only 10 minutes rest in all that time. Being tired our exhibition of coy. drill was rotten. In the afternoon instead of the route march as per syllabus we had 2 hours of squad drill - making in all a very strenuous day.
There was another air raid alarm this morning but it lasted only about 20 minutes.
Today brought another letter from Evelyn - posted June 18th. Letters are coming through much quicker than formerly. This evening Armstrong, Choate, Heeney Nease & I all went to the swimming baths & tried to learn to swim. I haven’t succeeded yet but I believe all I lack is confidence & a few more attempts would achieve the desired result. The water was nice - 65° & I enjoyed it very much.
Sat. June [sic] July 7/17
Our last day work at Hertford! A beautiful spring summer day greeted us on awakening. Instead of P.T. and in order to make us fittingly remember the day about 9.30 the Germans made their appearance and the alarm sounded. All took cover under the trees where we remained until about 11.15. This must have been the worst raid yet, and for nearly half an hour the German fleet was in full view off to the south. If it had not been for their errand we would have admired the flight of their machines in graceful battle formation as they sailed back & forth - at one time apparently making direct for us then swerving to the west. We tried to count them but it was difficult to distinguish the planes from the shells which burst all around. I’m sure however I counted more than 35. It gave one mingled sensations - but chiefly an overpowering anger to see those birds of prey in the air and at the same time hear the fire of their of the guns & the bursts of exploding bombs. They must have caught it this time at Waltham & Enfield. Some of the boys claimed they saw 2 of the machines fall. I didn’t, whether they did or not I don’t know.
About 12.15 we were dismissed for the day except for scrubbing our barracks. This we have just finished doing.
Later. It is reported this evening that the London Genl. Post Office is in flames - that St. Paul’s cathedral was bombed - also Euston & King’s Cross stations(18). No particulars were given in the papers tonight - but rumours are flying thick & fast & everyone is talking reprisals.
I see by today’s papers that conscription in Canada passed by 118 to 55 - Quebec voting solidly against except for 2 cabinet members(19). The despatch adds that the defection from Sir Wilfrid’s leadership is likely to lead to the formation of a new party. I for one would be glad to see it occur.
Last evening Carman came in just full enough to feel happy, - and after “Lights Out” he pressed his pants. I don’t like to laugh at the foolishness of a drunken man, but he was so irresistably funny the whole room just indulged in suppressed snickers then finally sat up in bed & laughed outright. It was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.
From the Khaki to be seen on the streets & in the pubs tonight I imagine there will be a wild time tonight.
Sun. July 8/17
There certainly was a merry if not a wild time last night. About half of the fellows from our room came in pretty well “pickled” and almost without exception they felt happy. Only one was at all inclined to be irritable. Holmes wanted to box all comers and informed us many times of his prowess with the gloves. Incidentally he told how much he thinks of the Canadians in this room. Brown as usual was in a dramatic mood reciting and gesticulating with great histrionic effect. “Arry” was silly, and very wobbly on his legs as was Heeney also. Taylor stumbled on to his bed somehow but complained querulously that he was “all tangled up.” He was much disgusted with Brown telling him that he was drunk & asking him if he knew there was a war on. But such is discipline that after when “Lights Out” went all became quiet - that is all except Brown & Taylor who kept up a running crossfire for some time. Even after Taylor dropped off Brown continued his monologue in jerky 3 syllable phrases - Lloyd George’s recent speech in parliament, war taxes, and war babies being the topics to which he referred again & again. But at last even he succumbed to Morpheus.
When I awoke this morning a gentle rain was falling - and it has continued up until the present 10.15 a.m. Everyone is dressing in great coats for church parade.
Mon. July 9/17
It’s 8.30 a.m. All night the rain came down and it’s still coming. Those men who packed everything last night had the pleasure this morning of taking great coats out of their packs and making a readjustment. Everyone has been ready and waiting since 8 o’clock and as we don’t fall in until 9 for parade to the station the room looks and sounds as if inhabited by a lot of dancing dervishes. Some of the more boyish spirits like Heeney can hardly contain themselves. As for myself, I am glad I came for I received good training, but I am also glad to be going - and have no regrets that I am not chosen for Bexhill. I do wish though that Nease were going there. He takes it very hard that he isn’t considered good enough after having worked so hard and faithfully. Then too he feels the parting with Heeney for they have been like brothers.
Tues. July 10/17
It seems a long time since yesterday morning when I last wrote. Then I was sitting on my palliasse - mine no longer - in Hertford. Now as orderly sergt. I am awaiting tatoo bugle sound in “E” coy. orderly room. There have been great changes here since I went away. Most of the men N.C.O.’s & officers are changed. Capt. McNought is now with the 2nd Command C.C.O. at some other camp. Col. Hewgill is O.C. the battalion in place of Col. Stewart and so on down the line. Nearly all of the men who came over with the first 191 draft are in France - & ?Kinnett also. Sinclair & Cornett are the only ones here. Smith & Shaver are on the ranges. Their serjt’s mess is no longer crowded & in very truth there is a scarcity of N.C.O’s in “E” coy.
We said goodbye to Hertford station at 9.50 precisely, Carman leaning out of the window with shocking disrespect calling out “Goodbye Wombwell.” Hunt was with us after all. On arrival in London we 6 21st Reserve men had lunch at the Union Jack Club opposite Waterloo station - then went to see the supposed ruins of the General P.O. Crowds of curious ones were coming & going but they like us were amazed to see the walls absolutely intact and no evidences from the street of any damage except to the top and 2nd top stories. On the 3rd floor we could see the clerks carrying on “business as usual.” We looked at each other & smiled. The thought of all was - the Londoners are making much ado about nothing. From the G.P.O. we took a bus to Piccadilly Circus another place reported badly wrecked. Here there were even less noticeable evidences of the visit of the bird men. For a few minutes we looked around without seeing anything. Finally a small piece - probably 2 feet wide out of the cornice of the 2nd storey of Swan & Edgars store showed where a bomb that failed to explode had dropped, and across the street was a hole in a wall where a piece of marble facing possibly 2 feet square was broken out. There was also a cracked plate glass window near by. We went away much eased in mind.
At the R.C.I. I got 8 letters from Evelyn all dated April making the list complete. After this call we all spent 1/6 + 2d war tax for seats in the “Gods” at the Comedy theatre and saw “Bubbly”(20) for which I didn’t care much. Indeed where the light was strong enough I took my eyes off the stage and read Evelyn’s letters.
At Waterloo station I ran into Bill Reilly & read chatted with him for a few minutes.
It seemed good to be on the train for Bramshott again. Always charming. Surrey looked prettier than ever in the evening sunlight after the rain so fresh & clean everything looked! The train being nearly full when we arrived on the platform we got into a first class coach occupied only by us 21st men & 1 naval officer. I wanted to look at the scenery as we passed but Evelyn’s letters were too great a temptation and I buried myself in them.
On arrival at Liphook we began to walk to camp but burdened by equipment & kit bags we soon hailed a passing taxi. Bramshott looked good again in spite of the absence of old familiar faces. Men & staff had changed . Most of the first draft of 191st were in France & the 2nd draft recently back from landing leave. Of the sergeants only Sinclair & Cornett are in camp. ?Kinnett is in France & the rest are at school or on the ranges. Our old hut is divided one half occupied by 3 C.A.D.C. sergts. & the other by the coy of q.m.s. & stores. I was given a bunk for the night with the men in hut D14.
After getting an accumulated pile of Globes & the parcel of socks I sent from Hertford - the other parcel hasn’t arrived yet. I renewed a few acquaintances then set out to hunt up Elmer. I didn’t know what bn. he was attached to but kept on & on until I finally located him in the 26th lines at the farthest end of the camp. Spent the whole of the evening with him & had some of the stuffed dates, chocolates & candied apricots from the parcel he brought for me. As his room mate is away I accepted his invitation to spend the night so had a good bed. He told me Bruce Hunter is chaplain at Witney and that Herb Peters & Douglas Robinson are in the 9th Reserve.
I didn’t go on parade this a.m. & began my duties as C.O.S. this p.m. It gives me plenty of time during the day to myself.
This evening Herb & Douglas came down Oh, yes & today I was surprised to see as one of the new lieuts. in “E” coy. our ? Campbell - formerly Collegiate teacher in Calgary who came over with C.A.M.C. We four all went up to Elmer’s hut. Finding it locked we got the key and went in. Each had a small piece of nice cake that was on the table and some of my apricots & stuffed dates. Tonight I borrowed a bike & went to Liphook for the parcel I sent by train. It was pretty badly wrecked but nothing was missing. My other box didn’t arrive yet but I got a letter from Evelyn posted June 20th.
Wed. July 11/17
Today I had a short chat with Norman Weir who is not attached to the 21st having been invalided back from France with trench fever. He says the Shouldices have gone to Scotland on 2 month’s leave. He himself has just returned from a visit to the fleet - a privilege now given all officers returned from France. He says his brother Gordon is now Major in the artillery & has won the M.C. I always liked Gordon very much.
This p.m. (being Wednesday) was devoted to sports. It was quite hot so I had a nice bath. Now feel much better. Yesterday I moved down into the old hut S.6. Davidson & Jimmie Barnes are coming there too. The Dentals seem to be very quiet & nice chaps so we shall get along quite well. Davidson has moved in already though Barnes hasn’t. Both have got back sergts’ stripes. I like Barnes & am glad we are to be together. My box didn’t come today either.
Thurs. July 12/17
Today brought a letter from Evelyn posted May 29th. It’s strange the ? foremost way the letters come. Went up to Elmer again with my tooth. Evidently his work yesterday stirred up something for my face was badly swollen this morning. After draining it today he put in some chemicals. Perhaps they will help matters. Last night I wrote to the Postmaster & the serg’t caterer at Hertford about my box. I’m beginning to fear it has been opened. Nothing much happened today. The papers are full of 3 things (1) the Sinn Fein victory yesterday in East Clare(21) (2) the German success over us at Nieuport(22) & (3) the Russian offensive. The Russians are apparently becoming a real factor in the situation once more.
Got a small box from Evelyn again with canned goods chocolate, nut candies & salted peanuts. Several of the fellows soon helped me despatch the latter. Herb Peters was down for a while and we looked over some pictures. Previous to that I had been in his hut & looked at some he has taken with a larger camera, though really they are very little better than my own. In his hut I met several other Calgary boys, - Bud Richards & McKay. There are 10 all told of the cyclists in the 9th. The last bunch of cyclists has been broken up like the former ones & they are now infantry.
Thurs. July 13/17
Last night “E” coy. was paid - my remuneration being £1-10s. Today I got another letter from Evelyn - posted June 6th, and one from “Pat” saying he’ll be here on Sunday.
This has been a hot day again and after the walk to the dental clinic this morning I felt sleepy, the C.S.M. is not feeling well today so I’m acting, but it hasn’t added much to my labours. This p.m. I was paraded before Lt. Col. Hewgill re my application for a commission. There is practically no hope he told me for he said that in view of the recent order he wouldn’t be allowed to forward my application. He told me he would see what he could do about getting me on draft. I’m to see Mr. Stillman about it. I don’t want to fuss around here. It seems like wasting time.
Sat. July 14/17
A hot close day in the afternoon & evening light fleecy clouds covered the sky. Did a lot of writing today. Got 2 letters from Evelyn, the last posted at Moose Jaw en route for the east. - Such good letters they were. Expected Gordon Jones but he didn’t arrive. Perhaps he’ll come tomorrow.
This evening I went for a short walk. It was lovely and away to the south west the hills showed up as I have rarely seen them. Our camp itself is bare and dusty but the surrounding country is a beautiful panorama of wooded hill and dale that would delight the eye of the most blasé. Jimmie Barnes brought out his mandolin and a hymn book tonight. How sweet the old hymns sound.
Sun. Eve. July 15/17
This is my last day as O.S. at least for a while. Tomorrow I go out on the square. This morning was beautiful I don’t think I ever saw the hills show more distinctly. About 10.o’clock a thunder shower came up and for about 20 minutes the rain beat upon the hut almost like hail. I don’t think I ever saw it rain harder. Afterwards everything look [sic] fresh & clean, but so porous is the sand here that at 2 o’clock in the afternoon dust was again blowing up the street.
I wrote letters nearly all afternoon. This evening “Pat” called for an hour & we had a good visit though short. He looks quite soldierly in his new uniform. I half expected Gordon Jones too but he failed to appear.
Mon. July 16/17
This has been a wholly wasted day. Because I haven’t taken any musketry here at Bramshott utterly regardless of what I’ve had elsewhere, I must perforce go in class 5 - ie - one week behind Nease & Hunt. So today I was doing squad drill by numbers with what are practically raw recruits. The irony of it. It would be ridiculous if it weren’t so horribly extravagant of time & energy. But no attempt seems to be made at efficiency. The instructors don’t half work. They seem to aim merely at putting in their allotted time & if no officer is around we just lie around & talk & gossip. All the real work done today could have been crowded into 2 hours at most. Everything is careless “sloppy” & inefficient. It’s simply disgusting.
This evening I had a couple hours’ visit with Capt. McNought who is now attached to the 2nd Command Canadian Casualty Depot at the far end of Bramshott Camp.
It looks as if the crisis in German political affairs is fact, and as if the “pinker” party had triumphed in the resignation of Bethman Holweig(23) and the appointment of an unknown man - Michaelis - as Chancellor(24). It’s too soon yet to judge what is the exact significance of these events, but apparently the end of the war is no nearer because of them.
Tues. July 18 [sic - 17]/17
Today wasn’t quite so wasted as yesterday for we spent all afternoon on the miniature range. But the morning periods were spent almost entirely in lying down “chinning.” The instructors are getting “fed-up” - want to go away on draft, and can’t so they have very little interest in their work. Applications for transfers to Forestry & Flying Corps are being made daily Everyone who pass the test is recommended for the Flying Corps. Soon we shall have no one left here. Today’s mail brought a letter from Evelyn written on the train posted June 29th at Toronto, also a bunch of Globes. I have skimmed through reports of speeches on the Conscription Bill & it is gratifying to observe the restrained tone of nearly all who spoke. Red Michael was a disappointing exception. I can’t think he would have made the bitter attack he did on Sir Wilfrid if he hadn’t been under the influence of liquor. But the bitterest pill of all was his being warmly congratulated & shaken by the hand by “Bob” Rogers.
Wed. July 18th [sic - 19th] 1917
It rained all last night and today. This a.m. I had 3 hours musketry instruction inside & went again to the dentist’s chair. This p.m. was devoted principally to reading the speeches on the conscription debate as reported in the Globe. I have been struck by their general high level of sincerity, earnestness and patriotism. Carvell(25) in particular has been a surprise to me. I always thought of him as a typical Maritime province politician. But his speech on this question was one of the best. In effect he said “I don’t care what Borden’s(26) motives are in introducing the bill - whether they are good or bad. The fact remains. We need the men and must get them, and to my mind this is the best way to do it. The need is urgent and the time calls for united effort and a determined tolerant spirit. Some of the Quebec members speeches were very fair too, though opposed to the bill. Also Sir Herbert Ames.(27) But oh I can’t help thinking how the Borden country is reaping what the Borden government and the conservatives party has sown in its union with the nationalists and horrible mismanagement of the war. I sincerely believe Quebec could have been brought into line by proper methods almost any time up until 6 months ago, but now I fear for my country’s future. The seeds of discord have not only been sown but they have sprouted & grown until perhaps as with Ireland the day of compromise is past. If so, bloodshed will surely follow. God grant it be not so.
What lamentable ineptitude the Government has shown throughout according to the Globe even written 2 months of the introduction of the conscription bill it was stated by members of the cabinet on the floor of the House that there would be no conscription. And all last fall & winter while the national service fiasco was on, the government spokesmen practically discouraged recruiting. Certainly Bennett did. And yet anyone with even a fair knowledge of the facts conscription was as necessary then as now. The history of the Canadian government in this war is one of egregious blundering from beginning to end.
One pleasant feature stands out - the sane, strong, true leadership of the Globe. It is becoming truly a national newspaper. If only we had more like it. Its editorials are models of strong sane forceful patriotism and well reasoned Christian judgment.
Thurs. July 19/17
During the night the rain stopped. Several times this morning the clouds threatened but except for a very few sprinkles it was fine - the afternoon quite warm - almost hot. Had a little more work today than in any previous day since returning from Bramshott, but I could stand a good deal of speeding up yet. Had an hour’s route march this p.m. past Bramshott church along the road to Headley. The last half mile was narrower than usual and in many places was shaded by magnificent oaks & beeches. If only we had such trees along the Canadian roadsides.
Lloyd George’s cabinet has been reconstructed. Carson going from the Admiralty to the War Cabinet without portfolio - & being succeeded by Sir Eric Geddes. Dr Addison leaves the ministry of munitions of in which he is considered to have made a signal success and takes a new post - minister of reconstruction. Winston Churchill succeeds Dr Addison. With the exception [of] a few papers, the journalistic opinion is very favorable to all 3 changes. Churchill in particular is welcomed back.
Fri. July 20/17
A nice day. I spent all afternoon on the miniature range and did fairly well. This evening’s mail brought a letter from the postmaster Hertford about my parcel and the parcel itself. I suppose it would be there still if I hadn’t written. However the important thing is - it is here.
Some of the fellows are complaining about the grub - beans 5 times in the last 7 meals.
Sat. July 21/17
Speaking of meals we had hash again for breakfast - 4 times in 5 days. This morning’s was quite unpalatable - made of yesterday’s left over of fish, potatoes, bread and other things too numerous to mention. There wasn’t any margarine either last night or this morning, - nor bread for dinner today. I wasn’t in the mess for supper tonight, but I’m told there was hash once more. Our prayer well soon be “Give us this day our daily hash.”
This a.m. I went to the hospital for an X-ray photograph of my tooth. Didn’t do any work at all.
This afternoon I went with Elmer & the rest of the Bramshott C.A.D.C. basketball team to Witley & saw them go down to defeat before the Witley C.A.D.C. One of the latter - a very midget in size was a ?? of speed, trickiness and strategy. He was really the whole team. “Hoppie they call him - short for Hopkins & he hails from Victoria. I called at Bruce Hunter’s hut but learned he had gone to Belfast with a party to deposit the battalion’s colors there & he hadn’t returned. Elmer & I called on one of the McTeer boys from Calgary who is in the artillery.
Witley camp is hewn out of a pine forest on high light sandy ground sloping away on all sides. It seems strange that it is so high for all the way from Hindhead to Witley is down hill & from Hindhead it appears to be in a hollow. The camp is much larger than Bramshott & is well laid out. Really these camps are like well laid out cities with their miles & miles of huts in regular rows.
Most of the way from here to Witley is through moorland covered with bracken & heather which is already in bloom. From Hindhead which is the highest point above sea level in the south of Eng. - there is a commanding view on all sides directions. After reaching the summit where the road winds around the “Devil’s Punch Bowl” - a great bottle shaped valley - is a tablet working the “Gibbet’s Cross” - a spot where some highwayman met with summary punishment about 150 years ago. One can readily imagine this to have ben an ideal stamping ground for highwaymen in the coaching days. A practically uninhabited moor commanding a view of the London road for at l east a mile as it wound slowly up and around the “Punch Bowl” - with tall bracken to afford friendly cover on both sides of the road. - is it any wonder that “gentlemen of the road” made this spot notorious? I really didn’t think there were such hills & moors in this part of the country. I enjoyed the afternoon very much, notwithstanding the taxi charged us each 2/6 going over and another man with a 7 passenger car 3 bob each coming home.
This evening I had a can of salmon for my supper. Had just finished when Choate came in from Bexhill for the week- end. ?? he & Barnes went out & I washed some handkerchiefs & towels,for the washing done by the woman this week was very bad, & I decided to do my own as far as possible.
Sun. July 22nd 1917
3 years ago today Evelyn & I were in Oxford delighting our eyes with their first glimpse of the old university town. How impossible such a war as this would have seemed then. No thought of this great world cataclysm crossed our minds and yet underneath the calm and peace of the summer day the storm was already gathering soon to break.
This has been another lovely day. As one of the “Other Denominations” I attended my first church parade in Bramshott Y.M.C.A, hut #2. - The service was inspiring - notwithstanding the preacher was Capt. Hamilton chaplain of 194th formerly a member of the real estate firm of Hamilton & McHardy of Calgary. The scripture lesson was Ps. 91.
During the service I studied the expressions on the men’s faces - serious, thoughtful, some wistful, a few - only a few - careless & indifferent What a fine body of men and what possibilities of future good. It really seems impossible to think of some of these same men using the language and doing the things they do during the week. At heart they are sound and right but how much wasted energy and talent there is!
After our return from church I sat for a while on the canteen steps listening to the band as it played some old familiar hymn tunes, and gazing across the blue of the distant hills. How far away the war seemed, and how quiet and peaceful the scene!
At noon I got 3 letters from Evelyn all written in Hamilton. I’m so glad she is having a good time, and rest and cheerful companionship.
This afternoon I called for Elmer and walked with him, Capts. Tweddle & Healey into Haslemere. Capt. Healey set the pace & though fat was able to negotiate a good 4 mi per hour which in the summer us all to a perspiration by the time we reached the “White Rock” hotel in Haslemere. It was my first visit to H. proper. Once before I had been to Shottermill and to the outskirts of H. but H is strung out along one street for nearly if now quite a mile and is quite a town - quaint, typically English - nestling in the valley.
After some liquid refreshments we all went back into a lovely garden down an arbor covered path simply embowered in masses of rose blooms to a lovely bowling green. Such arches of roses as there were - yes and immense climbing vines along the walls!
The rest remained for a game of bowls but I started for Tennyson’s house. I went about 1 mile up Tennyson’s lane - a road shaded by trees through woods and bracken and undergrowth - The trees are not nearly so large as in many parks but still the road is one to incite to poetry if one has any poetic genius at all. It is said T. wrote most of his poetry here. Now and again, through openings in the trees - I caught glimpses of wonderful vistas over the valley - mist grey away into the distance until the vision failed because of the haze which seems ever to hang over this country. The charm and beauty of the place however was no deterrent to the pestilential which swarmed about me sticking with maddening persistence on my face & neck. I walked at a good stiff pace coming home & it took me 1 1/2 hours.
At the “White Rock” I saw Legh Walsh’s name on the register & was surprised to learn he was in our camp in the 15th Res. bn. - across the road, so after supper I went over to see him. He was just leaving in a taxi for the evening, but I had a few minutes chat. He says Clarence Smith was here for 3 or 4 days 2 weeks ago and is now at Shorncliffe(28).
Monday July 23/17
Today I was moved up a class and am now in 7a which means I’ll get on the ranges with the next party - probably Saturday week. This evening there was a general hut moving. We all had to get out of S6, and Barnes & I moved into B14 where are Shaver, Sinclair, Smith & about 15 other sergeants. I don’t know where Davidson went. The Dentals went into a hut nearer their clinic.
Tues. July 24/17
A sultry day. I didn’t do much. That together with something I ate which doesn’t agree with me makes me feel rotten tonight. Am on canteen duty from 6 to 9. Got 2 boxes today. Haven’t opened the smaller one but the other was sent by Evelyn from Winnipeg. Haven’t gone to the bottom but on the top there was chocolate, soup powder candies popcorn & chiclets.
Wed. July 25/17
About 2 a.m. I awoke with a strong taste in my mouth of the hash we had yesterday morning for breakfast and a compelling desire to visit the latrine. Since then I’ve had the worst attack of diarrhoea I ever had - combined with a nausea and gas on the stomach. For a time I kept track of my visits to the latrine, but didn’t continue. It must be about 20 times. I paraded sick in order to get excused from duty, but the fool M.O. said he couldn’t do that and instead gave me another dose of nauseating medicine in which castor oil predominated. I went on parade and was going to ask the class commander to let me off, but as the first period was a talk on machine guns in a hut I attended. Before the end of the lecture however I felt so weak & faint I had to leave - and haven’t been on parade any more today. Slept a good deal of the time and though still white & pale feel much better tonight. A good many others were affected the same way though not quite so badly. I think it’s a disgrace that they dope the food as they do.
The nourishment I’ve taken today wouldn’t make a decent sized meal for a baby. For breakfast 3 small teaspoonfuls of porridge & a couple swallows of coffee. For dinner I had the cook make up one of the mock turtle soup packages but I could not eat much of it & tonight I had half a cup on OXO(29) and part of a cup of tea.
My washing was so poorly done last week. I did my own tonight, washed 1 shirt 1 suit underwear 2 handkerchiefs & 2 pr. socks - not a half bad job if I do say it myself. Last night it rained a little - and also today by fits & starts. The air is close & “muggy.”
Thurs. July 26/17
Slept well last night & felt much better this morning but weak still so paraded sick again. Spoke rather forcibly though plainly to the doctor who finally agreed to let me off duty. But he evidently thought he’d play a dirty trick on me for what I said because about 9:15 the orderly serjt. came to the hut looking for me saying the sick report showed “medicine & duty.” So I had to go on parade after all, but I just stood around most of the time. I’ll make that M.O. sit up & take notice yet. Others have similar complaints to make about him.
We are to have some field entrenching and a route march tonight from 9.30 - 11-30 so we had only one period this a.m. I went to “Tintown and left my watch for repairing. Saw some lovely raspberries & bought half a pound for 6d. They were very nice indeed.
The morning papers say the conscription bill passed its 3rd reading - only 4 Liberal members west of Quebec voting against it. I hope this obviates an election and means the formation of a strong coalition government.
Fri. July 27/17
Last night’s manoeuvres were not very strenuous. We fussed around for a while in the dark putting up some barbed wire then went for a route march of about 2 miles the round trip. Got to bed about 12.30.
Was on the miniature range this p.m. Had 4 letters today - one each from Norman Rankin and Margaret & 3 from Evelyn.
Sat. July 28/17
The sultriness of the day was aggravated by the terrible stench which gets worse each succeeding day. I can’t see why the M.O. doesn’t raise a row. Many of the men think the recent sickness has been caused by this open sewer. Thank heaven I’m going to Guildford. It will take me away for one night anyhow.
Sun. July 29/17
I started for Witley at 7 o’clock last night. By the time I reached Hindhead I was in a great perspiration but from there on it was possible to coast nearly all the way and I was cooled off when I knocked at Bruce Hunter’s door. How natural the “Come In” sounded - but no more natural than the expansive smile of welcome that greeted me when I stepped inside in answer to the summons. We had more than and hour’s chat about old times and war conditions and problems. A can of chicken with some wafer biscuits from Canada didn’t add any unpleasantness to the visit. From Bruce I learned that Rev. Robb is still at Witley - also that G.V. McKenzie had been there & that Reg. Gundt now is. About 10 o’clock I left, intending to put up for the night at a pub. at Milford or Godalming. As it was getting dark & I had no lamp. I rode warily and safely negotiated the picquets [sic] (pickets) and the police until I came to the chief inn which was dark. My knock was answered by a man who said there were camp orders forbidding any licensed house to lodge anyone under commissioned rank. This statement was confirmed by the corp. of the picquet[sic], so there was nothing to do but to walk the 1/2 mi. back to Bruce’s hut which I did, - rousting him out of sleep to give me a couple blankets & dressing gown for a “shake down” on the floor where I spent only a moderately comfortable night.
This morning Bruce had his first service at 8.30 and he was dressed & eating breakfast while I performed my toilet. Being an “other ranks” of course I couldn’t be Bruce’s guest in the officer’s mess, so he brought out an orange for me. About 8 o’clock I started out for breakfast. The restaurant was still closed but on seeing me the girl opened the door. Finding I’d have to wait a while until the fire was lighted I set off to find Reg Gundy, and caught him just as he was going on church parade. Had a few minutes chat then returned to refresh the inner man with a cup of tea a large glass of milk, 2 soft boiled eggs & bread & butter, the reckoning for which was 1/7. [One shilling & seven pence.]
It was 9 o’clock when I started for Guildford. The road is very lovely, typically Surrey in scenery. When about a mile past Godalming, I lay down in the field by the roadside watching the cattle graze and listening to the church bells, while I wrote to Evelyn. Then I resumed my journey and soon was surprised to find myself in Guildford at 11 o’clock. I immediately made for the Castle grounds(30) where I sat on a bench by a fountain waiting for Pat until 12.05.
The castle is an interesting old ruin, now public property. It I am told it was one of King John’s castles and that Runneymede is not far away. I really didn’t look around it very much however.
Oh, I almost forgot to say that in Godalming I saw this sign. “J.J. Jeffrey, Bespoke Tailor.”
Pat & I checked our wheels, & had dinner at a very good hotel for 7s. for the two. Then we went to the boat house on the river. What a crowd of soldiers was there. We tried to get a canoe but were told that since the Canadians had become frequenters of the place it was impossible to supply the demand for canoes. Therefore we had to content ourselves with a rowboat. Pat pulling the oars while I manipulated the tiller ropes. It was very pleasant up the river, and to judge from the number of watercraft many others were of like opinion. But after about an hour and a half it began to rain so we made for the landing stage arriving there slightly wet, but quite satisfied with our 2 shillingsworth of boating, my first in England.
In a nice little tea room we had bread and cake, two pieces each - indeed a relaxation of the food regulations.
About 5.45 I started on the return journey in a very light drizzle and arrived at Witley Y.M.C.A. hut about 6.30. Here I had another nice chat with Bruce and then with a fast darkening sky I started for home. I walked up most of the long grade to Hindhead, but even at that was back in hut B 15 by 8.30 rather wet from the rain which fell rather quite fast from the time I passed Hindhead. As the bathhouse was closed I had a wash from the hips up in cold water - followed by a good rub down which soon restored circulation.
Mon. July 30/17
Had a good sleep last night and my insides feel more settled today.
The battalion started a little ceremonial today and though everything was “balled up” owing to lack of previous instructions it is a welcome sign of at least an attempt to get away from the sloppiness and inertia which have hitherto been so marked. Didn’t do much today. Most of the time a drizzling rain fell.
Tues. July 31/17
It has just occurred to me that this last day of July completes 2 full months of my diary. It hasn’t been at all burdensome. I only wish it had been better kept and that I had started long ago. But that can’t be helped now. I went to sleep early last night nor did I awaken when 3 of the returned boys came in about 10.30 loaded to the eyes and knocked over tables and smashed the lights. This morning the room looked as if a wrecking party had been at work. All night long it rained very hard as also during most of the day. All morning we had standard tests in musketry. This p.m. more musketry & 2 periods of anti gas. For the first time I put on the s.b.r. & found difficulty in breathing only through my mouth. We had these things on for perhaps 10 consecutive minutes. On Friday we are to go through the live gas.
Though still cloudy the weather looks like clearing. A tremendous amount of water has fallen since yesterday and I should think the grain must be lodged badly.
Went over to see Legh Walsh tonight but he was at mess & after waiting around awhile I came back without seeing him.
Today’s mail brought a small box of mint candies from Evelyn.
Wed. Aug 1/17
Did I say the weather looked like clearing? About 9 o’clock last night it took another turn & ever since has been raining harder than ever, if that is possible. All our work this morning was inside. This p.m. should be sports but I suppose the rain will give us a holiday. I’m going to do some washing writing, & make another attempt to reach Leigh Walsh. Had a nice letter today from Elleda.
For several days past the heaviest bombardment yet has been in progress on the whole western front & this morning’s papers say the British advanced from 4 to 5 thousand yards on a wide front. The rain is impeding the work considerably but it looks as if Haig intended making the ending of the war’s third year memorable for the Huns.
Thurs. Aug 2/17
All day the sky was overcast and at times a drizzle fell - but not sufficient to prevent our working outside. This a.m. our class shot its first service ammunition. It was a grouping practice at 30 yds. I had 3 in the centre of the bull & the other 2 a little low right.
Received 4 letters today - 3 form Evelyn & one from T.O. Baldwin. Also some Globes.
Fri. Aug 3/17
Three years ago today was Bank holiday. Portentous as things looked on that anxious day, we little thought that today I would be getting my first experience of live gas, but such is the case. Most of this afternoon was spent in “anti gas” work. We marched in a drizzling rain about 1 1/2 mi. to the north camp where the gas trench & hut is. First we had a little drill in putting on the p.h. helmet & s.b.r. Then we marched about 25 yd in a trench filled with chlorine gas without any injurious effects though we could distinctly smell the chlorine through the p.h. helmet. Next we put on the s.b.r. and went into a small hut containing “tear gas” one which is not at all poisonous but brings copious tears to the surface. Once inside we had to take off the s.b.r. and instantly our eyes smartened and the tears began to fall. A minute seemed like half an hour and when the door opened no time was lost in getting out. The strange thing is the effects were all gone in a few minutes.
Tomorrow we go to the ranges at Longmoor(31) and the weather looks anything but propitious - very cloudy with occasional drizzles.
Nothing new today except that the British have regained the ground lost day before yesterday.
Sat. Aug 4/17
This is the memorable day which was looked forward to in the hope of its giving us some signal British victory, but apparently the rains have prevented this. Here it hasn’t missed raining a single day since last Sunday, and today our first look at Longmoor camp was upon a lot of dirty grey tents in a sea of mud. We left Bramshott at 12.30 after an unusually heavy half hour’s downpour and I took the 11th hour precaution of wearing my raincoat, my great coat having been rolled up in blankets & palliasse and sent forward by motor lorry with my kit bag. The march was rather hot owing to the mugginess of the air but I was glad for the raincoat protection against 2 small showers. Arrived here, we hadn’t got our things in our tents before it rained again. This it has been doing by spells ever since. In dry weather I imagine it would be fairly pleasant here, but now the mud is far worse than anything I experienced at Sarcee. The men are 8 in a tent. I am better off. Davidson, Bradley & I are with a sniper instructor whose home we haven’t yet enquired.
Bradley left for a week end at Brighton so we shall have plenty of room tonight. It will be needed for the floor - wet & dirt everywhere - is terrible near the door. It’s nearly 7 o’clock & Davidson is in bed. I’m going to follow suit soon.
One pleasant surprise we had - we heard so much about the poor grub here that we were surprised to find the serjeants have a mess & don’t have to use their tins though they do knife, fork & spoon. Supper consisted of sweetened tea, bread & marg., a slice of cold boiled beef, a couple slices of tomato with a little onion & soup. I didn’t try the soup but the rest was very good.
Sun Aug. 5/17
7.30 p.m. and it hasn’t rained yet. Several times during the day the clouds looked ominous but they always passed over. For a couple hours this p.m. the clouds with sufficient force to partially dry the ground in front of the tent. Had a great sleep last night. There was no church parade this morning and I, Wilson, McLean, Faulkner & Edmunds of the 191 went for a walk behind the R. E. school, the commandant’s quarters, out on to the heath and back through the fir woods. Saw a profusion of wild blackberries which should be ripe in 10 days. I now understand what is meant by English heath. The sand is white and almost as barren as that on the sea beach, growing nothing but bracken & heather, though the soil appears to be rich enough for along ditches the grass grows luxuriantly.
Slept & wrote all p.m. After supper went for a stroll via the road to Woolmer & back across the heath at the back of our camp.
Grub fairly good today & plentiful because so many were absent on week end passes.
Mon. Aug. 6/17
Another day without rain and in spite of the heavy, murky atmosphere our lines dried considerably. Having a good deal of spare time this morning I cut some heather of which I made a mat for our tent door. The same material makes a very serviceable broom.
This morning a fifth man was added to our tent - Corp. Stevens from Moose Jaw of the 15th Reserve Bn. who modestly wears D.C.M. & Croix de Guerre ribbons for an act of valour on the Somme.
Did practically nothing this morning, but at 12.45 we fell in for a half hours march to the ranges where we spent all afternoon returning about 6 p.m. Fired 5 rounds grouping practice at 100 yds. & 5 round application at 200 yds. In the first I made a possible, in the 2nd my score was 17 out of a possible 20. Feel rather tired tonight. Had beans - badly cooked - for supper but there was a little apple sauce too.
Tues. Aug. 7/17
Made a hurried toilet this morning thinking we’d have to go on the ranges but orders were changed at the last moment. Instead we had a little P.T. & bomb throwing and rapid firing & loading. Went to the ranges this p.m. & shot the same practices as yesterday but with bayonets fixed on the grouping. I made 20 & on the application 17. The morning was so misty the firing party couldn’t see their targets but it was fairly bright in the afternoon & turning cloudy again tonight.
This evening a great crowd gathered in the lines in front of our tent to watch a mud-slinging fight between 2 boys. It was all in fun of course, but by the time they finished they were plastered from head to toe. Some of these young bugle boys can’t get over their horse play. And yet all they need is some real discipline.
Wed. Aug. 8/17
There is no Wed. half holiday here, but at the present moment - 1.15 - p.m. it is raining as if it meant to prevent any work on the square. Everyone hopes so. Left at 7.15 for the ranges, but once we arrived there we lay down & waited a whole hour for the range officer, who, when he appeared, balled out the other officers for failing to start without him.
In the meantime, the mist became much denser & when we fired our first practice - 5 rds. with bayonet at 300 yds. the targets were quite indistinct. I made only 10, having difficulty in finding the correct range. The mist lifted a little for the next practice - 5 rds. application lying alongside cover at 400 yd. without bayonets. Once again I had trouble getting the correct range & made only 11.
We were late getting back & the last 3 or 4 of us serjeants got very little dinner. Meat was all hone. Had a potato, 2 pieces bread, 1 spoonful rice & I opened a can of baked beans which tasted very good. After dinner Bradley cut a cake which came from Scotland yesterday and divided up with us so in the end I fared quite well.
For the past 2 hours rather heavy cannonading has been heard which some say is of a naval engagement off Portsmouth.
I just got a letter from Evelyn dated July 25th. Mails are coming more frequent.
Thurs. Aug. 9/17
Last night I went over to the engineer’s bathhouse & had a nice warm bath. During the evening several showers came up, but I was quite safe in the tent. Tried some of the prepared coffee which was very good though a trifle too weak.
This morning has been one succession of showers. When I returned from breakfast the tent was down. The pole having crushed right through the top. I think the ropes were too tight and when the canvas became wet it shrank. All the same the tent was rotten. We managed to get it up again none the worse except for some water on the tent floor & on our things. I didn’t go on parade this morning as there was only P.T., bombing & musketry instruction. Washed a towel, handkerchief & pr. of socks.
The weather cleared this p.m. & now it looks settled. Shot 3 practices - 1 application at 200 in which I made 18 & 2 rapid at 200 lying & standing in which I made the rotten scores of 11 & 6. Tonight we go out at 9 o’clock on night manoeuvres.
Fri. Aug. 10/17
It’s so dark I can hardly see to write. Had our night operations last night and they were quite realistic but as I’ll likely see the actual thing later there’s not much use writing about this. Returned about 11.30 & when groping my way into the bed felt a box which I suspected was from Beamsv. - and suspected aright - Bradley had brought it & a letter from Evelyn & some Globes from Bramshott. Feeling hungry I ripped open the cover in the darkness & had a 4 good home made rock cakes.
This morning I worked only 1 hour - then read Globes & Evelyn’s letter. This p.m. we shot on no. 4 range 500 rds. application standing in trench at 400 yds. I made only 11. The next was 10 rd. rapid same cover & range. I made 18 out of 30. The shooting was very poor today because of the wind. The day was fairly bright with no rain. Had ? rock cakes and some of the nut loaf. It’s a mighty nice box.
Sat. Aug 11/17
Had more coffee & nut loaf & bread & marg. last night. there was quite a party. It rained again nearly all night, but today was only cloudy & cool. Shot from 10.30 to 1 p.m. today - only 2 practices at 400 yds. Nearly everybody did poorly I being a little above the average. Tonight for supper there was bread & marg., 1 pickled onion about the size of a walnut & a spoonful of cornmeal pudding & tea. I helped out with a can of salmon. Today a new bunch of 1,300 came in and we are crowded for tent room.
Spent the p.m. reading Globes. Am more & more proud of its stand on conscription and other questions. The situation looks grave in Canada, but one hopeful bright feature of the situation is Laurier’s moderation of speech. I only hope he can control his fellow countrymen. Perhaps and election may clear the air but I’m afraid of it.
Sun. Aug. 12/17
Rain again during the night must have made sleeping rather unpleasant for a number of the newcomers who had to sleep outside for lack of tent room. I had a good sleep myself. Today has been clear, cool & cloudy with occasional peeps of the sun. Nease & I went for a stroll as far as Liss. Returning we helped a lady autoist put on a new wheel in place of one with a punctured tire, then stopped at Greatham for church. The service did seem unsatisfying. The preacher hurried & rambled through the prayers in a sing song drone. The vicar didn’t look in the least devotional to me. Rather he appeared to be performing a tiresome task as quickly as possible. His sermon was fairly good - about 10 minutes long.
Arthur Henderson(32) resigned yesterday from the War Cabinet on account of the Stockholm Conference(33). Lloyd George accuses him of breach of faith. His position judged from the correspondence published thus far certainly does look bad but like The Daily Sunday Pictorial - such is my confidence in him that I am trying to suspend judgement until his published statement appears, which will probably be in a day or two.
In an article today on “Woman’s Wonderful Future” I read the following which I thought good enough to preserve - “What is it that makes the success of the outstandingly successful lawyer? The Human note. It is not the man who keeps his eye on your pocket that wins your confidence but the man who keeps his eye on your face.”
Later. Have just returned from a lovely walk down the Bourne road up through Blackmoor around by Whitehill & home. Saw a beautiful clematis in full bloom. Strolled lazily for a time lay down in a fine woods on a soft bed of pine needles & bracken. Also wandered along a private lane into a lovely grounds evidently the home of the Earl of Selbourne(34)
for in the Blackmoor church is a tablet saying the first Earl was a founder of the church. In the Earl’s garden I picked up a couple apples off the ground. They were green but tasted pretty good. Near Whitehill they are cutting down a fine forest presumably for war uses.
Mon. Aug 13/17
Rain again last night but nice today. Shot 5 practices 1 snaphooting at 200 yd. & 4 classification. - 5r. appl. and 10 r. rapid at 200 yd. 5 r. application and 15 r. rapid at 300 yd. Did very well on the 10 r. but poor on the application & absolute rotten on 15 r. rapid - so bad that I am out of the running completely for marksman.
This afternoon we threw live bombs. 3 for each man. Some of the fellows have done this before but it is my first. Tonight we go out for a field practice - firing 5 rounds by flare light.
Tues Aug 14/17
At dinner I was trying to imagine what my feelings would have been 2 years ago at the thought of eating a meal under such conditions as obtain here. Knife, fork & spoon are each man’s own so it is his own fault if they aren’t clean but plate & bowl are picked up at the serving table. I haven’t yet seen one washed clean. Always mussy and greasy, we are thankful when they are reasonably dry. There aren’t enough to go more than half around so first comers are in luck. Then one hears “Are you finished with your bowl?” “Does anyone want a bowl?” “May I have your plate?” etc etc. There is always a dixie in which to wash the dishes but this is soon becomes so greasy the men frequently eat off the same plate & bowl without attempting to wash them. I have a cloth with which I always rub the bowl & plate before I use it and dry my knife, fork & spoon after using. Instead of washing in the greasy water, I usually go to the cold water tap. Many men when picking up a used plate scrape all the food left on it on to the table. All this is carefully scraped up again later and after a second visit to the cookhouse returns to us as soup, mulligan or pudding. And yet we eat the meals with relish whether living in tents is responsible or not I don’t know, but we all have better appetites here than in Bramshott. I never thought I’d eat war bread & margarine because they taste good but really such is the case. Often Bradley & I have some we have managed to bring away from the mess tent and we eat the stuff with epcurian relish.
We are fortunate in not having to line up with mess tins as the corporals & men do. Today at noon a terrific shower came down upon about 350 men in the open, some without even tunics on. Then too, it takes them so long to get served that their food is cold by the time they get back to their tents with it.
As we went on parade this a.m. it rained so we were dismissed and did nothing but lie around. The whole morning was one succession of showers - some light - some heavier.
Evening - This p.m. was fairly fine & we finished our classification shooting. I fell down badly not making even 1st class. One man made a record score of 155. The 21st alone has 12 marksmen.
Last night we fell in about 9.15 with ground sheets over us blanket fashion to keep off the rain and marched to No. 4. range for shooting by flares. One gets some idea of the difficulty of shooting under such conditions from the scores. The highest was 61 fired by 48 men with 5 rounds each. The boys were in a musical mood and after the shooting while waiting for the rest to gather, they gave some great choruses. There’s something attractive about the life isn’t there?
Wed. Aug. 15/17
Last night it rained again & today was again besprinkled with showers some of which were regular downpours. This delayed our morning shooting so that we only shot 1 practice - 500 yards 10 rounds application lying - my score was 18. In spite of ground sheets we got wet going out. Also while boiling out rifles. This p.m. we had P.T. but I slept after casting my votes for Toppy Frost & Bob Pearson. I don’t think Toppy has a chance but my vote for Bob should be good.
Thurs. Aug 16/17
Am writing this on the ranges after our party has fired & boiled rifles waiting for the other parties to do the same. It hasn’t rained today. Did little this a.m. but pack up and had 1 hour musketry in camp. This p.m. have fired 5 rounds at 200 yd. with gas masks on and had a battle practice firing first 5 r. at 300 with bayonets fixed - then advancing to 200 yds. & firing 5 more - 3 at disappearing figure targets & 2 more at moving figures which represented scouts returning. Tonight we’ll go back to Bramshott
Got another letter from Evelyn posted July 29th.
This morning’s papers say the Canadians made an advance of 1000 yd or 5000 yd front capturing Hill 70(35).
Sat. Aug 18/17
This afternoon & evening there has been the first real sunshine for 3 weeks and I took advantage of it to air my blankets & put out a big washing all of which have dried and aired beautifully. The quiet beauty of the evening tempts me to go for a stroll. Don’t think however it has been fine all day for it rained hard during at least half of the morning and we had most of our work inside. Had a very interesting talk on the Lewis machine gun & saw one stripped. I want to specialize in this if possible.
Thurs. night we left Longmoor at about 7. & after a rather quick march which the cool evening rendered pleasant arrived her at 8.25. I immediately repaired to the washhouse & had a cold bath, the regular bath house having closed at 8. Yesterday worked part of the a.m. & had a 3 hour route march in the p.m. - the first which I have really enjoyed. The col. & adjutant & R.S.M. were all there & that March discipline. I really can’t say where we went but the road was pleasant for the most part though the country doesn’t look very prosperous - rather poor than otherwise. Heard too yesterday of a bad accident at Longmoor night bombing operations. A couple mines didn’t go off at first but did later when the party was on top of their inspection of the trenches. The total casualties to date are 8 killed & 29 wounded. On 191 boy is killed & 5 from 21st are wounded including Corp. Morrison & Pte Venables.
In the evening went to tin town & got my watch with a new stem - English - not like the one in it before as it was American & impossible to obtain now. Price 6/6. Then called on Elmer & had some chocolate from a box he received recently.
The papers yesterday print interviews with Kerensky(36) which bear out Henderson’s interpretation of his telegram & attitude. It looks as if Henderson and not Lloyd George put the right construction on it. The British advance near Ypres continues. It looks at last as if we were going to push steadily forward.
This p.m. I went to the hospital & saw Heeney who is back from Bexhill & now has a bad case of jaundice. Also saw Corp. Morrison who is wounded only on right hand & leg & will probably recover all right. Meals today were much better especially in quantity. Hope it continues thus. Opened a Evelyn’s box sent from Aux Sables - candies, chocolate kisses, salmon, beans & socks. All the “eats” taste good.
Sun. Aug 19/17
I am seated on a stone garden seat at the western end of the lawn at Aldworth - the late Lord Tennyson’s home. Now and again the sun breaks through the clouds and brightens the whole scene. At my left is the grey stone house built in perpendicular style with armorial bearings over every dormer window. Plain but so cosy and restful looking hidden here away across the moor on the side of a hill with the wooded slope for background and looking out through the garden border of firs, yews and hemlocks over a far stretching countryside, of diversified cornfield, meadow and woodland with beautiful green hedges for tracery. Over all the sunlight plays in checkered light and shadow until the horizon fades away in the eternal blue haze of England. Not a sounds disturbs the Sabbath quiet but the rustle of leaves, an occasional twitter of birds and the continual buzz of flies which have been pestilential ever since I entered Tennyson’s lane. The lane itself is lovely, winding as it does between oaks and firs until one reaches open heath from which you can see great distances in every direction. Here, away from the world on a high wold, but sheltered by the close protecting bank stands the house. Ivy clings to the lower storey and there are a few potted plants about but the chief charm of the place is its lovely terraces and trees and most of all - the commanding view of a typical Surrey countryside.
Since writing the foregoing I have been about the grounds which are very extensive and perfectly charming. Laurel hedges divide it off into delightfully surprising sections. Great old oaks, beeches and pines are everywhere and as I write the pine trees are sighing with the wind. Winding paths lead down the hillside to terrace after terrace,the lower one quite filled with old fashioned flowers of every kind, white, pink, yellow, blue, red - and some of them perfume the air with the most delicate aroma I’ve smelt for a long time. From the bottom terrace the wooded hillside falls away in almost a sheer drop to the valley far below. Sitting here and looking out is almost like being on a mountain side, very like the view from Grimsby mountain in many respects.
Later. On my way back a hard ten minute shower drove me to the shelter of a pine tree which kept me almost dry. I stopped at Haslemere for tea at a private house in a back lane which has become well known to the soldiers. I had 2 slices bread & butter, 2 cups milk, 2 cups tea, 2 boiled eggs & 4 slices of cake with gooseberry jam all for 1/6. [one shilling & sixpence] The place was crowded and not too inviting but fairly clean. From Haslemere church I took the road to the right which led to Hindhead. A lovely walk but a hard uphill grind. My whole tramp must have been about 15 miles. Got home at 7.30.
Wed. Aug 22/17
Am in the brigade guardroom. Spent all morning shining up & mounted at 1 o’clock. Have 5 prisoners - one an ugly half breed named Logan who was brought in handcuffed last night. Whenever I let him out to go [to] the latrine I have 3 men with fixed bayonets in close escort. They say they had a bad time with him last night. No rain today.
The reserve is agog with excitement for a draft of 350 has been called for the 30th and 20 for the 31st. This will take about all of the available men. For some reason most would prefer going to the 31st but apparently one but casualties will go then and the rest of us will be slated for the 50th. Evidently our battalion have been in the recent fighting at Lens where the Canadians did such good hand to hand work yesterday.
Thurs. Aug 23/17
The night on guard passed quietly with rain from 2.30 to dawn. I managed to snatch a few snoozes but feel sleepy tonight. dismounted guard at 1.30 p.m. This afternoon Elmer recrowned my tooth and filled another so I am quite all right again. Today came a call for 50 more men for the 50th. Practically every available man will leave on Monday. I heard tonight that the 50th had over 400 casualties. The fighting around Lens must have been particularly severe and the allies are hammering and gaining ground everywhere on the Italian front at Verdun, Lens & Ypres. The Hun is being slowly but surely driven back. In the air he is suffering. Yesterdays raids on Kent & Yorkshire accomplished little & his losses were heavy. Tonight’s paper contains a report of a remarkable speech by the new German Foreign Minister apparently preparing the people for new peace overtures. The gist was “It is necessary to retain neutral good opinion. We must not run away with the idea that Might is Right.” This is certainly a new departure, n’est-ce pas?
This p.m. 5 of the recent Longmoor dead had a military funeral. The cortege started from the head of the lines & passed down the Portsmouth road to Bramshott church.
Fri. Aug. 24/17
Evidently Davidson & I are both to be on draft for we are being rushed through machine gun, gas & bombing tests. Had m.g. [machine gun] instruction all morning & firing this p.m. Did fairly well. It’s a wonderful weapon although there were a lot of stoppages in both guns today. Expected Canadian mail but none arrived though I got a letter from Art. War news again shows progress everywhere, particularly on the Italian front.
Sat. Aug. 25/17
Was formally warned for draft today. It takes practically every fit man in the battalion except instructors and even 4 of them. It’s nice to be going with all the 191 boys. We all are warned for the 50th which will make it seem like a 191 bn. All our lieutenants are booked for it too. Everybody is serene and pleased though there doesn’t appear to be any excitement. What a change has come over us. Everything is now taken as a matter of course. Today was spent in kit & medical inspections & clothing parade. Got new tunic, trousers,pr socks, drowers [sic] & canvas shoes. The q.m. is a regular watchdog who seems to think it’s his duty not to fit us out with proper clothing, but to shoo us off as much as possible. Got 3 letters from Evelyn today and a Globe. Was greatly surprised at reading Norman Lambert’s report of the foregathering at Winnipeg for the great Liberal Convention. Apparently the western liberals have swung back to Laurier. The political situation grows more and more uncertain.
Sun. Aug 26/17
This has been a memorable day. Right after breakfast I started on my 4 hour’s job of sewing 8 tabs and 16 buttons on my great coat. Then at 9 o’clock we had to parade. Following that I went through the driving test. Our party did it in 13 1/2 minutes. The morning mail brought a long letter from Evelyn - just the kind I was hoping for to speed me on my way to France.
Learned today that the 31st have called for 50 more men. Also heard that in the recent fighting one of the Canadians had lost 50% & another 33 1/3 %. Soon Bramshott camp will be depleted.
Had a bath & washed all my clothes & cleaned everything ready for tomorrow’s brigade kit inspection at 8 a.m. Tonight we received identification discs.
It has been raining hard since 5.30. This evening Capt. Cameron preached in no. 2 YMCA hut. I went over. It was a wonderfully inspiring & helpful service. The text was “and they cast their crowns before the throne.” The Torrey/Alexander(37) tune was sung to “Stand up for Jesus,” but the sermon ended with a rousing singing of “Old Coronation.” What a hymn! The fellows gave great attention. What latent fervour there is in this bunch of men. Sergt. Farrant stood beside me and we had a chat after the service. He has crowned Jesus King of his life. During the service I felt concerned that I hadn’t asked a single man to attend the meeting. I haven’t done much for Christ. I’m going to do more henceforth to help the other fellows and to show my colours and not live so much to myself.
Mon. Aug 27/17
All morning was occupied in brigade inspections. This p.m. the men had to go on bathing parade. I have been packing my trunk and pack. Am now all ready except that the rain has prevented my clothes from drying & I don’t want to close the trunk until these things are put in. Have just been up to sign my request for reversion to the rank of private to go overseas.
Tues. Aug 28/17
Last night I went again to Cameron’s meeting in Y.M.C.A. hut #2. In spite of a steady downpour the hut was filled. It was another inspiring service though the sermon wasn’t so good as the previous one. The subject was “five famous fools & some not so famous.” How far away war seemed - and what a wonderful thing that in the midst of such a war men could be taken away from thoughts of it and give themselves up to a service of worship. Surely there never was a war before where Evangalistic services were held in the camps with government consent and approval.
It rained all today. Had P.T. this a.m. and a short talk on trench warfare. Had this p.m. to ourselves
Wed. Aug 29/17
No word yet about leaving. Today was cloudy with a few light showers. Had a 2 1/2 hour’s route march this a.m. in full marching order. Most of the boys had full packs but mine was very light. Went through Liphook & about 1 1/2 miles by p.m. In many places the roadsides were thick with bram[ble]berry bushes, heavily loaded - but most of the ripe ones had been picked off. Enjoyed the march very much. Had a bath & slept this afternoon.
Thurs. Aug 30/17
Rumours were rife today that there is a congestion of troops at Folkestone awaiting transportation to France and that as a consequence the departure of our draft will be delayed for several days - possibly two weeks. Several incidents point that way. For instance we were paid today - and usually a draft isn’t paid until the night of departure.
Had a seven mile route march this morning with full packs. On our return I found awaiting me a box from Evelyn filled with lovely cakes. Most of them are gone already. It’s raining hard again tonight. This p.m. I sewed an inside pocket in my tunic. The Imperial tunics haven’t any inside pockets though the outside ones are capacious enough.
Fri. Aug 31/17
This completes 3 months of my diary. I am still at Bramshott though expecting every day to leave. Had about an 8 mile route march this p.m. - over much the same route as before only a little farther. This evening Herb Peters and I carried my trunk to Elmer’s room. Then the 3 of us went for a long walk striking across the moor through the north camp, through great fine woods until we struck a road leading out to the Portsmouth road about halfway between Hindhead & Bramshott chase. It was a lovely moonlight night. At the chase we had a nice little supper of coffee, bread & butter rock cakes & pineapple. Got back to the hut about 9:30.
Sat Sept 1/17
The first day of the 4th month. A steady rain all morning excused us from all work other than turning out in great coats for 9 o’clock parade. Feeling tired this a.m. I lay down to sleep but a thunderstorm accompanied by a terrific downpour formed new holes in the roof and 3 times I had to get up to shift my bed & put basins beside it to catch the water.
This is surely a day of sun and shower for by 4 o’clock the sky had cleared & the sun was shining while this evening has been beautiful a moonlit evening as one could wish to see. At supper I promised to take canteen duty to relieve Sergt. McKie. Spent another couple hours today on machine gun.
This evening Herb Peters called again and we went to the Salvation Army hut where we had tea, cakes apples & maple sugar - truly a great combination. Later in the evening I had a visit with Scotty McLows in his hut.
The poker chips are rattling. Some of the boys in this hut employ every spare moment with the cards. Poker is one of the curses of the camp. Everywhere there are soldiers it’s the same story.
Diary ends here
1. One English penny approximately equals 1 cent. Twelve pence equals one shilling
2. Zeppelin Raids - London was main target of the First World War Zeppelin raids, but the rest of England was also attacked, mainly in 1915 and 1916. By 1917 attacks had diminished, due to Britain’s improved anti-aircraft, searchlights and warning system.
3. Gunpowder mills were founded in Waltham in the early 1600s. Waltham's proximity to London was its greatest asset. The site quickly became the town's major employer, and was purchased by the state shortly before the Napoleonic wars. The site moved quickly with changing technologies and had switched to explosives manufacture by World War I. Both the gunpowder used by Guy Fawkes and the explosives used in the Dam Busters raids in World War II are reputed to have been manufactured at Waltham Abbey.
4. From: Tom Morgan's Ypres Battlefield Guide: Hill 60 - "Hell with the Lid Off" “...Hill 60 was certainly one of the most feared places in the whole of the Ypres salient, and one which was never quiet ... From top to bottom, Hill 60 is not much higher than a bedroom window. It was formed in the 1860s, when the railway came to Ypres and a line was built from the city to Comines. To get to Comines, the railway had to climb the Northern end of the Messines Ridge and, as steam engines are not very good at climbing hills, a cutting was dug to ease the gradient. The spoil from the work was dumped in three piles at the top of the climb, making three little hills. The biggest of these was marked on the British maps as "Hill" with its height above sea level in metres also given, so it appeared as "Hill 60" and this became its name...”
5. Waltham Cross. In the heart of the town lies one of the three surviving Eleanor crosses. Originally twelve crosses were set up around the country by Edward 1 in honour of his dead queen Eleanor of Castile in or around the year 1292. The crosses mark the overnight stopping places of the funeral cortege on the journey to carry the queen’s body to Westminster Abbey.
6. 1/6 - One shilling & six pence - approx. 18 cents.
7. During the reign of King Cnut (1016 - 1035), a large flint cross - sometimes called the Holy Rood - was excavated near Glastonbury, Somerset, and taken to Waltham and placed in the small wooden church there. The shrine of the cross was said to work miracles and in 1060, Harold Godwinson, Earl of Wessex and later to be the last Saxon King of England, consecrated a new, larger church on the site after being cured there. As part of his penance for the murder of Thomas à Beckett, Henry II founded the priory of Augustinian canons in 1177 which was granted the status of an abbey shortly after. The Abbey and the town that grew around it continued to prosper, becoming a place frequented by the royal court, thanks in no small part to its proximity both to London and the royal hunting grounds of Epping Forest. Henry VIII was another royal visitor, one that would prove to be the eventual downfall of the abbey, when as part of the Reformation, he began the dissolution of the monasteries. Waltham was the very last to go, in 1540. The Holy Rood also disappeared at this time.
8. 'Harold's Bridge' - crosses the Cornmill Stream in the grounds of Waltham Abbey. Of 14th Century construction. King Harold is said to have been buried behind the high altar of the church in 1066.
9. Lens - town on the Western Front - scene of heavy fighting during the War.
10. Lille - town on the Western Front - held by the Germans at that time.
11. David Lloyd George (1863-1945). Early in the War served in cabinet as minister for munitions and as secretary for war. In December 1916 was appointed Prime Minister, replacing Herbert Asquith.
12. Hatfield House built by Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury and Chief Minister to King James I in 1611, stands within its own Great Park and is currently home to the 7th Marquess of Salisbury. The fine gardens of this Jacobean House, originally designed by John Tradescant the Elder, continue to be maintained by the present Marchioness in a style that reflects their Jacobean history.
13. Arthur James Balfour (1848–1930). First Earl of Balfour. British prime minister (1902–1905). Later served as foreign secretary under David Lloyd George (1916–1919).
14. Lord Kitchener of Khartoum (1850-1916) Best known for his famous recruitment posters. As Secretary of State for war at the beginning of World War I Kitchener organized armies on an unprecedented scale and became a symbol of the national will to win. Kitchener was not as popular with his cabinet colleagues as he was amongst the public. He was gradually relieved of his responsibilities for industrial mobilisation and then strategy. Kitchener was killed in 1916 when the ship to Russia that he was travelling on, the HMS Hampshire, was sunk by a German mine.
15. Kaiser (William) Wilhelm II. (1859-1941). German Emperor.
16. Gordon Roseburgh Jones, Toronto University, 1907. Chinese Labour Corps. Second Lieut., May 1917; France, July 1917; Acting Capt., October 1917; Lieut. November 1918.
17. For an account of the transportation of the Chinese Labour Corps see article "Secret Trains across Canada 1917- 1918" by Elizabeth A. Tancock. The Beaver, October-November, 1991. pp 39-43.
18. On July 7th, 1917 there was a big German aeroplane raid on London, with loss of life and injuries.
19. In July 1917 the Military Service Act was passed in Canada, which allowed conscription if it became necessary. English Canada was much more in favour of conscription than Quebec. Marches against conscription and Prime Minister Robert Borden were held in Quebec, where riots broke out at anti-conscription rallies.
20. “Bubbly”, A Revue devised by John Hastings Turner. Music by Philip Braham Comedy Theatre, London - 5 May, 1917 (429 perfs)
21. Major Willie Redmond MP for East Clare in Ireland was killed in action at the Battle of Messines Ridge, at Ypres, Belgium. Redmond, a member of the Irish party, had represented East Clare for 25 years at Westminster. At the by- election his vacant seat was won by the Sinn Fein candidate, Eamon de Valera. De Valera represented County Clare until 1959, when he went on to serve two consecutive terms as President of Ireland.
22. Nieuport - a town near the coast of Belgium, south of Ostend. Nieuport was under heavy bombardment throughout the war. On July 10, 1917 Nieuport came under heavy attack by the Germans, who then gained ground in the area.
23. Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg (1856-1921). German statesman, chancellor (1909-1917.) He opposed the war when it broke out. His continued efforts for peace led to his resignation in July 14, 1917.
24. Georg Michaelis (1857–1936). Succeeded Bethmann-Hollweg in July 1917. He was the first Chancellor of Germany of non-noble background. He remained in this position until October 31, 1917.
25. The Hon. Frank Broadstreet Carvell. 1862-1924. Carvell held several ministerial positions with Liberal governments in the course of his career.
26. Sir Robert Borden (1854-1937) Knighted in 1914. Served as Canada's wartime Prime Minister from 1911-20. Fully supported Britain’s war effort.
27. Sir Herbert Ames. Served as treasurer of the League of Nations between 1919 and 1926.
28. Shorncliffe Military Camp, near Folkstone. On May 25, 1917 Shorncliffe, as well as several other places on the South East coast, was the target of a German air raid resulting in much miltary and civilian loss of life and injury. This incident prompted much criticism of the country’s defense system and negligence, resulting in better early warning systems.
29. A cube of concentrated beef extract. According to the Oxo history website “OXO cubes went to the trenches in the 1st World War in their thousands. The cube was in the standard set of emergency rations for the troops. One of the first offers associated with OXO was for the OXO Trench Heater; This was a set of 6 OXO cubes, 6 lighters and a collapsible stand to support a mess tin. 100 million OXO cubes were delivered during the 4 years of war.“
30. Guildford Castle - built soon after 1066. Under Henry III the castle became one of the most luxurious royal residences in England. After Henry III's death in 1272 the castle and the palace buildings fell into ruin. In 1885 the ruins were bought by Guildford Borough Council, who turned the castle into a park.
31. Longmoor Camp - large training area for Canadian troops during WW I. Near Aldershot and about 6 miles from Bramshott camp
32. Arthur Henderson (1863-1935). Henderson was President of the Board of Education (May, 1915-October, 1916) and Paymaster General (October, 1916- August, 1917). Henderson resigned as a result of David Lloyd-George and the war Cabinet voting against his proposal for an International Conference on the war in Stockholm.
33. Stockholm Conference - an attempt by the international socialist movement to meet in Stockholm to negotiate an end to the War. Henderson, as Leader of the Labour Party in Britain, favoured sending representatives, himself included, to Stockholm. The opposition rejected his proposal.
34. Hon. Sir Roundell Palmer, (1812-1895). 1st Earl of Selbourne
35. 'The Battle of Hill 70' - as part of the siege of Lens, ‘Hill 70’ was a strategic target captured by the Canadians in the summer of 1917, after much fierce fighting, with many casualties, on both sides.
36. Alexander Kerensky (1881 -1970). Became Minister of War in Russia in May, 1917, succeeding General Guchkov. Kerensky favoured continuing the War but met with opposition from the the rebel forces in Russia.
37. Reuben Torrey and Charles Alexander conducted evangelistic meetings together in many parts of the world.