Prince George Hotel
Samuel H. Thompson, Proprietor
Saturday, April 20th, 1918
Darling, I haven’t had a moment to write to you since I sent you that postcard with my new address so here goes. I spent a very anxious day all Wednesday as my name was down on a list of 5 who were to stay behind at Deseronto & act as Military policemen, one of the worst jobs going I should think but at the last moment that was cancelled. We left Deseronto at 2.30 AM Thursday morning. Of course we had no beds to go to so slept where we could untill [sic] it was time to go to the station. Our carriage was jammed pretty tight but I managed to get some more sleep after we got started. We eventually arrived at Beamsville about 11 o’clock in the rain & marched 2 miles or so up to the camp. The camp is more or less under construction still & the roads aren’t finished so the mud was something fierce. We were told we had to parade all spick and span at 2.30 so put in a busy time trying to get polished up & then were marched through more oceans of mud to the place we had to parade at & arrived looking like a lot of tramps but the O. C. couldn’t say anything as it wasn’t our fault. We were then put to work in the hangars for the rest of the day as it would never do to give us a rest after travelling all night. I was rather pleased that the serjeant I had spoken to about getting me a job rigging remembered to pick me out when we were being told off to the various jobs & gave me a job washing of an aeroplane as it shows he hasn’t forgotten all about me & he may put in a word for me later on. After work stopped we were marched about about [sic] ½ mile back to camp where all the tents are & after supper we set about getting our tent shipshape. I’ve got a fairly good collection in mine which is lucky. It turned awfully cold of course for our first night under canvas & like most folks I slept in practically all my clothes. We were in bed by 6.30 having been more or less on the go for 36 hours & I slept like a log & woke up to find 2 inches of snow on the ground & winter back again. We get up at 5.30 (4.30 really) & have to go quite a way to the wash house & when I got there I found the basins full of ice & most of the taps frozen so Pop didn’t wash atall [sic] (pig). We spent that day down at the hangars again & it would have been quite nice if there hadn’t been such a bitterly cold wind. They told us at noon that those who hadn’t had any leave for over 5 weeks could put in weekend passes, so I took advantage of that as it seemed a good weekend to be away from camp & give the mud a chance to dry up & the weather to get better. When we came back from work in the evening I found I’d got my pass all right so expected to catch a train to Toronto about 8 o’clock but then we found we had to parade at 6.30 to move tents. Our tent was one of the ones to be moved & I had to work like the mischief putting down tents carrying them to the other side of the camp & putting them up again. By the time we were through it was much too late to get any train but I was bound I was going somewhere so a fellow called Alexander & myself took the trolley car to Hamilton which is about 12 miles from Beamsville & slept there & came on here this morning.
There you have an account of my doings up today [sic]. We got here about 10 o’clock & then of course I had to go shopping. I walked all through Murray Keys with my eyes popping out but couldn’t find anything. I saw quite a nice summer dress that I wanted for Mary but the girl couldn’t find one in the 8 year old size so I gave it up. Its too early to bother about bathing suitings yet, so I left these. I went into a jewellers & bought you a brooch like Mary’s. I couldn’t get a hat pin but I’m hoping that Knowles will solder it onto a pin for you. He ought to be able to do a job like that. There’s a lot of love goes with it altho’ when you get the parcel there won’t be any special message with it. While I was in the shop Mrs. Dumoulin came up & I was really quite pleased to see her. I haven’t seen a Kelowna face since Renfrew [?] left. She jabbered away for a little while & then I left & started hunting for something for the kids. I eventually hit on a tricycle. It is probably smaller than the one Mary has but I think the younger ones may get a lot of fun out of it & I was thinking if 2 of them could ride at the same time they would have twice as much fun. I am leaving you to pay the Express on it as Eatons didn’t know in the least what it would cost. I hope my offerings will meet with satisfaction. Its a long time since I had the chance to get anything & it will be quite a while I expect before I get another.
Beamsville looks like being an awfully nice camp as soon as it gets a little warmer. The Mess tents & sleeping tents etc are on a hill & the hangars on the flat below & the lake about 2 miles off. It will be quite a pretty place when the trees are out. Beamsville itself is less than a mile away & quite a nice looking little town, not so big as Deseronto but not nearly so shabby.
Now that we have all come together again the squadron is vastly overstocked with men & I believe there is going to be a big remustering next week so anything may happen. Owing to this stable business I’m down in the list of those who haven’t got a niche of their own in the squadron so it won’t surprise me much if I get remustered into another squadron or sent back to the recruits depot at Leaside which is where I first went. I rather expect it really. My only hope is that that serjeant I mentioned might say he wants me as a rigger but then he hasn’t much authority & he’s not likely to want me very badly as I’ve never done any rigging so I shouldn’t be much use to him for quite a while. there is talk of some getting discharged as they seem to have got too many men but I imagine they will only discharge those who come under the M. S. A. I doubt if they would let me out as they know I can’t be conscripted & they would be afraid of losing me altogether. I’d like to stay on in the squadron now. One gets to know pretty nearly everybody & its rather a bore getting into a new bunch & having to start all over again.
I think now I’ve told you all my news & what I know of my prospects. You may not get so many letters from me in future if I stay at Beamsville as we don’t get much spare time there but I will do the best I can. I will try to write to Mary tomorrow. I got quite a jolly little letter from her the other day.
No more now except to send tons & tons of love
Prince George Hotel
Samuel H. Thompson, Proprietor
April 21st, 1918.
Just a line this time as I told you everything I could think of yesterday. I have just written to Mary & enclosed some chicken feed for the kids. Alexander & I went to a vaudeville show yesterday after we had finished writing letters & then went to Child’s for some tea & funnily enough MacDowell came in and we joined forces. He left Deseronto 2 days before us & is working in the Stores Depot in Toronto. We went off to a picture show to fill in time & then all adjourned to the Prince George for dinner. Then Alec & I went off to a show we had already got seats for & it was really good. I haven’t seen such good acting since I was last in England. I was in bed by about 11.45 & stayed there exactly 12 hours. I had meant to go to Church this morning but somehow I thought better (or worse) of it when the time came. Mac turned up again just before we were ready to eat & we fed again at the Prince George. Very extravagant but a most pleasing chance. Quite a novelty for these other two fellows who have never fed at a place like this in their lives. They quite enjoyed themselves.
Mac & I went for a walk then & Alec is off calling on some folks he knows. I’ve had some tea & when this letter is done I thnk I’m going to Church & then for one more decent feed somewhere, early to bed & catch the 8 o’clock train tomorrow for Beamsville & so back to work for another 5 weeks before I get a weekend again. I will write as often as I can from Beamsville but as I told you there may not be much chance.
Heaps & Heaps of love
Monday [April 22, 1918]
Darling, This is just to fill in time rill 9.30 PM when I have to go to a fire picquet parade & answer my name to prove that I’m in camp in case it catches fire & after that I can go to bed. There are 4 of us in this tent & we are all quite nice. At present we are all sitting on the floor leaning against our respective neat piles of blankets & kit bags writing letters. Illumination consist of 4 candles on a shelf built round the tent pole by your devoted husband, said shelf being typical of thousands that he has built in various places. It consists of two pieces of board with a notch in them to let the tent pole in & of course there is a difference of about an inch in the length of the two boards. I meant to cut them the same length but it wouldn’t be me if I did would it.
I’ve just got your letter saying you didn’t understand much about the 4 year idea. As a matter of fact nobody does but under no conditions do I sign on in this four 4 years. I am in it at present untill [sic] the war ends $ if that should go on for 4 years I’m in it anyway but if it should end this year I’m dam [sic] sure I’m not going to be bound down for another 3 years or so. Its in their power to discharge me if I don’t sign on but they are not the least likely to as it appears that they want all the men they have got now. My duties aren’t very grand (I was hauling coal this afternoon) but someone’s got to do them & if they fired me they would have to take somebody from some other job to put in my place for after all somebody’s got to put coal in the cook house or the troops can’t eat & then the men can’t fix the aeroplanes, & the cadets can’t learn to fly, there will be a shortage of pilots, Germany will get the mastery of the air & London will be bombed to bits. There were 4 of us & a motor truck on the job this afternoon so we have staved off the demolition of London for a while anyway.
I’m very sorry you lost your 2 days a week woman. I wish you could get a genuine woman for all day. You should have a pretty good time this summer if you don’t have much work to do. Lots of picnics at the little ‘ouse unless the skeeters get too bad. I wonder if your trees are out in leaf yet. Ours here are quite bare still but the grass around here is about as green as English grass which is rather pleasing.
No more time for babbling now
[April 23, 1918?]
3rd A. G. S.
Darling, just time for a line if my fingers don’t get too cold before I get finished. It is beastly cold still, windy rainy & frost & there’s nowhere in camp to get warm. It gives every promise of being quite nice here when the weather condescends to behave but its the worst kind of a place to be when its cold. We’ve got a baby coyote tied just outside the tent. They brought it up from Texas with them. Every time the bugle goes it sits up & sings & makes an awful din so it isn’t very popular. As soon as the sun comes out I will get some snapshots of the camp & then you’ll get a good idea what its like. I have been down at the hangars the last few days doing odd jobs. I am trying hard to get a job as a rigger but it hasn’t come off yet.
Keep trying to get a girl & you’ll probably succeed if you do. I shall be very pleased if you do get a good one. Thank Mary for the letter & pictures.
Lots of love to make up for this footling letter,
[Letter from Mary]
Arkie and I go to a dansing clas at miss Jadeens schoole and we dans very well. we went to Dickie Lees and had good fun on all the tobogens and we took ours too I donte looc forwud to my 10 cents as much as you said I do
With lots of luv from Mary and Arkie and Tony and Dickie
26th April 1918.
S. A. G.
R. A. F.
Darling, I must send you a line to let you know I am still alive & kicking, especially kicking. All of us who have just come here were paraded yesterday and told off to our new jobs. I am permanent line orderly a most footling job. Another fellow & I are responsible for the neat appearance of two rows of tents as far as the ground outside is concerned & in between whiles we come in for odd jobs. Its a pleasant prospect isn’t it? and so damned helpful. As soon as things have settled down a bit I’m going to put in all kinds of protests for it isn’t good enough to have a job like this all summer. The only consolation is that other fellows have got worse jobs. Line orderly is about the easiest job in camp & just fine for a cripple about 70 years old. You don’t get up to parade in the morning & just mooch around all the time tidying up but I certainly didn’t join up to do that sort of thing & am going to try darned hard to get something else. The other fellow on the job with me is quite a nice chap. One of the few educated men I’ve met over here. He’s travelled around a lot in England & France & I imagine is fairly well off. He had a commission in the C. F. A. last year. He has hopes of becoming a Cadet. I hope to write to you again tonight. This is just something to go on with. My very best love
SCHOOL OF AERIAL GUNNERY
ROYAL AIR FORCE
April 28th 1918.
Darling, I haven’t been doing anything very exciting lately in fact I’ve been having a rather slack time. My time is mostly taken up with camp duties & I suppose that not being a mechanic & having had no chance to learn rigging I can’t really espect anything better. If it wasn’t for the fact that you are working like the dickens at home & I’m doing little or nothing I wouldn’t mind. How these things happen is something like this. When we came from Deseronto we were the last party & having then got everybody into camp they filled up the three squadrons which were already there, made out a list of those who had not been doing any fixed work & from that list of names apportioned so many to one job & so many to another & so on. There are many worse jobs than mine. I might have been a permanent help in the cookhouse or eke in some more lowly building but luckily I escaped that but even so I’m rather sore at not getting something better. The bright spot of the whole thing is Smith, my fellow orderly. He joined as a Cadet & failed in the chair test (you get whirled round in a chair & they note the effect) & they told him he could join as a wireless instructor but thats the last he’s heard of it. He’s the first fellow I’ve met who is in much the same position in life as myself & has had the same kind of education. This isn’t so snobbish as it sounds as its a great treat to talk to someone who can discuss; things with you from the same standard. Mac my friend in Deseronto was a real decent fellow but he hadn’t an aitch in him & was a London chauffeur. Smith is if anything a better performer on the piano than Tom. There’s a piano in this hotel where he keeps a room & last night he played to me for hours. He was in London in 1913 so could play me all the things I used to hear then, Gaby Glide etc He played me pretty nearly every tune I asked him for right back to Chocolate Soldier & Merry Widow days and in between whiles played Grieg & Bethoven [sic] & even Tristan und Isolde from Wagner (a thing Tom raved about) all without music. It was the best evening I’ve had in the army I think. He knows the Piccadilly Grill & Hear [?]Groote & Eastbourne & Oxford. In fact everything I mention we seem to meet on a common ground & you’d be surprised what a treat it is. Anyway I suppose you’ll say enough of Smith.
I told you I was going to start kicking about my new job. Well I started on Saturday with a good big one. I wanted to interview the O. C. & a bally private can only do that by writing a formal letter stating the object of the interview & if it meets with approval you get paraded before him. I wrote the blighter a letter asking for leave of absence on the ground that my farm was seriously depreciating owing to shortage of labour & that I could be of great help to the local farmers as I possessed horses & farm implements (incidentally I could be of great help to you but I didn’t say that). I mentioned that I was only a line orderly & left him to conclude that I could be easily spared. I took the letter to the Serjeant Major who has to read such things to see if they are worthy to be placed on the OC’s table & he said he’d see what he could do. Of course nothing came of it, I didn’t think it would as from the OC’s point of view having a clean camp is probably more important than winning the war but I’m probably slightly more than a mere name to him now & the next time I apply for something, probably to be put in the Motor Transport Section, he’ll remember that I was the fellow who dared to ask for leave & will probably see me to give me a cursing & thus we shall get to know each other & thats always a step in the right direction. Its nothing here to see about 18 planes up in the air at once but at this camp which is for teaching machine gun work, stunting (looping the loop, etc.) is forbidden so its not very exciting to watch.
Bye the bye please send me some more money. My last weekend ran me pretty short. We only get one every 5 weeks now so that won’t happen very often. I hope I’m not spending too much. I never seem to buy anything except eats & yet the money dwindles like anything.
I’ll have to stop now as its time we went home again.
All my love, ducky,
SCHOOL OF AERIAL GUNNERY
ROYAL AIR FORCE
I wrote you a line this afternoon & here goes for another one but you cant expect much news. This is just an evening chat with you.
How lucky I bought a tricycle the other day but how unfortunate that it will be to small for Mussy [? – a pet name for Mary?] & that I wrote to her that it would be so nice to have 2 tricycles. You can probably get one at Eatons for about 8 bucks that would be big enough. I paid 6 for the one I sent. Of course I thought she would have got one already. I am quite pleased that she shows some signs of being musical. This is a good time to get her started. Very interested to hear all about the garden upupome. If you like to yank up most of the Arabis & just leave little clumps it wouldn’t be a bad plan as it must take a lot of goodness out of the ground. We’ll have a great time reorganising the place when this dam wars over. As long as the birches & hedges keep going the rest is easily replaced.
Much pleased with Mary’s letter & the drawings.
Also with your good resolutions, mind you keep to them. Another one might be “On waking up & finding myself specially full of beans I will take it as easy as possible that day”. Those are just the days you are apt to overdo it.
We’ve had rather nice weather the last 2 or 3 days but it freezes hard each night & is most almighty cold getting up at 5.30 in the morning. I think I may be able to get into the Motor Transport next week & become a motor driver anyway Im going to have a try at it.
Smith, my fellow line orderly, keeps a room in a hotel at Beamsville & thats where I’m writing now after a huge supper. It is a very handy place to come to.
Ten day leaves have started again so my turn may come one of these days tho’ not for a month or two. I shall arrive at Sicamous in the morning in time to catch the Vernon train & you’ll have to get to Vernon somehow, either drive yourself up or come by boat which ever seems best when the time comes. I don’t get any time in Toronto so shall not arrive with my arms laden with gifts for the family, but even so I believe you’ll be rathe pleased to see me.
Don’t let Benson dally too much over the mortgage. I don’t think the church can foreclose untill [sic] sometime after the war but it would be a good thing to get something settled.
No more now.