Easter Day [March 31, 1918]
Darling, Of course I never got a letter from Mary[,] if I had I would have answered it at once. I wonder where these things go astray. I don’t think it is at this end as I know the fellow who handles the mail & all he has to do is just get a few letters from the post office & sort them out into pigeon holes just as they do at the Mission except that it isn’t such a big mail here. Anyhow I have written to her again today & enclosed a 10 cent piece for each of the kids so I hope it arrives safely.
I was very pleased to find a little cake in my last tin. It is quite the best part of the hamper especially as now I buy 1 qt. of milk each day & keep it in a lovely cool place just outside a window in the stable so that I get a cup of milk & cake in the middle of the morning & some more cake & hot milk last thing at night. You had better not send any more food from now on as I’m not likely to be anywhere where I can keep it. It seems to be nearly certain now that we are all going to be sent back to the Recruits Depot at Jesse Ketchum there to stay until we get posted to another squadron or some other job. It is rather sickening as quite a few of us put in a pretty hard winter here & that won’t count for anything. It means beginning all over again like last November. I may get any kind of a job such as a storeman or something. They are short of storemen and as of course there are millions of spare parts connected with aeroplanes that all have to be stored & checked & handed out & received back it takes quite a staff to handle them. I should hate it tho’.
If I do go back to Jesse Ketchum I’ll put in for my 10 days leave on the off chance. Everybody else will too so it isn’t very likely I shall get it.
I’m beginning to get a little anxious as to whether that fifty bucks will get here before I go broke. If we get shifted from here before it comes & it has to start chasing me round the country I shall probably find myself in Toronto surrounded by lovely bathing dresses & only just enough money in my pocket to buy cigarettes.
How are the kids fixed for bathing suits. (I’m not quite so optimistic about coming to bathe with you, the way the damn war’s going[.]) I know they have each got one of sorts & I suppose Tony’s last years one would do for Dicky but they would look nice if I could get 4 nice news [sic] ones. How about your own boys bathing suit. Do you want a nice new one too? I suppose for getting wet you will wear one of that kind even if I’m not there to appreciate it. Anyway you might send me the length that their various suits should be from A to B. [Drawing of a bathing suit with neckline marked “A” and crotch marked “B”.] You can guess more or less where A ought to be.
I like the photograph of that kid where he’s “standing at ease”. I gave one to his Mother last night. I thought she might like one so went boldly up to the door of his house & gave it to her. She couldn’t make out what I was driving at for some time as I don’t suppose the kid knew that he was being photographed. I was rather dark & I think she thought I was trying to sell her a picture postcard of something. Anyway I left it there & I expect she was pleased when she got it to the light.
I certainly do feel sorry for Greville Leon. If he’s as fond of her as I am of you he must be having a rotten time.
If I should get my 10 days you’d better go to Leckie’s & buy a barbed wire entanglement & get in the middle of it and stay there. It would be nice to be home again, ducky. During my siesta yesterday afternoon I went to a fancy dress party at the Meadows with you & the kids. We were having a great time till some idiot came & woke me up.
Mary’s birthday. [April 6?]
Darling, I hope Mary’s had a nice day. Its getting to be a long time since I chased over to Allen Crichtons & got Knox & then went off with Dick & the buggy to the Meadows. Its still very fresh in my memory tho’. I got a letter from Auntie today & a most delightful one from you. You had been upupome [sic] & to the little ‘ouse & found them both all right. After 2 days strenuous thought I have just remembered the name of the Butterfly Bush “Buddleia”; for the life of me I couldn’t remember what it was. Did I tell you to go upupome when you think the irises are at their best & report on what you think of them. If they are rather a scrubby lot we will get some nice ones to replace some of them. If you prie [sic] the lids off the box round the key of the stop & waste by the trough I expect you’ll be able to turn it off all right & then if Barty wants any water for his horses haying or anything he can use the key instead of the tap. Its rather a chore to dig it up & put a new pipe in. Anyway I expect it wants a new box which may as well be done at the same time & I can see to it when I return.
Sunday. [April 7?] A bitter blow today! I have got to take my team to Mohawk this afternoon & turn them over to the folks who are going to have charge of them for the summer. So that ends this phase of my soldiering. I did hope it would last till we got to Beamsville or at any rate moved away from here as I’ve been having a pretty good time lately. The other fellows have been working in the Garage so I’ve had all the driving which wasn’t much but just enough to pass the time. I lose my home in the stable too & go back to Barracks & attend parades & do what I’m told. I shall have to go on guard every other day & do fatigues in between whiles which is the very devil. I’ve been lucky to escape so long & this won’t last long as we know we leave here within 10 days. I can’t make up my mind whether to try & get a job Motor driving or not. It sounds very nice to be driving around the country in the summer but theres [sic] more to it than that. There’s a lot of car washing to be done & hanging around the garage all the time which doesn’t appeal to me much. I think I shall wait till we move & see what happens.
No more now. I’ll have to get busy moving house soon. Best love
R. A. F.
April 8th 1918.
Darling, I’m one big grouse tonight & as I’ve got nothing else to do I may as well tell you my troubles. As a matter of none of them are of such importance that if tomorrows [sic] a nice sunny day I shan’t have forgotten them. To start with it has rained nearly all day & been beastly raw & cold & I woke up with a deranged tummy & a most awful head. Then I had to spend the morning returning all the stable stuff to the stores & packing up my things & moving up to the house which went very much against the grain. I picked out a nice room with only 4 men in it & then a whole bunch of men arrived from Texas & every room is packed including mine, also I’ve got a slight touch of piles for about the first time in my life and I was reduced to 7 cents in cash. There you have the list of my troubles which cause me to label this Black Monday. Now we’ll try the bright side of things. My headache is gone & my tummy’s better & the weather looks like clearing up. I think that was the combination that upset things so much today. Also I got a letter from you & Mary. Mary’s was quite delightful. I loved it especially the spelling & your letter was as always the best thing that happens during the day.
We got paid this afternoon. I got $3 which will probably last me till the 50 comes from you. Even if it doesn’t Mac will keep me going for a few days. I’ve done more work today than I’ve done for weeks & I think really that I would just as soon go out working each day as sit around the stable. I had to walk all the way to Mohawk yesterday and drive my horses in front of me. I was lucky to get a lift home in a motor car as it was pouring with rain.
Fancy Arkie going out to tea all by himself. He must have got much older since I’ve been away.
I haven’t got any more news now. I think I will go & polish my buttons & boots ready for parade tomorrow morning & get to bed early for once.
Darling: I’ve quite lost my grouch. I haven’t had a bad time atall [sic] the last 2 days. We are having what we hope is the final cold snap. Tremendous winds that are bitterly cold. All the ice has gone from the lake. Its [sic] quite nice to see the whitecaps & waves again. I went on parade yesterday at 6.45 all spick & span & we went for a short run, then breakfast & those without special duties then attend a working parade & are told off for their job for the day. Mine was to go to Rathbun in a truck & haul coal. We got stuck in the mud before we got 50 yards & spent about an hour getting out. I rather enjoyed the coal hauling. I think I wanted some exercise. I didn’t drive the truck, I was a shoveller. We were about with the truck all day hauling odds & ends & after supper I went to the pictures. On working parade today the serjeant asked if anyone could drive a Ford. Another fellow & I both spoke up & the others were sent off to work while we stayed around in case we were wanted. We weren’t after all getting an engine repair shop all ready to start work. We had to clean all the lathes & drilling machines & and put on all the belts etc. There were only the 2 of us & a very nice serjeant in charge who didn’t make us work to [sic] hard so I spent quite an interesting day. I rather like cleaning machinery. Many thanks for the $50 also a tin of eats. I haven’t opened them yet as now I’m back in barracks there’s nowhere to keep them after ther’e [sic] once opened. I’m waiting till I go on guard. There will be four of us in the guard house for 12 hours & I expect they will all bless you. Don’t send any more now. I don’t suppose youre [sic] going to anyway.
The $50 wasn’t registered. Such a funny coincidence yesterday. I got a letter from you saying you had just sent off a tin of eats & also a money order but not going to register it. You went on to say your dermatitis really seemed better & that you were having an awful fight to get Dicky to take half a cup full of stuff like cascara but that he seemed better the last day or two. I thought it was odd as I had an idea he’d been pretty fit lately then I happened to look at the date. Feb 14th. Your letter had been to London England & back again. Its funny tho’ that you mentioned the money order & food & that I’d just got them. I wonder if the Meadows sweets are travelling round the world too. I had a letter from Tom yesterday, which you might like to see. Nothing much in it tho’.
We shall be off in a very few days now. Go on writing to this address untill [sic] you hear different. They will get forwarded on in course of time if I’m lucky.
I hope you don’t go to gaol. If you do I’ll try & get leave to look after my family as I don’t see why they should be punished for your delinqencies. I wonder if you get a rebate on 4 kids. You ought to.
The bally war news is bad again tonight. Lloyd George seems a little pessimistic too. I don’t know whether he’s telling the truth or just trying to urge people on for greater efforts. This part of the world still swarms with young civies. I suppose they are all exempted for some fool reason.
Bye the bye have you ever seen Simeon [?] yet. A long time ago you said he was just going to arrive.
I’m looking forward to the new kickies [?] from ????? ???. (tch! tch!!)
Darling: Nothing to write about, the weathers [sic] been beastly all the week. Today we woke up to 2 inches of snow. It has all gone now & has been raining most of the day. I’ve been out at Mohawk cleaning up aeroplanes, very unpleasant in the hangars which are all mud underfoot, where they aren’t ice. Very cold for the feet. It seems to be pretty well settled that we leave on Monday. We none of us know where we are going for sure. Some to one place & some to another.
They do seem to soak you over income tax but I suppose its [sic] worth something to live in a country where you don’t get air raids, at any rate German ones. This letter isn’t worth sending but I can’t do any better. I’ll have more to write about when we get shifted.
I’d put some extra love in this letter if I could but all of it goes with every letter I send.
Sunday, April 14 1918.
Darling, At last I have had to go on guard. For some strange reason I managed to escape it all this week. I am on for 24 hours, 2 hours sentry & four off & so on. We have only just come down here so I haven’t had my turn as sentry yet. I should think it is rather monotonous especially during the night. I have been mess orderly all day, mopping floors & sweeping, doling out the food to the men & washing up for about 70. I don’t think that takes any longer than washing up the dinner things at home when there have been two or three extra folks to eat. The dishes don’t get dried & there are no knives & forks to wash & no cooking things. Yesterday we put up tents all day & I got very tired hammering tent pegs. They are working us early & late now & I don’t care how soon we leave here. I don’t like their footling jobs. Most of the men here have been doing guards & fatigues the whole winter. I was most awfully lucky to get that stable job. At any rate I didn’t have such a bad winter altho’ now that the horses are gone I’m no farther forward than I was when I joined up.
Some 3 or 4 hundred troops came in today and have gone out to Rathbun camp, there are a lot more to come yet. This place will be overcrowded when they are all here but I suppose we shall have gone so it won’t matter. The powers that be launched quite a bombshell the other day. I will try & explain it as far as I can understand it. I told you the R. F. C. had been done away with & has become the R. A. F. Royal Air Force. Well, there is a notice up saying that all those attached to the R. F. C. are in future to consider themselves transferred to the R. A. F. for 4 years from April 1st 1918 or the duration of the war whichever may be the longer, but within 90 days from now anyone can notify his commanding officer that he does not wish to be transferred in which case he will probably get discharged unless he is a pretty good mechanic. They want to start a Canadian Air Force after the war & I think are taking this step so as to have a nucleous [sic] left after Peace comes. All these 3AM’swho are in A class if they get discharged will get nabbed at once for the Infantry & some of them would rather have 4 more years of this than do that. I don’t know how it affects me. Knowing that I am not eligible for conscription & not particularly wanted to fight they will probably keep me on for my original contract i. e. not exceeding 6 months after the war. One very sure thing is that I don’t sign on for anything that keeps me in the army much after peace comes.
[Later] I have just come off my 2 hours sentry-go. Not very exciting. I walked from a corner of the station, much like the Vernon station, 30 yards down the road & back again varied by occasional standing at ease & watching the Sunday procession of natives. I think nearly everybody I know in the squadron came past at one time or another & each one had some remark to make about the new sentry. I go on next from 12 – 2 AM & then from 6 – 8 & so on. Most unpleasing.
We started Daylight Saving today & really haven’t noticed it. I hope it won’t bother you much.
A delightful letter from you about 2 days ago telling me about Mary’s successful birthday. What a stroke of luck to win the raffle just that day.
Tell Benson that if anyone wants to rent the house on Glenn Avenue they can have it for $15 a month for 6 months & as long as they show proof that the $90 has been spent fixing up the house that will be satisfactory. Talk it over with him, he might have a better suggestion to make but I think it will pay us to let anybody have it if they will get it fixed up even if we don’t get any cash ourselves.
Later. I thought I was going to have lots of time for letter writing on this job but it seems I was mistaken. It was a nice warm night for my spell from 12 – 2 AM. I took what was left of your cake & some biscuits & a bottle of near-beer & crept off to my old home in the stables. It is very deserted there now but there is a home made armchair in the little room so I made myself as comfortable as possible & dozed there most of the time. I was on again from 6 – 8 & then cooked some breakfast for myself & hoped for some peace till 12 but a bally officer came in & found a job for us to sweep up a vast machine shop, which was a bally swindle as the guards are supposed to get some rest between whiles. Anyhow I’ve got an hours rest now.
Please send me if you can a properly authenticated copy of our marriage certificate. I don’t know much about it but I suppose it can be done. I don’t suppose I shall want it but on the off chance that I get discharged after 3 months & have to come home in mufti it would be as well to have some proof that I am a married man or I should get arrested at the station at Toronto & find myself back in some barracks that same night without ever getting a chance to get home & that would be the absolute limit. I suppose in three months we shall know more or less what the war is going to do. The last paper I saw was rather worse than any others. I am still hoping that it doesn’t go over next winter but I should like to see somebody who is more in authority express an opinion on the subject.
I hope to get a letter from you tomorrow telling me all about Mary’s adenoid business. I expect you’ll have had a very tiring day over it all. I hope she behaved nicely.
When I come off duty here at 4 o’clock this afternoon I have to go on mess orderly again for supper & then clear up after it & by that time I expect I shall be ready for bed. Of course we couldn’t undress atall [sic] last night & I shall be very glad to get my boots & puttees off tonight.
Nothing much more to write about. Everything’s so unsettled just now that I find it rather hard to settle down to write.
My very best love, darling,
Tuesday. [April 16, 1918]
Darling, Have just got your letter about Mary’s throat. You must have been tired that night. I am glad she took it to well. You must have explained it very tactfully. It is a jolly good job done, isn’t it? I feel very sore that that girl went to the Knox’s just because you happened to be out. It seems such bad luck to loose her that way. I hope to goodness someone else looms up on the horizon or I’m afraid you’ll find you’ve got rather too much to do. Tell Mary I was very pleased with her letter & the photographs. I like the one of you & Dicky best. It is quite a jolly one. I don’t like Mary sideways on. I will write to Mary when we get settled down again at present everything is upside down. You will remember I told you I had to go on mess orderly after I came off guard. Well we had just finished dishing out the supper for the men when 150 more turned up from Texas & we certainly had a rush as they weren’t expected in so soon & were all very hungry. In the end it turned out alright as they put in some extra mess orderlies & after I had doled out jam for the whole lot we got away as they did their own washing up. I think we leave here at 2.30 AM tomorrow morning for Beamsville but nothing definite is settled yet. I was out at Mohawk this morning tidying up the hangars. There was lots of flying going on & the place seemed quite lively after its desolate appearance all winter.
I was awfully amused at your selling the buggy to the Sweenys’ of all people. I think $15 was about right if anything it was cheap at that price but I’m afraid Mrs. Sweeny will be rather too much for it.
Later. We have not heard yet that we are going off tomorrow morning & as it is 6 PM I suppose that means that we have another day here.
Quite the best photo that came was an old one, the three boys on the lawn arm in arm. It would be rather nice to have an enlargement of that so you might take the negative to Stocks & see what he can do. Dicky seems to have changed more than the others. He is no longer a baby I’m afraid. He looks quite a boy in that group of them arm in arm in your present garden. It is rather interesting to compare the two pictures. For your information I may state that I get a great deal of pleasure out of receiving a bunch of snap shots. I hope to get some of them after they have got into their summer clothes & please, dear, try & manage to include one of yourself. Just run a comb through your hair & pop out in whatever you happen to have on at the time. That one of you & Dicky pleases me immensely. I could stand a lot like that.
Perhaps your soldiers widow may be persuaded to throw up some of her other jobs & come to you more often if she likes what she sees of you on the two days a week I gathe she is coming. Don’t be afraid of offering her too high wages. You are left with a much bigger contract than most of the women around & I think if I was in your position I wouldn’t hesitate to outbid them.
With love, ducky,
PS. About that enlargement I mentioned on p 3, I don’t mean that I want the enlargement sent to me.
[Letter from Mary]
I can scip all sorts of ways) I fill much better)
I’m going to get a tricycle becos I had my throat done nicly
With lots of love from Mary