SCHOOL OF AERIAL GUNNERY
ROYAL AIR FORCE
Darling, I thought I was too good a man to be kept as a line orderly. This evening the orderly Serjeant came along & told me to report tomorrow morning to take charge of the Quarter Masters Stores Team of horses so tomorrow I’m back at my old job with the same old team I drove in the winter. You remember I told you they were sent on to Beamsville a long time ago when I was left behind to look after the others. I’m really very pleased at the prospect. It is very different driving at this time of year to doing it in the winter.
Smith and I have been prospecting my new home. The stable is right in Beamsville which is about ½ mile from the camp itswelf & in a peach of a place. Not a dilapidated old wooden thing like I had before but a fine stone building that belonged to rather a swagger private house. In future I live in Beamsville & get my meals where I like & am allowed an extra 90 cents a day to do it on. This is a godsend as in camp we get pretty bad meals & have to stand in a queue for 15 – 20 minutes before we can get that. I also get a permanent midnight pass which will be jake in the summer for who wants to be in by 9.30 now that Daylight Saving has come in. No more packing up my bed & blankets & folding all my clothes into a neat pile in the tent according to army regulations every morning. No more early parades with spotless boots & buttons & no more lots of things that I could very well do without. At present it looks to me like the best job in camp but I shall know more when I’ve tried it.
Mayday today & it was frightfully cold this morning. I went on parade with a great coat on & wore it most of the morning but it was a wretched day with a wind that cut right through you & of course nowhere to go to get out of it. It has got better by now & it can be very nice here when it likes. There are more orchards round here than round Kelowna. They are only just beginning to show signs of life now. Acres & acres of grapes too. I hope to see something of the country soon. Smith has had his motor bicycle shipped from Montreal & it should be here in a day or so. Its got a back seat to it & we hope to get a lot of fun out of it. Niagara Falls are only 22 miles away & I hope to get there when the days are longer. This should give you a good idea of where we are situated.
I got the Marriage Lines [sic] safely. What I should have written for was a copy of the copy which you could probably have got officially made out & would have answered the purpose. I don’t think I will lose this one tho’. I’ve got it tucked away in my money belt & I think it will be safe enough. I’m not really likely to want it. Now I’m very willing to stand corrected on a subject of which I know nothing but is it really necessary for Mary to spend ½ hour a day practising. Its a long time for a kid to spend at an uncongenial job & seems to savour of old time methods when music was hammered into children untill [sic] they were sick of it. I suppose Miss Hewetson would not approve of less but my idea was that Mary should get hold of the rudiments of music if she showed any promise, so that she should know enough not to have to begin at the beginning when she gets older. You gather what I mean I trust. It seems a little involved to me.
I think I’ve come to the end of my news. I’m tickled all to death that you have got somebody if only for one or two mornings a week. It all helps.
My very bestest love, darling, if I’m lucky I might spend my birthday with you but don’t count on anything. You can never tell what the RAF will do. Lots of men are getting their 10 days now so my turn ought to come one of these days.
SCHOOL OF AERIAL GUNNERY
ROYAL AIR FORCE
May 2nd 1918.
My darling, I’ve just had my first day at my old job, just hauling odds & ends that the motor trucks can’t handle so well & I think it is going to be a good job. My old team is slower than ever but as there is no danger of freezing to death at this time of the year I’m in no hurry. There is something to look at all the time as it is one big bustle around the camp nowadays. I’ve got quite a nice officer over me which should help a bit. I spent some time fixing up my sleeping quarters in the barn this evening. I’m going to sleep in the loft, quite a spacious bedroom with millions of cobwebs hanging from the rafters. It has 2 large windows that open up level with the floor and I have swept a large space about them & have got a fairly big table with white oil cloth on it. I’ll put up some shelves soon for my clothes, so you can picture me as fairly comfortable. I’ve found a pretty good place to eat at a restaurant so tomorrow morning instead of standing in a shivering bread line & waiting for some porridge without milk, a piece of fat bacon, a slice of bread, butter & a mixture that might be either tea or coffee or both, I go & get poached eggs and buttered toast coffee & marmalade & think the good old days at Deseronto are back again. I’m afraid this is going to cost more money as I don’t think I can get three meals a day for 90 ¢ which is what I’m allowed for meals but feeding up in camp in the Canteen to help out that I doubt if it will come to much more, anyway its WORTH it.
I hope you got my letter asking for another $50. If you did & have already sent it you can proove [sic] your love for me by sending another $50 right after it. This is the reason. Owing to the transfer of the RFC into the RAF everything had to be done in a different way & it appears that men getting their service leave now cant get their transportation paid both ways, & so some poor devils who have just been granted leave have had to forego it because they cant afford the price if they have far to go. The Government pays one way & the R. F. C. used to pay the return but untill [sic] things are straightened out a bit more the R. A. F. apparently can’t do their bit. Now if I should ever get my leave I would hate like the very d—l to have to forego it owing to lack of cash so I thought I would keep a spare $50 salted away in the back of my belt for just such an emergency. Of course you may think it is hardly worth while paying $50 or so for 5 or 6 days at home & in that case doubtless you will not send the money but if you don’t I think I can save it in stamps & writing paper!!!
Congratulations on getting the water turned on at home. I gather that there are no leaks outside. If I was you I’d try and see if you can get it going inside. it might be handy for you & it would be nice to know if the inside pipes are all right. You told me lots about Dicky yesterday. I don’t mind how much paper you cover telling me that sort of news. I love to hear everything in that line. I think what pleased me most was your saying Arkie was your right hand. He is a nice boy isn’t he? You’re getting a lot of long letters from me these days, aren’t you, & I had quite expected that I shouldn’t get much chance of writing to you. This room at the hotel that Smith has is a godsend. We come down & he writes to the girl he’s engaged to while I write to you. I chaff him & ask him if he thinks he’ll write so often after he’s been married 8 years if he should have to be away & he’s quite positive that he will. If he’s as lucky as I am he’ll be all right for it seems to me its almost more important to have got the right girl when you’re away from home than when you’re there. You & your letters have meant such a tremendous lot to me. Its ahrd to explain but it is so.
I’m very nearly writing a love letter which of course is the last sort of thing you want.
On reading this letter through I seemed to have asked for lots of money at the beginning of it & then put in an extra dose of love at the end of it.
This is only a COINCIDENCE, not a case of TACT.
S of A. G. R. A. F.
May 4th 1918.
Darling, Smiths motor bike came yesterday & we spent a great evening in a garage uncrating it & getting it in running[sic]. It is a very superior kind 7 H. P. which is pretty big for a bicycle. He has had a back seat put on & we took it down the road apiece about 11 o’clock last night just to see that everything was alright. Being rather big & heavy it rides very comfortably. I was rather expecting to be bumped around quite a bit. We are going to St. Catherine’s tonight a place about 11 miles off which is supposed to be one of the prettiest little villages in Canada. They call all this district the garden of Canada & I should imagine it is about as good as you can get for about 2 months in the year in between the winters. It hasn’t got warm here yet, no nice sun to bask in. I was driving around today with my leather skin on. I am waiting to photograph my stable untill [sic] the creepers come out for it [is] quite covered with what looks like Virginia creeper but its only just beginning to shoot. Some of the gardens here are rather nice, their bulbs are just beginning to flower now. I had quite a nice days work today. I was sent to the station which is some way off for a load of lumber it was just dinner time when I had to pass my stable on the way home & still had quite a distance to go so I stopped off there & took my load on afterwards & when I got to my destination I found it couldn’t be unloaded then so they told me to leave the waggon [sic] & beat it off home so I was through my work by 2.30 & had a good snooze & am now all washed & shaved & dressed up waiting for Smith to get through his duties so that we can get away. There is a big military funeral here tomorrow. Two Cadets got killed the other morning through their planes colliding, & everybody who can be spared from work will be in the parade. I rather hope I’m working myself. There have been one or two crashes every day this week but only one serious one. A crash is a landing that breaks the machine up a bit so that it has to be towed in or if its some way off they take it to bits & put it on a truck. Most of the Cadets here are finishing their course & are fairly expert so their crashes are chiefly caused by being forced to land out in the country somewhere owing to engine trouble.
I’ll have to stop now. Will try & write tomorrow & tell you my experiences of my first real motor bike ride. I’m expecting a letter today as I drew a blank yesterday.
Sunday. May—the Something— [May 5, 1918]
Darling, Just a line now that I’m in my bye-bye. We got to St. Catherines all right last night. I posted your letter there & some PC’s which you’ve probably got by now. I was quite wrong when I said it was a pretty village. It is really a thriving town with street cars etc I must have been thinking of somewhere else. I don’t think a motor bicycle is an ideal way of getting about. The roads are pretty bad & coming back in the dark we were dazzled by about 50 cars that passed us which makes it rather a precarious business. We took over an hour to do the 12 miles so you can see we didn’t speed very much.
Today we had a holiday & rumour has it that we are not to work on Sundays anymore which seems a good idea. I went up to the camp this morning with my camera but the whole place was dead everybody having gone out so that wasn’t very successful. Smith & I slept the whole afternoon in his room at the hotel then I came back to the stable & put in about an hours work polishing up the team & getting hay & straw down from the loft & after supper I had meant to go for a walk but Smith got going on the piano so I sat & listened to him untill [sic] he had to go back to Barracks & so here I am in bed with my day accounted for.
I hope you’ll be able to read the writing but I’m rather awkwardly placed for writing, the lights on the wrong side for one thing. If next Sunday is fine we have an idea of making a party to go to Niagara Falls in a Ford. It only takes about 45 minutes to get there. Today was a gorgeous day. We got lots of sun without a cold wind which is rather rare here.
Tons of love,
SCHOOL OF AERIAL GUNNERY
ROYAL AIR FORCE
May 8th 1918.
Darling, I’m so glad the tricycle is a success, they should have lots of fun when they have two of them to play with. Is Pots any sort of performer on it, I think I rather had him in my minds eye when I bought it.
I am really quite enjoying my teaming it is full or variety. The last two days I’ve been putting in a little time making some tennis courts at the officers quarters. They deserve some recreation even in wartime for they have a rotten job here, flying about four hours a day instructing Cadets & getting quite a few crashes. I was rather pleased when I was sent to take some disc harrows & disc the patch they’ve got ploughed up to make about 3 courts. I thought I might get the D. S. O. or something, as I have a little experience in such things but I was soon disillusioned when I got there. It was just a mass of clay lumps about as big as my head & twice as solid, worse than anything at Benvoulin the discs had no effect on them atall [sic] & I bounced about most uncomfortably & did little or no good to the courts so I didn’t let on that I’d ever made a tennis court before. Disconsolate officers would drift over & look at these lumps, & shake their heads & make some futile suggestion & go away again. The captain, who is responsible for getting the courts made, bounds somewhat & rubs me the wrong way but the others aren’t so high & mighty.
All ideas are completely driven out of my head. I have been writing so far in the sitting room at the hotel while Smith made sweet music but fellows have kept drifting in & it has got noisier & noisier & I still sit with my writing pad on my knee wondering what I’ve said last & what to say next.
There has been a severe period of financial stringency the last few days, both Smith & I being stricken at the same time. He managed to touch his grandmother in Montreal for a little & I got the landlady here to charge up my breakfasts which helped a bit but that wasn’t enough & so I asked Alexander to lend me some & he produced $10 without a murmur. I’ve certainly been lucky in my friends that I’ve made out here. I’m supposed to get 90 cents a day extra but I haven’t seen the colour of their money yet. I ought to get a big pay day on Friday.
I’m going to make a big effort & write to Auntie tonight so no more for now.
SCHOOL OF AERIAL GUNNERY
ROYAL AIR FORCE
May 10th 1918.
Darling, I started to write to you last night by saying that there was nothing whatever to write about & after pondering a while I came to the conclusion that there really was nothing so I gave it up as a bad job. I’m not much better off for news tonight.
Pay day today & I was expecting quite a lot as they owe me subsistence @ 90 cents a day for the last 8 days but I didn’t get it. I stopped behind & interviewed the pay clerk who knew nothing about it. Now I’ll have to start seeing serjeants & officers & I suppose I shall eventually get it. If I don’t I shall take to feeding in camp for awhile & as that is some way away from the stables I shall get very little work done with the team & that won’t suit them very well.
Do you remember when I used to boast about being an apostle of Efficiency, weel if I stay in the R. A. F. very long I shall have forgotten what the word means. You needn’t tell your friends this but really if we ran the ranch on the same principal [sic] I’d want about 6 hired men & you’d want at least 5 helps & then the result wouldn’t be as good as you & I doing things for ourselves in the right way. The result is all right of course for they are turning out huge numbers of good pilots & I see in the papers lately that the R. A. F. is really helping to win the war & it looks as if we really had got the Huns beaten in the air.
Barty tells me that Simeon is back again looking very fit & nobody seems to know if he has his discharge or not.
This is a poor letter but the best I can do. My letter writing seems to go in fits & starts. Last week I was writing a great long letter nearly every day but the last 2 or 3 days the fount of inspiration has dried up. Never mind, here’s some extra love to make up.
I wrote to Auntie last night. Good for me!!!