Corporal John Cannon Stothers
Cast of Characters
Bailie Stothers: brother
Stephen Stothers: brother (grandfather to Archive contributor Steven Stothers)
Rae Stothers: sister
Carman Stothers: brother
September 18, 1917
I have written many letters and I haven't forgotten the home folk either. But it is always wise to utilize all spare time for correspondence and take advantage of any writing mood for there are countless seasons when letter writing is a weariness of the flesh.
Our favorite song is "Apres le guerre finet Soldat Anglais parte ici" with several vulgar modifications and additions that would not look well in print. And anyway, I don't know how to spell or pronounce French not even the patois of the soldier. We have quite a collection of ex-sergeants like myself in this tent and the quarrels they have (verbal always) are lurid in the bitterness and vigour of epithets. I'm getting as meek as a lamb, for when I start talking in a similar manner I mean fight as a rule, and so I keep on the outside looking in.
Blakey just commented a few moments ago that the people of this country were very fond of flashy colours with a pool of deep purply coloured water in front of the house, and a pile of manure with a red rooster on top of it commanding the entrance to the doorway. Pretty good!
Blakey used to buy livestock for his dad and he can lay it on thick when he wants to, all about cattle and hog deals around Kingston, Picton, & Toronto. Willie Simpson calls him the "cattle thief".
The other night they were talking about cattle and the conversation drifted to dangerous bulls with various hair breadth, matador & troubadour experiences. But Willie put the cap on the climax by telling of his experience with old Geo. Smiths bull.
He was walking in a field near Smith's orchard when he suddenly noticed the bull bearing down on him with menacing looks. What did he do? Do! He just ran his best gallop for the orchard. But the Bull gained on him and just as he got near the shelter of the orchard he felt the jar of the Bulls horns on his rear. The Bull gave him a mighty toss and he landed in an apple tree with such impact that it knocked the apples in every direction and with such force that one of the apples landed between the Bull's eyes and knocked him dead, dead as a door nail. So help me Hammer! What a tale? And it's all Bull!
I have just gone for dinner and decided to finish my writing where I could use a pen. Willie Simpson, like myself was a Musketry Instructor. He tells one good story about rapid fire.
"Rapid fire is a very important branch of musketry instruction and a man must be quick enough to get off 15 rounds in one minute. It takes considerable practice and concentration, mind you, to bet off 15 accurately aimed in one minute, but men have done better. At Hythe (School of Musketry) they told me of a man who got away 37 well aimed shots in a minute and he was something of a speed marvel. Pretty good, you know! But I had one boy in my class, just a bit of a lad, you know him perhaps, used to be in the Bugle Band. Well I trained that boy up and encouraged him and he gradually go up speed in firing until one day we went down to the miniature range. He lay down and took aim with such speed and accuracy that at the end of the minute there was a solid steel rod of lead, ten feet long, where the bullets had piled up one upon the other in rapid succession. That was speed and accuracy for you."
We all took a long breath and tried to visualize that steel rod of lead.
We don't get much money but we do live, and manage to have a little fun out of life.
There is a movement on foot among us to write a letter to those instructors back in Sandling who instead of volunteering for service in France went whining to the M.O. about their ailments and with such favourable results that they are now in B and C category. I don't altogether favour the idea, but would like to send them a few posters representing the favourable aspect of the situation here. Something like this:
Hunting -- the land we are now in abound in hunting of various kinds and it is one of the favorite pastimes. It is well if the weather is favourable, to do at least one hunt per day. You do not have to go far for the game and so men with flat feet and varicose veins will not be tired out before reaching the scene of operations. If you eyes are weak, the government spectacles supplies by the eye specialist will enable you to discern the game. In cases of specially defective eyesight, the French government supplies enormous searchlights that are a wonderful aid. But to prevent too much use of these labourious instruments it is well to provide yourself with a pocket electric torch, which is a great aid in illuminating the game and making it move so that it can be detected.
It is especially advised that men with weak hearts, go hunting at least once per day, lest the abundance of game, and the prodigious size thereof, cause an excess of excitement that might in special cases prove fatal. For the rapid growth of the animals and the rate of increase of the various species of game is nothing short of marvellous.I might go on at much length discerning the nature of the game but will say that it be a sport costs little. You do not need any extravagant outlay of weapons, or of traps.
The game I speakof is insectivorous and the soil of this country seem to be inoculated with them. They abound in blankets, dugouts, trenches and rapidly spread to shirts, kilts, and clothing where they announce their arrival, not by a blowing of horns nor loud demonstration, but by quiet cuddling ways, giving now and then little nips of delight which are scarcely noticed at first, because at first they come in ones and twos, and then they come in swarms, by which time you are used to their playful biting ways and habits of scuttling for shelter and warmth at irregular intervals. And so the game goes on. You keep up your daily hunt lest the big ones devour the little ones, for it seems to be the case in this species of insect. That the faster they grow, the faster they want to grow and the more they feed, and magnify their bodies until one is forced to kill them off lest you suffer with your shirt in the way the Arab did when he shared his tent with his camel.
Have I said enough? I hope I haven't disgusted you all by this brainless argument. I feel run out of much to say and will hike myself over to my tent and think up a further line of rot.
I have just read it to the boys -- re the hunting as above outlined and it is away over their heads. They think I'm a nut when I start any argument or read them some of my letters, and I hope you folks appreciate them better. If not let me know about it for it is much easier to go to the movies or the YMCA canteen concerts, or lie in my tent and stagnate mentally.
Anyway, I'm going to ruminate away to my hearts content and take advantage of my corresponding moods when they come, regardless of the expense to my relatives at home.
Yours in F.L. & T.
Sunday, September 30, 1917
Your parcel of tobacco came to hand less than an hour ago and I hope to spend many reflective hours, puffing it into vacancy. I hope my time is not too strenuous occupies with the complexity of military detail to enable me to give it due consideration.
I can tell you this, that I wouldn't miss this little visit to France for anything. I feel ten times as broadminded. It is part of a liberal education, even though in later months I may feel like cursing and kicking against a cruel, unjust, fate. There are moments of exultation and I can well believe there are hours, days, perhaps weeks of the lowest depression. It will be the testing time.
I met Pelt McCoy, of Lucknow yesterday. He hasn't changed much, but I would hardly have recognized him if I had not known he was in the battalion. He is a changed boy and I believe got a new hold in life in Strathray. He was surprised and pleases to meet somebody, who wasn't from Toronto. He tells me there is a young Murray here, son of Donald Murray of 9th Con. W. Wawanosh. Jim Agar's son, Stanley, was one of the first fellow I fell in with and he looks well. I believe I told you about Geo., who died of wounds some time ago. They were both fine boys and George was an especially clean living fellow, one of the best, and well thought of by everyone who knew him.
I told you about having dinner with Harry, Armstrong, (you remember him at Carlton School) before leaving England. Well, I've met him over here. He didn't exactly know where he was going to get appointed to, but I couldn't tell you anyway and I suppose you have no need of his address. I have seen several other Toronto teachers, one of whom was much surprised to see me, as a private. He made me promise to go round and see him, which I will do soon.
By the way, I'm now an acting Corporal, pro term, but will not hold them for long. In fact I'm still a private but wear two stripes, so don't address me as corporal. It may last six days and may last six months.
We've had a nice Church Service this morning, but had no band music to help out the singing. The padre is a good one and doesn't preach at you. In fact all the padres, I've heard over here, have been specially uplifting and earnest men. They have managed to create the proper atmosphere for worship.
I see and think of many things about which to write but many of these topics are absent without leave, when I do actually sit down to write. I heard a funny one the other day. Don't be shocked we're not lousy yet, but some of us were getting that way before we were treated to that wonderful Fumigatory Process, I told you of.One of our men had a good crop of vermin but he was too tender hearted to kill them in cold blood. So he cast about him for a means of disposing of them. First he tries burying them in the sand and then, upon being remonstrated with about such procedure, he started putting them in his oil boots. It must be getting nearly full by now. It was a wonderful scheme wasn't it?
I'm getting sick of sitting crosslegged like a Turk and I promised to make a call this afternoon and it's getting nearly "eats" time again.
I had a letter from Bert Rivers last night and he seems to be right in the pink. He expects to come over again, soon perhaps. H. Bellamy may be home by the time you get this. Be sure to look him up. I met Everett Henry early in the week. He had just come over and was looking well.
Give my best regards to all.
Yours in F. L. & T.
P.S. Have just met Pelt McCoy again and had a great chat about Lucknow. He wants to be remembered to Bob Andrew. JCS
France, October 24, 1917
I answered the last letter I got from you but tonight seems the night for a "minor operation" in letter writing. I have cast about me for a suitable victim and you're elected.
I had a perfect mania of letter writing earlier in the week. So acute was the siege that our officer here remonstrated vigorously, saying that he had no time to write his own by reason of the length and frequency of mine.
On the morning of the third day he came to me in great distress and mingled wrath and returned me my full quota of correspondence with the request that I put them all together in a large envelope and addressed to the Base Censor.
I cast about me for a big envelope which I could not procure and finally the Postal Sergeant took pity on me, asked if I was on the Staff. I told him, yes, and he said he would put my letters in with the staffs for the adjutant to censor. I did so and have heard no more about them, but the adjutant was off parade this morning and I wonder if that was the reason for his absence.
Yesterday was a rather comfortless day and I lay around the hut all day suffering from ennui and weariness of the flesh. I hesitated to write letters and for lack of something else to do I composed a sonnet. Such were the sore straits to which I was put I actually tried to compose a sonnet, and it resembled the day. I'm not going to inflict it on anyone, but there is pathos in it and concentrated agony, perhaps.
The evening came out clear and chillie & I took in the pictures which were funny and reminded us of past visits to the island, Scarboro Beach, Sunnyside and other pleasure resorts of palmier days.
Today was fine but a chill wind blew and I actually feel tough, almost like a mild attack of the grippe. Tonight is cold and showery and we have a brazier (an improvised stove), going but the volume of smoke is immense.
We were at our wits end for fuel and (?) and I went on a scouting expedition to a wood about a hundred rods from here. We loaded up with some partially dried poplar brush with leaves slightly wet and brought it home. It is not a success. The volume of smoke is immense and thick clouds envelope the interior of the hut. Instead of benefactors we are looked upon as visionaries with a distorted practical vision. I have two candles lit and I can hardly see for smoke. There is no solace in a pipe. One fellow playing cards in the corner has his gas respirator on.
And now the problem arises -- what are we going to do with all this useless fuel. Willie suggests that we put it outside the door for the other fellow to steal. I think we will try that.
When we were bringing in our brush I though of carrying palms and gifts and the old Latin quotation of the priest of Troy came to me "I fear the Greeks even when bearing gifts, (donas ferentes)" and I guess our hutmates have much the same fears of us only on a smaller scale.
I suppose you are busy with the fall work. I often visualize a day's full plowing, a day's threshing on the bike. It is very comforting to be sure.
My eyes are out from smoke. The light is poor. There is nothing to report.
Love to all.
Yours in F.L. & T. Cannon
France, November 3, 1917
Today was one of those gray days in a way (Saturday at that) and I mudded over to a nearby village right after dinner and tried to get a feed of eggs and chips. I got them but the chips were abominable and I bought chocolate and candy to restore equilibrium. I also visited a soldier's Recreation Hut and got hold of some reading matter, which is very scarce here.
And by the time I get my friends sending me some reading matter I will be most probably under an atmosphere in which I have little or no time for reading. At any rate I sent Isaac an SOS for some magazines last night. However when I got back I found some new faces that I hadn't seen for quite a while but we had a half hour or so of fraternizing and the mail came in bringing your letter and one from Mother of Oct. 7th and one from Minerva, besides some home papers Rae send me occasionally and which are like mental manna over here. I have read them with interest.
So you have a new school ma'am to torture, I hope you use her humanely. I speak particularly of you and Isaac. I'm smoking some of that old chum you sent me. It is appreciated, you may be sure. I might suggest that you send it by half pound lots instead of pound lots as it is heavy to lug around. You can send cigarettes instead of the extra half pound if you like. I don't smoke a pipe a very great deal except when I'm broke.
Mother mentioned enjoying one of my letters. I thought is sent some good ones but of late I have not been in shape for letter writing but I'm improving physically and mentally now. I have a mental picture of Ike being lost in the stocking. You must have had the old Massey Harris in pretty good shape this year. You seem to be behind with the corn but the weather must be great or rather must have been great. Let me know how the threshing panned out.
I'm not sorry I came over here when I did. I might have clung to my job in England for some time but I had the opportunity of coming at my own request and I took it.
Speaking of conscription, I do not expect to see either you or Isaac over here as conscripts. You both would have been here before this if you could have got away and it would not become either of you to be scared into it with all that land to look after. If you two can't get exemptions, I don't see why you can't just for the asking.
There may be V.C.'s, D.C.M.'s & M.M.'s to be won over here but think of the futility of it all - especially when the family is well represented in the Army now. I have a couple of little pictures in my mind that one can only see from this side of it and they make a difference in one's view point of this war.
I met a C.A.V.C. Sergt. who promised to carry my respect to George Clark who was not far from him. That was several weeks ago.
I noticed all summer how the R.F.C. was getting recruits especially of the willy type who wouldn't think of enlisting in any common branch of the service like the infantry. Well they are in where a lot of good can be done, and it doesn't take such a long time to train airmen.
The page numbering of this letter has been confused, and I'm getting tired of writing. My head aches.
Yours in F. L. & T,
France, January 12, 1918
I'm marking time preparatory to going to our platoon dinner, for which I've been sparing my appetite all day. The boys are standing around and criticizing and finding fault with the Management of the Supper. There are the usual arm-chair critics and censurers. But withal, I feel confident that we will have at least a "good feed". I will probably tell you about it tomorrow, when I finish this letter.
I got the parcel from home last night, with the kidney, and Mrs. Tom Blake's cake. In all I got four parcels last night and am thus able to be the donor to the dinner of 5 boxes of candy, a fruit cake, some sugar and cocoa, and a couple of packets of raisins, all of which have proved, for I've already seen the table, a wonderful addition to the menu, and garnishment of the table. I got another parcel from Guelph from Ann & Agnes, one from Tina Baker, and one from Ryerson School, the second one the Staff have sent me.
Please give my compliments to Ben Crawford for the box of cigars. They are always acceptable among the boys altho' I've lost my taste for them to a very large extent. I used to smoke them very frequently and with enjoyment, but now they seem too strong. I'm afraid I'm becoming a bum, with a cigarette sticking to my lower lip.
I note your letter expanding upon Conscription and the evils of poorly administered "selective draft" scheme. Now, I would be the last one to use coercion in forcing a man to come to fight. But, we can't get over the fact that the war must be won! And if the burden be not equally distributed voluntarily, there must be a resort made to sterner measures. I am not one that will sneer at the "Conscript". I will pity him more than the "Volunteers" seem to have found our task too big and so the man with no taste or ambition for being a veteran is forced into it. I do hope the "Selective Drafts" will not be the thin edge of the wedge for Canada is too young a country to be bled of her manhood. And abusers are found to creep in --foreigners getting good jobs -- favoritism in soft jobs and so on, as frequently and almost weekly, we see it outlined in Jack Canuck.
There's one thing I can't understand about, and that is the way Jack Canuck knocks the YMCA. I can't say anything but good about the "Y's" over here. They usually have so many things distinctly Canadian, like Old Chum & Hudson Bay tobaccos, Macdonald's chewing, Tuckett's cigars, maple sugar, and Canadian brands of chocolate bars. They are to be found almost everywhere from the base to the front line, in all manner of places from tents to dug-outs. In those in the battle zone, you can procure free coffee and tea. I never hear any knockers among the troops especially when they are lining up some old "sap" or cellar, filling an empty milk tin with steaming tea. Then they stand around and blow on the hot liquid and swap stories or just talk & jolly each other. You never hear many tales in the army. They usually end in arguments as to time, place, or participants. No two eye witnesses ever agree on details and they will quarrel or argue about whether Jack, Jim, or Joe, were there or not, or in what capacity they acted. Thus the thread and interest of the story is often lost.
I'm getting too cold to write, my sidekick from St.Louis has just received a parcel containing 2 suits of reindeer skin underwear. It costs $17 a suit, and is supposed to be louse proof. He offered me one of them, but I haven't the heart to rob him at all, at all. He is a mighty good scout, none too prepossessing in appearance, but he traveled in high society in St. Louis, talking glibly but in his peculiar Southern drawling style, of debutantes, second year outs, my Club, his favorite type of car, and all things pertaining to the life of the "Upper Ten". He was prevented from graduating in his fourth year at Princeton by getting mixed up in some escapade. His name is Evans, and he is not a smart looking soldier, but is different from, and more intellectual than most. During his second trip in the line, he accompanied an N.C.O. on a dangerous mission, when few would volunteer for the duty, and for which the N.C.O. has frequently been mentioned as a deserving recipient for Military Medal. Instead of getting the M.M., the N.C.O. got a "blighty" and is now in England in Hospital.
Our billet here is in the attic of an "Estiminet" on the banks of a canal filled with dirty looking water in which we perform our ablutions when time and the spirit prompts us to wash. The attic is large, airy, and windowless. The rook is of tiles with frequent air spaces and chinks where rook and supporting walls meet. As I write, the candle flares and flickers in the draught. I'm cross-legged like a Turk or a sailor, and my feet would super induce cold in a refrigerator. My mind is a blank except for an air space through which some vapours (vapidity perhaps) of thought waves percolate, the substance of which I'm translating to you now.
I almost forgot to finish my description of the attic. It might be a fine place for Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn to plan a midsummer adventure in, but if they lived, or had lived in northern latitudes, their versatility, adaptability to conditions, and genius for escapades would have been frost bitten in such a draughty domicile as this.
Sun. Jan. 13 A.M. -- Before Church -
This morning we were up early before daybreak. There was a touch of frost in the air, and the mud was frozen to a stiff semi-plastic hardness. As I passed our billet, I noted in the cold and semi-darkness that a dog was chained in his kennel on the opposite side of the canal, a huge, heavy jowled, dun coloured dog. He lay there, shivering and looking out on a bleak and cheerless world. His lot I thought, was a hard one, denied as he was his freedom, freedom to romp and run. The picture touched me in a vague disquieting way.
An hour later I was washing on my side of the canal and, as I rubbed the soap into a thick lather, I looked up and saw the self-same dog fast asleep with a glint of sunshine on his face. He looked the picture of peace and the atmosphere of a bright Sunday morning was tranquil. The waters of the canal looked less dark as they rippled by, where an hour ago was cold, darkness, and a dearth of comfort and happiness, there now seemed brightness, joy, peace.
What a difference a little sunshine makes!
The dog flicked his ears & "changed position right"; the sun rose higher and higher; hens clucked and moved about industriously; the waters almost sang; the church bells chimed in the distance and mingled with gurgling of water flowing over a nearby dam. It was a picture, pleasing and cheering, and it refreshed me more, perhaps, than my ablutions in the questionable waters of a canal flowing through the heart of a town.
Don't think I'm wound up in giving this poorly executed sermonette. I should now point a moral as a fitting conclusion to this rhapsodizing, is so it may be termed. But you see, I still have an imagination, stultified perhaps, yet an imagination and as such, cherished even over here.
In describing our billet, I forgot to mention that across the way, there is a slaughterhouse where they butcher sheep, hogs, cattle, and horses. They seem to do a big volume of business and all day, at intervals, may be heard the squealing of pigs, or the howling of cattle, as they await, indurance vile, the butcher's knife, or as they are led out to be slaughtered, of their cries while in their last agonies. I like to hear familiar farmyard sounds, but, as you very well know, not under such conditions. The slaughtering of horses makes one's flesh creep. I was over one day for water, and there were two horses tied outside. An hour later, I returned and but one remained. The other I could see, suspended gracefully by the hindquarters, skinned and dressed. It was gruesome. I believe there are special butcher's shops where horsemeat is vended and I'm told that it has been a Government Issue since the Franco-Prussian war.
I'm nearly five months here and, as yet, I have not been issued with a hat or collar badge, as the parent unit, the 48th Highlanders of Toronto. In fact, the battn. is frequently called the 48th. We have, until the past two weeks, worn no shoulder badges but a recent issue of new design has been given us.
I had a letter from Jim P. lately, saying he received Ma's parcel and several letters, one announcing Ivez Switzer's marriage. I immediately wrote offering him my sincere condolences. I don't think he is worrying very much, as you may understand.
I've touched on conscription before, but I must ask, did Bowman hold his seat? And I'm curious to know how Bill Bailie & Uncle Tom are squaring up their decisions that have aroused opposition. Let me know when you write.
I note that you seem to be getting on fairly well with the farm, and that crops and prospects are good. You will be able to write me often when feeding the stock that silage during the long winter. I'm sorry we are losing such a good neighbour as Anson Finlay. The lure of the west got him at last. He will be missed.
I had a letter from W.B. Hawkins in answer to one written some time ago. His wife was very sick at the time and he was very busy but seemed little changed in his letter writing style. I must write him soon- a letter of sympathy.
So Bill Edwards was home for a visit. I suppose he had a big time out West. Edith's trouble will leave the family in kind of an awkward position, as such a disaster always does. It was very unfortunate for them all, as they will feel king of "under a cloud".I was glad to hear the church news and to learn that Mr. Kenner was still hale and hearty for his age.
Miss Paterson received the L4 draft o.k., and will forward it to me when I need it, which may be soon, as being billeted in a town, runs away with money in these days of economic pressure. However, a fellow never spends much up the line and when he's out he likes a few delicacies and extravagances. A fellow pays 3 francs for a pork chop, some chips and coffee. Eggs are half a franc apiece and a soldier's order is rarely less than four eggs. Can you beat it? Imagine me sitting down to 4 eggs, a couple of slices of bread, and a cup or two of coffee, and then calling for an "entire encore" and walking home for supper after that! I'm laying it on thick, but I've done all but eat my supper afterwards.
One hardly realizes how quickly and extensively his experience widens out here. He seems to be just a human atom in a flotsam and jetsam of humanity, but as time goes on he sees more and more, and consciously or otherwise is continually gaining experience, doing new things under different conditions, receiving new impressions, and in short, gaining knowledge. The Toronto Sunday papers, for instance. In a recent issue of a Sunday World, on the picture page, was a photo of a narrow gauge railway line running past a shell torn brick wall. I can remember the identical spot, for we have been drawn past it on the railway. We don't always walk all the way to the front line.
Our platoon dinner was a success. We had a good feed and lots of merriment, songs, music, and speeches. Our platoon Sergeant is a card. He has been out here thirty odd months and is merely Sergt. because of good work in the line. He can't give a command -- at least not in a Military way. He usually has a chew of tobacco bulging in his cheek. He is by no means smart in appearance. The other night he was giving the orders for next morning. It was like this -- "Every man must be on parade -- In drill order -- Clean and shaved -- Harness polished -- We will have close order drill -- Fall in at 8.15 -- I want every man right up on the palms of his feet". He droned this out in a series of drawls as it were. While occupying the chair last night in charge of the program he got up and said, "The next in the line of Bull, will be a speech by so & so". Everybody roared. His face was a study.
I was in good form myself, and gave two speeches, besides moving the vote of thanks to those who had borne the burden and heat of the day in preparing and staging the dinner. In fact I seem to be getting back my old "after -- dinner" style, gained at our banquets at 92 Isabella St. Toronto. I haven't heard from Miss Porter for a long time. I guess she's busy with boarders.
I guess I've gone my limit. It is cold here and I have several letters I ought to write today. It is too nice a day to be cooped up here with only a little light. It's a wonder I've been able to write such a long line of B--- as our Sergt. would say.
I received a big bunch of magazines lately and have lots of reading material when I get the opportunity for reading. Thank Mrs. T. Blake for the cake, and I was glad to get the parcel. There is a big mail up today, but I haven't received my share of it yet.
Give my regards to all and sundry, and to all on the "Old Homestead", my best love.
Yours in F.L. & T.
Reg. # 681036
Somewhere in France, 19-6-18
I was just in the middle of a letter to you when the mail came in with your favor of May 19. Carman informed me that you were striving to get into the army and it seems to me that as far as I can see there are more people in Canada striving to keep out of the army than there are clamoring to get into it.
Now I have written several appeals to you on the matter, deprecating any such attempts on your part. If you were in "A" category, or if our domestic affairs were not approaching a crisis in a way, I would, of course, not have anything to say against your proposed action of taking the bull by the horns. Do not get panicky about it, as it would be anomalous for you to be taken after the government's action re: Dist. reps of higher category, and i think that in justice to us all you should be on the ground when the Estate is wound up next winter, as I suppose the winding up cannot be postponed much after next February."
But I must be brief and not consume all my space on one topic, the gist of which I have outlined. I enjoyed your outline of the condition of crops in Huron Co. No, it doesn't make me homesick exactly, for I won't allow it. The only thing that actually tends to throw me into depression is lack of Canadian mail and that has been coming pretty freely of late. You will be able to review my letters when special occasions you are able to visit at home. Carman proposes to holiday and recuperate with you during his vacation and I'm sure you will enjoy having him after two years of absence.
Let me know it you visit the Archibalds or Jacksons. Geo. T gives glowing accounts of your success around Wingham.
Pardon brevity, yours in F.L&T.,
Somewhere in France, Aug.14, 1918
Your favour of July 22 reached me yesterday and I was glad to hear that you were getting on well, and seemed to have the situation well in hand from every standpoint, altho' like everyone else you have your ups and downs.
Carman seems to have some hitch about getting his certificate showing how well the Dept. of Ed. Are looking after the returned soldier who finds his course and prospects dislocated after two years absence on active service. The next thing we know he will be unable to take that good position in Kent School, all because of some red tape and featherbed philosophers who run the educational matters of the province.
Husky wrote me an interesting letter received in last mail. He is home in Listowel for holidays trying to recuperate after last winter's very serious illness. It was through him that Carman got appointed to Kent School.
We are having fine weather at present and we need it for our harvest - an entirely different matter, though, from Huron County's harvest but time and space do not permit me to enlarge unduly on general topics.
Emo William is in Hosp., wounded and Tad Scott one of Toronto teachers who came over as an officer with Huron Battn. is napoo, I hear.
His home is at Brussels, Ont.
Yours in F, L, & T.,
France, Nov 5 1918
Your favor of Oct. 6 followed me up and reached me today. I am at present taking a course, general intelligence work, and it is naturally a welcome respite after the grind of the last few months.
The capitulation of the enemy powers seems to have assumed an epidemic nature and Turkey and Austria have followed the example of the Bulgaria, mention of which was made in your letter. I hope it is not too much to look for Germany's final "cave-in" by the time this reaches you. There seems to be some come back in the arch hypocrite yet but doubtless Austria's action will cause some heart searching among the Hohenzollerns and their satellites. Why the German nation persists in an apparently hopeless struggle against the inevitable I fail to see but then Bosche psychology was ever a mystery to anyone but themselves, and whether the end takes days, weeks or months is only a matter of conjecture. Optimism is liable to expect a too sudden breakdown of the war monster now pretty well "holed-up" in his German lair. The end of hostilities can not come too soon for all of us.
There is a French Canadian here who went to Hospital in July and there took up shorthand in his spare moments-Pitman at that and he claims to be able to take the Commandant's notes in shorthand. He is the master of 7 languages all but 2 acquired since he enlisted less than two years ago. He is an object lesson to me for my dilatories after a fair degree of accomplishment previous to the war by using spare hours. I'm hoping to get on the Khaki University Staff if the war takes the proper course and soon, but it is almost too much to build on at present. Lloyed Alton wrote me of the same time as you and he is cheerful. I always like to get his letters. They are models of logical, general, economics. This letter is a bit dry. I'm afraid but I'm doing heavy reading- Carlyle's "History of the French Revolution". So please pardon the chosen plane, I hope to be more conventional and cheerful next time.
Yours in F, L, & T,
France, Nov. 12, 1918
There is nothing to do but write letters and curse and I think I have done my full issue of the latter. Here I am where the odd five franc bill is of use to you and I can neither get paid nor can I get a cheque cashed and probably when I get back to my unit there will be a registered letter awaiting me and a Xmas pay as well. And the vexing part of it all is that the money will be of very little use to me up there for there is little or nothing to buy.
But that is usually my luck -- when I am where no money can be spent I have 50 or 60 francs burning a hole in my pocket and when I get out like this to any special place where money counts, I have little or nothing.
We celebrated the discomfiture of the armstice last night and I hope that peace will ultimately be in the very near future. One's day dreams are roseate with the promise of a return to civil life at a not distant date and one hopes such dreams are not premature or too long delayed.
We have some draftees here on the course and I guess at that some of them have seen a fair share of battle and line duty. The other day I sprang a funny one. I said to Halled, "They say that one volunteer is as good as two pressed men, now will you volunteer to help me carry in a certain piece of timber.", "No", he says and Edwards jumps up and offers to come and he is a draftee. Most of them are very good soldiers.
Well old man, there isn't much to cheer one up around here unless it be the buoyant atmosphere of approaching peace and since "hope deferred maketh the heart sick" we are not giving way to any excessive ebullience -- at least I'm not. But for all that we feel quite confident that the war will not require a very great amount of future time but how long will demobilization be in taking effect? That will soon be the burning question of the day.
I hope you are enjoying life and getting you work in good shape. Willie John said you had "break -- down" with you Ford on Dungannon Fair Day. You will be quite and expert chauffeur by this time.
Remember me to old friends, and pardon any lack of detail.
Soignies, Nov 20, 1918
You will note by the address that I am on my way to the Rhinelands being now about 20 kms from the historic city of Mons. I just got back to the Bn. Last night after 5 days going up and down the line and making my way here. It is a fairly "tres bon" war now and we are looking forward to demobilization and the problem foremost in our minds is "when shall we be returned to civilian life again?". But meanwhile we are not downhearted. The H.Q. details like Intelligence signalers have all been returned to their companies and I am now back in No. 3 company in the same old platoon #11 and am now a full fledged rear rank "buck".
I should be able to write freely but the dislocation resultant upon being away and getting back to altered conditions has knocked me out from a letter writing standpoint. I'm restless and have so many of the boys to look up in different companies that letter-writing is neglected and my only half heartedly indulged when at all. Ross Murray is away on leave to Scotland but as he is in No. 1 Coy now it may be days after he returns before I see him.
Fellows returning from leave report great doings in London when the armistice was reported signed and I suppose Toronto and all Canada for that matter went wild.
"What are the wild waves saying?" Whispering rumours of a return to civil life.
France, November 22, 1918
Braine le Comte
Note the name of the burg in which I am now sightseeing with the draftees, who have filled us up lately. They are a more or less unsophisticated bunch and are right in clover now that the war has reached its present stage. Some, of course, have had an eye full of real warfare, for this summer has shown some of the most sanguinary and continuous fighting of the whole warl It was no bloody holiday from Aug. 8 to Nov.11, but the conflict has been decisively decided by the most powerfull hammer blows possible in modern warfare and that is saying something. We are 23km from Mons by direct road but the route we followed was, I believe, of greater length, altho' I wasn't with the Batt'n all the time. We are progressing more or less leisurely but I am not complaining of lack of speed, but naturally the burning question of the day is when will we be back in Canada. Lord, let it be soon, is the fervent wish of everyone whether spoken or subconscious.
I hope you looked after my Excelsior policy. It is perhaps late in the day for me to attend to it but I have been so busy you know. I enclose a cheque for $48 for that purpose.
I also enclose a postcard sent to me by one of the boys in the Inf. Section on leave, it might afford you a chuckle. The Inf. Section is a thing of the past but it matters not. What does matter is our return to Canada and a suit of civvies.
The kilt makes a great hit in these parts. We are the object of much speculation not unmixed with envy. For the dash of colour, and mirth mingles with consternation at the sight of so many bare knees. We have it over all the other troops.
Yours in F,L, & T.
681036 Pte. J.C. Stothers
Engelskirchen, Jan 4, 1919
Owing to me being attached to the Y.M.C.A. for a week on duty, my mail has gone astray and I seem to have lost all interest in writing, reading, and study. I was called back to the Batt. on New Year's Day and am now attached to H.Q. for duty with the Educational program but so far I have done nothing.
There is a restlessness in the atmosphere for me, but I think we leave this area soon on our way back and I'm hoping for demobilization in March in Canada. That will suit me fine. I want to take a course at Bus. Coll. Before I go back to teaching in Sept. However, "Count not your chickens before they are hatched". That does not keep me from making "castles in the air" anyway.
This is aneducational paper and pencil I am using, so that is an advantage of the work. There is a dizzy specimen in charge of the programme in Ed. And I'm afraid it will suffer but here's hoping for good. Carman knows the chief pedagogue and I must write him about it.
Yours in F, L, & T,