31st Alberta, Batt’n. Second Canadian Division, Shorncliffe 9/9/15

Miss E.M. Griffis;

You have not written for some time, but on this the eve of our departure for France, I am in a very charitable mood and can forgive you all past delinquencies provided they do not occur again. Of course there were several of my letters to you on board the Hesperian but I shall write some of them again.

The Second Division is now moving over to France and we are all packed up ready for orders to pull out. We shall likely leave here about Monday next. The division was reviewed by the King and Kitchener a week ago today. It rained in torrents while we were marching home afterwards. The review was a rather perfunctory affair and did not last long. A lot of other Canadian troops besides our division were being reviewed the same day. Lord Kitchener was mounted on a big white horse. He looked like a giant beside His Majesty. Somebody in our battalion remarked that the procedure was a sort of ‘Hail Caesar! We that are about to die salute thee’.

The boys of our battalion are all keen on the idea of getting into the mix up. There are a few cases of cold feet, for all fully realize that bloody work is now close ahead. The number of waverers is surprisingly small, however. One of our men in hospital is expected to die to-night. This will be our first death in the battalion since we mobilized except the case of a man who jumped overboard on the ocean trip.

I did not get a chance to see my sister Margaret, much to my sorrow. She had hoped to get leave to come over to England before we were moved but it is too late now. I am afraid I shall not get much chance to get down to where she is when we reach the firing line. No. 2 General Hospital is located at Le Trefort about 20 miles from Dieppe. Margaret said in her last letter that they were then having it pretty easy.

Major J. N. Gunn is going as second in command of No. 2. Casualty Clearing Hospital. Capt F.C. Clarke and Capt Jimmy Taylor were in our camp last Saturday. D.H. Taylor I hear is now M.O. to the 16th Battalion at the front.

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Captain F. C. Clarke mentioned at the end of the letter was my grandfather, Dr. Frederick Clarence Clarke, originally from Barbados. He earned his degree from McGill and practiced medicine in Saskatchewan and Calgary. During the war he and his wife, Kathleen – a nurse, were both in the service and posted to England.
    My father, also Frederick, was born in August 1917 in West Byfleet, Surrey.

  2. It is interesting that there is a gap of about three months between the first and second letters. The Hesperian mentioned in the first paragraph of the letter, which Harold thought carried several of his letters to Emma, was torpedoed by a U boat just five days earlier, on September 4th. So that could indeed be an explanation for the gap.

  3. Very interesting. Carry on.

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