France, Aug. 2, 1917

Dear Sweetheart;-

Your letter of July 26 came two days ago. The weather for the past 3 days has been most miserable raining almost steadily and very depressing. However your letter cheered me up wonderfully, for it made me think that after all you do believe in my honesty of purpose and that you were not altogether sincere yourself in some of the things you said in your other letters.

Yes, Dear, I knew that you had lost your mother & father. I remember or at least I think I remember of your father dying shortly after I went to Calgary and before I knew you very well. I think I know why you are so fond of your younger sisters and I am sure they all must look to you for love & guidance.

You mention the morning our battalion left Calgary. I remember the morning very well and how forlorn and miserable I felt down at the station. Everybody else had friends down to see them off but there none of mine there i.e. no one who had come especially to see me, and I felt that nobody cared a damn whether I went or stayed. Did you really care for me enough at that time to feel very sorry that I was going away? My love for you will have only one bad effect on me from a military point of view. I am afraid of becoming a coward, for I do so want to live to try to make you happy and also of course for the perfectly selfish reason that I wish you to make me happy, as you have already done. I do not blame you in the slightest for being troubled with doubts. Usually when a man asks a woman for the privilege of making her everlastingly happy what he really wants is for her to make him happy and worship him as a tin god. What would I not give now for a couple of hours nice quiet talk with you with nobody near to bother us? Are there not such a great many things that we could and should talk over and discuss. How did you ever come to accept me? You know I do not dance nor have I any of the social graces. I have about as much tact as a baby giraffe and when it comes to music, that tamer of savage breasts, I am simply non est. I cannot play any instrument and I have never even tried to learn. I feel my lack of musical perception as one of my great failings. One might better be born color blind. However I am very fond of music and am pleased that you can play for you will be able to give me many pleasant hours in the years to come (Selfishness again you see). I am afraid I am one of those that Shakspeare spoke of being fit for treasons strategems and spoils. You must take me in hand early and see what you can do for me.

Many thanks for your promise of the photo. I should love to have it. That is a lovely one I have and I have kept it a treasure ever since I received it in England 2 years ago. If you are the plainest of your family I shall look forward with great pleasure to meeting the other members. You have a lovely face & expression and take a splendid photograph.

I do not know what advice to give you about coming to France if you are called but I am inclined to advise you to come. Should you get with No 1 Canadian General Hospital I might be able to run down and see you once in a while. Do not go to No 2 at Le Trefort if you can help it for it is away off the beaten track both from Le Havre & Boulogne. It would be nice for you to have the medal that will be given for service in France. It is hard to say when I shall be able to get leave but after the active campaigning season is over, probably in October, I shall ask for a month and I want you to be prepared to marry me then. I have not thought of what your best course had better be from then until the end of the war. I intend to stick it on this side until the end for I do not wish to forfeit at least part of your love and respect by quitting and seeking a bomb proof. After we are married I can make better provision for your future should anything happen to me.

I hope you do not mind my burning your letters. I should love to keep them but on active service there are difficulties in the way. Please excuse my stinginess in note paper. This is some you sent me. I have plenty in the horse lines but did not bring much in with me. You will also please overlook the blot on the first page.

Do you ever hear from Calgary? I think I told you that I had a letter from Mrs. Clarke but since you came over here my Calgary news budget is rather skimp. Dr Follett sent me a tin of tobacco which I received yesterday. I shall try to find you some souvenirs if you really care for any.

Good bye for present I shall try to write you a real loving letter when we get out of the line. With best of love.

Yours ever

Harold W McGill

P.S. They tell me the censors are opening a big percentage of letters now. Have I your permission to announce the glad tidings to my people? No one else. HWMcG.

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France, June 17, 1917

Dear Miss Griffis;-

Your very nice letter of June 12 reached me yesterday having made excellent time for these disturbed days. The stationary came along a few days earlier and I wish to most heartily thank you for your kindness in sending it. I have still on hand a considerable quantity left over from what you have previously sent but I presume that you thought from the few letters that I have been writing that my supply had run out.

Be careful of yourself working around those lungers. It will do your patients no benefit, you know, for you to contract the disease. I have a mortal terror of Tb. It is more deadly than Fritz’s trench mortars.

We are now having the best time we have had since landing in France, no Fritz shells or airplane bombs to worry us. The weather is delightful, rather hot but very acceptable after all the cold wet Spring we had to endure. The battalion is billeted in a very nice village prettily situated and we are again able to enjoy a few of the ordinary comforts if not the luxuries of life. The French people are very friendly to-wards us and our boys and the civilians get along splendidly. The battalion is doing training while out in rest but there is no forced pace and the boys are being encouraged to go in for sports and recreations. We had a battalion sports day last week, races football etc. An invitation was issued to civilians to attend and they responded very well especially the school children. There were special foot races for the boys & girls and every one of them seemed to enter for each event. The maire and town doctor were on the grounds. The doctor could talk English. He introduced me to Monsieur le Maire. As the maire had no knowledge of English and I had none of French we were unable to carry on a very animated conversation. The doctor was much interested to learn that I had been in Vimy as he knew the medical man that had been there. I gathered from the remarks of my friend that his Vimy confrere’s practice had been all shot to pieces. Some of our men dressed up and performed as clowns, to the wonderment & delight of the children. The program ended up with a concert in the evening. A pleasant time was had.

Yesterday was Brigade sports day and the program lasted all day. It was blistering hot but everything went off well. Our unit won a number of events including 1st & 2nd in the mule race. I rode to and from the village where the sports were held.

This morning after church parade a few of us got our horses and rode off to our swimming pool which is about 3 kilometres away. The pool is an old disused quarry filled with water. It is about 500 feet long, half as wide and very deep. It makes an ideal place for swimming although I must confess that I shouldn’t mind having a chance to take a dip in the sea again. However we all enjoyed both our ride and swim. The day is too hot for walking. I noticed some children out picking wild strawberries. It made me think of strawberry shortcake. Lord! It seems to me to be years & years since I have seen or eaten a piece of strawberry shortcake.

My sister Margaret has been bombarding me with letters regarding making an application for special leave. She has done so and thinks she might get away towards the end of the month. We are not getting any regular leave in the battalion now but I am making an attempt to get special leave. I should like very much to spend 10 days in England now. The further back a man is from the firing line the better chance he has of obtaining leave.
Margaret expects to get posted to a C.C.S. soon. I wish to Heaven she would get away from Le Trefort. The place is completely off the beaten track and very difficult to reach. I have not seen Margaret for a year & a half. If she were up at a clearing station or even in England we might get a chance to meet occasionally.

Did you know that Mr. Fleetham was dead? Dr Follett wrote me that the old gentleman had gone to California to recuperate after his attack of pneumonia and had died quite suddenly down there. He was a fine old man and I shall miss him very much when I return.

We were all greatly interested in the big fight at Messines & Wytschaete for we were up in that country for nearly a year. I know the geography of the Ypres salient better than I know the country around Calgary. It did not matter in what part of the salient one happened to be, he had only to look around to see the Wytschaete hill. The hill dominated the whole salient, and Fritz could see us from the time we left our billets to move towards the front. It would have been good business to have spent 50,000 casualties to take that ridge at any time during the war, i.e. provided it could have been held as it is now. The capture of the ridge will certainly make a big difference in our toll of casualties. I should have liked to have been standing on Kemmel Hill when those 19 mines went up. The engineers were driving the saps for the mines when we were at Kemmel over a year ago.

Let me hear from you again soon. Give my kind regards to Major Hewgill and ask him if he would like some stamps sent.

Sincerely yours

Harold W McGill