1915 Feb 25 – Interesting Letter from England
Private Kenneth Cates, formerly of the Bank of Commerce staff here, but who recently enlisted with the Scots Guards, writes interestingly of soldier life in England:
“L” Company, Scots Guard, Hut 11, Caterham, Surrey, England.
I have been thinking that possibly you might like to know that the famous “Dauphin Life Guards” are represented in Kitchener’s army in the person of your humble servant. I shook off the dust of the C.B. of C. some two months ago and returned to my native land, much to the surprise of my mother and sister who supposed me safely in Canada, until I walked in on them.
I enlisted in Liverpool when I landed and only had two days at home after being absent seven years! I asked to join the Devonshire Regiment but they were not recruiting for them in Liverpool and as I was tall enough the recruiting officer said I could join the Scot Guards if I like, which I accordingly did and am now in receipt of the princely sum of 1s. 1d. a day, just about what I used to spend on Bordeaux at the “Kandy King’s.”
This is the depot for all the Guards regiments, viz., Grenadiers, Coldstreams, Irish and Scots Guards. The barracks are full up of course so we are quartered in corrugated iron huts (or shacks) which hold about 34 men each, each hut being in charge o a trained soldier, mostly from the reserve. Our beds consist of three planks raised six inches from the floor, straw mattress, pillow and 3 blankets. We get four drills a day of an hour each. It does not sound very much, but believe me, it’s all you want. They are pretty strenuous hours while they last. Reveille is at 6 a.m., breakfast 7 a.m., dinner at noon, tea at 4.15, lights out 10 p.m. We are allowed out of barracks each evening for 6.30 to 915 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday we get out at 2 p.m. We can also get weekend leave for 12 noon Saturday till 1 a.m. Monday morning.
The training here lasts from 10 to 12 weeks. My squad has passed in foot drill and were issued rifles today. I hope to get to the front some time about April. We get a finishing touch at Wellington Barracks, London, after leaving here which lasts from a few days to perhaps four weeks, it all depends how often drafts are being sent to the front. Both the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Scot Guards are at the front and they are kept up to strength from the 3rd Battalion to which we belong. There are only six men left out of the original 1st Battalion which went out in August, so you can imagine how they have been cut up.
It is raining here everyday and the mud is something awful, pretty nearly knee deep, but apart from the weather there is nothing whatever to complain of in the barracks and huts here. There are about 8000 men here altogether and practically every one of them is suffering from a bad cold. You cannot get rid of them, what with getting wet, always wearing wet boots, etc. my squad was inoculated for typhoid yesterday. It is rather painful for a short while, but the effect as a rule passes off in two days. We are allowed forty-eight hours off from all drill and fatigue duty to recover in. We are to be vaccinated tomorrow.
We get a bath once a week (boiling hot), but one lot of water has to do for three men!
I got a complete outfit of shirt, socks, underwear, boots razor, brushes, towels, etc., overcoat and cap, on joining, but the supplies of khaki trousers and jackets are hopelessly in arrears, so you have to wear your own suit of clothes; needless to say we are a somewhat ragged and nondescript looking crowd in consequence and the weather ruins a suit in a week.
I sailed from St. John and our passage was quite uneventful. The boat, however, was painted gray all over and all the portholes were pasted over with brown paper so as to show no lights. We were challenged by a cruiser when off the Irish coast and several trawlers, taken over by the Admiralty, came up close to look us over and coming up the Mersey serachlights were playing on us all the time. I got into London at 8 o’clock in the evening and found it in darkness, hardly any street lights all. The theatres were all running, however, but getting very poor houses at night. Everyone goes to matinees now instead.
Everything seems to be the same as usual; no excitement. You would hardly think the war was on, except that the place seems to be swarming with fellows in uniforms. It struck me that there were not so many young men to be seen in the city and in Liverpool. Nearly everybody you meet has several friends in the army somewhere. I have two cousins at the front; one is in the Flying Corps attached to General Paget’s Division and the other came over from India recently with a native regiment and my brother-in-law has quite a good job in the Army service corps and is travelling all over the place buying forage, etc., and all the eligible young men in my native village in Devonshire seem to have joined.
Although I had been away seven years, I have only managed to get two days at home so far. I hope to get a weekend shortly and seven days later on.
1915 Feb 25 – War is Hell
German prisoners recently taken tell a horrible story, and confirm Gen. Sherman’s statement that “War is Hell.” They declared that men in trenches both officers and privates had gone violently insane from exposure, the strain of constant fighting and horrible sights which continually greet their eyes.
1915 Feb 25 – Fork River
Miss Rose Canber has returned to her home after spending a short time with her parents.
Mr. E. Black and Mr. Wm. Hankings, bailiff of Winnipegosis, were here on business last week.
Several of our farmers are putting up ice for the summer on the Mossey River. It is quite a contract as the ice is over four feet thick. It is of good quality.
Mr. John Seiffert, P.M., seems to have his hands full these days smoothing out things here and at Winnipegosis. Johnny keeps smiling and gets there all the same.
T.N. Briggs is making his pile this winter cutting and shipping cordwood. With tamarac selling at $2 a cord and seasoned poplar at $1 there is not the least doubt but what there will be a number of retired farmers around this burgh by the time another year rolls round.
Aubury King represented this patriotic corner of the globe at the Red Cross ball at Winnipegosis last week. He reports a swell time.
Mr. Sid Coffey and Jack Angus, of Winnipegosis, were visitors at this burgh last week on important business. Jack was just taking the lay of the land after being absent at Mafeking all winter. He expects to be a frequent visitor in the near future. That’s all right, Scotty does not object. There’s lots of room here for everybody as Sid’s moving picture show is coming on Wednesday night.
It is rumoured that there has been quite a number of deaths among the Ruthenians east of here during the last two months from diphtheria. Some of those who had the disease have been allowed to run at large and thus it spread. We trust this disregard for health and law will be dealt with by the proper authorities. The majority of these people have lived here long enough to know the law in this respect and should be made to suffer for their carelessness, which is little short of criminal
Wm. King is attending the session of the orange Grand Lodge at Winnipegosis this week.
It is too bad the way timber is being cut through these parts without permits. Much of the timber cut is ruined. We understand an inspector is shortly to visit these parts and there will be something doing then.
Alex Cameron was a Dauphin visitor on Monday, returning on Wednesday.
1915 Feb 25 – Winnipegosis
Mrs. N. McAulay and Mrs. J. Denby arrived home from Dauphin on Friday’s train.
Frank Hechter left for Winnipeg on Monday.
Mrs. J. Seiffert is visiting her parents at Fork River.
Mr. and Mrs. Hallie Burrell arrived home from Dauphin on Monday and brought with them their new arrival. “Watch Winnipegosis grow.”
The government tug, “Mossey River” is off the cars, and will lay on the ice till the river opens, when she will be taken out on her trial trip.
Jim McInnes and Archie McDonald returned on Monday from Winnipeg, where they had been “seeing the elephant.” Just what this means has not been fully explained but Archie keeps on smiling.
Mrs. J.P. Grenon returned from Dauphin on Monday’s train.