• Michael Ritchie

September 13, 1916

Updated: Aug 28, 2019


Dear Mother & Father

Well I hope you are all well as we are here. Got in from Lydd about three o’clock, dusty and with my feet a little sore from poor fitting boots. Soon as I landed here I received the parcel containing the white socks and also a silk knit tie and a letter from Mar Neill. I would have have walked twice as far again to get them. The socks are beautifully knit and will very comfortable on the feet.

I washed up and put a pair on as soon as I got them, It was a funny thing too. I was wondering what I would do for a clean pair. The ones I had on had seen service. I was just washing my feet when the socks came which solved the problem.

They are quite busy here equipping and getting ready some men for another draught. Capt. Munro has gone across with the 1st draught but is only in charge, returning immediately he gets through handing them over.

I suppose Agnes is with you by this time and that you are still at Chemong. It must be getting nice out there after the hot weather. I suppose Jack gets down quite often. It would be great if we were all out there together again but it seems as if that were not possible for a while yet so we must make the best of it as it stands now.

Last Sunday we went for a walk to a summer resort on the coast called [Littlestone] Sea not far from the famous Dungeness lighthouse.

Laying off the shore a piece you can see neutral shipping laying at anchor waiting for its inspection before proceeding further. You can see them everywhere as far as the eye can see. Now and again you see a busy patrol boat or destroyer moving in an around about them. It certainly is a wonderful work the fleet are doing. They use airships for observation purposes and for detecting submarines. I have seen several of them.

It is a difficult proposition to get leave at this particular time, so I guess I will have to get sick leave. I want to get up to London before I get sent to France as they sometimes don’t give you leave when they [warn] you. I have nearly all my outfit now but still have to get a trench coat and some odds and ends.

I was just wondering what to do with my trunk. Freddie Gardiner asked me to send it up to his home in Scotland but it would be rather inconvenient to have it away out of the way like that. There are surplus baggage depots attached to the army but the question is would you trunk be there when you come to get it. You are in danger of losing it and its contents.

I think I will store it in Folkestone.

I hear that Phylis Cumberland is on her way across here to offer her services like Jean [Haistone]. This country is full of women and girls who are dependent on their positions. Everywhere you go you see women carrying on in positions and jobs where men before the war were employed. You see them in the fields, in business, driving taxis, trucks and in fact every thing. It is a mistake for girls to come across from Canada when this country is full of them who have to earn their living.

I see that the Quebec Bridge has gone again. Another instance of trying to do the impossible. When we were going to Halifax from Barriefield we could just see the top of it.

We are using the Lee Enfield rifle altogether here now. The men have done very poor shooting with it perhaps of not knowing it. They are issuing the draught with the [well] equipment. That converted Oliver equipment is a horrible affair. It is a crime to have to carry it when they just discard it over here.

I hear they are having a grand time at home over the Borden camp scheme.

Well that little sum of money you sent over will be spent wisely although it was needed pretty badly. But when I get everything I need I will be able to get on all right with what I get. I am sending my signatures up to the bank with the paymasters note certifying my signature. At the same time I will send you my signature on a separate sheet.

Well thank you so much.

Expect to hear from you soon and that you are well.

Love to all,

Vincent

This was by far the longest letter that he has sent back to his parents as of yet. There is a lot to go through so I will try and get to it all without having this post be extremely long. There is a couple interesting tidbits hidden inside his talk about everyday activities in the military life during the war that I found interesting and would like to share with you and provide a bit more information.

First thing is he talks about is his walk to Lydd and him spending some time there. He mentions in another letter (which I will get to shortly) that Lydd is approximately 16 or 17 miles away which is a decent hike. In the way that he mentions it, it seems like it is a semi-regular occurrence which I'm guessing is part of him keeping in shape and practicing marching. He mentions going to a resort which I couldn't quite make out the name to, but he does mention it is close to the Dungeness Lighthouse which is right by the sea near Lydd. I have included a map of the hike from Folkestone to Lydd as well as the word I can't seem to get. Maybe some of you can help me out with it. While there he also mentions seeing airships, which as he explains, was used by the British to monitor the seas for enemy submarine activity. Though these airships were not nearly as big or sophisticated as the Zeppelins that the Germans were using as airships, they were still a pretty spectacular feat for this time in history.



*Thanks to Eric Edwards, I am pretty sure that Vincent meant to put down 'Littlestone-on-sea' which is fairly close to the Lighthouse and Lydd

Another interesting observation that he makes for a second time in these letters is the amount of women that are now working in jobs that historically have always been for men. He has an interesting take on the matter though which somewhat surprised me. He seemed to be upset at the fact that Canadian women, which were headed over to try and help in any way they can with the war effort, were going to be taking jobs and pay away from the women in Britain that, since their husbands or men in their life are gone, need those jobs to make a living. It was just an interesting take from that time period in my opinion.

There are a lot of other interesting observations that I find exciting, but I don't want to blabber on as this blog post is already extremely long so I will mention them below with some websites where I found helpful in my research. I hope you enjoy them. Underneath those there will be a couple more of the words that I can't seem to find.

Vincent also wrote a letter to his sister Margaret dated a day before this one. I have wrote a shorter post on that as it repeats much of what is said here with some small additives so I am leaving this as the main post for this week. A link to that letter is here.

He talked about "the Quebec Bridge has gone again". Information on that tragedy and engineering process is here.

He talked about the Lee Enfield rifle, which became standard issue for the British forces in WWI, and the poor shooting of his comrades. A bit of information on the rifle here.

He talked about the changing over from the Oliver equipment. Some information about the equipment and uniforms here.

Last but not least he spoke of the Borden Camp, which was a training camp in Canada named after the Prime Minister at the time Sir Robert Borden. Some information on that here.

* Additional information that was brought to my attention again by the great Eric Edwards, Captain Munro is most likely Joseph Munro who's papers you can see here, and you can see the papers for Freddie Gardiner here. Thanks again Eric!


Here are the other words I couldn't quite make out. One I think is discerp, which means to take apart in a way, and the other one I think is business but I am not very confident in that.

*After going over them again, and with the help of the readers, I am positive on business being correct and I now believe that the other word is discard.



Page 4 and Page 1

Page 3 and Page 2

Page 8 and Page 5

Page 7 and Page 6

Hopefully you find this interesting. Feel free to add anything and share. I still have lots more to post as there is a lot more to his story ahead.

Thanks for reading!

Michael Ritchie

#1916 #england #canada #CanadianMilitary #WorldWar1 #WWI #LettersFromVincent

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