August 20, 1916
Dear Mother & Father,
Well once more it is Sunday and we had our usual church service although Major Davidson has left us for a hospital or something or other near London.
I haven’t been up to London yet but intend going at the 1st opportunity. I had leave but it was cancelled when I was warned for France and then that was cancelled too so I don’t know where I am at.
The weather has been great over here if it wasn’t for the dampness. I am getting more accustomed to it now and don’t mind it much but we haven’t had any bad weather as yet. I suppose you are at Chemong and by the time this letter reaches you Agnes will likely be with you. It would be great to be just getting the dinghy out for a sail now.
I got your letter and one from Margaret the other day. The first Canadian mail I have received.
I saw Gordon Matthews [&] speak [to] in from last night and he is looking well. Folkestone is about as Canadian as Toronto now, you meet Peterboro people everywhere.
It is funny here I see women working in the fields, driving taxis, doing police duties and so forth. There are very few workers about who have not been across and have been discharged or are called up at a later date.
I think I will transfer my account to the Royal Bank as I will likely get better satisfaction. Bank of Montreal does all the handling of Canadian pay. I would like to have part of my account transferred as a reserve for if I were called to go across suddenly like I was before I would have something to draw on in an emergency.
I am [taking] care of myself and my habits you may rest assured and when I come back I will not have anything to be ashamed of. I will take your advice to heart father and you may be confident.
Well goodbye for the present and remember that I am thinking always of home.
Your loving son,
As you might be able to tell from the large absence of red in the above letter, this one was far easier to read. This one had a lot of very interesting observations in it from a time where a lot of things were changing in the world.
Let's start with where he is at the moment. He is in Folkestone, England, which is approximately 113km from London, on the coast closest to France. Folkestone was a place that a lot of the Canadian military would find themselves before heading over to the battlefields. Vincent eludes to this as he states "Folkestone is about as Canadian as Toronto" and when he is talking about meeting another Peterborough boy Gordon Matthews in town. There was a camp there that was called Shorncliffe Camp where a lot of the soldiers were stationed and trained.
The first word that I am not sure of is what I believe to be Chewing, which I'm guessing is a place that his family will be going somewhere where they have a boat. He refers to Agnes, which I believe is Margaret's sister, who was named Agnes Campbell Neill, going to spend time with his family as well at this place. I have the word below so you can try to decipher it for yourselves.
*So, after talking to my Father, he believes that the word is Chemong. Which is a lake right near Peterborough which would make sense for his family to have a cottage there.
A really interesting observation that he has made, is how in this time of war, the women are doing a lot of the jobs that men had usually done in the past. It is something that we have all learned in history textbooks, but it is very interesting to see a young man in the time period making the observation first hand.
He is also talking about his banking situation, which I find a little less intriguing but is somewhat interesting when you think of how a young soldier thinks about his pay. It must have also been very exciting and I'm sure somewhat terrifying for Vincent to be told he is headed for France, for war, and then at the last minute being told it is not time yet. I can imagine that that was a very stressful scenario.
The last word that I am having trouble with has something to do with going to war or to join the army. I have it written as "arms" but I am pretty sure that that is incorrect. Can one of you lovely people help me out with that as well? It is below.
*After some help from you guys (Thanks Sabrina and Kliff) I believe that what I thought was 'arms' is actually 'across'. Which makes more sense in looking at the word and contextually. Thanks again for the input and help!
I hope that you have enjoyed this letter. I have included a couple links below that I found interesting when researching some of this letter, especially about Folkestone. As always, if you have anything to add please let me know!
- A really cool website that has uploaded books that include the names, ranks and signatures of many of the soldiers, and civilians, from across the British Empire that passed through the Folkestone Harbour Station on their way to war. You can see all the names for free! (I haven't been able to find Vincent yet, but there are a lot to go through) here.
- An older article that talks about the Shorncliffe Camp and the Canadian soldiers that stayed there and in Folkestone here.