September 26, 1916


Otterpool Camp

Dear Father,

Well I received your letter of the 10th with the card which I am filling out and sending to you. I am pretty well fixed financially now so will be able to have some money in the bank. I am going up to London for certain Saturday for six days leave, part of which I will spend in the city. I am going to transfer my account from the Bank of Montreal to the Royal, also I get my clothing allowance of £7/11/0 clothing grant from the pay office. I have nearly all my requirements except underwear which I am writing mother to get for me. I have yet to get a breast plate which I will get next week. Stevenson before he went to France bought one which I think is the best proof against shrapnel [front] and [scar] and will stop a bayonet or a bullet. It certainly is a wonderful piece of work.

As it stands now the 93rd Battn. is a reserve battalion and I am on the instructional cadre as [bombing] officer or something like that. Nine subalterns and nearly all the men are in France now except about five hundred. Our band is still intact. The remainder of the officers not on the staff are only attached to the battalion now and are likely to go to France any time except those on the instructional Cadre.

That arrangement you have made with the bank is a good idea. When I get fixed alright I will be able to save some of my money but when I need it I will have to have it right away so with that arrangement will provide against anything like that. Of course when I go to London I will see the Royal Bank manager or asst.

By the way you speak, the cottage and the beach must be in great order now. It was nice to have Auntie Jean with you again. I suppose Agnes is back in Toronto. I just received a letter from Margaret yesterday.

About the new battalion. There is no earthly use of any senior officers but subalterns coming over here. Everywhere you go you see majors and colonels without battalions, [sent on] the country and everything else. These battalions are taken away from them and the only way most of them get across to France is by getting [sore] and reverting to subalterns then going across. I think there is an [order] out now that only platoons are to be brought across in charge of subalterns and the senior officers remain in Canada.

Some of the finest battalions have come over here thinking that they would surely stick together but they are smashed in pieces no what promises have been made to them etc. etc. They are in need of subalterns though and they are taking men out of the ranks and giving them commissions where they think they are any good.

The zepp. Raids can be counted on every clear night, sometimes there nights in succession but they are bringing them down in bunches now. I saw the flashes of bombs dropping and their reports on a place not five miles from here. We also heard the zepp. That was the night two were brought down. Three aeroplanes went up from a hangar near the camp and one failed to return that night. I suppose it dropped into the sea.

The aeroplanes they have now can do anything now. They are simply wonderful. The other day an aeroplane flew overhead [with] a flag about twenty-five yards behind. Another aeroplane with a machine gun was firing at it for target practice and the maneuvers they went through were simply wonderful. It is getting to be called more or less of a safety first proposition when an officer wishes to transfer to it and nearly every one of them has a D.C.M.

Well I hope you received my last letter which has most the news.

We are still shooting at Hythe and during the interval at noon for [dinner] some of us have a swim in the sea. It certainly is great after a long march. I feel now as if I could walk around this little island.

Well, hope to hear from you soon. I am cabling this weekend which you will of course receive before you receive this letter.

Your loving Son,

Vincent.






Vincent has a lot of very interesting observations in this letter that he relays to his parents and I will touch on a few of them, as most are pretty self explanatory.

First of all, you will see at the top of this letter, and this is the first time he does this, he specifies that he is at the Otterpool Camp. Up until now, I suspected that he was at the Shornecliffe Camp as it was the most noted camp in the Folkestone area. He might have been there at some point, but as of now, and I would assume for some time before this letter, he was at Otterpool. Another camp in the Folkestone area that was prominent for Canadian soldiers was called West Sandling Camp. I do find it interesting that this is the first letter that I have that he has taken the time to specify exactly where he is.

Another one is on the ongoing saga of whether Vincent is going to get his promised leave or not. It finally looks like he will be able to make his way up to London very shortly and complete a couple of errands that he is eager to complete before he is shipped over. I particularly find the way he casually writes about buying a breast plate and how it might save his life in France intriguing.

He also seems to be getting increasingly agitated with his role in the war and how the military is handling the battalions. I understand his frustration and that of other soldiers who come across the sea with their friends from home, just to be broken up and scattered once they get to England. What he says about the high ranking Canadian officers not being needed or needing to be demoted to be sent to the front is interesting. I wonder if that was a call of the British officers that were in control? I haven't found anything on that yet but I will continue to look into it.

The last thing that I would like to touch on is how awe inspired he was at the sight of the fighter planes and their maneuvers. This would be something that not much of the world would have seen prior to the war. You can tell his excitement by just reading it and it would have been amazing to be there to witness it. Also, I haven't been able to find out what D.G.M. stands for so if anyone knows what that is, please let me know!

* I have now changed it to D.C.M. which I believe is what he says. This stands for Distinguished Conduct Medal that is given by the British military to officers. If you would like to know a bit more about it you can research it here.

That is all I have at the moment. I will look into some more of the information and possibly add to it later. As always, feel free to share and let me know if there is anything that I should add. I will attach the full letter to this blog. Unfortunately it is still just pictures, but at least it is something!

Thank you for reading,

Michael Ritchie

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

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