Remember Me

Remember Me

Monday, February 23, 2015

February 23rd, 1915. Charley's 20th letter home from France. WW1

Feb 23, 1915

Dear Mother

Have not received any word from you for some time I guess that some of these days I will get a lot together. Well things around here are just about the same as usual. We received some Canadian wounded the other day. Mostly Pat’s troops, a couple from Winnipeg. I was talking to one and he said that the Winnipeg bunch have come out the best of it so far.

Say Mother I was talking to one of the nurses last night and found out she came from Portage and knows the Richmond girls. It seems all right when you meet people from your own town away out here and especially when they know nearly all your own friends.

The weather here has been good the past few days so you may expect heavy fighting. One of the wounded officers told me coming up in the Motor Ambulance that the war would be over in August “Let us hope he is right.” 

Motor Ambulance.  Photo:
Had a letter from V-V the other day she seems to be getting on fine at school. She was telling me about some of their functions and I can imagine how she would enjoy them, as I know how I did. Did she tell you of her initiation? Gee when they got me I was very nearly killed.

Dad mentioned in his letter about business being slow. I think that Canada will see the best times it has ever saw as soon as this war is over. In France business is not slow there is absolutely no business. The last time I was in Paris Plaza I was talking to a couple of Belgium refugees and by what they said it will surprise me if there will be enough buildings in Belgium to keep them under shelter after this is over.

Well Mother this is only a note to let you know my mustache is getting longer I am getting fatter etc. So I will draw to a close answer soon and often. Remembrance to Dad and V-V.



The other side of the story that wasn't shared with the folks back home from The WW1 service files of Charles Roy Bailey. Canadian Expeditionary Force. #34260 

Feb 22nd, 1915 Breaking out of Barracks, Out of Bounds fined $3 & ten days Confined to Barracks

Feb 24th, 1915  Disobey Order, Drunk, Breaking out of Guard Room, Out of bounds, fined $6 and 20 days confined to Barracks

Sunday, February 15, 2015

February 15th, 1915. Charley's 19th letter home from France. WW1

Feb 15, 1915

Dear Sister    Just finished a letter to Mother and naturally I thought of you. I guess you are pretty busy these days as the work will be getting harder every day as it grows towards the Summer Exams.

Well V-V we received our First Canadian patient today. He had pneumonia. As yet we have not had any Canadian wounded but they will be coming in most any day now. We expect some big battles just as soon as the Spring opens up and all the Kanuks and Kitcheners Army gets into action, let us hope that they are in our Favour. 

Most every day there are Aeroplanes flying over the Hospital. So it is quite an ordinary sight for me now to see flying machines.
Photo from
First World War Biplane. A Sopwith F-1 'Camel'
The weather here is still wet and it rains most every day still it is quite warm in comparison to Manitoba weather. Yesterday there were about fifty French invalids from the French Hospital near here were out for a walk past here and it was very funny to see them. Nearly every one had on a different colored uniform. Red, Blue, khaki and all the colors of the rainbow. It seemed very funny to us as all our troops are dressed in the same kind of uniforms except the Hindus and they wear their turbans.

The people of France are very kind to us and give us most anything they have. The French that they talk over here is quite different to that which I used to learn at school. They seem to have a kind of slang that is hard to get on to. However I am able to make myself understood and if we are here much longer I think I will be able to get on to it fairly well.

Well V-V I have not very much time for letter writing but don’t you forget to drop a line or two in your spare time. Remember me to Dad and Mother when you write and don’t be a stiff, write occasionally yourself.

As Ever
Your Brother Chas

© Nicola Finch 2015

© Nicola Finch 2015

© Nicola Finch 2015

Saturday, February 14, 2015

February 14th, 1915. Charley's 18th letter home from France. WW1

'The Crimson Field'
Set design for BBC production of Crimson Field, WW1 Pharmacy
February 14, 1915

Dear Mother
Just a few lines as I am pretty busy these days. We got our first Canadian patient today he had pneumonia “Poor Fellow”. 

I received Dad’s letter yesterday and was very glad to hear from him. He was saying business had fallen away considerable lately. Well Mother if you were to see some of the people of this country you would be glad you were in Canada let alone have a business. Mother it is funny how some of these people exist. Still they seem to be just as content as if they were millionaires.

At present there is but very little fighting going on but by the time things open up and the fine weather sets in there will sure be some big battles take place. Let us hope that they are in our favour when they do happen.

We have had three new officers attached to us just lately and seem to be very nice men. There was two Aeroplanes went over us yesterday but we could not distinguish of what nationality they were but I think they were French.

I was down to one of the neighbouring villages the other day and saw some very nice souvenirs if they would only get across the water safe I would like to send you some but I am afraid they would never reach you safe.

Dad was saying in his letter about Ina staying home etc. well if she does it will sure be against her grain but if she does not it will make it awfully lonesome for Aunt Rachie as there is nobody with her now at all.

Have not had a letter from V-V since she returned to College. I guess the kid is too much taken up with her studies. However I won’t kick as long as she makes as good marks on her finals as she did in the Xmas exams. 

It is raining like anything now. Gee I pity the poor fellows in the trenches today it must be awful. Well Mother I have got to get to work it is just gone one o’clock. So remember me to Dad and V-V when you write.

With lo


Feb 14th 1915 pg 1  Letter # 17

There is a handwritten note from Charley's Mother to his 16 year old sister VV at the top of Charley's letter ~ Jennie; Charley's mom, would have sent Charley’s letters on to VV at Brandon College. She writes:

"Vevie, try mercolized wax I think that will fix your face, and Vevie never mind sending the combinations they will do in June when you come.  I will use these old ones.  Mother"

In 1915, the manufacturers of "Mercolized Wax” claimed it would make "all defects such as blackheads, tan, freckles, and large pores disappear. Skin is then beautifully clear, velvety and so soft - face looks years younger. Mercolized Wax brings out your hidden beauty."     Mercolized Wax was composed of zinc oxide (10%), ammoniated mercury (10%), and vaseline (80%). They noted that the mercury compound was a "dangerous poison".
'The combinations' Mother mentions may well have been measurements for garments.
And, in my Grandma (V.V.'s) defense; she was always very beautiful. Her face in no way needed 'fixing'. :) Teenage acne most likely.
Feb 14th 1915 pg 2  Letter # 17

Feb 15th 1915 Pg 3, Letter #17

Feb 14th, 1915 pg 4 letter #17 from France

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Researching the #2 Canadian Stationary Hospital in Le Touquet France

I'm pacing. I don't like this. It's been a few weeks since Charley's last letter.  I can only imagine how his family must have felt in 1915.

In more than a few of Charley's letters he remarks to his Mother that they must not be getting a lot of his letters, and his mail too seems to go missing or to come in bundles all at once. He speaks of writing at least twice a week. I'm quite certain that the 88 letters I inherited are not the complete collection.  Perhaps other letters exist somewhere in a distant cousins attic and perhaps not. Regardless, I treasure this collection of letters and I am humbled to find myself with them 100 years on.   

It'll be another full week till we hear from Charley again. In the meantime; as of February 1915, Charley's hospital (The #2 Canadian Stationary Hospital in Le Touquet, France) is fully operational.  

I was excited to find this sketch by Cristina Casali, the production designer for the BBC production of The Crimson Field. The show lasted only one season much to the chagrin of many viewers and tells the story of a WW1 Army Hospital in France. The total of six one-hour episodes can be ordered on DVD so I think I will have to do that. For the time being, Ms Casali's lovely sketch is my screen saver. 

I just finished a book that dropped me smack dab into the middle of Charley's life. It was a disturbing and heartbreaking read and a fascinating glimpse into Charley's world.  The author describes his tale as "thinly coated with the sugar of fiction". 

The  fellow who wrote it worked in Charley's hospital and the whole scene was the subject of his book.  

Of course I hungrily looked for some mention of Charley within the pages and although I did not find him, I learned about the people he spent those years with, the conditions under which they lived, and I understand much better what Charley's days must have been like.

The book is titled " The First Canadians in France, The Chronicle of a Military Hospital in the War Zone . By F. McKelvey Bell.  Copyright 1917 
I found this mention of Major Bell in the official War Diary of the #2 Stationary Hospital. 

His book can be found here and freely downloaded.   

In his dedication the author writes:
"The efficient fulfillment of onerous duties by all, have given to the Canadian Medical Service a status second to none in the Empire: The sick and wounded soldier has been made to feel that a Military Hospital may be not only a highly scientific institution—but a Home."
and in his preface the Major writes:
"In glancing through these pages, now that they are written, I realize that insufficient stress has been laid upon the heroism and self-sacrifice of the non-commissioned officers and men of the Army Medical Corps—the boys who, in the dull monotony of hospital life, denied the exhilaration and stimulus of the firing line, are, alas, too often forgotten. All honour to them that in spite of this handicap they give of their best, and give it whole-heartedly to their stricken comrades."

I believe Charley falls in this latter category.  In my research it is not difficult to find a good deal of information about nurses and doctors, stretcher bearers, ambulance drivers and front line medics who served in WW1 but I have yet to find almost any mention of a pharmacist or medical dispenser save for 'my Charley' and his letters. 

Charley's next letter home is written on the 14th of February 1915.