Remember Me

Remember Me

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

1915, July 21st. Charley's 27th letter home from France. WW1

July 21st, 1915

Dear Mother,
Well Mother I am out of the Hospital at last and no worse for my little accident.  I am now at the Canadian Base and by the time you get this I will be back to duty with our own outfit.  Had a letter from V.V. and answered it from the Hospital the last day I was there. 
          Well how do you like farming.  Gee it seems funny to think of Dad on a farm.  I can imagine him working with horses and machinery.  How are Albert and Lavinia.  She wrote me a letter when they were on Edmonton Street. I answered it but never got a reply to my answer so tell her to drop a fellow a line occasionally.  

This is a fine location for a camp and one of the nicest places I have been since I came to France.  It resembles Victoria very much in regards to scenery flowers etc.  Yesterday I happened to go down to the docks and my goodness the machinery they have for moving heavy and bulky material is wonderful. A person could walk around those docks for days and never see all the things that are so strange to one who has lived inland all his life.
They tell me that at last they have finally got Ina to go to Montreal.  If the girl had a little more peace she would act a lot different to wards her people but you know how strange Aunt Rach is.  She has not written to me three months so I guess she is sore because I took Ireland around there.  However if her own boy didn’t do anything worse than Karl he will be alright and she is not hurting me very much by not writing.  Well Mother I have absolutely nothing to say of any importance only that I am all OK again and expect to rejoin my own unit in a few days So I will draw to a close.  Remember me to Dad, V-V, and Lavinia and Albert and write to my old address.  No2

FAMILY NOTES   'Albert and Lavina' who are mentioned in this letter are Marmaduke's younger brother and sister (Charley's Aunt and Uncle).  Aunt Rach is Jennie's sister (Charley's Aunt on his mom's side) and Ina is the youngest of Rachel's children. From what Charley says, it sounds as though he introduced his cousin Ina to Karl Duncan Ireland whom Ina married late in 1914. Karl and Ina have just moved to Montreal. 

Excerpts from Charley's Official service records ~ Medical notes

On July 10th (1915) Charley was docked 7 days pay for disobeying hospital orders and talking in the marquee after lights out. He was still recovering in hospital and likely feeling pretty good by now.    

Charley works in a hospital at the front, so his familiarity with the setting and his understanding of what his fellow patients had gone through to land them in a bed, may well have set him up to feel quite comfortable chatting with the lads at any time of day.

Losing seven days pay would have been a stiff penalty. In January 1914, The Ford Motor Company was offering an eight hour work day and a daily wage of $5.  As a Private in the CAMC, Charley was making a dollar a day with an additional field allowance of 10 cents a day.

On July 19th Charley was discharged to No 11 camp
He was taken on strength of No 3 General Base Depot Rouelles on the 20th.

Charley's family back home had turned their efforts to farming.  There were mixed messages in Canada during these war years.  Producing food was a #1 priority, but so was recruiting fodder for the front lines.  Rural Canadians in particular were encouraged to farm while men who lived in urban areas were expected to sign up.  There was a serious urban rural divide due to misunderstandings and mixed messages from Government. City folk often looked on rural farmers as shirkers profiting from the war. Charley's dad would have been 58 years old.  He had owned and managed hotels, and would have seen a dramatic decrease in business in the first year of the war. To old or infirm to enlist, and wanting to do his bit, Marmaduke may have accepted Government incentives to grow food.  Two of his unmarried siblings joined Jennie and Marmaduke in this patriotic endeavour.  V.V. was attending college.

Monday, July 13, 2015

1915, July 13th. Charley's 26th letter home from France. WW1

July 13th, 1915
L Havre

Dear Sister

Just received your letter this AM as you see I am not back to duty yet but expect to leave here tomorrow. I suppose you have heard all about the accident I had so there is no use going into details about that. I am all OK now and feeling as fit as ever.

You were expressing your desire to go back to Brandon College this fall. Well V-V I can’t help you this fall but never fear this will be the last year that I wont be able too. If by any chance you have to take your second part matric in Holland (Manitoba) you can rest assured that you will be sent back to Brandon to take your Arts and what ever happens, follow that course, as it is a B.A. you want. Something that everybody that is able to teach a few youngsters hasn’t got.

You were saying that Jim Ross is in England. Well if they arrive out here I sincerely hope them all kinds of luck as of late our fellows have been getting pretty badly smashed up. I hear that they are going to give some of the first Contingent a few days leave but it will not affect me in anyway as we are stationary.

So you are as big as Ina; I guess Mother is the Midget of our family and she is fifty lbs over in weight, do you ever jolly her about being fat. She gets mad when you kid her about her size. At least she pretends to.

Well V-V as you said in your letter your brother is not much of a letter writer and especially when there is absolutely no news of importance to give you.

Do write often. Remembrance to Dad, Mother, Albert and Lavinia and don’t worry about the College affair, as it will be all right and you will be able to get your degree early enough.


It's been a long stretch. 
Charley's last letter home from the #2 Stationary Hospital in France was written on May 23rd, 1915. These past weeks I have felt the time lapse as though it were a hundred years ago and I am here in Canada while my 'brother' serves in France.  
#2 Canadian Stationary Hospital. Le Touquet France

I have wondered about what Charley is going through; what his days are like, how the lads in his old regiment are doing, is his hospital very busy, does he get time off and what does that look like?  
And I've gone a whole day or two without giving him much thought at all and have felt guilty when I realize I haven't kept him in my thoughts. 

I've kept an eye on the newspapers from 'back home' (the archives of the Winnipeg Free Press c.1915).  I've been reading fictional and factual accounts of the world at war in 1915. I ordered the DVD and watched the single season BBC mini series called Crimson Fields. 
I continue to search, mostly online, for photographs and mentions of 'my man' in France.

There must have been other letters during these last 7 weeks because Charley notes a more recent exchange of information with his sister in this letter. Charley mentions  'his accident' and yet his military medical records make no mention of any accident or injury during this time period; only Venereal Disease.

According to Charley's Service Records, on May 31st 1915, he was admitted as a patient to his own hosptial, he was then transferred to Wimereux and then on to the #9 Stationary Hosptial in Le Havre to be treated for Gonorrhea. 

"Although widely regarded as a mild disease (the clap), gonorrhea was a cause of much debility and its treatment by urethral washouts was widely detested by servicemen." 1
A cartoon postcard showing a French Soldier at a Medical Inspection
Here is a link to an excellent article written by Clare Makepeace that explores the culture of brothels and prostitution in France during the Great War. 

I can't know for sure if Charley contracted Gonorrhea from an encounter with a prostitute but I expect that's how it was. 

This is from the letter Charley wrote home in October 1914 when he and the First Contingent landed in England.  
"The Canadian soldiers are getting a great welcome here. When we were waiting for our trains at Plymouth, there were thousands there cheering us. One old lady came over and talked to me. When I left she threw her arms around me, kissed me and said “ God Bless you my little man.
They were so glad to see us that they were giving us fruit, cigarettes and everything. The girls come up to you and beg for a button or a badge for a souvenir some of the boys landed in camp with all the buttons off their coat. But of course I am too bashful so naturally I had all my buttons on."

Charley is just 23 years old.  It's 1915. Because of his age, his circumstances, his upbringing and his self professed shyness; I'm wagering a guess that his contracting Gonorrhea may well have been from his first sexual encounter.