Remember Me

Remember Me

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. 

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