Remember Me

Remember Me

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

New recruits, big guns and roller skates ~ March 22nd, 1916 Letter #37

March 22nd, 1916
21 Cranbury Place
Southampton England

Dear Mother
          Here's another.  I guess you will wonder if I am sick or what is the trouble having two letters so close to one another.  How is everything now, is it as cold as ever. It has been raining here for weeks and the damp air seems to go through a person who is not used to this climate.
          Had a letter from Aunt Rach the other day and she was saying Annie was going to have another little commercial traveler around the house, her troubles are about to start.
          Gee there has been a bunch of troops go through here the last few days thousands every day leave for the front.

         I was told the other day by a steward off one of the big freighters that his last trip he took over a bunch of big heavy artillery guns that would carry a shell for 28 miles.
 8 inches (204 mm) heavy guns in battery on the Somme in 1916

When they get a bunch of those out there they sure should be able to do some damage.

          Everybody that is fit for service here has a uniform on and it is great fun watching some of them new recruits drilling, you see us fellows feel like old soldiers now.
        We some times go down here to the roller rink and me not having anything but ice skates on thought I could manage all right but you should of saw me, all these English girls and fellows were all around me to see the Canadian skate.  The darn things kept slipping away on me. After nearly breaking my neck and other places on my carcass to numerous to mention I gave it up for a bad job.

Chaplin developed his skating skills while employed by Fred Karno in the British music halls, and the film was superficially inspired by the Karno sketch Skating (which had been partly written by Sydney Chaplin). Chaplin did all of the skating himself. He was occasionally aided by wires for shots which required Charlie to appear as if he were about to fall backward or forward while on skates, causing pandemonium in the rink. His agility and grace make The Rink one of his most memorable early comedies.
 Charlie Chaplin on roller skates in his 1916 Film 'The Rink'
          Well Mother are you going to get any more grain in this summer than last.  I hope it is a better year. The people of this country are sure going through hardship, the living is just about double what it is in peace time. 
Dinner is just about ready so I will drop a line about the middle of the week. Remember me to Dad and V-V.  With love from Chas



Charlie Chaplin On Roller Skates: photo from   Notes By Jeffrey Vance, adapted from his book Chaplin: Genius of the Cinema (New York, 2003) (c) 2009 Roy Export SAS

Large Artiller: Photo from Pinterest referenced to "8 inches (204 mm) heavy guns in battery on the Somme in 1916"

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Comfort and Conscription. Letter #36 March 1st, 1916

March 1st, 1916 
21 Cranbury Place

Dear Mother
          This is about the eighth letter I have started to write in the last couple of weeks and before I have posted them I have changed my address but I think this will be permanent till the end of the war.

          I am here with the Base Medical Depot there are just seven of us and we are all billeted throughout the city and are allowed to eat at wherever we stay.  So you see it is quite all right.  It is by far the best job I have had since joining the Army.

          Conscription comes into effect on March 2nd and believe me there are sure a lot of the shirkers doing their best to get means to be exempt but very few manage.   

Very sorry to hear of Pa’s misfortune but I guess by the time this gets to you that he will be all okay again.  V-V is sure some Scholar when it comes to French. They must have had a great time when the sleigh upset by the way she described it.  I think that she rather enjoyed.

All Canadians on their way to the front have to leave from here and I have a chance of seeing a quite a lot of the boys I know.  There was a Winnipeg Regiment went out of here the other night and it sure was a good outfit.

          We are the only Canadians that are stationed here and naturally they use us very good.  Well Mother I am going home for dinner now.  So you will hear from me a little more regular now as I am here for awhile.  Remembrance to Dad and V-V.  With love from

Charlie seems to have at least one guardian angel watching over him during these war years. His first letter from England in October 1914 shares this moment: "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.”

He must feel God Blessed right now with his position in Southampton; living in comfortable, clean quarters, regular meals, real food; when he could as easily have been sent back to France or straight to a casualty clearing station. 

There are scant few letters from these first months of 1916 and I wouldn't fault Charley for enjoying himself a little.  After two years of service in France he will have seen a lot of boys at hospital wounded and broken and far, far too many dead.

His address at 21 Cranbury can be found on Google maps although of course the scene is one hundred years on.  His digs were about 8 blocks from the Itchen river.  
I learned that in the mid 1900's the Cranbury Place area was designated a Conservation Area. 

The document explains that "the area contains, within a relatively small area, several groups of distinctive buildings of special architectural or historic interest.  The abundance of trees in Cranbury Place makes a positive contribution to the Conservation Area. The inherent character of Cranbury Place Conservation Area lies in its simple but dignified Georgian style terraces."

Noted in The Hampshire Independent on 20 February 1852, when the property and its’ contents were being auctioned off, a neigbouring residence, No.14 Cranbury Place was described as an excellent and commanding residence with a good garden, front and back kitchen, scullery, larder, butler’s pantry, breakfast parlour, dining and drawing rooms, four good bedrooms and the usual domestic offices. The house was highly furnished with enriched cornices, marble chimney pieces in all the principal rooms and all the necessary fixtures. 

Charley would be quite comfortable for the time being. And coming from his point of view, rightfully indignant of 'the shirkers' in their midst.