Letters from the Front

Private John Cushnie

First impressions of England and a description of the trip over

Private Collection

Friday, May 11, 1917

Transcribed by: Anne Hales

Bramshott Camp Eng.

May 11,1917

Dear People:-

     We have been in this camp for 4 days now so I think it is high time I was writing again.  We haven’t received any home mail yet but expect to get it any day now.

     We certainly find army life different here than it was in Canada.   We are finding out already that here we soldier, not just put in time.

     As I told you in that other letter we are in 10 days quarantine.  After that we move to Bramshott Camp proper.  We stay there for a couple of days and then we go for our pass.  This quarantine is just to see whether any diseases break out, not because there is any contagious disease floating around.

     We are sleeping under canvas just now but when we go over to the other camp we will go into the huts for the summer.  We are having Canada July weather just now and we are getting tanned up rapidly.

     There are no large places of any account around here.  They are all villages.  We haven’t been able to go out yet though being in quarantine.  We are just 46 miles from London and as it just costs 4 shillings for railway fare we are looking forward to spend some of our monthly week-ends there.  For our 8 day leave however I think we will go to Scotland.  Bill Kerr has invited me to visit his cousin with him so I think I will go as I believe Euart & Archie are going to London to visit some of Euart’s relatives  We will try to visit Mrs Wright’s friend too.

     We certainly don’t get so much to eat here as in St. Thomas but what we do get is always well cooked and I am enjoying the meals here better than I ever did in the army before.

     We had quite a time at first getting accustomed to the English money but by this time we are quite used to it.  The canteen here is run by a private concern and is pretty dear but over in the other camp there is the YMCA and they say it is much cheaper.

     Doc Merry just passed and stuck his head in the tent to ask if we had any lice but fortunately we were able to report a clean sheet.  We are all well dosed with camphor so don’t expect to have any pleasant companions.  As I write there is a monoplane passing over the camp and the boys are all out looking at it.  It is at an awful height and you can hardly see it.  We also saw several on our trip through England.

     We also saw a couple of submarines and several battle ships on our trip.  The submarines are just like the pictures and the battleships were not nearly as big as our troop ship, the Olympic.

     We were quite lucky to get sailing in the Olympic as it is the largest and fastest liner afloat.  We had no escort all the way across until we got to Ireland.  We sailed around the north of Ireland and put in at a bay called Lough Swilly for a day.  It was there that we first noticed how green the countryside was, with the green fields all separated by hedges.  We stayed there a day and while there a captured German submarine was brought into harbor.  It was painted white and was quite large.  From Lough Swilly to Liverpool we were escorted by 3 destroyers.  We passed many ships on the way in but no enemy ones.

     During all the trip we had to wear lifebelts while on deck and at meals which shows that they weren’t taking any chances with us.  We were obliged to stay on deck all day but that wasn’t any hardship as it was nicer there than down below.

     The up and down motion of the boat made one feel rather queer.  It was just something like when I used to turn round and round to make myself dizzy when I was small.  However we soon got accustomed to that by the end of the voyage we were all good sailors.  For a couple of days though we were wishing we were on dry land.

     We took the train right at the dock at Liverpool so didn’t see much of that place.  We had only 3rd class compartments but they were just as good as the coaches that run between Palmerston and Mt. Forest. The compartments hold about 8 people and are all right.  In fact I believe I like them better than Canadian coaches as there isn’t so much confusion going in and coming out.  We had our heads out of the windows most of the time admiring the scenery except when we came to a tunnel when we had to duck in and shut the windows on account of the gas.  We passed through several very long tunnels and they were so dark that you could hardly see your hand in front of your face.

     There are several Western Canada battalions near us but I haven’t been able to find whether Jim Renwick’s battalion is there or not.  He will likely be going to France soon as I have heard that the 5th division is to leave shortly.

     The bread we get here is dark in color and not unlike brown bread in taste.  We are not allowed to throw any bread away and if even a crust is found in the garbage barrel by the inspector the rations are cut in half for the next day.  They are trying to prevent any waste whatever and there is even an order that the water in which we wash our dishes must be allowed to stand for a time in order that the grease may be skimmed off the top.

     Well I guess it will take you about 2 hours to read this beautiful writing so I will close.  Hope you are all feeling as well as we are.  Lovingly, John

P.S. Please send Uncle Jack’s address

This is part of the John Cushnie Collection. This is a collection of approximatly 98 letters from 1916 to 1918, and a diary with 220 entries from 1918. These letters and diary entries, were very gratiously provided by Anne Hales.