Letters from the Front

Private John Cushnie

Signaling school, being the camp mess orderly and thoughts on conscription

Private Collection

Saturday, November 03, 1917

Transcribed by: Anne Hales

Canadian Signal School

Seaford, Sussex, Eng.

Nov 3rd 1917

Dear Folks at Home:-

     Received your box and also the letter dated Oct  7th last week.  The cake was great in that box and in fact all the cakes you have sent have all been in good condition.  Harry Steele got a box too the same day so we had a good field.  The stove in the hut comes in very handy for making cocoa etc. and we have the fuel issued to us now.  They only give us a small percentage of coal the rest being coke which gives off a fine heat but doesn’t last as long as coal.

     I see by the Confed[erate] that there is danger of a coal famine in Mt. Forest this winter.  I hope you will be stocked up all right by this time.

          How did your potatoes turn out?  We have been getting mashed potatoes lately which is a great improvement or boiled potatoes with the skins on.

     Today I was mess orderly and hut orderly or in other words housekeeper so I didn’t have to go out on parade.  We had 3 pretty fair meals perhaps to make up for yesterday when we had rotten meals consisting mostly of fish.  For dinner we had

Roast Heart
Mashed Potatoes
Apple Pudding
Bread and Margarine

That wasn’t so bad for the army was it.

     This week has been a week full of steady plugging at the school.  They keep us busy day and nights.

     As this is supposed to be an instructor’s course we have to get up in front of the class sometimes and give a short lecture on any given subject.  It is just like being called on for a speech without any preparation.  It is rather hard but is good practice although I was pretty rattled the first time.

     They have all the latest lamps, phones etc right from the front, here so it is so much more interesting.  I think we took about 100 pages of notes last week.

     We will be issued with a pair of mits soon but if you can send me a pair they will no doubt be much better than them.  I have plenty of socks, shirts, towels etc.

     I wrote to Mrs Wright’s friend up in Scotland last week and I am looking for an answer soon .

     This afternoon there was a big rugby match here between Seaford and Witley.  The field was a sea of mud and the players were all coated from head to foot.  The mud in these parts is much stickier than at Bramshott and harder to get off.

     I thought I would be lonesome down here but I have been so busy this last week that I haven’t had time to be lonesome.  Besides, the fellows in the hut are all nice fellows and you soon become acquainted.  Many of them are returned men from France and they all say that signalling is about the best job out there.  There is no danger whatever that I will be sent across in the infantry because I am now a trained signaller in England, and trained signallers cannot be sent across as infantry.

     I suppose there will be quite a bit of unfairness in this conscription business at home.  I don’t think they should take Albert Reynolds if he is marked A2 because he has now a brother over here.  Besides I would think that they could get the required hundred thousand easily enough by taking fellows from [illegible] family none have yet gone.

     You can hardly blame some people for arguing that they don’t need the men when you consider that the 5th Division has been in training for nearly 2 years and never been to France yet.  It is an eyesore to everybody.  The probable reason why it is not sent  across is that they are waiting for the conscripts to reinforce it.  It would have been broken up long ago and sent across in drafts had it not been for some of the big guns at the head who are afraid of losing their jobs.  Murray and Alec Findlay were trying to persuade me to transfer into the same company of divisional signallers as they are in but I said “No thanks” because I have no wish to stay in England for the duration of the war.

     Things are not looking very promising yet for the speedy termination of the war with this big retreat of the Italians.  The allies have the upper hand on the Western Front but the Germans seem to make a drive whenever they wish on the other fronts.

     I see they have been making a lot of Captain Bishop the Owen Sound aviator and he deserves it too.  If there were more like him at the head of affairs there would not be so many air-raids on London.

     During an air-raid there is just as much danger from the shrapnel of our own guns as from the bombs of the enemy.  You would think they could find  some satisfactory method of dealing with the air raids but these British people seem to b e too slow to catch cold.

     We can often hear the sound of distant firing here.  Whether it is from France or from the Channel I don’t know.

     Well Harry and I are going to have a little feed of toast and cocoa so I guess I will stop now.

     Mr. Wells must be thinking he is very important now by his air in that snap you sent me.  You would think he was chief cook and bottle washer of the whole universe.

     Will Kerr is in good health now as far as I know.  He was not very sick really but just a little under the weather.  I am fine myself and hope you all are the same.  Lovingly John

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.