“…they are almost crazy with joy…”
Belgium, Nov. 25, 1918
Dear Walt and Lottie,
I actually believe I have about five minutes without any work to do so I’ll write you a few lines at least to let you know I’m still alive, though possibly you are beginning to think otherwise by this time. I thought I’d had busy spells before but nothing to compare with what we’ve had since the armistice was signed… It was darned welcome news when it came. Since that time (Nov. 11) we have been on an almost constant move toward Germany which accounts for our lack of time.
After marching 15 miles or so each day you don’t feel like doing much else but going to bed when you get to the end of your journey and that’s just what I’ve been doing this past couple of weeks.
I presume you have read all about the entry of the Canadians in Mons.
I had the opportunity to look the place over pretty thoroughly and it’s certainly quite a town. Our band was chosen to represent the 2nd Canadian Division at the grand fete held there in honour of the official entry of the British troops. I saw a big bunch of celebrities there but didn’t get close enough to have conversation with any of them nor in fact, to even see who they were.
I wanted to have a little talk with Albert of Belgium to tell him what a good soldier I thought he was but he was pretty busy and I didn’t interrupt him.
It was supposed to be a big day historically but proved to be a rather miserable one for us, for it meant about seven hours of standing around without anything to eat which didn’t suit me very well, and the actual ceremony only lasted about ten minutes as far as we were concerned.
(This darned pen isn’t working fast enough so I’ll have to fall back on the old indelible.)
We are now passing through Belgium and visiting towns that have been under German rule since ’14 and the tales these people can tell would make your hair curl. Talk about realizing what war means, these people surely do. They are almost crazy with joy as we pass through and when we stop in a town overnight they can’t seem to do enough for us. The best the house can afford is none too good and in many cases they want to give us their beds and sleep on the floor themselves.
Of course we’re not having any of that.
I’m writing this in a little town called Spy within a few miles of the city of Namur, due east of Mons. You can probably look it up on the map.
The villages are so thick through here that you don’t know when you leave one and enter the next. They run right into each other and we sometimes march for miles through what seems like one long street and probably pass half a dozen villages without knowing it.
Every village is bedecked with flags and streamers across the streets and cards and banners of welcome in about six different languages. The people cheer and clap their hands or weep, as the mood strikes them. It’s amusing to see old women, scarcely able to push one foot ahead of the other, start dancing like children when the music starts up.
Every day is a holiday and we could thoroughly enjoy it if it wasn’t for the long hikes. However, guess it won’t be for long now and I’m hoping we shall soon be heading in the opposite direction with Canada as the objective. I could write volumes on what we are seeing every day but time forbids just now. I’ll be able to tell you all about it when I see you for I think I stand a pretty good chance of getting back with a whole hide now.
We are having an awful job to keep account of our mail on account of moving so much and your letter containing the French money just reached me a few days ago, weeks overdue. Many thanks indeed. Cash always comes in handy over here and most of that will go for eats and smokes. I spend practically all my spare cash that way and darned lucky to have it…or I’d go hungry quite often. I can’t say very much along that line yet but there’s a day coming when the censor will be out of a job and before long I hope.
I’m enclosing a little remembrance for Lottie for Christmas. Not very much ‘tis true, but more in the nature of a souvenir. You can’t buy a bally thing in the stores here that’s worth carrying across the road. The Hun requisitioned everything in sight and the people are having a fight to get sufficient food to keep them alive.
Christmas will be pretty close by the time you receive this and although I stated last Christmas that I’d be home for this one, guess I’ll have to “back paddle.” However, I think it will be pretty safe to predict that I’ll be home for 1919’s Christmas and though I’m not with you in person I shall be with you in thought, which is the best I can do. I expect to spend Christmas in Germany but whether I shall be disappointed or not remains to be seen. Shall probably be eating sauerkraut instead of turkey.
…must quit right away. Very best wishes for a Happy Christmas and have a big highball for me.
Yours as ever, Garn xxxx for Helen.
Selection from the letter collection of Sergeant Dobbs, to his sister Millie and his brother Walter
George Metcalf Archival Collection
© Canadian War Museum