Being The Doings, Etc. of…….L.B. Corrigan, Temporary Gentleman,
Often, since the beginning of our “Stay Indurance Vile”, have I wondered just what influence so sways a man’s perception of things that he is not only willing to forego, on necessity, all the comforts and pleasures of civilian life, but actually goes seeking the opportunity to exchange them for the known discomforts of war. Perhaps it might be termed patriotism, though I’m inclined to think the motive is more selfish than that. Be what it may, however, as a result of whatever hidden urge prompted us to do this thing, I am now scribbling these few lines to while away the hours in an internment camp in Asia.
My little adventure started about the middle of October, 1941 when an opportunity to leave Canada as part of a fighting force presented itself. Maze, Black, Harper and myself, after what we considered at the time to be much serious thought, finally decided such an opportunity warranted our transfer from the South Saskatchewan Regiment to the Winnipeg Grenadiers. Having made and acted on our decision, we were not long getting underway for, on October 25 we entrained for the west coast, our final destination a secret, but the “experts” giving us everything from Somaliland to Singapore.
En Route Sunday –
Dear Mrs. C.
Just a few lines from your travellin’ man. So far it’s been a very pleasant voyage and the mountains today were lovliers than I’ve seen them yet. I still can’t seem to get over the winter-cruise idea so far as the trip is concerned and had it not been for the leaving of family, everything would be hunky-dory. I know that there isn’t much I can say about it as you’ve lived with me long enough to get my general ideas on the subject, however, I do believe it will in lots of ways do you the world of good if you go at it properly and that means you’ve got to be in there “pitching” all the time – you can beat it easily just as thousands are, if you just go ahead without thinking (of you) (NO SARCASM).
Well we still haven’t the faintest idea where we’re going yet although we found out today that we will be with other Empire troops, so Singapore may still be the spot, it looks interesting regardless and while I understand we’ll be working pretty hard, I’m looking forward to it. We arrive at Vancouver at noon tomorrow and have only 2 hours there so won’t have any time to look anyone up.
This isn’t even an excuse for a letter but I’m writing it on my knee and there’s not much news anyway. The main main idea is to be sure you have my address which is –
LIET. etc. etc.
Wpeg Grenadiers Force “C”
Can. Army Overseas.
Well I’ll sign off and although you won’t hear from me for a month or so, keep the chin up and don’t let your heart run your head.
Lots of love to you and the bairns,
I’ll cable on arrival but don’t expect anything for at least a month.
Our excursion, as far as the coast, was quite uneventful, except for those who had never seen the Rockies, and for whom the trip seemed to take on the appearance of a pleasure jaunt, with all expenses paid. On arrival at the dock in Vancouver, however, sight of the ship which we were to share with another Battalion suggested even to these that the cruise might not be all pleasure for though a fair size, two thousand men might find things a bit cramped.
We boarded our ship, the “Awatea’ from the Australian Trade, about mid-afternoon and spent until dinner-time hunting for, and settling in, quarters and trying to locate baggage. Our ship, though not large, had been a luxury boat in peace time and, though most of the woodwork had been covered by veneer against the rigors of troop transportation, there were still sufficient evidences that under different circumstances she would be a lovely ship to sail on. Unfortunately, space for our numbers was sadly lacking, even though the lower decks, dining saloons etc., had been pressed into service. Quite a number of the Winnipeg Grenadiers, having had experience in tropical travel in their journeys to and from Jamaica, at once set up a howl about the foreseen discomforts when we should hit hot weather. Being more or less used to “beefs” in the army and being in no position to remedy things in any case, we more or less sympathetically dismissed the whole thing and went down to dinner.
Black and myself had managed to get a table together and had just commenced the meal when a Corporal of the Royal Rifles came to the door and, since our table was nearest the entrance, made for us to give us the disturbing news that some seventy Grenadiers had walked off the ship and were congregated on the dock-shed below. Not quite knowing what we might expect, we both came up topside and sure enough, there they were! With grave doubts as to our ability to do very much, we descended the gangplank and, after much persuasion, finally managed to convey the seriousness of their act and the possible repercussions if they did not at once reboard the ship. Having persuaded them to board, we found ourselves the centre of a pushing, growling mass of humanity in the Purser’s Well. Since the men were all new to us, we could do little but argue and for half an hour we did just that. Some of the men were particularly ugly and were most derisive when we suggested complaints should be made through the proper channels. This they claimed had been their method for two years with the Winnipeg Grenadiers and it always got them nowhere. Evidently we weren’t making much progress so I made my way down below to bring up one of the seniors to handle things. Meeting a Major on the stairs, I told him the situation and was surprised when he received my story with a shrug and a laugh, then started for his cabin. Being more or less crossed up on that point I again made my way upstairs. Here we again became embroiled in more argument, which finally subsided when the men set a deadline of nine o’clock by which to attend to their grievances. Someone of the ship’s crew at this stage had sense enough to have the gangplank hauled up, which resulted in considerable jostling and shoving. Shortly after, the Colonel hove into sight and gave the men a talking to, then ordered the square cleared. Black and I, with the help of a couple of NCO’s, saw to this then made another try at our dinner. I neglected to mention that, in addition to the packed quarters, the men had been served a most unwholesome meal of mutton – which had proved to be the last straw.
Immediately after dinner, we were told there was to be a meeting of officers which we must attend. Gathered in the library, my first “official meeting” with my new seniors was to leave a rather bad taste in my mouth. The Colonel laid down the law to us and made the statement that the junior officers would be held responsible for any further re-occurrences of the evening’s business. During the course of his remarks he also stated that the evening’s trouble had been started by the new men who had joined at Winnipeg and Regina – a statement that rather provoked Black and myself, since we ourselves were newcomers and had certainly seen no newcomers in the evening’s trouble. After our chastening lecture, we were told to mingle with and reason with the men, who had in the meantime gone to the upper decks where they milled about in small groups, talking and arguing. Our mingling with the men, we found, bore no fruits at all since they were unanimous almost in that the officers would not help them in any way, judging from past experiences in Jamaica. This didn’t seem the best way in the world to spend the first evening of a Pacific cruise, so we were glad indeed when we saw the ropes cast off preparatory to sailing. This then was to be our first contact with the fellow officers and men of our new regiment and there crept into our minds a shadow of doubt as to the wisdom of our transfer from a regiment like the South Saskatchewan to one in such hands as this.
The journey, for the next week, was from a travelling point of view, perfect. The weather and seas were in complete sympathy with our crowd of landlubbers and though we had a few on sick list, the majority came through unscathed. After a week’s sailing, we were all quite joyous when, on the morning of November 2nd, land was sighted and soon we could make out the rugged outline of Hawaii. It was quite a thrill coming into this famous isle and, with perfect weather, it seemed even more picturesque than the travel folders boasted. Berthing in the harbour, we were somewhat disappointed to learn that our sightseeing would be done on board, but having been able to view the beaches and famous hotels, plus a troupe of Hawaiian girls, who performed on the dock for us, we were satisfied that we had at least seen some of the things for which the island is famous.
En Route Via Pacific
Saturday, November 1, 1941
Howdy Mrs. C.
Have a few minutes before eating so thought I’d pen a line or two. Actually I started one a few days ago but it seemed such a poor effort, I tore it up. Our voyage up to the present has been blessed by good weather and good sailing and comparatively few of the boys are suffering to any extent. The first day out we were fortunate enough to see a whale a few yards off and today numerous flying fish are in evidence, otherwise the trip has been quite uneventful.
Contrary to our expectations we have been quite busy since the beginning of the voyage. Our Brigadier was formerly Officer in charge of training for Canada so we’ve been trying to keep up a pretty fair system of training, something that is no easy job due to the lack of space on board, anyway yours truly has to dig in and give the odd lecture, much to his disgust.
We have our first port of call coming up in the morning for the taking on of fresh water, supplies, etc. but we won’t be allowed ashore so will have to do our sight-seeing from the ship. The weather has quite definitely gone tropical on us, much to our discomfort as we’re still in battle dress. A lot of our men have not been issued shorts as yet so we don’t change until they do.
There is still no official inkling of where we are going and the rumours fly as thick as ever.
I understand though that we have another twenty days to go so you can have your guess as well. While I think of it, I understand Buckinghams are fairly cheap $2 or $2.50 per thousand through the tobacco companies etc. for export so if you could send the odd bundle they’d be much appreciated as I can’t get Bucks, only Winchester.
Well, we’ve arrived at our port for the taking on of supplies. Unfortunately, military regulations don’t permit names but I can assure you it’s quite a picture. It’s my first visit to a tropical country, and believe me they’re not exaggerating the loveliness. This particular island apparently is not as humid as most and it would be an ideal spot to live I should imagine. We’re hoping they take on a supply of pineapples etc. as everyone seems to have a craving for fresh fruit. Saw a few sharks playing around the stern of the ship as we came in this morning – nice creatures – While I think of it, would you send my camera to me? Also some films – Hazel borrowed it when she went to Swift Current.
Well, this isn’t much of a letter but it’s hard writing so I’ll sign off until the next stop. I certainly miss the family and imagine it will be even worse when we arrive. However, these things must be. Save your money and we’ll come down here after for a trip.
Love to you all,
En Route - November 2, 1941
Well, the boat is still hanging around Honolulu and there’s not much doing so I’ll pen a few more lines and post it when I arrive at the destination. That being the case I guess I can divulge a few facts about our ship, etc. To begin with our boat is the “Awatea” a United Steamship Line ship from the Australian trade. She’s really a honey – on the small side as compared to the “Empress” but really a lovely boat. She’s comparatively new and quite modern being finished in Australian maple throughout (I figured) including furniture etc. All in all a lovely job and wonderfully smooth riding as well.
Our arrival in port was quite the thing. Strangely enough the old island is everything the shows, pictures and books make it out to be and more, that is from what we can tell from the boat. On our way in we passed Waikiki beach and its two famous hotels and the beach and surf looked terribly inviting, in fact there were a dozen or so surf-board riding as we passed.
As we came into harbor a few natives swam out to the ship but were promptly shooed away by the U.S. Coast Guard men. – May I break in here --? I’m copying this from a letter I had written on heavier paper to try and chisel a little on the money. As you may have guessed by my worse than usually handwriting – I’m a bit “high”. I borrowed a saxophone and went out on the officers’ deck for a sing-song – but (and I won’t censor this in the morning) for some reason or other it seems that I must declare my love for you. Tonight seemed to bring me back to the old days of my criticizing of your playing – (who am I?) and it occurred to me how much I’m really missing you. Stupid! – yes – but that’s how it is. I haven’t realized what it is that’s been eating into me and causing a somewhat bewildered outlook on everything – it’s you – of course – we always did get along better apart. However, if it would perhaps give you a lift, or if it didn’t, for that matter, I’d like to say that I miss you terribly – it’s not that any threat of impending danger makes me this way – but just the intense longing for you. I hope you believe this passage – “high” or not it seemed most essential that I tell you how I felt, even in this moment of so called weakness – forgive me please but I just can’t help loving the girl I married in spite of her little differences – will you remember that? In a moment of weakness give me a 50-50 break anyway will you? I’ve just read the latter part over and I’m not particularly pleased, but as I said – no censorship – not that I disagree – on the contrary it was a very stupid attempt or a description of my love for you – however – you know me perhaps better than I do myself, and I think you’ll realize, in spite of the complete lack of grammatical sense, that I’m in a sense letting down my hair – I am - and if I don’t ever do it again don’t be misled – I’m not that “high” – so on with the letter.
Assuming I’m my normal self will resume again as per previous letter.
The next leg of our voyage takes us to Manila, approximately 5000 miles from Honolulu. The best I can say is I have had my share of travel since joining the army. I just heard yelling and cheering from the troops and went to investigate. Found a troop of Hawaiian girls (15) putting on a little show on the dock – quite good too.
I managed to stay out in the sun last Sunday to develop a bit of sunstroke and repaired to my bed for the remainder of the day – I most certainly will watch that in future. Black and I have had our hair cut to the regular army style – ½ inch in front etc. – you should see us.
Nov. 3 – (I’m still quoting the previous letter.)
Well darling, went to Mass this a.m. and said a nice long prayer for a happy reunion in the near future. As I mentioned earlier, I certainly miss the family and I’m relying on you to inculcate in the girls that “something” which they should have that I haven’t been able to get across, regarding the “old man”. I don’t think, actually, that you’ll have a tough time adjusting yourself providing you are willing to let your own personal wants etc., go by the board and concentrate on your family – anyway – and I’m trying to be honest, it will be the best again – if you should – at any time feel like weakening, for God’s sake let me know at once. I can take it – I think – if you were to tell me, but it would break me if you didn’t and things turned out to the contrary – please don’t forget that will you? You may have a right to a second choice but don’t above anything – be deceitful about it. I think I’d better sign off as it’s past 2 a.m. but while I’m still this way once again may I express, or try to, my great love for you. Actually magnitude of that love overwhelms me so believe me please – I’ll be “old Butch” again tomorrow.
Well – it’s the old man again. As you can see, I must have been “high”, however, as I said, no censorship – that’s how she stands. A good deal of incoherency perhaps but you get the general idea, I hope. As I mentioned before I’m re-copying my letter so I’ll get at it again. I might mention that I just came from the show – “Irene” – which I enjoyed. Saw “Swiss Family Robinson” and “Irene and Vernon Castle” previously and the latter was fair. Aside from that we have very little to do on board in the way of social activities. It’s really too hot to do anything anyway. We’re running close to the equator they tell me and I quite believe them. However, it’s all been quite wonderful on board, the sea is quite smooth and the weather grand.
To get on with my letter-
Sailing from Honolulu was one of the most thrilling pictures I’ve ever seen. We cast off just after sundown and by the time we were out the lights of towns were twinkling all over the hill on which the city lies. At the base of a huge hill or mountain which runs for miles along the island with numberless small villages or suburbs of the city clustered across the slope which is quite gradual. As if to make the picture even more beautiful, a full moon pushed itself over the mountains behind Waikiki and then as we turned westward, it was directly to our stern and gave the impression that a huge carpet of silver, like the train of a wedding dress, was being laid out behind us as we moved off. Actually, it was very touching and a picture I’ll never forget. It would have been perfect had I had you with me to enjoy it. I made up my mind right then and there that someday I’m going to do just that – i.e. have you and the family see with me that wonderful picture. There’s a point for you to work on – start saving your money for a Pacific cruise, if this trip could be duplicated it would certainly be worth it.
Nov. 4 -
Nothing of much importance enters this chapter except the revealment of our destination. It is to be Hong Kong. The set-up appears to be OK but it will depend entirely on the Japanese Diet, which takes place on the day after our arrival, (no connection) and at which meeting the Jap foreign policy will be announced.
Nov. 10 –
Today’s news seems to indicate that we might be stepping right into it. We’ll only be 90 miles from Canton which is in possession of the Japs so will be close to a half-baked war anyway. Don’t know much about the place except that the capital, Victoria, is on the island (population 380,000) and that we hit there at the beginning of the winter or dry season, temperature average 40 to 70 degrees F. from November to February. Then starts the wet season (85 in. of rain per year) temperature 80 – 95 degrees F., humidity 95 so – you can see we’re in for a hot damp time.
Passed my thirtieth milestone quite uneventfully by being Orderly officer and didn’t have a drink to celebrate – best procurable Scotch at $1.85 for 26 oz. too.
Well, my previous epistle ends there and there’s not much I can add except that we’re due in Manila in a day or so and I understand it’s only approximately two days to Hong Kong – Guess I’ll sign off for a day or so and I’ll add to it at Manila if I’m able – I’m anti-aircraft officer for the next 48 hours so expect I’ll be kept busy. – so goodnight “Butch”.
The next leg of our voyage to Manila lasted twelve days and from the standpoint of physical comfort, was the most exhausting of the journey. With our only exercise amounting to a confined pacing of decks, although we did endeavor to carry out training, a point made ridiculous by lack of weapons, space, etc., we found the life aboard becoming terribly boring. We were also a fair distance south so that the heat, at times, was rather a problem, particularly at dinner when we were forced to wear full dress- i.e. tunic longs etc. This proved particularly offensive as far as I was concerned as I had no k.d.’s. The only deviation from routine on this stage of the journey was a bit of practice with the four-inch and a.a. guns on board, and two burials at sea. We were not at all sorry then, when we sighted the first island of the Philippines late one afternoon and actually berthed at Manila the following morning.
Our stay in Manila was only a matter of fourteen hours or so and proved entirely uneventful. It was something of a relief, on sailing, to realize we would soon be at our destination, which had now been revealed as Hong Kong. Early in the morning of November 16th, after twenty days on board ship, we finally threaded our way through the channels to Hong Kong, having accomplished quite as much travelling as anyone could be expected to enjoy in one serving.
Our first glimpse of Hong Kong was, I believe to most of us, something of a surprise. It’s rather difficult to say just what we imagined we would find here, but I think to most the very name suggested something of the mysterious East. It was almost annoying to find a very modern, bustling port and city awaiting us, although the junks and sampans did manage to impart some degree of orientalism. Four planes of the RAF turned out to give us a welcome and gave us the odd thrill, as we came into the harbour, with their close circling of the ship and low flying, particularly as the planes were obviously on the ancient side. We were to find out later, with a different kind of thrill, that this was “The Hong Kong Air Fleet”.
Our ship tied up at the dock on the Kowloon, or mainland side, as docks on the island were not capable of handling anything the Awatea’s size. After some delay, we were finally disembarked, forming up on a football field opposite the Peninsula Hotel, for our march to the camp. Starting from this point, we “marched past” the G.O.C. in what was probably the most horrible exhibition of marching the colony had witnessed in years. We were fortunate (?) in being honoured by the accompaniment of a Scots band and, inasmuch as there’s considerable difference in tempo between their marching and ours, the resulting efforts were bloody. The march to our barracks, about four miles distant, gave us our first view of our neighbours, the Chinese, the most noticeable trait of whom, we found out very shortly, to be the smells. I’m quite sure there are no adjectives descriptive enough to properly define the smells of China, but, when one considers the plumbing system, which is out the nearest door or window, and the type of food they cook, plus the numbers they have living together, well, it just isn’t any wonder. Another feature noted was the noise. Everyone talks at once, making use of a half-shout, and all talk all the time. Our march, after much craning of necks in the initial stage, began to assume the proportions of work, as we were loaded with equipment and very much out of shape after the long voyage. So we welcomed, at last, Sham Shui Po, our new home.
November 17, 1941
A few minutes to compose a word-picture for you of some of my first impressions of the new (to me) and interesting land.
Interruptions may occur at any moment – so it may be somewhat disjointed but here goes anyway.
The trip over was pleasant – and uneventful. Our stop at Honolulu all too short – and we had but a glimpse and the men not even that – out of bounds for them, to their great disgust. But the little we saw was most attractive. A glorious day brought forth all its colour and charm and one was loath to leave.
I sent back some mail from there which I hope will reach you shortly, if it hasn’t already done so. Speaking of mail, I hope that some will have been given wings and will reach here before too long. Mail can be, and is, of the greatest importance particularly as the distance from home increases. But – I digress.
First impressions – Noise – the Chinese the noisiest people. The streets were full of gibbering natives as we passed…we couldn’t even hear our own band half the time – they were just talking among themselves – not cheering or taking any particular notice of our crowd.
All the troops were confined to barracks for 48 hours from the time we landed, after which each man satisfied his curiosity by making a personal reconnaissance of the island. The camp is ideal – all one-storey concrete huts for the men and open-air thatched roofs for dining halls. The junior officers are quartered in makeshift four-story barracks, each with a room to himself.
It didn’t take long for the men to get used to the Hong Kong or Mexican dollar which is equivalent to 28 cents Canadian currency. We all went sight-seeing at the earliest opportunity. The poorer districts of the city were a dismal sight. Imagine streets 20 ft. wide so crammed with humanity as to make the midway on Fair Day seem deserted by comparison…with a large majority of these people in wooden sandals and everybody gibbering excitedly in afternoon tea fashion. I went then to the better-class Chinese districts and found some of the story-book China. The better class is a group that looks freshly laundered and scrubbed.
While touring the island with Tom Blackwood, we saw an unusual sight. A large Chinese funeral. The procession included four bands, numerous banners, flowers, empty chairs for the ancestors and paid mourners. The graveyard was near the top of an almost perpendicular hill.
We attended a Hong Kong dance hall one night, a swank little place where no liquor is sold but where a stiff fee entitles you to a soft drink and an easy chair. At one dollar Mexican money you get three dances and have a choice of about 40 Chinese girls. These girls are as a group undoubtedly the best dancers I’ve ever seen…but they can’t speak English and as soon as the dance is finished they drop you plumb in the middle of the floor.
Another side of the general picture are the refugees from the mainland – thousands of these homeless people sleep on the sidewalks or in doorways, some with a blanket or coat over them, others without any protection whatsoever.
How they eat is really tragic. Actually they descend lower than the beggar class and are nothing more than scavengers. We were told by members of our ship’s crew that we would see no seagulls here because the scavenging was done by humans and of course we naturally didn’t believe it, but, so help me, I think it is true. When the ship stopped, sampans came close and spread nets to catch the garbage and refuse and strain out any particles that might pass for food. How they manage to maintain life on such meager rations, and without shelter into the bargain, is beyond my understanding. It’s not unusual to see a group of two or three or more children living, eating and sleeping in the street in all its filth, with the oldest not being more than eight or ten years old. How they survive I can’t imagine but they do and they have become so much a part of the native element that a person quite unconsciously steps over or around them as impersonally as one would the gutter.
This will have to do for the present – more later. Take care of yourself and keep the mail coming.
The barracks at Sham Shui Po we found to be clean and laid out in an orderly fashion, the men’s huts sleeping about 35 men per hut, and it had excellent drainage for the wet season. The camp was actually divided into two halves, one called Hankow Barracks, which was our allotment, and Nanking Barracks, used by the Royal Rifles. The junior officers of both regiments used a block of buildings, named Jubilee, which had formerly provided quarters for married officers, and we found to be very comfortable, two officers sharing three rooms.
Life once more settled down to the old army routine and since we had considerable time to make up in training time lost on board, for a few days we were kept quite busy. The life of a supernumerary officer has its advantages and compensations, as Black and I were to find out. Due to “E” Company, of which we were members, being disbanded and re-attached through the Battalion, Black and I found ourselves relieved of platoons and their attached duties – with the result that we were practically the only two officers able to get across to the Island to any extent – a situation of which we took full advantage.
A week or so after our arrival, the officers were conducted around the island by land and water to inspect the defences, etc. This trip had the effect of giving us a great deal of confidence in any likely action in the future and served, in the light of events yet to come, to mystify us even more of our miserable efforts to defend the island. A short time after our inspection tour we started the practice manning scheme as a preparatory measure to our future role as defenders of the colony. These schemes consisted of the placing of skeleton garrisons, usually a platoon, in positions later to be occupied by the company to which the platoons belonged, and it meant the possibility of familiarizing ourselves with the areas and defence works which would later be controlled by us. I was at this time attached to “D” Company and given a platoon to occupy Wong Nei Chong Gap. Brigade Headquarters was situated in our area and therefore part of our defensive job, so that our time was spent chiefly in the manning of P.B.’s and route marches around the adjacent areas, the latter proving particularly beneficial in the real show later on. The men were particularly enthusiastic as it meant getting away from the considerable over-government at barracks, and it was something of a disappointment to hear, on the morning of December 8th, that war had been declared and the rest of our Battalion would soon be joining us.
As for the war itself, I’ll not dwell on the details as I’ve already done so elsewhere, however, it must be said that in the majority of cases, we put on a fair show. Unfortunately, the men were hopelessly untrained and still more hopelessly led. I quite believe that, though ultimate results would have been the same, had we been under the guidance of better superiors, we would have put up a better show – although I believe we did as well, under our circumstances, as could be expected. It is not surprising therefore that a week after the enemy had landed on the island, we had surrendered.
Written in October, November, and December 1941
All of them were returned in January 1942 as undeliverable.
Winnipeg – October 27, 1941
Before now, I couldn’t make myself sit down and write – but decided I’d better get a hold of myself and keep my chin up. Everytime I think of you having gone, I feel all choked up inside, and I have to start all over again – to look ahead – the time seems so long. I guess I’ll just have to keep myself from thinking at all about it. Saturday as you can well imagine, was a terrible day. Evelyn took me to a show at night, which helped. Sunday, Bert took Grandma Hart, Paddy, Mrs. Bell and I to Mass at St. Ignatius, downtown to lunch afterwards and then to visit with Grandma Corrigan. So the day finally went – but it’s going to be the nights that are long. I can just hear you say “feeling sorry for yourself again”.
Today it’s cold, feels very much like winter. I’ll have to soon get home. I can see that. (More tomorrow).
Tuesday– Your letter came this morning and no need to say how glad I was to hear from you. I’m trying to take your advice, but it’s not easy to say and not so easy to do. One just can’t help thinking when one gets so many reminders in a day – especially with the kiddies.
I’m glad to see you’re enjoying the trip so far. If your destination is Singapore, you’ll have a long voyage ahead of you. This letter will probably sound silly to you by the time you get it, but I do hope you’ll never regret you went. If you’re going to be kept very busy you won’t have much time to think either. I still can’t really believe you have gone. I still feel you should be walking in, especially when the nites (nights) come.
I guess I’ll be going to Regina around the first. I haven’t since talked to your mother about the house, but she’s not very much in favour of it, so guess it can’t be done. It is a disappointment though. I heard from Olga Smith and she’s going to store my things in a spare room in their house until I come for them, so I imagine they’ll be all right. I feel that I just have to go back to Swift Current and find out for myself whether or not I’ll be content to stay there. But I know I’ll always feel I want to go back until I do. Mother wrote yesterday and said they’d try to find a house in Regina but I’m quite sure I’d never be satisfied to stay there.
Grandma Hart took your mother and I to see the Rangers and the Americans last night. The game ended in a tie. We enjoyed it, but I thought they could have put on a better exhibition. I get a kick out of Grandma. She really got “het up”. She said she wished Hubert would get out of it. It was too rough a game nowadays.
Well I guess if that’s news I’ve given all of it so far. I’ve been trying to stretch it into a letter worth mailing. The main idea is that I want to get a letter started on the way to you.
I want you to know that I miss you terribly and always will. I’m glad I’ve had the experience of loving someone so greatly. I don’t think all people have. And if my prayers are answered, you’ll come back safely to us. God bless you and keep you well.
All my love,
I’ll be sending some magazines as soon as the new issues come in.
Regina – November 3, 1941
Dearest Mr. C.,
As you can see, I’m in Regina. Shelagh and I came up early Sunday morning. Today being your birthday, I have thought of you even more than usual, wondering just where you were and how you were spending it – or if you remembered. How glad I’ll be when I hear from you, so I’ll know where you are going to be. I’m sure the trip will have been quite an experience.
I haven’t much news since I wrote last. I bought Paddy a new dark brown winter outfit before I left. There was about six inches of snow in Winnipeg and quite cold. When we got to Regina, there was no snow, but it started today so I imagine we’ll have winter now.
I went to Simpson’s and bought a new winter outfit for myself. Now all I have to do is pay for it. By the way, did you take your camera? I couldn’t find it in Winnipeg, unless Hazel took it by mistake. I intend to keep sending you some snaps. And, where ever you are, please try and send me back a photo of yourself, also snapshots.
We are going to soon send a Christmas parcel. Hope it gets to you. I guess I’ll be here until Christmas anyway and then find a place in Swift Current. I’m going to keep making you socks. Let me know when you have enough.
Please give my best regards to Blackie, Maze and Harper. I intend to look up Harper’s wife while I’m here.
Well, must close for now. I’m thinking of you constantly and I only hope you really meant all the things you said the last night we were together.
All my love,
Regina - November 11, 1941
Dearest Mr. C.
Here goes another letter. Seems so funny to be writing without a word from you. I think of you daily but what I do from day to day doesn’t merit a letter more than once a week. It’s so quiet here and this past week we’ve been out only once, and that was to a show.
I plan on going up to S.C. at the end of the month to try and find a place to live. I’m afraid I couldn’t be content here at all. I’ve been away from home too long. We don’t think the same. Mother and Flo have just come in from Armistice Day services. I hope another year sees you home. I’ve been feeling so blue and lonesome today. I have tried not to think, and let myself go, but there are so many things to keep reminding me.
Have been listening to the news. The British seem to be sinking a lot of enemy ships. Am eagerly awaiting the day they announce where the Canadian troops have landed.
Shelagh is outside playing. She found a playmate down the street and is having a grand time.
Well dearest, I really have no more news. I could go on endlessly about how much I miss you, but I think you understand. And please don’t change. It’ll be a grand day when I first hear from you. I hope it’s soon.
All my love,
Regina – November 16, 1941
My dearest Len,
Have just been listening to the news and they announced that Canadian troops had landed in Hong Kong, so I hope that means you. He said units from Toronto, Vancouver, and Winnipeg, so it must be. I have been thinking of you so much, wondering just when I’d hear, so it shouldn’t be long now. At least it’s some consolation to know approximately where you are. I had such a vivid dream of you last night. My first thoughts this morning were of you, so was glad to hear the news.
As usual, I haven’t much news of interest to you. There’s nothing to do at all here. It’s been snowing since last night and is quite wintery today. I bought Shelagh a snowsuit and she’s been having a grand time playing outside, with kiddies from down the street.
Yesterday I mailed you a Christmas parcel. I would have liked to have sent more, but knowing the extent of my finances just now, I think you’ll understand. I do hope you get it alright. I can’t imagine Christmas this year without you. I can’t remember when my Christmases haven’t been associated with you – but I guess it will pass and we’ll get through it. Hope next year you’re home.
Have just been listening to the news from London, and it gave me quite a thrill to hear again that the Canadian troops had landed in Hong Kong and were greatly cheered by the crowds of people.
In case my next letter is too late for Christmas, I wish you all the best of everything and I hope you spend Christmas having a good time. But please think of me, as I will of you – terribly lonely for you. God bless and please don’t forget the things you said that last night. I think of them often.
Regina – November 30, 1941
Dearest Mr. C.
Was quite thrilled and surprised to get your first letter – didn’t expect to get one so soon. I had been looking for a cable after the news of your arrival in Hong Kong, but hadn’t expected a letter for weeks yet.
I finally got in touch with Mrs. Harper. You can tell Blake I phoned her and she came to visit me today so we had quite a chat. Needless to say we had quite a lot in common, and I hope to see her again before I go home.
I’m certainly glad you seemed to enjoy your trip, although I can imagine you were glad to be on land again. I envy all the new experiences you must be having. My letters will be dull in comparison.
There’ve been quite a few write-ups in the paper since you landed, and I’ve read everything I could about you. All about your quarters, ceiling fans and Chinese servants – yes, and even about your Brigadier – Brigadier Lawson. It seemed funny to be getting that news before I heard from you at all.
We’ll be sending cigarettes very soon. As to your camera, I couldn’t find it at all when I left Winnipeg, so thought you’d taken it. Maybe Hazel has it yet. Will find out and send it when I do. I can imagine the scenery is lovely. It said the barracks was situated in a lovely setting between the foothills and the sea.
Well, Father is home from the Armouries and we’re going to have some lunch. He seemed to think he might be called up for Active Service anytime.
Well, darling, will close. Think of me often and I
hope to hear again soon.
Regards to your “bunch”
Regina – November 29, 1941
Dearest Mr. C.
Another letter to be added – I haven’t much to say – only the folks have all gone out tonight and I haven’t been able to keep my thoughts from you. I miss you so much. How I wish you were here tonight. I’d like your advice on so many things. Jack wired that he’s coming home and will be here Monday, so I’m going up to S.C. with them to see if I can find a place to live. I dread going up there alone but I’m not happy here, so I’ll have to try and make the best of it.
I had my fortune told with cards not long ago, and it really was uncanny the things the woman told me. She comes from Moose Jaw and does this sort of thing all the time. As soon as she started she told me that my husband wasn’t near me, and she said she could see you changing clothes to lighter ones as if you were in a warm climate. She also described you perfectly and said you were an officer, a Lieutenant. Then she went on to say you were very happy and liked it very much, so I hope that’s true. She also told me I had two daughters and she said I hadn’t had all my family yet. (She said) that I would have a fair son, born in another country and that she saw an ocean voyage for me within the next few years, so I’m going to save my pennies for this trip of mine. It really gave me a funny feeling though. It was just after the troops had landed in Hong Kong, and it was just as if she were reading my mind.
I listen carefully to all the news broadcasts. Today they mentioned the Canadians in Hong Kong were undergoing all kinds of defence manouvres, black-outs etc. Seems funny to get news of what you’re doing that way. Today in the Leader-Post there was a picture of soldiers embarking at Vancouver for Hong Kong. The faces are in shadow but I’m almost sure you were standing near the sign on the gangplank saying “Officers and Warrant Officers embark here”. Were you?
Will close now and write again soon. My thoughts are also always with you. Received cable this week.
All my love,
Regina – December 7, 1941
Dearest Mr. C.
I arrived home from Swift Current this afternoon to find that Japan had declared war. I hadn’t heard any news since last night so was quite shocked. (I) have been listening to all the news since and just heard a short time ago that Singapore and Hong Kong had been attacked. God bless you and keep you safe. I can think of nothing else. Hoping you are well and safe.
I can’t stand this idleness. I’m going to work for Christmas. I was house-hunting while up there and have the promise of a small house on 3rd West where Steve Marzek used to live, if you remember. I surely hope I can get it, so I can get settled again and have my family together. Four rooms and only $20.00 per month, so I might be able to save some money.
I had a nice visit while there – stayed with Eleanor – went to the dance last night with Bob, Vi, Reg and Edie – had quite a good time, but couldn’t help thinking of you, wishing you were there too. Can’t get used to having no one to fight and argue with I guess.
Am going to see if I can sell the car when I return. Someone wanted to buy or rent your saxophone, but I said no, positively not.
Well, dearest, will close for tonight. (I) am anxious to get another letter away to you. I hope your Guardian Angel is watching over you and keeping you safe from harm.
All my love,
Swift Current – December 11, 1941
My dearest Len,
To say I was thrilled to get your first airmail letter is putting it mildly. I was overwhelmed, what with getting it so much sooner that I ever dreamed – airmail hadn’t even entered my head – and when I read it, it was really more than I had ever hoped for. It certainly gave me the lift you hoped for. I felt happier and more light-hearted that I had for weeks. Except for the news of the war – hostilities – naturally I’ve been terribly worried, and have been following the news broadcasts very closely. If my prayers are answered God will watch over you. I’m trying to have faith. Somehow I feel you’ll come out all right. You’ve got to come back to us.
Irrespective of whether you were “high” or not when you as you said “let down your hair”, it was wonderful to hear it. In fact, it affected me so very deeply I couldn’t read the letter through my tears and had to stop and start over again. And later on, when I went to bed, I read and reread it about three times. However, you don’t really have to worry about me. Please have faith in me. When I married you I took my vows very seriously and I intend to keep them. I don’t ever intend to have moments of weakness. And if such did come up, I’m assured, my love for you is deep enough to put my personal feelings aside and wait until such time as we are together again. And may it be soon. There are times when I feel I can’t stand the waiting. I miss you so terribly. Please believe me, and I’m not “high”, you speak of something eating into you causing you to feel that way. I know exactly what you mean. I have it all the time, an unbearable ache, which if I let myself get down at all, brings forth my woman’s tears. First thing I know I’ll be feeling sorry for myself again.
Your letter was wonderfully descriptive. I really was surprised and pleased with your powers of description. It sounds like it would be a wonderful trip – to see Honolulu, and the Pacific. One hates to think of it being bombed and destroyed. I sincerely hope we’ll someday be able to enjoy the trip together. Your thoughts were grand anyway.
When I reread your letters mine sounded so pitiful in comparison. However, I haven’t the things to narrate that you have, nor the gift to narrate them.
I received your first letter in Regina on Tuesday. Today, when I came back to S.C., and found the second one here, I was certainly pleased to hear so soon again. I won’t attempt to answer it with this one. I’ll do that separately, but your description of Hong Kong was perfect. I was pleased at the detail you went into. I really felt I could picture it. I’ve been so anxious to hear news of your quarters, meals, etc. – also the social side. I hope you received my cable – only wished I’d sent it much sooner. I’m sending you my photograph (I hope it arrives in due course), whether you wanted one or not.
I’m staying with Eleanor and have Shelagh here also. Paddy I hope to bring home for Christmas. I‘m going to work at the office for about ten days. I still have my house promised so hope to get it soon. I wrote you about it some time ago. You didn’t mention having received my letters. I have written at least once and sometimes twice a week since you left. How I wish I’d had brains enough to send them airmail. I also sent 1000 Buckinghams which I hope you received.
In Regina, I accidentally saw Noreen Blackwood. Tell Tom she came over and we had quite a time comparing letters. I was so glad to have seen her – also phoned Mrs. Harper. She’s also terribly lonely.
Well, dearest one, I must end for tonight, I tried to write small and close to save paper. I will get airmail paper, so I can write more in my letters.
As I read this it doesn’t sound very satisfactory, but I can’t seem to express myself as I would like to. May I say, you are always in my thoughts, and I speak of you every day to Shelagh and will do so to Paddy when she comes home. They always liked you best and I won’t let them forget you.
All my love,
Yours only, Glad