“…on a still night we can hear the distant boom of guns from the front like a distant roll of thunder.”
Miss Millie Dobbs, Seaford Camp, July 1, 1917
25 Howland Ave, Toronto, Ont., Canada
I’m sitting on a biscuit box, the nearest I have come to sitting on a chair for an age, and am using my instrument case as a writing table so if you have unusual trouble reading this I hope you’ll make allowances.
We have all been watching for Canadian mail but without success. …It seems an age since we broke communication with Canada and I have been writing letters all of my spare time without a reply to any of them. There was a rumour here that the mail steamer had been sunk and we wouldn’t get any mail for another 2 or 3 weeks but I heard yesterday that a heavy Canadian mail had come in and I seriously hope it is true. What makes it worse is the fact that we are still in quarantine camp with a hedge of trees all around which we are not allowed to pass and we have very little to occupy our minds but work and even that grows monotonous in time.
There have been quite a number of cases of mumps and measles and every fresh case that is discovered prolongs our stay. However, we aren’t quite as badly off as we were at first. This canvas or quarantine camp is divided into two areas known as the north and south camps. Up until last Wednesday we have been in the south camp where the tents are old and like a sieve. Every time it rained we had to put on lifebelts and swim for the high spots. We had no casualties from drowning though.
About a week ago the north camp was vacated and on Wednesday we moved up from the lower half and are much more comfortable. These tents are practically all new and on our first night we had a terrific thunderstorm and soon learned that we were at last “high and dry.” The ground is much higher too and we are not troubled with mud.
I think I told you in my last letter that we were expecting to go to France almost any day as a band. There have been several applications in for us and I guess it’s only this quarantine that is keeping us here. Our papers and pay books have all been straightened up…and we have been inoculated again so we have been ready for about two weeks to leave at a moment’s notice. The inoculation has helped us considerably as we haven’t had a single case of sickness in the band while they have been taking them away from all around us, nor do we want any, for one case might spoil our chances and….that might mean our band would be broken up.
I had a letter from Bob Ford. …He had heard that our battalion and band had been broken up and he wrote to find out if I would like to come with their band. I was glad to be able to tell him that we are still “going strong,” but just the same I appreciated his thoughtfulness and his offer would have been very acceptable if we had been broken up.
We expect to get 6 days leave when it comes with free transportation, so I’ll have my pass made out to the farthest point and can use it or not, just as I please.
Last Saturday we took a chance and got out for a little walk. There is a big hill about a mile from here and the view from the top is supposed to be one of the finest in England. I wish I could describe it to you but I couldn’t find the words to do so adequately. It almost took my breath away. About 2 or 3 miles from us was another hill and between was a valley so far down that people walking down there looked like flies. Everything was beautiful and green, and the farms laid out so regularly, and a small river winding up the centre, and the harmony of color was beautiful. I shall never forget it. There are postcards of the river on sale here which give you an idea of the lay out. I would like to send you some of the views from around here but all such pictures and cards are strictly censored so I’m sure you wouldn’t get them.
We often see the dirigibles…great cucumber-shaped gas bags not unlike a zeppelin. They sail around without any noise or stand still way up in the clouds…almost like ghosts. At night you can see the searchlights playing from all directions—great shafts of light high up and piercing the clouds. We are in sight of the English Channel…and often see the cruisers and hear their guns and on a still night we can hear the distant boom of the guns from the front like a distant roll of thunder.
Write when you get a chance. Kind regards to Lil and have some yourself.
…Yours as ever, Garn xxxx
Selection from the letter collection of Sergeant Dobbs, to his sister Millie and his brother Walter
George Metcalf Archival Collection
© Canadian War Museum