“The Hun requisitioned everything…even knobs off doors and windows.”
Belgium, Nov. 27, 1918
It’s quite awhile since I’ve had a chance to write…and although I have a spare half hour tonight with the prospect of getting some mail away tomorrow, I am in anything but a writing mood, so if this is a dry one you’ll have to make allowances…
Since the armistice was signed we have been on the march almost daily, heading for Germany…and when we reach our destination each night we are ready for bed without any preliminaries.
I’ve been feeling pretty tough the past couple of days… I have a pretty good dose of the grip and marching all day in the rain hasn’t improved it. Guess I’ll be alright in a day or so if I don’t get a touch of the “flu” to finish me off.
I notice the “flu” has a pretty good grip on Canada just now and the death rate is really alarming. I caught a glimpse of an Intel. today (received by one of the boys) and there was nearly half a page of death notices in B. alone and I understand the larger cities are suffering in comparison. We had an epidemic of it here among the troops last spring, but it didn’t seem to be in as serious a form as you have it, for there were comparatively few deaths. Whether the rugged mode of living here accounts for that or not I don’t know… I trust they have this sickness under control… There’s been enough lives lost over here without going to Canada for victims. As you will note by the heading, I am once more in Belgium.
…We get a great reception everywhere we go and the people can’t do enough for us. As a rule we billet in private houses—and the best the house can afford is ours. Unfortunately, in the majority of cases they haven’t very much to offer for the Hun has requisitioned everything he could lay his hands on, all foodstuffs, grain, clothing, brass, even the knobs off doors and windows.
I presume you read the account of how the Canadians took Mons just a few hours before the armistice went into effect. It is a rare coincident that the war should end (for the British) at nearly the same spot that it started, and it is an outstanding honour to the Canadians that they were the ones to free Mons. I had the privilege of looking the place over thoroughly and it is a fine city. I sent a few cards to Nell with illustrations of some of the principal places and hope to have the privilege of telling you all about it before a great while.
I am writing this in another big town called Namur. We just came in this afternoon and I’ve been feeling too tough to go out and explore the place.
No doubt by the time you receive this Christmas will be almost upon you. I promised last year to be home for this Christmas.
…It would have been a fine Christmas box to have landed there about a week or so before Christmas, but that’s impossible now. However, guess I’ll be safe in predicting I’ll be home for the next one. …I feel confident I shall get home with a whole skin yet, a statement I wouldn’t have cared to make a month ago.
I can’t remember if I wrote you since I was on leave. Have just been back about a month… The only event to mar the holiday was that we had to come back to France…When we first came over everything was new to us and we were quite anxious to get here…but now we know only too well what France is like. Of course we couldn’t foresee the turn events were about to take, the signing of the armistice, etc., and since that happened I’m rather glad we were here for the windup.
The next question is—when will we get home? I don’t figure we’ll be there before May or June at the earliest but of course one can never tell…
I’m enclosing a little Christmas souvenir for you. Not very much but it’s almost impossible to buy anything at all here. It costs a dollar for a little cake of soap that you’d kick at paying ten cents for and everything is correspondingly dear.
Hope you like the souvenir. The old “21” means quite a lot to me and it has a record second to none.
Well Sliver, must cut this off here. I trust you missed the epidemic and are behaving yourself. I’ll have a big “highball” for you at Christmas in Germany.
Yours as ever, Garn xxx
Selection from the letter collection of Sergeant Dobbs, to his sister Millie and his brother Walter
George Metcalf Archival Collection
© Canadian War Museum