Sunday, May 08, 2005

8 May 1915 - A weekend to relax

The men were given Saturday afternoon off, and for many no time was wasted in exploring their surroundings. Many men obtained passes and made their way into Folkestone to experience the local nightlife, while others preferred to relax in camp and write letters home to their loved ones. Robert Hale of the 6th Brigade Canadian Field Artillery (C.F.A.) had arrived at Shorncliffe a couple of months earlier, and was based at Moore Barracks in mid-March. In his letters home to his sweetheart Alice, he was quick to reassure her that he was one of the latter group:
We have just been here one week and today is the first fine day. Yesterday we were inspected by the Garrison General, all the Canadian soldiers. He was well pleased with the show. The Canadians are a much smarter looking crowd than the regular troops round here but that is because the best of the British troops have gone to the front and they have had to take smaller men to make up the regiments ... Some of the boys have gone on leave so I am going to put in a pass myself soon ... Today is Saturday and we were dismissed at 10 o'clock for the day so we have a good time when we come to consider it ... We are situated on the top of a hill overlooking the sea and the country round here is very pretty. Folkstone is a nice town but at night it is in total darkness. You cannot see a light so we don't go far in case we loose our way. Your watch is invaluable to me here. There are only three of us carrying them. Well dear, I don't think much of the so-called pretty girls round here. I would not give ten cents for a car load of them. Some of the boys go out every night and pick up girls. I don't know what they see in them round here. I have been to town twice since I came here.
...but in a later letter (25 June), he gave more details of their leisure activities:
We have just got back from church and it is a beautiful day. I think I will go over for Jock this afternoon and then we will go for a walk in the country. I went to a roller skating rink last Wednesday with Pat. It was a fancy dress night. Pat had a dress of some kind and you should have seen him. It would have been better if there had been more girls. I guess there were about ten soldiers to every one girl. Their rink here is on the pier. It is nice to sit on the pier at night and watch the sea. I wish you were here for a while. It would be just lovely wouldn't it dear?
On 1 July, another letter with more details:
Some of the Canadian bands are going to play in one of the parks in town tonight. I think I will go down and hear them.
The Henry Gordon Helm Collection, made available online by the Canadian Letters & Images Project, includes some interesting photographic views of Folkestone and surroundings produced in the form of two letter cards sent by Gordon Helm to his wife from Shorncliffe in August 1916. The first letter card shows a series of views of the tented camps on St Martin's Plains.

Letter Card posted by Gordon Helm to his wife from Shorncliffe, near Folkestone, England, in August 1916View 1 - Airships over tented camp at Shorncliffe
View 2 - Tented camp, including horse lines, near Shorncliffe
View 3 View 4 View 5 View 6 - Tented camp

... while the second includes half a dozen pictures of views in and around Folkestone.

Letter Card posted by Gordon Helm to his wife from Shorncliffe, near Folkestone, England, in August 1916View 7 - Folkestone Leas & Shelter, including pier mentioned by Robert Hale (above)
View 8 - Folkestone, Lower Sandgate Road, along which men may have walked to town, and including another view of the pier
View 9 - Folkestone Beach
View 10 - Folkestone Leas, Bandstand

The Henry Gordon Helm Collection, a collection of photographs & postcards publ. by the Canadian Letters & Images Project
The Robert Hale Collection, Correspondence, publ. by the Canadian Letters & Images Project


Blogger Borden MMG Battery said...

This Blog will be the first Blog to be added to the CEF Study Group's list of Recommended Great War Websites.

Very well done. A nice presentation of one Great War soldier's story.

Dwight Mercer

09 May, 2006 16:07  

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