The History of Leith

April 1, 2012

Letter from the Front-1917

DEAR SIR—Just a few lines to let you know that I am
in the best of health, hoping to find you all the same.
I must thank you very much for the box which you
:sent me. It was very good, and the socks came in very
handy. We have’a bit of good weather this little while
back, but we have had some dirty weather. W. W.
About a year ago I received a parcel from the Church
Party with a card inside from you wishing me the best
of luck, and asking me to acquaint you of my address,
should I be lucky enough to proceed Overseas. 1 am
glad to say that I have been selected to go to Mesopotamia
and do my little bit along with the rest of the
boys there. We left Devonport on Tuesday the 31st
October and had it very rough during the first week,
resulting as usual with the majority of the boys “going
sick.” Fortunately, somehow or other, I managed to
escape the torments of. that complaint and could do
nothing but watch the sufferings of the remainder.
Good weather favoured us after that and some happy
times were spent on board the S.S. . One
memorable Saturday—llth November to be correct—
Father Neptune and Court paid us a visit, and a very
lively afternoon was spent. After payiiig his respects
to the Captain -of the ship, he was drawn in his
“chariot *’ (two boxes on wheels) to the After Promenade
Deck and “shaved ” some raw recruits. His razor was
about 18 inches long and about 4 inches broad, scissors
were the same length, and his shaving brush was a mop
ditrpjd in whiting. After being shaved, the recruit was
politely pushed over the back of,the chair into “a canvas
bath of sea-water. Some intelligent fellow attached a- –
length of hose to a pipe and turned on the water, when
Father Neptune came in for a lively time of it. Every
one joined in the scrum, with the officers as well, and to
finish up, we all needed a change of clothing and a good
rub down. Sports were indulged in, including boxing,
wrestling, tug-of-war (in bare feet), swinging the monkey,
potato race, etc. We were lucky enough to win the
wrestling and tug-of-war, but the prize money was
nothing to speak of. Taking the voyage as a whole, it
has been uneventful, but interesting in some ways,
as we passed through schools of porpoises, which were
very playful, flying fish, and about a dozen sharks. On
the 21st November we reached Cape Town, and a very,
imposing sight it was from Table Bay, with the mountain
in the background. No time was put off there, as. we
left again at 4 in the afternoon, but having a good sendoff
from a transport of Australians lying alongside us.
. -Our next port of call was Durban, where we changed
ships and came on board our present ship, the Kinfcmns
Castle, of the Union Castle Line. We arrived and
left there on the 24th November for Dar-es-Salem in
German East Africa, where we reached and lauded about
250 Royal Engineer Com the 30th November. We have
altogether about 2000 troops on board of different regiments,
of which about half are going to India for
garrison duty and the other half are for Mesopotamia.
I may mention that the little Testament which was
enclosed in the parcel is still with me, being carried in
my pocket-book, so, by the time I return it will have
travelled a few thousand miles with me. Well, Mr.
and Mrs. Swan, I expect yonsvill be glad to see the end
of-this scrawl, seeing you will be, no doubt, up to the
eyes in work, but if possible, a few lines, when you have
a minute or two, will be much appreciated by me, as
news of the old town is very scarce. A. H.
Let me say I was glad to see (from the local Press)
y§u had dealt with the subject of Life after Death
recently, and, I am persuaded you struck the right note
in your address on “Britain’s Supreme Requirements.”
With reference to the former, in its relation to the vast
multitude who have fallen on the field of battle, one
never knows, as you pointed out, what transactions may
have taken place just before the end came. Apart from
that, the Bible is the only guide. One cannot speculate
in such matters. We can only say with one of old,
“‘Shall not the Judge of all the ear-th do right 1 ”
But for a special dinner, Christmas Day passed away
very quietly with us. We attended Church Parade in
the forenoon, when an address on similar lines to that
of his previous one was delivered by Major-General
Gwynne.
Yesterday I was privileged to attend both services.
The Chaplain who spoke at the forenoon service was at
one time a Prisoner of War in Germany. I do not know
his name. He had probably been released. Captain
Masters ‘addressed the soldiers in the evening. He
summed up his address by saying, ” If ‘we are to
understand the mysteries of the kingdom we must be
men of vision, and if men of vision we must recover the
spirit of prayer. And if we are to recover the spirit of
prayer we must not go to God for this or that particular
want, thereby limiting what God can give to us, but in
the spirit of the child who goes to its mother—’Thou
knowest what is best’ ; or in the spirit of St. Paul, who
said, ‘ Lord, what wilt thou have me to do 1’ And God
will say to us as He did to Paul, ‘Go into the city and
it shall be told thee,’ etc. ; ‘ go back to work,’ and He.
will help you to understand the mysteries of the kingdom,
and understand spiritual things, and make you one who
can work with Him and understand, as those early
disciples understood, the inmost recesses of the soul.”
The weather has been frosty for two or three days and
we had a little snow recently.
I hope I haven’t wearied you with this long scribble.
W. K. W..

source-South Leith Magazine-1917

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