Hugh S. Calverley - A Man at War...
We are waiting...
Letter – We are waiting – October 16, 1914

Canadian Overseas Exped. Force, Toronto Contingent Tunisian

Dear Mum

We are waiting in Plymouth Harbour to be unloaded. The whole 33,000 are in the harbour. I enclose a list of the boats. I got your lovely cap and will thank Aggie for making it. We have been on board for three weeks, and will not get off for a day or so yet. We stayed in Gaspe Bay for a week, and in the St Lawrence for several days. You should have heard the curses, the grunts from dawn till dark. The Government put us on short rations, perhaps intentionally. The orderly officer hardly dared come down to the dining room. Each man had a kick.

The 13TH the Luthenians got loose in Quebec and brought cases and cases of booze. All broke all alarms. When they did not like the ham they threw it overboard, out went the cups, coffee, and over went chairs, mattresses, everything! They had an armed guard on them, ball ammunition, and the officers swore then in again. The stewards were scared stiff. Tugs full of people came along side and the whole gang hooted. They have seen hardly any skirts for months, not near enough to talk to.

Officers were trying to make it out and they told them to bring something to eat on board. We got butter today, Devon butter and very good, (but limited), butter it was. They are a lot of hogs at our table and grab everything. One lad had a big thumb in his teacup so that no one else could get near it. He was stung, because he could get no tea into it. The bread is good. Better than Valcartier. As long as there is bread and water, I don’t give a rip. People would sell their souls or anything handy for booze or extra eats. What they will do when they get loose, I don’t know. The Seaforth Highlanders got out and they called out the police, the Guards, the marines in Plymouth. and they ought to be able to handle rough houses by now. There is a nice boy called Otto.

We are painted grey all over like a cruiser. We are in the steerage and had battle over the “tish” with potatoes, till the guard stopped us. Good practice for the real thing. A potato is as hard as a bullet. We have been on the bridge in four on, eight hour off, shifts, three on all the time. We got messages from the “Talbot” and the “Tyrolia” and the “Laurentia”. I have two more spools for you. They go to T. Eaton. Hang on to the pics for the present, but tell me how they come out.

This boat rolled horrid in the heavy oily swell and she has not much cargo in her. We do drill with our equipment on round the deck, also semaphore. I was given a section to teach one morning and it gave me a bad scare, but it went off pretty well. I am attached till shifted, to No. 2 Coy. They are a good bunch of men and I hope they don’t shift anymore. I have all my equipment except a vest and sponge. There are four dogs on boards, mostly mongrels, and three cats. The owners spend most of their time looking for their treasures. You meet them asking for white cats all day. The Queen Mary, the big new super Dreadnought brought us in. A huge thing with several 13 inch guns on her. I will send postcards to the family when I get some. Thank Am for looking after the photos.

Your loving Hugh.

Map of Camp in pencil
Map of Camp in pencil Details
WWI Scrapbook - Hugh Salvin Calverley
WWI Scrapbook - Hugh Salvin Calverley Details
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