Wednesday, May 25, 2016

World War Wednesdays: Dear Mrs. Duncanson, Part Two: The End of WWII

     This week marks the final installment of the Letters Home to Dutton during WWII courtesy of the Canadian Letters and Images Project, as published over the past few months. As always, please feel free to share any memories you have of the people mentioned in the post-- I'm always looking to add to the stories!

July 11, 1944
Dear Mrs. Duncanson:
I am once again writing a few lines to inform you of the arrival here of the parcel sent by the Institute. It has come at a highly opportune time because I have lately been thinking that it would be nice to get something from Canada. As you notice from my address I am spending another short time in hospital, much to my dislike, because I had been looking ahead to big things. Since I am practically fit enough to be going again, that opportunity may still be at hand. I haven't met up with many Dutton fellows lately. I hope to see some of them soon. I seem to have difficulty in obtaining sufficient letter materials so thanking you and the Institute for your very good work, I will conclude for now,
Sincerely, Elgin Sutton
July 27, 1944
Much French Mud
Following is a letter from Lieut. Dorothy Godfrey, formerly of Crinan, now a nursing sister on the Western front. It describes the conditions under which these girls work:
Hearing about the mud over here doesn't sound too bad, but actually when a person has to drag one foot after the other it becomes rather a tiresome job. It rains every day here and that's one thing we definitely know for sure. This country is even worse than England for rain, so se just ignore it.
Have been to the cemetery near Dieppe for the Canadians who were killed in '40, and it's really going to be lovely for its well kept now. Have several pictures of it taken at different angles.
We were the rubber boots everywhere we go even hitch-hiking on our day off and think nothing of trapsing 150 miles or more for we usually get rides easily.
Haven't had to bad a time, but it gets very monotonous and discouraging at times to say the least its nothing new to be low in spirit for three or four days at a time. Mail is rather grim at times to say the least. Well if you want to know what is the best to come over - fruit juices, soups, canned meat or fish, cheese for we certainly aren't fussy over here. One thing surprised us was white bread and it sure seems grand to get back to it.

 July 27, 1944
Dear Mrs. Duncanson:
Received your lovely and welcome parcel on the 1st of July. Thanks a million. Was talking to Alex. Scott; he received his the same day. Also Earl Halpin. There are not many of the Dutton boys together any more. But all are fine, as far as I know. Things sure are looking up over here. We hope to be home in the next year. Thanks again for the parcel.
E. S. Killins.

October 12, 1944
Dear Mrs. Duncanson: This is my third letter to your enterprising ladies, and I hope if really indicates how much your parcels are appreciated. My parcels all seem to arrive in groups of three, so that I often have a hard time deciding which one to open first. Actually it's sort of silly when you can read what's in them on the label, but fun anyway. What I intended to say originally was that your parcels to me are almost (she may read this, so have to safeguard myself) on a par with those sent by my wife. You may consider that an extreme compliment, if slightly left-handed. Nevertheless, the boys in the front line do really appreciate the little treats and it bolsters up a fellow's morale just go get a parcel of any kind. I expect you are as disappointed as the rest of us, that the war is not over yet, however, it is merely a matter of time. There's no point in telling you what were are doing here - the newspapers are doing that. The people and homes in Belgium are something to see. The homes are the cleanest I ever want to see. They shine and sparkle. Also they are extremely modern and up-to-date. The people of course vary from one area to another, but most of them, if you are billeted near by, will give you their doorstep and pump handle. The supply of pears, apples, tomatoes, eggs and the largest grapes I've ever seen, continues good. Well, must be off again and the word thanks doesn't even scratch the surface. Very best regards to you all and the very fullest of thanks.
Al Burslem
P.S. - That honey was a knockout.

June 23, 1944
Dear Mrs. Duncanson:
Just a few lines to let you know that I received your parcel and was certainly glad to get it, and many thanks for it. Everything is going fine over here now. I am in the best of health once more and hope these few lines find you the same. I met an old chum, Harry Jones, over here, and we certainly had a swell visit together. He is in the best of health after a spell in the hospital. Haven't seen Lou Burns for some time. Once again wishing to thank you and the ladies of the Institute very much for the parcel. As ever.
Harold Hoffman

February 1, 1945
Flt. Lieut. A. Graham Writes From Italy
What the men who have been serving overseas for some time have been thinking about the reinforcement question and demobilization plans is indicated in the following letters from Flt. Lieut. Alex Graham, son of Mr. And Mrs. J. D. Graham, of Iona Station, now in Britain after serving in Italy. They also describe points of interest he has visited.
November 23, 1944
Dear Dad, Mum, and boys:
I am up in Italy now. I had hoped for a U.K. posting and then I have visions of getting home for a short while before going to the Far East, but nothing like that could ever come my way. As it was there were only two of us who come up here. Everyone else went back to the U.K. I suppose I can't hope to spend all my life in hot climates, but they might have let me down a little more easily, don't you think? I seem to be minding the cold pretty badly. I think it's possibly just because I'm not used to it, and I had better hurry up and get used to it, or it won't be necessary.
I have had a jaunt around Naples, and wasn't particularly impressed. I am afraid I can't quite see how the expression "see Naples and die," was born. Still, one must remember that the country has been undergoing a war for the last few years, and that the city itself was actually in enemy hands and had to be wrested from them. Since my look around the place. I have been told that I didn't see the center of the city, so I may try it again some day soon. There seems to be scarcely nothing in the shops, except shoes, and these are very very costly[...]
When we were in S.A. we used to laugh very loudly about the situation down there. They had their so-called "famous" 6th Armoured Division situated up at Cairo "in training" and howling for recruits to get its strength up and the recruits just weren't coming in, that was all. And what is more, they never will! And now I suddenly discover that things are the same way at home for the overseas army. Just what the hell is the matter with everything anyway? I was talking to some chaps before I left Cairo, who were saying that they R.C.A.F. is discharging a lot of men because they don't need them. What happens to them? Instead of discharging them, they should just transfer them to the army, the same as they did in England. These chaps were telling me that the boys who were discharged were rather upset about the whole thing. Apparently by joining the air force they thought they were in on a good thing. As any sane person would figure, by the time they had finished their training there would be nothing else doing in the war line, so they would just go back into civies having had a darn good time and worn a uniform and learned to fly at the expense of someone else. It seems they were quite put out when it didn't come off for some of them.
What is the general opinion of the plans for demobilization? I don't know a great deal about it except that every man is going to be a millionaire and be given a home and a cushy job. Somehow, or other, that doesn't sound right to me, but then I'm not genned up on these things. I'll know more about it when I get time to study it. I also got a pamphlet on the Veteran's Land Act. What is your opinion on that?
Bye now, and Merry Christmas to you all. Loads of Love.
     Once again, I'd like to thank you all for your continued interest in these posts and the amazing reception they have received. If they were half as enjoyable to read as they were to compile, it's been a great couple of months for all of us. Stay tuned for more local wartime posts!
     All photos in this edition plus the original captions come from the Dutton Women's Institute Tweedsmuir History.
     Thanks for reading,
Delany (@DLeitchHistory on Twitter)

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