From: Butler, Kenneth
To: His Mother
Stonefarm Camp, Shorncliffe, Kent, England
You will see by this that I have reached camp. I wish I could tell you all the sights I have seen and their extreme beauty, especially since I have arrived in England.
We broke camp on the Common on Tuesday, (May 18th) and went into theArmouries, where we stayed till Thursday. Everything was in a bustle and there was lots of excitement when we saw that we were really going at last. We could hardly believe it when they first told us, but when we were told to turn in our blankets and parts of our equipment we thought that perhaps it might be true. Thursday morning there was a little note in the papers telling the way we would march to the boat. We did not leave the Armouries till after twelve o’clock, but long before nine the streets were black with people. We marched a mile and a half through the city and the streets were lined with people all the way. They were cheering and waving flags. We went on board the liner Saxonia about two o’clock, got our berths and had dinner. We sailed from the dock at six o’clock sharp. The docks on the water front were lined with people the whole way out of the harbor and there was a big crowd on Citadel Hill. Flags waved and whistles blew till we were out of sight. Friday morning we were on the Atlantic, out of sight of land. I expected to be seasick, but I was not a bit sick the whole way over. We had a little drill each day, but most of my time was spent with a magazine in my hand or leaning over the rail trying to catch sight of a vessel or anything else that had motion. For the most of the way we seemed to be alone on the water. We passed a couple of boats the second day out. When off Newfoundland we saw some icebergs. Everyday was about the same till we got near this coast and into the “war zone.” Then we had boat drill. All the boats were slung over the side so as to be ready for instant use. We saw nothing suspicious, though, and when we got within about a day’s sail from England, a couple of torpedo boat destroyers came out and escorted us in. One of the men from the boat told us that the captain said we were chased by a German submarine for more than two hours, when one of the destroyers chased it and it had to give up. If that is true, it was pretty close to us.
About three o’clock on Saturday morning (29th) we entered Plymouth Sound and we docked about six o’clock. I was up when we first sighted land and saw all the sights. I wish you could have seen what I saw. The scenery was most beautiful. We took train about twelve o’clock for camp. Did not get there till the same time that night. We passed through several large towns, and also through a part of London. We saw Windsor Castle from the car window. At every station along the line there was a crowd of people to welcome us. They certainly received us well over here. Coming into the harbor we passed some ships that were in the fleet that Nelson commanded at Trafalgar. They were crowded with sailors, who sure made some noise cheering.The day after we arrived (Sunday) I went in the afternoon to Folkestone. (I sent you some views of that place.) The English towns are pretty. Everywhere you go you will find flowers blooming. The back yards of mills and houses are perfect flower gardens. The streets are so clean and the fields are so level and green, with trimmed hedges all around them that one seems to be looking at a picture.
We have got down now to drill in earnest, but the weather is so hot that we almost roast during the day. We get up at 5.30 in the morning, go on parade at 6.30, stay till 7.30. After breakfast we fall in at nine o’clock and drill till 12.45. After dinner we fall in at two and drill till five. We do a little work, you see. We have route marching with full equipment every afternoon, and believe me, in this heat, it is hard work as any one could want. We have a very good camp here. It is clean and the huts (we have houses instead of canvas) are warm, light and clean, but the dust is something fierce.
I am well now and am enjoying myself fine. Have talked with a lot of fellows back from the front, wounded or choked up with that gas the Germans are using. We are only about five hours from the firing line and on fine days we can hear the big guns booming across the Channel. Remember me to all the young people and ask them to write as often as possible. Tell them I will write whenever I get a chance.
Address: 67715 Pte, J. K. Butler, B. Company, 25th Battalion, East Sandling Camp, Shorncliffe, County Kent, England
Berwick Register, June 30, 1915
Contributor: This letter is transcribed from, and courtesy of, the Berwick Register newspaper, Berwick NS, by Phil and Stephanie Vogler and reproduced here with Phil’s kind permission.