11 Apr 1918, Witley Camp [Letterhead]

Witley Camp. [Note 1]

[MAY 2 1918 stamp]

Dear Pater;

Don’t be surprised at the heading of the letter, I haven’t changed my job, that is not permanently. There was no school at Bexhill for a while so they sent some of us down to the reserves to help out with the instruction of the men from Canada who, of course are needed at the front as soon as possible. My address however, is still C.T.W.S. Bexhill [Note 2]. I expect to go back there on the 20th.
I received both parcels just before I came down here. Both were fine, and thank you very much. Everything was just what I wanted, [next page] my sock supply ought to last me a couple of months now. Sugar is almost out of the question here, so that and tea or coffee are fine.
The cake was grand, and tastes like more. Also the Betty Brown chocolates. Candy of any kind here is about impossible. Please thank Mrs. Chant and Marvel for the socks, and also Mater for hers. Cigarettes are also very scarce here. That is, Players.
One thing you might include occasionally is batchelor’s buttons. I don’t like the brand here.
I also got several letters since I last wrote. The last was 17/2. You seem to have had a very severe winter. Ours doesn’t seem like winter at all. Just bad weather such as we would get at home in March, with a few fine days thrown in. ‘Samples’ in other words.
You asked me about the voting several times, and I forgot to tell you. I was [next page] at Bramshott at the time, and of course there was big discussion among the troops, with a majority for Borden [Note 3]. As I was slated for Tillsonburg, and that was a Borden stronghold, I made a loose vote, so I don’t know where they put it. So you also cast your first vote, Mater. Nice, coming of age, isn’t it? [Note 4]
I got a letter from Marion the same day that you wrote yours, 17/3. She is talking of coming over as a V.A.D. I hope she does. I shall be able to see her if she is anyplace in a radius of a couple of hundred miles. [Note 5]
It was rather like the old days travelling home from Cayuga, to come down here. We left Bexhill at 1.15 p.m. and went to Brighton where we were an hour. Incidentally I had a very funny thing happen there, I had heard [next page] that Mrs Higgs, and Maud, from Barrie, were there, and when I went down the street there to get something to eat between trains, I came across them on the street. Just fancy, the only two people in all Brighton that I knew.
They didn’t recognize me at first, but I stopped them and made myself known.
We changed at Brighton and went to Havant, near Portsmouth, where we had another hour to wait, and then we came on here. We got to our station, Millford, at 8 p.m. and had an hour’s walk to camp, and didn’t get settled till about eleven o’clock. That was on Tuesday night and now it is Thursday. We haven’t done any work yet, but we are expecting to be called on any time. So in the meantime we are having a lazy time staying in the [next page] hut.
Well I have been up to the Kents in Bexhill, several times, and they are very nice to me. There are Doctor + Mrs Kent, who are all that are generally at home, but there are three sons at Rugby, who came home just before I left. They seem fair specimens though a bit bumptious, perhaps, especially the youngest who has a great opinion of himself. The eldest is just eighteen, and soon going into the army, and the youngest about fourteen. They are musical, and we have had quite a bit of it there. Mrs Kent plays the violin a bit, and she has a friend who plays the cello quite nicely, so I have been playing the accompaniments. They have a nice Steinway player piano which I am at liberty to use at any old time.
Altogether it is quite nice to have them there.
There has been practically nothing doing here, and I am having a very easy [next page] time.
I don’t think I ever told you I got the books you sent. I did, quite a while ago, and enjoyed them very much.
I don’t think there is very much else just now, so I shall close. My address is still C.T.W.S. Bexhill.
Love to all.
Your loving son

Witley Camp, Surrey, 1916
1. Witley Military Camp, often simplified to Camp Witley, was a temporary army camp set up on Witley Common, near Godalming, Surrey, England (SW of London) during both the First and Second World Wars. During the Great War, it was primarily used by the CEF for infantry training.

Down Council School, 1902
Site of the CTWS
2. The object of the Canadian Trench Warfare School was not to train reinforcements but to train instructors to deal with recruits. It was situated at Bexhill-on-Sea and, acting in close association with the Canadian Training School, provided instruction for officers  and non-commissioned officers in special branches of Infantry training. Different wings of this school dealt with Bombing, Rifle Bombing, Anti-Gas Measures, Entrenching and the employment of light Trench Mortars (Stokes Gun). Opened early in 1917, and closed immediately after the signing of the Armistice, this School trained upwards of 500 officers and 3,508 other ranks as instructors. It was a strict condition that only Overseas casualties could be accepted for instruction. (Extract from ‘Report of the Ministry, Overseas Military Forces of Canada, 1918’) It was located at the former Down Council Mixed Infants and the Down Council School in Behill-on-Sea, Sussex. The school pupils were moved in October 1917 while the building was used by the CTWS". Of note, workmen repairing the cupboard in one of the classrooms (c1965) discovered some ammunition under the floor, perhaps left over from this time of army occupation? The schools did not return until February 1919.

Present Day
(now King Offa Primary School)
3. The 1917 Canadian federal election (sometimes referred to as the ‘khaki election’) was held on December 17 1917, to elect members of the Canadian House of Commons of the 13th Parliament of Canada. Described by historian Michael Bliss as the "most bitter election in Canadian history", it was fought mainly over the issue of conscription. The election resulted in Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden's Unionist government elected with a strong majority (defeating Sir Wilfred Laurier’s Liberal Party) and the largest percent share of the popular vote for a single party in Canadian history (Extract from Wikipedia).

4. This probably refers to the passing of the Canada Military Voters Act (20 September 1920), whereby women who are British subjects and have close relatives in the armed forces can vote on behalf of their male relatives in federal elections.

5. Canada's Voluntary Aid Detachment nurses (VAD) were created as a reserve of emergency auxiliary nursing assistants in 1914 under the aegis of the St. John Ambulance Association; Consisting of semi-trained nurses who supplemented the domestic military medical services, the role of the Canadian VADs evolved with the advent of the war into fulltime nursing assistance at home and overseas. Notably, Amelia Earhart, after visiting her sister in 1917 at a college preparatory school in Canada, decided to train as a nurses’ aid in Toronto and subsequently served as a VAD nurse at a military hospital until the Armistice in November 1918.


  1. I am very interested by the material you have posted on Bexhill. It is most fascinating. I have recently begun a research project looking at the links between Bexhill and Canada. If you come across any more material on Bexhill please let me know.



  2. Luke, thanks for your comments and your research looks like it has potential to highlight a hitherto relatively unknown garrison. I have not really gone through the 1917-18 correspondence yet, just skimmed the surface so hopefully there is some good detail to come, in due course.

  3. Thank you for posting all this interesting and detailed information. I'm currently writing my family's history and have just started on my grandfather Wiliam James Armstrong from Stratford, Ontario (662184) who was killed in action in France Sept. 2nd 1918. These letters give a good impression of what they were doing from enlistment Jan.15th 1915 as well as the Journey to England on the SS California Oct. 23rd, and later.

  4. Great to get your information as well Babos. I have been a bit slow these few months but will post more often, soon enough. Interesting to find out what happened to the men that served with the 34th Bn after it was broken up. I have tried to do a little bit of research on the names that are mentioned in Car's letters. Your grandfather would've partaken in the training that the 34th undertook before England. Cheers!

  5. William James Armstrong seem to have been moved back and forth between the 5th, 12th and 15th bat. He was with the 15th in the Battle of Arras when he was killed. Did Car join in battle later in 1918? I think my grandfather was in England from June 1916, when he had an appendicites operation, until April 1918 when he was sent back to France. In the meanwhile he had got a wife and a daughter in England, and I think he dreaded to go back. I've been a bit slow writing lately, but have started again now. I have reached trying to describe the final battle.
    Cheers, Babos

  6. Babos, so far as I can tell Car never went to France after Spring 1917. From end-1917/early-1918 he joined the Trench Warfare School. He also occasionally moved back to the Canadian Corps admin camps in Surrey.

  7. The historical writings and other material that you have shared in your blog is very interesting and give lots of information about the past events. Thank you for sharing!