When Gordon Brown wrote to his mother on May 31, 1916, he noted that Camp Petawawa was not fully geared up for the influx of hungry artillerymen:
We are on army rations now and are not getting quite enough to eat. They must be short of supplies. That will be remedied when they get things going better and in the meantime there is the canteen where nearly anything may be bought. (1)
The Globe confirmed his and his fellows’ complaints:
During the first few days of the camp the commissariat was sadly lacking, and the Men suffered from insufficient food. Situated so far from any centre where proper fresh food could be obtained, and the rapidity with which the men were taken into camp, worked many hardships on the men, whose appetites were whetted by the climate and the hard work of camp erecting. Their complaints reached their respective homes, and much unpleasantness was evidence, but to-day there is no sign of trouble. Everything is in working order, and men, while ever mindful of the past, offer nothing but praised for the quartermaster who sees their wants supplied. During these baleful days the YMCA … came to the rescue and generously placed their commodities at the disposal of the men.(2)
A couple of weeks later he was able to reassure her:
I never felt better than I do a present. We get plenty to eat now and the work is not too strenuous…. The sun is awful hot here and I am tanned up as you would scarcely know me…. (3)
In the photograph (4) above, the soldiers at dinner are unprotected from that “awful hot” sun, save by their headgear. In the background, however, the horses are sheltered under a roof of branches.
(1) Brown, Robert Gordon. Letter to his mother, May 31, 1916. Available from the Canadian Letters and Images Project.
(2) The Globe (1844-1936). July 1, 1916. 12. Archive available from ProQuest Historical Newspapers. The structure of the second sentence seems to have escaped the copy editor’s eye.
(3) Brown, Robert Gordon. Letter to his mother, June 17, 1916. Available from the Canadian Letters and Images Project. A comparison of the transcription of this letter with the original scan shows that the transcriber has introduced a couple of errors, which I have silently corrected.
(4) The postcard is from an album on Flickr.
Copyright 2016. See “More about this project.”