Back at Witley, we get more details of the Christmas holiday from Archie Wills. The horses were restive through lack of exercise and were kicking the stables “to pieces,” reported Archie, as well as “branding a fellow once and awhile [sic]” — by which he must mean that the horses kicked more than the boards.(1)
Archie also tells us of a variety of activities besides the meals we have read about. On Christmas Eve, it being Sunday, there was church service in Milford. Archie and some of his pals went into Godalming and had a Christmas dinner at the Ottawa Café, (2) and then enjoyed a concert at the Town Hall. “Coming home we found all kind of drunks on the roads, some staggering, others tottering, and still others passed [sic] all control of limb lying helpless by the roadside.” (3)
There was no lights-out on Christmas Eve, and there was more beer drinking in the huts, so it was a good thing that Reveille was not until 7 am, which was (noted Archie) “quite a concession for the army.” (4)
They knew it was truly Christmas when they found their mess-hall “beautifully decorated with papers and evergreens” and got their “belts well tightened.” (4)
There was a concert and more of the “Army standby” afterwards – “not only glasses of it but pails of it.” (3) One of the sergeants rode on horseback into the hut where Archie and his pals were celebrating to ask if there were any complaints. He received “a negative reply.” (5)
(1) Wills, Archie. Diary.3: 115 December 22, 1916. Archie Wills Fonds, University of Victoria Archives. Copyright 2007, University of Victoria.
(2) According to John MacArthur, the Ottawa Cafe was “quite a swell place and is managed by a Canadian so we can get mostly Canadian eats.” Letter from John Alexander MacArthur to Hazel, November 12, 1916. Available from the Canadian Letters and Images Project.
(3) Wills, Diary. 3: 116-117. December 24, 1916.
(4) Wills, Diary. 3: 118. December 25, 1916
(5) Wills, Diary. 3: 119 December 26, 1916
The silk greeting card is from the collection of the Toronto Public Library.