No 1 Sling Camp,
Salisbury Plains,
England
13.5.1917

Edna dearest,

The mail for n.z closes at 6pm this evening.  I am anxious that you should receive this letter before you are laid up darling.

Today I am Orderly officer and the troops have just marched off to church:  It is just a quarter to ten: at 10am I have to make an inspection of the camp: when that is over will return to my office and go on with my letter writing:  The majority of the officers will be away today sight-seeing and visiting friends.  The only thing that will alleviate my loneliness is to write to you sweetheart.  Last Sunday a party of us went to Andover an old historic roman town about 14 miles away.  We were shown all around through Lord Portland's vast estate:, saw his great mansion:  He has a magnificent place.

The country we motored through reminded me very much of the Papatoetoe surroundings:  The only difference - there were old castles and houses hundreds of years old.  These cottages or houses with thatched roofs looked unique.  I saw quite a number of old women like poor old Aunty Mary.  I am sure if a 'flying machine" dropped her down in one of these old English towns she would be in her element:  along the roads I saw a number of 'shrines' and 'wishing wells'.  We arrived back on Monday morning just in time to carry on our duties afte spending a very pleasant week-end.  I wish you and Rangi could see all these places too.  Someday we must try and arrange it - it would be an education for Rangi.  In New Zealand we live in a very narrow groove - to travel broadens ones views.

Click images to enlarge

Prohibition is I am sure only advocated by rank fanatics:  the vices for men are many - women and drink galore:  I have never seen a man since those been at Salisbury misconduct himself.  The love their wet canteens - beer is half the price to what they have been accustomed to pay.  These men without restrictions upon them "play the game". I feel sure when the troops return their note will around many of the "fangled laws".  There are thousands of soldiers camped within a radius of a few miles and those have never seen one the worse for drunk. I regret to say the women and of course venereal disease has rendered many of the New Zealanders and Australians unfit to save their country:  These men are isolated in high love entanglements like prisoners - it is trouble darling.  Quite a little army is in isolation - these men are rehomed to New Zealand for segregation until cured.  It is a great pity.  The men are told that if they are so foolish as to risk infection they must report within 12 hours to the nearest military hospital - they are too lazy - and the above is the result.

Last Friday, Field Martial Lord French visited our camp and saw 'the boys' training.  He was pleased with the progress they are making in their training.

Hearing he cares about to pay us a visit - we made ourselves smart for the occasion and it was a glorious sunny day our accouterments etc glistened.

Arthur [Wata] Gannon on left. Click to enlarge.

We have a general in command of the Brigade and a major who saw service at Gallipoli is in command of the battalion I am attached to. "A" Company Canterbury Regiment the officer commanding is a first lieutenant "B" Coy Canterbury Regiment there is a captain "A" Coy Otago Regiment a first leit "B" Coy Otago Regiment and major, and "C" company, Canterbury Regiment.  I am in command and attached is GR Dausly and  us a few days Kokou - So you can see dear I am the junior of all these officers. Colonel Smith complimented me on the cleanliness of the detachment of weapons that left my company for Boscombe.  He also mentioned that they intended to keep me here for some time and then perhaps send me to Chelsea Barracks to an officers class.  I really do not know how seriously I am to take all this.  One week I heard that I was under orders to go to a pioneering school of Reading and on another occasion it was rumoured that I had to proceed to Boscombe.  I will just have to await orders.  I am pleased to be able to write and say that I am well and that all my work is up to date - I know you will be pleased.  I must not talk about promotion yet.  I do not know the smell of powder, not even the powder on a ladies face.  The war is not over yet and you can bet "Auckland to a peanut" that I will get my full share.  I must not comment on it - though I do not think our letters are censored until we get to France.  I have met quite a number right from the firing line.  They tell me it is just "Hell (with a capital)" guns locked wheel to wheel and roaring day and night - the sights are appealing: The valor of our men is grand.  They are absolutely indifferent to pain or pleasure.  It simply makes my blood tingle to read and hear of their doings.  It is lovely to be a Britisher, Edna.  The "training" goes into action singing the New Zealanders and Australian swearing.  What ever their idiosyncrasies are, they die gamely:  I am not going home until we have won and then darling life will be worth living in "God's own Country" you will be happy and my children will be happy.  That is the light to look at in dear don't you think?  We only want you to cheer us and we will do the rest:  I am very anxious to learn about George.  You must give me his full address the company he is attached to his regiment number etc - Tell him to wire me to UPI Sling camp Salisbury.  The wire will be forwarded on and I will immediately communicate with him - If I get leave at any time I shall for poor old mothers sake endeavour to go and see George.  Tell mother this wont you dearest?  And give her my love too.  You must arrange with her to cable me as soon as our baby is born and she must tell me truly how you are progressing.  I will be so anxious about you. Look after yourself Edna don't get up too soon - keep your spirits up and listen to your nurse a few days or an extra week will benefit you and baby will reap the advantage your loving husbands earnest prayer is that you pull through a - and that after a few days you will be  your dear old self again with your darling baby to make you very very happy:  It is hard for 'daddy' to be so far away - it cannot be helped dear.  I miss you from my arms - your fond kiss and sweet smile:

However, cheer up darling look after my little boy and BABY too. and you must Kiss Baby and Rangi for daddy - A big kiss for you and Rangi mother: 

and all daddy's love and best wishes mother,

I am always

Your affectionate husband

Wata

Don't let Rangi forget daddy

I will write you again in a few days - Wata-

RNZA Historian/Engineer Corps Memorial Museum Curator Howard E Chamberlain provided materials from the Gannon Family Archives from his private collection.

RNZA Historian/Engineer Corps Memorial Museum Curator Howard E Chamberlain provided materials from the Gannon Family Archives from his private collection.

Comment