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Once we have a war there is only one thing to do. It must be won. For defeat brings worse things than any that can ever happen in war.

-- Ernest Miller Hemmingway

World War IICanadian Army Overseas
March 5/44
. . . Well we have arrived safely as you may have guessed from the cablegram. Although at that time it was impossible to say anything and isn't much more possible now. We had a very quiet uneventful trip, wasn't even sea sick but had a few hours when it was very hard to keep food down but that was the first day and night out.
After that the trip got rougher but it never bothered me again. The meals on the boat were not as good as we had heard about. Breakfast at 10 am and dinner at 8 pm and that was all. Nothing to drink. They opened the bar and sold soft drinks one hour in the morning and again one hour at night. Tea for breakfast and coffee for supper but the coffee was awful. Fish as an entree for both meals every day. We packed our trunks a few days before sailing and haven't seen them since. We know they are somewhere in England, but where. No change of clothes now for quite a while. But that is just another thing to contend with . . .

5 Wing C.T.S.
Canadian Army, England

. . . I have never heard them sound the air raid warning but I have heard the all clear several times. The all clear sounds very nice I can tell you. So far I haven't seen any enemy planes that I am aware of. In fact there has been little action since we landed. The last big raid. The one you possibly read about we were in the north of England that night and so knew nothing about it until the next day. I have spoken to some civilians who were in the bombing of London. About all they will say is that it was pretty bad but other than that they don't like to talk about it very much and when they think about it they still shudder . . .

#2 C.I.R.U
Canadian Army Overseas
March 20/44

. . . Things are going on about the same here as ever. Quite stiff physically but other than that very interesting. They try to imitate battle conditions as closely as they can so that they can get your possible reactions under fire. Also to see if it is worthwhile to send you to the front or not. Other than that the training isn't much different than it was in Canada. Work every day and four nights a week. At least they have lots of bath tubs here and plenty of hot water which is a godsend for soaking stiff and sore muscles. My left shoulder feels like a pin cushion with all the injections we have received since we landed. Has my usual luck with them. Also have had a beautiful cold since I landed. On asking how to get rid of it, they told me the only cure is to return to Canada. It really is letting up a little now. The weather is really getting quite spring like . . .

#2 C.I.R.U
Canadian Army Overseas
April 17/44

. . . For myself I never lost a pound on the course although i must have the first week and then gained it all back again. The food situation isn't too bad especially in the camps but the restaurants are strictly N.G. No variety and crowded something awful. Usually you just have tea bread and jam and sweet cakes. The bread situation is much better. Bread is whiter and lighter . . .

#2 C.I.R.U.
Canadian Army Overseas
May 23/44

. . . Last week they gave me 42 men to chase around and train while they are being held for other units. A more spineless bunch of men I haven't seen for a long time. They are not infantry men maybe that explains it. If so I am glad that I am in the infantry. I keep meeting the odd person over here that I haven't seen for a long time. I was just talking to our Company 2 I/C and he was talking about being out on a party with Hank McDonald. So I asked him if this Hank McDonald had gone to O.A.C. and he had. Rather a small world don't you think. Don Beattie also O.A.C. is in this camp and Jerrie Pirie was here until a few days ago.

We still can't get any leaves. All leaves and travel is frozen in fact can't move more than 20 miles from your camp in case you can't get back. Maybe someday we will get a leave and visit your people in Scotland. Had a letter from Jim. He was asking what we are going to name Peggy. So far you haven't told me any more than Peggy. Well take good care of yourself and the wee ones and I hope it works out all right with Jane as she is too cute a kid to have sulk. Hope to see you soon. All my love, Joe . . .

#2 C.I.R.U.
Canadian Army Overseas
June 3/44

. . . I still have this terrible head cold and cough and don't seem to be able to get rid of it. I think I will go to the M.O. if it doesn't get better soon.. It makes you feel very punk. It seems to be very damp over here and today it is very dreary. Last night everybody in our hut joined together and we had a feed and what a feed. Meat, cheese, plain and salted crackers, fruit cake, divinity fudge, can of beans. Oh yes and hot chocolate. It certainly tasted swell as I don't think the meals in this camp are going to be so good. Time only will tell . . .

#2 C.I.R.U.
Canadian Army Overseas
June 23/44

. . . These robot planes must be something. So far I haven't seen one altho we have had a few alerts. A bomb dropped about four miles from here Sunday night but no one was hurt by it which isn't so bad. Well this is two days later and since then have been in two different camps . . .

#2 C.I.R.U.
Canadian Army Overseas
July 9/44

. . . Things haven't changed much around here. Still moving slowly. It is a very good sign tho as it means our casualties must be light which is very good in most respects. Was very glad to hear that the boys in Italy are doing so well. Those hooks mean a lot especially with a regiment in the field and you certainly get a lot of extras although you also have more responsibilities . . .

#2 C.B.R.G.
August 5/44

. . . Well we moved again yesterday a little closer to the front lines but then the front moves away forward of that so we are really no closer after the move than before. We got in on a Jerry bombing the night before last which didn't go off very well. 3 of the 4 bombs dropped in our area were duds and the fourth hit an empty house and did no damage to the troops at all which is all for the best.

H.Q. 4 Cnd. Inf. Bde
Canadian Army Overseas
September 15/44.

. . . As you most likely know from the news the army is really moving. It is much better that way than being stuck in one area for any length of time and by the same token it means that more country is being liberated and sooner the war may end. There still has been no forcast as to what part the Canadian Army is going to play in policing Europe when this show is over. . .

H.Q. 4 Cdn. Inf. Bde
Canadian Army Overseas
September 25/44

. . . Something I wish you would get me is a new flashlight and some batteries for it. In all the moving around I left it behind one and that was the end as you never get a chance to go back and these issue lights are the berries. At the moment am using a Jerry light but the battereies are not worth a darn. Wear out in a couple of days at the most otherwise they are a very good light. I will send it home to you as a souvenir. . .

H.Q. 4 Cdn. Inf. Bde
Canadian Army Overseas
October 6/44

. . . Well we are still roaming around somewhere in Europe and seem to be getting somewhere at times and at other times you start to wonder. The general situation looks very good and I wouldn't be surprised to see the whole thing fold up in an unconditional surrender. We get the odd English newspaper two or three days old and keep up with the news that way. Actually we don't know as much about it as you people at home where you get the news from all side. . .

H.Q. 4 Cdn. Inf. Bde
Canadian Army Overseas
October 22/44

. . . Well business has picked up again and we are as busy as the devil or busier. That and the fact that my driver and I turned over in our jeep the other day didn't help any at all. Fortunately neither of us were hurt at all and after it was all over you could see the funny side of it. Here we were jeep four wheels in the air our clothes scattered all over. A few shells bursting off to one side for sound effect. No wrecking cars to be called because they don't like going into field areas like that. Finally we found a chap with a carrier. He hurried over pulled it out of the hole we were in and then he scurried off for cover again. I was darned if I was going to go away and leave it for if I had someone would have stolen it or else removed anything removeable. . .

D. Company
Royal Hamilton Light Inf.
Canadian Army Overseas
November 3/44

. . . How time flies. It is nearly three months now that I have been in action. Really thinking that by now it would be all over but the end doesn't seem anywheres near in sight yet but it is hard to say what a hard winter will do to the people in Germany.

What does the whole situation look like from a position where you can see all sides of it. Not just the part where you are actually employed.

I am starting this again about a week later. Have been as busy as hell and on the move continually. Nothing much to write about except war and we don't write about that. . .

D. Company
Royal Hamilton Light Inf.
Canadian Army Overseas
November 12/44

. . . Well now as you can see I am fighting troops and I don't mean perhaps at all. Things are going fairly well tho regardless and I won't stick my neck out any more than is absolutely necessary, you can count on that.

You asked me if I had planned on going to Japan when this is all finished. At this time the answer is no. If I come out of this with a fairly whole skin I think I will be ready to settle down to the quietest life possible and maybe drink the odd bottle of good beer which is something we can't get under any circumstances.

At the moment we are living in the basement of a building which I think is fairly bomb proof but the greatest trick of all has been the improvising of lights to carry on with. Any kind of oil and a piece of string will make a light of sorts until now we have had two coal oil lamps one without a glass and a fairly good stock of coal oil. One small quart which is enough for 24 hours if we are careful and don't use both lamps at once and don't turn up the wicks too high.

And cold. I appreciate now what the last war must have been like in the mud and the rain and the slush. It must have been a son of a gun to say the least. . .

D. Company
Royal Hamilton Light Infantry
Canadian Army Overseas

. . . Well we shifted position slightly since that last letter and the move was all for the better as now we can move around a little during the day. . .

. . . We also have a fire going in a pail to get dried out and warm for a while and right now I am waiting for a big kettle of water to heat and then I am going to shave and have a sponge bath as it is all of two weeks now since I had a good wash. Ainīt life hell. . .

D. Company
Royal Hamilton Light Infantry
November 22/44.

. . . The war seems to be continuing on but maybe it will stop one of these days and then Johnny will come sailing home again.

I have come to the conclusion in the past two weeks that the actual front is the best place to be excepting when there is an attack on as Jerry lobs his heavy stuff into the rear areas trying to break up the supply routes and communications. Well this is all for now and I will stir my stew . I hope the parcel gets home safely and that you like the contents even if they don't look very fancy.

D. Company
Royal Hamilton Light Infantry
Canadian Army Overseas
December 3/44

. . .A few lines this evening. Am stuck as duty officer tonight so will have to stay up all night. It wouldn't be so bad but I have been up since before daylight digging and cutting logs all day for a master trench to keep a roof over my head and keep the rain off. It is good exercise after being in areas where you have to keep your head down all the time and never make a sound either day or night. Now tho it is all different work all day and am quite tired at night. . .

D. Company
Royal Hamilton Light Infantry
Canadian Army Overseas
December 12/44

. . . You should see my present home. Made it myself, 6' x 8 1/2' inside measurements and about 5' ceiling. Log roof, of course it is underground. Yesterday we installed a stove of sorts. A biscuit tin for a stove. A nine foot sewer pipe is part of the chimney. The only trouble is that when you light the fire you have to move out because it gets too hot. That is a poor fault, but it will be rectified. . .

D. Company
Royal Hamilton Light Infantry
Canadian Army Overseas
January 9/45

. . . I hear they are beginning to recruit for the South Pacific but so far have heard nothing official on it so I really can't say. But if what I heard is true then I am too old for it, therefor it is not a problem at all.

Leaves have started from the Canadian Army. 7 days which you can spend either in England or in Paris. I think that if and when I get mine I will go back to England where everybody around you is talking a language which you can understand. I am due for leave at the end of this month but don't expect to get it until March or April at least . . .

D. Company
Royal Hamilton Light Infantry
Canadian Army Overseas
Febuary 15/45

. . . I guess by this time the papers are carrying the news of the latest drive. They have taken quite a few prisoners by now and are still going forward. Also the Russians continue to advance so maybe the end will soon be in sight. Heres hoping anyway. It might take some time after hostilities cease before we get back home. It all depends on whether the Canadian Army forms part of the army of occupation or not. No one can tell yet.

Well how are they doing with the Zombie situation. Have they got them all rounded up yet. It all made mighty poor reading over here and certainly could be a propeganda tool for Jerry . . .

This was the last letter Lieutenant Boulet wrote to his wife in Guelph. The final part of this memoir contains the letter written to Mrs. Boulet from W. Denis Whitaker about Lt. Boulet's death.

March 15/45
Canadian Army
Dear Mrs. Boulet:

It is with a feeling of deep regret that I write to you with regard to the passing of your husband, Joe. I extend to you my sincerest sympathy in your great and irreperable loss. I feel partially responsible for this calamatous occurrence as it was myself who requested that Joe be transferred from 4th brigade to this battalion. From the day of his arrival he proved himself to be an extremely efficient officer. His strong and winning personal quality gained the respect confidence and admiration of all those serving under him.

On the night of the 26 February, Joe's company were holding a position astride the Goch-Calcar road. For over a week the enemy had been counterattacking relentlessly but each time they were driven off. On this night they came in again supported by tanks. Joe was moving about in his platoon encouraging his men when he was hit by a shell fired by one of the tanks. He was immediately evacuated but later died in hospital. He is buried at St. Michael Gestal, Holland in the military cemetery.

I fully realize how deep must be your grief. However it may be some comfort to know that your husband died fearlessly for a just and good cause. His indomitable courage was at all times an inspiration to the men of his platoon.

Please do not hesitate to call on me for any further information you may desire or if at any time I may be of service to you.

Again I offer to you my sincerest sympathy.

Yours sincerely W. Denis Whitaker
Note: These letters were all written to his wife, Beth, who was caring for their two young daughters.


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