“They are censoring our letters right here in Camp now so I will send this by civilian post, as I don’t want any fat son of a bitch reading my mail,” a Canadian of?cer wrote while stationed in England. The letter was nevertheless found by Canadian Army censors who were reading soldiers’ correspondence from Great Britain to ensure that no privileged information was being shared. They were also trying to gauge overall morale, and apparently one source of frustration for Canadian service members was the Brits themselves. (Tensions between troops in a foreign country and local civilians—even allies—was common; during World War II, the English famously complained that American soldiers in England were “overpaid, over sexed, and over here.”) The following excerpts from various Canadian soldiers’ letters are reprinted exactly as censors transcribed them:
“The English call themselves reserved but I should call it hypocrisy. They are underhand. We have been warned not to mix too much with them because they are only trying to look down on the Canadians. There are, fortunately, Canadians here in large numbers. Also they [the English] are very slow to act and take a long time to make up their minds. Canada is heaven compared with England. They are very cold and consider us Colonials, coming from an uncivilized country.”
“A lot of the people at home have been sending presents with the Limies, who are returning to England, for the Canadians over here. But oddly enough these presents never reach their destination. So that doesn’t make us like them any the more. One of the chaps wife sent a wrist-watch over to her husband this way a few months ago, (it was a Bulova too) and he never got it…. He says if he ever catches an English soldier wearing a Bulova watch he’s going to lick the tar out of him.”
“I’ve always imagined the English army to be all military and neat but they’re really the sloppiest slovenliest bunch I’ve ever seen. They never are neat or have any press in their clothes, just a bunch of bums, so we call them. The slouchiest Canadian is really tops compared to some of them.”
Censors recognized the need for combatants to vent, and they often grappled with what was an acceptably mild outburst and what was truly objectionable. “If we are ?ghting for democracy and freedom of speech,” one censor noted after reading a short diatribe about the lack of food and ammunition, “can we take disciplinary action against the writer of this letter?” The ?eld censors believed the following letter, however, was beyond the pale:
Dear Win & All,
Just a line and card to wish you all the best for Xmas and the New Year. How are you all keeping these days, just ?ne I hope. I’m feeling O.K. — no thanks to the damned army….
By the Great God above Win — I hate the army worse than I dreamt possible to hate anything. The army does everything humanly possible to break a man and talk about rotten — it is worse if that is possible — than the present day political set up. Can you imagine it — last Xmas they took us away from home 8 days before Xmas and now chaps who hav’nt been home for Xmas for years can’t go now. Mark my words there will be a revolt or something of the kind in the army before this Winter is over. All the boys are completely dissatis?ed. Now our rations have been cut 20 per cent and heaven knows the boys don’t get too much to eat now. I’m cooking for the of?cers so I get all I can eat. We are living in quarters that have not been occupied for 10 yrs and were condemned years and years ago. They are damned lousy. There is no reason for it either. We are not needed over here — there is’nt food, accommodation or equipment for us.
There was a revolt so to speak in one out?t — comprised solely of Westerners — they have more guts than this Eastern trash. They were like us — fed up with the way things were going and when Gen. Odham came up for inspection they refused to go on parade. Conditions for them were improved in an awful hurry — believe me. If God and his almighty justice has anything to do with winning a war I don’t see how the army can win it — it is too rotten and corrupt. Alice and her mother have given money, blankets, socks etc. to the red cross — another army racket and I have yet to see the ?rst goods from the Red cross. A friend of one of our boys from Toronto received a letter from a trapper in Northern Ontario saying if she could let him have the same kind of socks for 55 c/s a pair — he’d take 6 pairs. She had donated the socks to the Red Cross, put her name on a paper in the toe of the sock — as I believe many women do — and that is how the soldiers get the Red Cross clothes and comforts. It is just a racket like it was in the last war.
The same with our mail. There are millions of cigarettes not reaching the addressee and thousands of parcels and they don’t go down in the boat. There are too many light ?ngered guys handling the mail. Alice sent me a big parcel on Nov. 3rd and a letter on Nov. 4th and 11th. I received the letters but no parcel. Somebody ?gured they had more right to it than me. That is what is happening to thousands of the boys and the army doesn’t do anything about it. They must know what’s going on. I don’t think even the army is that stupid. Thank God we have the U.S.A. on our side — if it was’nt for her the war would have been over. When I get back I plan to stop at Montreal — buy a motorbike and see some of the U.S.A. and to see you before heading back for S’toon….
How is the weather where you are? It is nasty here. Cold and frosty one night and raining and blowing the next. I sure don’t like England or the people in it. What the hell Hitler wants this country for beats me and all the Canadians. I don’t believe there are 20 men out of every 1,000 that are not sorry they ever came to this country. I know I am. I would’nt trade one square foot of Canada for this whole damned country…. Well I guess I’ll ring off for now Win, be sure to write soon. Best of Luck and Wishes, Loving Brother, Fred
“Pigs is pigs and freedom of speech is freedom of speech,” a censor wrote in his report, “but there are limits to both. We should pass this on to Corps for their necessary action.” It is not known what, if any, measures were taken.
Andrew Carroll’s Legacy Project (online at warletters.com) is dedicated to preserving and collecting correspondence from all of America’s wars. If you have a World War II letter you would like to share, please send a copy (not originals)
to: the Legacy Project
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