The last two reinforcements like the previous two had kit-inspections as they arrived and lost all their private gear. We were luckier and able to conceal everything we wanted and seeing what a long time we have remained in England, it was well worth while – pyjamas, etc. coming in handy. Had a yarn with a decent well-spoken little body, whose hubby has been at the war from the beginning. The country folk whom we have bespoken here in Hants have a good intonation of voice and spoken English without dialect. When I got back behold – three letters awaiting me. The rogues in the hut spread them out on my blankets with bogus ones between to make me think I had about a dozen.
Driving drill this morning. Went out with Monsieur R (he knows a bit of French and we are going to try to brush it up). Went up hill past Ewshot and on to a sort of plateau used as Military area, waste and stony, with “McWhirter” silver beeches and heather. Good view of Aldershot. Wandered into a pine-grove and did sketches of wheat-stooks and distance (the real patchwork panoramas of England). Wandered on to a village called Crondall and have decided that Crondall will do us. It looks as old as the hills with quaint white cottages, with inlet beams; and a square towered church about 800 years old. The countryside is dotted over with villages and is a real job. I keep wanting to leave the army and rent a cottage for you and me to pass next summer in. What think you?
[New Zealand Artillery soldiers with gun carriages, Ewshot, c1918. National Library, ref 1/2-014101-G]
A portion of every day seems at this season to be wet. A shower is followed by an hour’s sunshine and the cloud effects are magnificent. In travelling about England I have been surprised to find a great deal of standing timber. There may be a few large forests, but every field in the clean counties is dotted with trees. They are now one heavy mass of verdure and I am hoping to see them in autumn.
8.30. p.m. Walked through the pretty hillside village of Ewshot from which the camp gets its name, and on about 3 miles further along a ridge, through magnificent vistas of oaks, beeches and pines, interspersed with mountain ashes which are a mass of bright scarlet berries, a lovely sight and quite antipodean; like some Australian flower.
In the meadows, which are the richest green contrasting with the brown and yellow harvest-fields, are plenty of purple heather and penny-royal. All the ways are thick with stinging nettles which give us gyp when we touch them. Many cottages are covered with ivy, or viginian creeper, looking olden and homey. In places we saw plantations of young larches. Too late for a beer as the pubs here close at 9, but consoled by finding unusually large, speckly and deliberate toad crawling across the road. I lit a match to see him better and stroked his horny back – he disdained to croak – do toads croak? Got back to find many men in receipt of N.Z. letters, but none for poor me. Eheu! Helas! Ai! Ai! Waly! Waly! Miserere! Wae’s me! What can have happened to them?
[Lincoln Lee, sketch of heather, Ewshot, 1917]
Ewshot. After arrival last night we had about a 5 mile march in the rain, through Aldershot (which is peopled with soldiers and their families, but has fine rows of giant chestnut trees along the main street) and over hill and dale to this camp – situated on the top of a hill miles from anywhere. I like the look of it. Well wooded in every direction, a complete contrast to Oldham. In Aldershot we saw a large Gypsy camp, but not near enough to study the gypsies. These huts are built of corrugated iron outside; walls and ceiling lined with painted match-lining and floored. Each hut has two fireplaces, in main room and another in N.C.O’s cubicle, ablution and lavatory. It is a permanent artillery camp, and the stables are solid covered-in buildings and the usual canteen Y.M.C.A. and other institutes. Went out with R. and did sketches of a rye-field. R’s were quite good. The countryside is beautiful, but nearly all the men hate it and go miles to get into the nearest towns – Aldershot and Fleet. We found winding lanes with great trees growing everywhere, often meeting overhead; fields of corn; of hops, pretty old cottages, pebbly streams winding about the meadows. Found two toads, the first I have seen, like big frogs but with dry skins and their toes separated. I patted them. In one lane I was so thrilled that I did a sort of cake-walk highland-fling down it, much to R’s amusement.
[Map below of NZEF in England 1916-19, is sourced from the Ministry for Culture and Heritage website https://nzhistory.govt.nz. A useful description of the Ewshot camp is provided in H T B Drew’s ‘The New Zealand Camps in England’, in The War Effort of New Zealand, Whitcombe and Tombe Limited, Auckland, 1923.]
Here we are en route for Aldershot, by a route new to me, through Stockport, Wolverhampton, Stoke and Oxford. The mining and pottery centres in Staffordshire were interesting though rather grimy, but in Cheshire and down to Oxford it has been delightful, what with the beautiful trees and woods and fields with the harvesting in full swing. The Thames has been in view and we can see picnic parties, punting, or having tea on the banks. Oxford looked very enticing though the university buildings aren’t visible from the railway – but numerous spires peeping up with glimpses of old ivy-clad houses.
Church parade in the open air. The old parson gave us a sort of valedictory chat in lieu of sermon.
In Oldham where I supervised the purchase of R’s equipment – box of student’s colours, block and brush. He almost wept at the expenditure, 4/-. We have great fun about our mutual “Scotch” tendencies.
We have now just completed a repast of pies, bread and jam, washed down with light beer. Quite sorry to take leave of this funny old pub. I am growing tenderly inclined towards the stout landlady. We got her daughter to strum on the piano; she couldn’t play for nuts but we enjoyed it; and before we left the old girl “shouted”, a thing almost unprecedented. R’s first attempt with his new materials was extraordinary – looked like a spider in a pool of blue ink.