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Carry On Coningsby Dawson

The Letters

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In order to make some of the allusions in these letters clear I will set down briefly the circumstances which explain them, and supply a narrative link where it may be required.

I have already mentioned the Military Camp at Petewawa, on the Ottawa river. The Camp is situated about seven miles from Pembroke. The Ottawa river is at this point a beautiful lake. Immediately opposite the Camp is a little summer hotel of the simplest description. It was at this hotel that my wife, my daughter, and myself stayed in the early days of July, 1916.

The hotel was full of the wives of the officers stationed in the Camp. During the daytime I was the only man among the guests. About five o'clock in the afternoon the officers from the Camp began to arrive on a primitive motor ferryboat. My son came over each day, and we often visited him at the Camp. His long training at Kingston had been very severe. It included besides the various classes which he attended a great deal of hard exercise, long rides or foot marches over frozen roads before breakfast, and so forth. After this strenuous winter the Camp at Petewawa was a delightful change. His tent stood on a bluff, commanding an exquisite view of the broad stretch of water, diversified by many small islands. We had a great deal of swimming in the lake, and several motor-boat excursions to its beautiful upper reaches. One afternoon when we went over in our launch to meet him at the Camp wharf, he told us that that day a General had come from Ottawa to ask for twenty-five picked officers to supply the casualties among the Canadian Field Artillery at the front. He had immediately volunteered and been accepted.

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At this time my two younger sons, who had joined us at Petewawa in order to see their brother, enrolled themselves in the Royal Naval Motor Patrol Service, and had to return to Nelson, British Columbia, to settle their affairs. Near Nelson, on the Kootenay Lake, we have a large fruit ranch, managed by my second son, Reginald. My youngest son, Eric, was with a law-firm in Nelson, and had just passed his final examinations as solicitor and barrister.

This ranch had played a great part in our lives. The scenery is among the finest in British Columbia. We usually spent our summers there, finding not only continual interest in the development of our orchards, but a great deal of pleasure in riding, swimming, and boating. We had often talked of building a modern house there, but had never done so. The original "little shack" was the work of Reginald's own hands, in the days when most of the ranch was primeval forest. It had been added to, but was still of the simplest description. One reason why we had not built a modern house was that this "little shack" had become much endeared to us by association and memory. We were all together there more than once, and Coningsby had written a great deal there. We built later on a sort of summer library--a big room on the edge of a beautiful ravine--to which reference is made in later letters. Some of the happiest days of our lives were spent in these lovely surroundings, and the memory of those blue summer days, amid the fragrance of miles of pine-forest, often recurs to Coningsby as he writes from the mud-wastes of the Somme.

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Carry On
Coningsby Dawson

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