During the Great War over 600,000 men joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force and were sent overseas to fight. A number of the soldiers were housed in military training camps in England or spent time in British hospitals or travelled to the British Isle on their leaves. Many of these soldiers, including Earl fell in love with the women they met. Earl sent letters home to his family informing them of his intention to marry. "By war's end Canadian soldiers were marrying British and European women at the rate of 300 a week, over 1000 per month." Canadian War Brides of the First World War.
War time marriages were a common occurrence and in his December 19, 1916, p.1 Earl mentions to Pauline about Leslie Sturdy marrying.
"Yes Leslie married Pat, I bet his folks don't like it. I had a letter from Clara she says Mrs. Sturdy feels very bad about him doing so. When I get married to Mrs. Kaiser I won't let you know at home. But that will not be until we get into Berlin."
Quotes and Letters
May 1, 1918, London, England - telling his Mother about a "girl he intends to marry"
"My Dear Mother,
Well Mother you will be wondering how I am getting along on my 10 days leave. I have had a wonderful fine time up to now. I sent a cable to May for 12 £. She sent a a answer back. Do you want money? This morning I sent another one saying yes right away before I go back to my Depot. I will likely get the money Friday morning. I really hope so anyway. I am right on the rocks now. The first time I have ever been broke on leave. Oh it is a funny feeling, ha-ha. Well Mother I had better tell you now. I have to sometime anyway. I have a girl and I intend to marry her. But you said I was not to get married in England so I am bringing her to dear old Canada with me. She is a lovely little girl. I know you will all love her. I don't think I could get one as good in Canada. I have been amongst a great number of girls since I left Canada. But none are like the one I have now. She is just longing for to go to Canada and some day before long you will see her. I could not waite for all my girls in Canada. I wonder what some of them will think of me, ha-ha. I sent Merelda a post card yesterday from here, hope she get it o.k. Well Mother I will close now. And will write again as soon as I get back to my Depot. I do not know what my address will be there yet. Hope all are in the very best of Health,
Your Loving Son, Earl."
May 30, 1918, letter to Earl from Merelda in King. We are fortunate that Earl kept and returned home with one of the letters written by his sister. In her letter Merelda Merelda also answers Earl's letter from May 1, 1918 on his desire to marry an English girl.
During the war many Canadian soldiers returned to Canada with War Brides.
"My Dear Brother Earl,
Now dear Earl. I am going to say something you will not like, but it does not matter. You will thank me for it later. About that girl, you imagine you are in love with, don't you believe it. You have got roped in, the same as so many of our Canadian boys do. Harold says he was roped in the same, but got wise to it in time, before he got married to her. Also, Katie's brother he wrote home telling them off the sweet little girl he was going to marry & first thing he found out she was a married woman & had just wanted his money & succeeded in getting it too. Ask F. Platt what he thinks of the Eng girls, also Harper Wells & lots more – oh yes the Eng. Girls have lively charming ways & are sure looking out for husbands & to get their way paid to Canada, but their ways are not like our ways, they are only laughed at here & looked down on. Harold says they are alright in Eng but no good here & Archie says for you not to bring any Bade over here. The Eng. Girls know there will be nothing for them but old maids after the war is over & are looking out for a soft snap by getting some rich Canadian so they imagine, but Earl, you must think of the future, Canada is on the verge of a rebellion. The returned soldiers can't get work – living is most terribly high – farmers can't get help only 16-18 yr. old college boys & girls – imagine what they can do re the farm. Earl if you brought a wife home to Canada you could not keep her- & she could not do farm work - & Earl, if Arch has to go to the war, our farm will be sold. Dad won't work it himself & can't so Earl think seriously before you marry a wife. Anyway earl you are so young to marry, only 23. I guess you feel old. Harold got married young & he is not getting on very well. Katie is working out now in a candy store & Harold is off work half the time, the gas is affecting him more now than it did before. So Earl have all the good times you can with the girls over there, but don't marry them or bring them to Canada & think of the nice girls here of your own kind who will be able to take care of you, & will have money too & it is a returned soldier they all want. If that girl really & truly loved you – you would not be spending your hard earned money on her – she would give you her money instead, it is her right to pay for things instead of yours.
Harold if you brought an old country girl here, she would be looked down on their ways are so different from ours. Mother will send you $5.00 this time & will send more soon. It is all she has in the house at present, & we will send you a box too, but Earl be sue & spend your money on yourself. Now Earl I hope you are not angry with me for this, but think twice before you do such a thing as get married. We shall be worrying over you until you ans. This & hoping it is not too late. Harold promised me to write you & tell you not to have any old country girl. You are too good for them. Of course you are your own boss but you can imagine what Daddie says about it. I am afraid to tell you & poor Mother is awfully worried about it. It was noised around that Lorne was married to an Eng. Girl, but is not true – it sure ws the talk of the country. Uncle Aaron was awful mad about it. I am so glad it wan't true. Well dear boy, you will think I am an awful crank, but perhaps some day you will think all the more of me for it. It is for your own self I am thinking. If the girl was an heiress it would be different but quite likely she is a poor working girl, looking out for someone to keep her. After the war it will be hard for anybody to make a living, every body is being ruined by this awful war. Canada is altogether different from what it was when you went away & will be worse soon. There will be a rebellion before another year if you could only see the newspapers but the Gov't will not allow us to send newspapers to Eng. So the post masters tell us. If my letter was read, I guess I would land in jail for calling the gov't rotten, but it's true, Canada is going like Russia went in govt. The poor class are being kept down & the rich men can get their sons out of the army some way or other, but the poor fellows have to go. This country will run by Jews & other foreigners soon. They are not conscripted.
Now dear boy, I have said enough perhaps too much. Now ans. Soon we shall be praying & thinking of you all the time & hoping the letter is not to late.
Best love & wishes from your loving sister'"
May 31, 1918 letter from Earl's sister Merle voicing her opinion on Earl's upcoming marriage.
"My Dearest Bro,
I have been thinking so much about you lately that I just have to write to you. I have been sick in bed for three days so am pretty shaky yet, but hope you can read this letter. I just heard yesterday that you were thinking about getting married, but my dear brother don't you do it for married life is hard- even if you do get the best girl in the old country she is not good enough for you. You were always such a good hearted kid besides if you come home single we can all help you along for a year or so you know if you are crippled you would have lots of homes to come to and welcome but if you had a wife it would be different then after you are back for a while and get good & strong then take some good Canadian girl. I have lived among so many English, Irish & Scotch girls in the West and there is not one as good as a Canadian. Now my dear brother take your big sisters advice and don't get tied up. Look at Harold he is worried to death trying to make enough to pay for two rooms, if he wasn't married he could often be at home for a rest but you know Daddy never did like strangers around long. We have always tried to pay for our board in some way when we are there.
It is for you own good I am telling you all this for times are so hard in Canada now we haven't made a cent since the war started and you know Henry always was a good rustler. Of course we have had so much expense, doctor bill, moving and everything costs so much to live. Just think we are paying 50 cts a lb. for butter, 50 cts a dozen for eggs and 2 dollars for a piece of beef that lasts about too days and they will not sell anyone living within a mile from the store any more than 25 cts worth of sugar that is just four cups full. Just yesterday Henry was in Toronto to the Dr. and he was talking to a returned soldier & he was awful mad. He said he got married in England just a month before he came home to the nicest sweetest girl over there then last week she gave birth to a baby. It belongs to some other man, but the poor soldier cannot do anything it is too late now. SO he will have to dig into the work & support his wife and someone else's kid. It seems too bad for a soldier certainly deserves an easy time – after they come back if- any one does. Harold could have worked with Henry or Colin this spring & had a far easier time than in the city if he hadn't been married. Now my dear good hearted brother don't be vexed with me for I think far too much of you to let you do such a foolish thing without trying to stop it.
I suppose you know that Archie is at Niagara we don't know if we can get him exempt or not yet. I hope so for Mother's sake. It will go hard with her to loose another boy. And Daddy intends selling out if Archie has to go and the girls will have to get positions. Pauline & Floss will be good for office work or anything but Merelda is not very strong. I don't think she could stand a steady job. Pauline has been staying with me since I got sick. I just caught cold & it settled in my side & I couldn't walk but I am getting along fine & I guess Pauline can soon go home for they are milking a lot of cows & Dad needs her to help him since Arch is away. I will close now for you will be tired of reading this. Please write soon. Henry joins in love to you. Merl"
Jun 27, 1918, Seaford, Sussex, England letter to Pauline telling her he is no longer seeing his English girlfriend.
I was very glad to receive yours and Arch's letter last night. It came in very quick time this 16 days was all. No Pauline I have no misses yet. And I will never get one over here. My little Bade happens to be no good. So I had to leave her. I never want to see her any more. Merelda is right about these English girls. She knows em far better than I do. I'll now waite until I get home. Than you can be the Best one.. get that.
p. 3 ... I had another letter from Merle today. She gave me the deuce about the girl over here. But I think Merelda gave me a good calling down. She certainly done right tho. I see she is quite right about the English girls. They only want a Canuck so they will get a free pass to Canada. But nothing doing here now, just mark it down on the wall. Ask Harold about a Miss Doris Smith in Folkestone she invited me to her place next leave, I get. But don't think I'll go. I will go to Witley
Au Revoir, Love to all, Bro Earl.
My next address is this
Sap N.E. Campbell
Purfleet, Essex England
Will send photo later."
Jul 11, 1918, France letter to Merelda
"p.2 You certainly told me right. How every did you know what the English girls were like. I think all the more of you for doing as you did. I will not have a English girl to go back with me. You say there are plenty waiting for me. I wonder who they are, ha-ha."
Dec 29, 1918 Belgium, Earl refers to his "girlfriend" in Fontain-Valmont
"Dear Mother, just a few more lines from this Country again. I guess this will be my last letter from France to you. News is going around that we sail for England 1st Jan. It is good news for this lad allright. I'll soon be home again. I'll be home before my Birthday I think. Clarence Bowkey and Frank Locuas, Jack Stubbs went a week ago. Several more of my comrades went also. Old B.Coy is very small now.
Well Mother what kind of a time did you all have Xmas. I hope you had a jolly time. I will have my next Xmas with you. We had a fine time her on Xmas. A big table was set out for us. And plenty of goose, mutton, beef, oranges, apples, beer, wine. Oh we had everything that day. Just the two Coys are here in this town. D Coy and B. A and C are 10 or 15 miles from here. The people here are awful good to us. They sure think a great deal of the Canadians. We are the first British troops they have seen in this war. The Germans had this town and all the people in their hands since 1914.
I visit one family every night. They are learning me French & Belgium language. At least the only daughter of the family is, ha-ha. I allso learn her English. She is bound to go to Canada after I go back. She looks a great deal like Pauline. I think that is why Yek as she calls me took a fancy to her, ha-ha.
Well Mother, I see the Xmas box you sent. A dandy one to, that honey and butter was a fine treat. And Merelda can sure make good ginger snaps and Xmas cake. I am using the blue pencil Floss sent me. The time is close so when Yek will not need a pencil or pen. Well Mother, I must close now. I hope this is my last letter to you & all form this Country. Hope to see you all again very soon. Best love and good wishes to all at home.
Your Loving Son, Earl"
Jan 16, 1919 Letter from Earl's girlfriend Flore written in French
Translation of letter
One of the puzzling questions was how did this young farmer from King know enough French to correspond with his Belgium girlfriend. The answer appears in this letter as Flore hopes he finds an interpreter to read her letter.
Your departure has caused a large hole in our house. We keep expecting you to come back at any moment. I was so sad when you left. I think often of our last night spent together with my parents. I am now always alone, time passes so slowly and the nights are long. If you could write me often, to distract me from my loneliness.
We are in good health, and we hope you are too. If you are England, please send me a souvenir. I hope you find an interpreter to read you what I've written you. They send you their love & kisses. Have a good year. Are you still . They send you their love & kisses. Have a good year. Are you still we are in good health, and we hope you are too. If you are in England, please send me a souvenir. I hope you find an interpreter to read you what I've written you. They send you their love & kisses. Have a good year. Are you still ??????
I turned 17 years old on January 14th. The night during dinner, I said many times like you ???? eat ?????"
[3 images of letter]
Apr 8, 1919 Earl writes to Merelda and mentions his 'girlfriend' in Belgium.
"What I think of the English girls is very wee. But I do think a great deal of a little one in Belgium."
Jun 8, 1919, Earl's Belgium girlfriend, Flore writes to him again in French.
Translation of letter written by Flore
"June 8, 1919
Melle Flore Mulquis Steno-Typist
150 Reu St. Lambert 150
Fontaine Valmont, Belgique
My Dear Yek,
You must have without doubt received my letter from May 27th I will never stop writing with my lovely fiancé Yek. I do not know Miss Palmyre 's because I have never been to Anderlues, so for the moment I can't send you her address but I will do everything I can to find it for my next letter. I am very happy to learn that you will be returning to Canada on the 20th. Your parents must be very happy.
I am also very happy to learn that you will be studying French so that you can talk with me when you return in June 1920. I want to thank you again for the beautiful little souvenir that you sent me. I will keep it safe always and when you return to Fontaine Valmonte you will be able to see it again. The whole family is in good health, except for me, I am a little sick. But do not worry because I am already feeling better. When you depart for Canada, write me to tell me you're leaving for Canada and when you arrive in Canada, write me again to let me know that you arrived safely, I worry so much.
I will finish my letter for now. Mother and Father send you their best wishes. And from me, you get my best kisses.
Your fiancée who loves you Flore.
Lots of kisses for my fiancé Yek."
[3 images of letter]
June 24, 1919, Fontaine Valmont. Another letter from Flore
"I received your letter from June 21, this morning that gave me a laugh. But what I find funny is that if you're writing me from England, are you not already starting to write your next letter? Let me know because I am worried.
You told me how nice England is, but it is also nice here. If you were here with me, we could have had lots of fun, on long walks.
Dad and Mom are in good health, and I hope you are too. I am getting better, and I already see an improvement.
I am going to do my photography and I will send it to you right away. Don't forget to send me yours, because I really want to see you my Dear Yek.
Don't forget to tell me when you write back when you are going to return to Canada. After that I will wait for you in the month of June in 1920, we will have lots of fun.
I am finished my letter for now and my Dad and Mom send you their best wishes and I send you lots of kisses. Love your fiancée.
Far from the eyes
Close to the heart
July 29, 1919, Letter written from Flore, Earl’s girlfriend from Fontaine – Valmont,
Translation of letter written from Earl’s girlfriend
"July 29, 1919
Melle Flore Mulquis Steno-Typist
150 Reu St. Lambert 150
Fontaine Valmont, Belgique
My Dear Yek,
I am writing you to remind you to not forget to give us your news as soon as you arrive in Canada, tell me if you received the letter I sent you just after you left for England.
Father is no longer working at the sugar factory, he has returned now for 8 days since July 22nd.
To send time on your next letter tell me what your duties are and explain what it is like in Canada, here it is not nice anymore like when I wrote you in England.
The merchandise/goods are still so expensive but hopefully with the war ending, the prices will start to go down little by little.
The factories have called back their workers and everything is starting to work.
I hope you are in good health and also that your dear family and your parents and everyone else is well. I am continuing to get better.
And what are you doing? Do not forget to send me your news, as soon as possible because I am getting very impatient.
I will do my photography this week and then I will send them to your right away.
I will finish my letter for right now. Father and Mother are sending you their best wishes. And for my dear Yek I send you lots of kisses.
Your forever. Your fiancée Flore.
I am very happy that the war is finished for certain. Yek will return June 1920. “After for good!”, hey"
[3 images of letter]
August 18, 1919, Letter written from Flore to Earl
Translation of letter from Flore to Earl
"August 18, 1919
Fontaine Valmont, Belgium
My Dear Yek,
Finally, with much impatience, I have received your news that explains your good trip. I was happy to read about it as were mother and father.
I am now cured and healthy and my parents are healthy too. I hope you are also in good health and the same for your family.
I want to do some photography and send some to you but I want to wait until reply to me. Don’t forget to tell me how I look now that I changed my hair because I am now a young woman.
I want to thank you for the beautiful flowers that you sent me. They are just like the ones that we have in our garden.
You asked me to marry you, yes I want to. Very good for Yek, eh?
Tell me in your letter what your mother & father think about having a fiancée in Belgium.
Now I will continue to wait for you, until you come to visit in June 1920 and perhaps earlier if it is possible. Time seems to pass very slowly, and it seems like a long time since I’ve seen you. Don’t forget to send me your pictures.
Remember to tell your father & mother.
Write me back soon. Mother and Father send you their best wishes.
Lots of love for you, your love forever.
For my dear fiancée. Yek, my xx and my dear."
[3 images of letter]
Earl returned to Canada unmarried. In 1925 he married Hazel Gambrill and lived on W ½ of Lot 8, Con. 4, King Township. Earl and Hazel had five daughters – Clara, Gloria, Gerry, Earlene and Shirley.