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What has happened to Henry Tod and where is the RMS Walmer Castle going?

1st January 1917

My dear Father and Mother,

When you see this you will be wondering, like myself, when we are going to get away. I said good-bye to the depot battalion in Edinburgh on 14th November. We are on board ship it is true but as near East Africa as ever. Further information I am not at liberty to give you.

It is tedious in the extreme this hanging about and it is like being in a prison. I have been on shore only once since embarking. We are making the best of it however and have just got through the Christmas and New Year festivities, with plenty of sing song and good cheer. But it is difficult to keep in really good form with so little exercise and a generous menu. A round or two on the Edmonton golf course is what I want. [His parents and two brothers are homesteading near Edmonton, Canada.]  Those were great games we had to be sure and I cannot quite figure out even now who is the champion of the family but no doubt each of us in our own mind has decided the point. But in your line mother you are an easy first – whether it is at the piano or the kitchen range – and I’ll back you against the best in the land. “East, West; hame’s best.” I wonder what the native cooking is like and shall probably have to face some wonderful productions.

Here is wishing you all the very best in the New Year. We brought the new year in all gathered on deck and did full justice to the occasion. The other ships in the harbour did likewise and it was quite impressive.

Still stuck in Devonport, it seems. Plymouth dockyard was renamed Devonport in 1843. It was a major shipbuilding site for the Royal Navy. Now it is the largest naval base in Western Europe and is the sole nuclear repair and refuelling facility for the Royal Navy.

A glance at the next letter suggests that they set sail soon after.