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Remembering Earle R. Miller A 7-Day Pass to London
The picture and copies of the original letter were provided by David R. Hahn, the grandson of Earle Russell Miller.
Earle Russell Miller (Service No. 283361) enlisted at the age of 17 with the 219th Battalion at Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, April 3, 1916. He was born July 4, 1898, in Yarmouth, the son of Avard Herbert and Hannah Sarah (Allen) Miller. The following is his account of his 7-day pass (on leave) to London. The twenty-four page letter, written home, provides a detailed account of his time in London, England during the First World War between the 3rd and the 9th of November, 1916.
Friday, Nov. 3rd 1916 Reveille at 6.30 a.m. Breakfast at 7 a.m. During the morning the battalion paraded and each man gave the officers 3 shillings to buy tickets. Prepared to go on pass the rest of the morning. Dinner at 12 noon. At 2 p.m. paraded to the M. O. and he gave each man a slip with names of some of the hospitals in London, so if taken sick while there one would know where to go. Paraded again and got our tickets. At 3 p.m. left Witley Camp for Milford, the nearest railway station, where we boarded the train for London. Arrived at Waterloo Station, London at 5.30 p.m. From there walked about 1/2 mile till I came to the Strand, asked a “Bobby” where to go and he directed me to the Bruce House on Drury Lane. Had a good supper, after which I went for a walk but as it was raining hard could not see very much. Almost got run down a number of times at street corners, before I found out about how the taxis and auto run. London is very dark at night. All the lights are shaded as that there is about a circle of radius 2 ft. that is lit up. I almost got lost, as there are so many streets and they cross in a very bewildering manner. They never seem to cross at right angles, but always at a small angle so that one does not know which one to take, but found my way back safely about 9 p.m. Sat down in the reading room and read until 10.30 and then went to bed. I have a separate cubicle to sleep in. The beds are clean and so I am comfortable. Am in good health. It has rained nearly all day. Saturday - Nov. 4. Got up at 7.15 a.m. Cleaned up, had a wash and went to breakfast at 8.30. After breakfast checked greatcoat, haversack, bought ticket for next night, then started out with Ed to have a look around. We thought we would go to the “Tower” first. Walked down Drury Lane till we came to the Strand. Met a postman and inquired the way to the “Tower”. He at once told us he would show us the way. (The English people are very obliging to the Canadian soldiers - they will do almost anything for them.) He led us down to the Victoria Embankment and then to Temple Station (an underground railway station.) We bought tickets for Mark Lane and boarded the train (a string of a dozen or so electric cars.) Got off at Mark Lane and went up stairs and emerged about 150 yds from the Tower. About 10 a.m. when we reached the Tower. The postman left us here and would not take a penny for showing us the way. Spent all the morning exploring the Tower and the only thing I wished during that 2 hours was that I could remember a little more history. The men who take care of the place and act as guides are yoeman [sic] dressed in the old fashioned uniforms of which I have often seen pictures. I never spent a better or more interesting 2 hours in my life and never expect to. Took note while there and was given a guide which explained all about the place. I went to every place and saw even more than is told in the guide. Saw bloody tower, crown jewels, Raleigh’s walk, dungeons, Beauchamp tower, site of execution scaffold. After dinner walked down the Strand to Trafalgar Square. Saw Nelson monument (sculptured by I.E. Crew Copenhagen in 1801) There are a number of monuments near. They are for G.C. Adams, King George IV, Sir Henry Havelock - India and Chas. Gordon Khartoum. All this section is known as Westminster. Turned to the left and walked about half a mile till we came to the Parliament buildings and Westminster Abbey. (The Parliament buildings were struck by a bomb a short time ago and have not been built up yet.) Asked a “bobby” where to go to get in the Parliament and he directed me to the entrance. Went in and bought a guide for a shilling. Spent an hour in these buildings - saw the Royal Gallery. Princes Chamber, House of Lords, House of Commons etc, then crossed the street to the Abbey, where a guide showed me around, but was only there a few minutes as there was to be a service at 3 p.m. Then went to the King’s Palace which is about half a mile from the Abbey. In front of the Palace (Buckingham Palace) is the Queen Victoria Memorial. It is made of white marble except where sightseers walk, and there it is brown granite. The figure on top is some kind of gilt, and the statues at the entrance are of black material. At the entrance farthest from the palace are two statues. One of a man with his hand on a lion and the other of a woman with her hand on a lion. The woman holds a branch in her free hand and the man a torch. Nearest the palace are two more statues of a man and woman each with their hand on a lion. The man is a black- smith with his hammer in his free hand the woman has a scythe in her hand. Written on the monument on the side away from the palace are these words - (Victoria Regina Imperatrix) and on the opposite side MDCCCXXXVII MDCCCCI. Left the palace at 4 p.m. walked down through St. James Park up Whitehall to the Strand and to Drury Lane, thus back to where we started from. Went to the reading room till 5 p.m. then had supper. After supper sat down and discussed our days travel and read guides we had purchased on the way. Wrote up notes taken during the day. Went up to my cubicle at 10.45 and turned in. The weather was fine all day (for a wonder) Are in good health and getting along fine. Sunday - Nov. 5. Got up at 8 a.m. washed, dressed and shined up and went to breakfast. After breakfast went to the reading room and stayed all morning. Dinner at 12. After dinner wrote home sending diary of trip across the Atlantic. Read all the afternoon as it was raining hard. At 4.30 went out and mailed letter then had supper. After supper went to a movie show for which I paid 1 shilling. After the show walked around for a while then met Ed* and some more of the boys and walked around and had some fun. Returned to the Bruce House at 11.30 p.m. and turned in. Not a very interesting day on account of the rain, but it cleared off after supper. Monday - Nov. 6. Turned out at 8.30 and had breakfast. Then started out. Decided to go to the Zoo. Went to Trafalgar Sq. and took the underground for Regents Park. Got off on inquired of a “bobby” where to go. Walked through the park for about 5 minutes and then came to the Zoo. Bought some peanuts to feed the squirells [sic] and monkeys. Had some fun feeding the squirrels before going in the Zoo. They are American grey squirrels and very tame. They jump up on your shoulder, run down your arm, take the peanut, sit on your hand till they get a good grip on it and then jump off. The sparrows are also very tame and will take crumbs out of ones hand. Paid 3 d. to go in the Zoo. It was now about 10 a.m. Stayed there till 12 noon had lunch on the grounds and then stayed till 4.30 p.m. and could have easily spent another day looking at the animals etc. Saw everything from bugs, fleas, & mice to elephants, rhinoceros & giraffes. There were a number of animals that are the only one of their kind in captivity. I couldn’t start to name any of them, but I saw all that I had ever heard about or seen and hundreds of others. Birds, reptiles, fish, animals of every zone and part of the world. The ground was originally level, but each part had been dug out or built up to suit the animal which is kept there. The seals, of which there are a dozen or so have a large deep pool all built up on two sides with concrete to represent blocks of ice. The goats have a regular mountain to run about, rugged just as they have been used to. The lions have caves in the rocks for dens. The storks have a small river to wade in. The monkeys miniature trees, the rhinoceros large pools, and each one has just what he has been used to before his captivity. It was certainly great and I had a fine time. Started for Bruce House at 4.30 p.m. Had supper and then went out to have some fun. Walked down to Trafalgar Sq. and was standing there when a fellow came walking across with a drunken fellow. The drunk fell in the middle of the street, and the other one, who had only been out of the hospital three days could not get him up. I went and helped him and then spent most of the evening getting the drunk to his boarding place which was on Sussex St. off Piccadilly Both fellows were South Africans. The one just out of hospital told me all about himself and his battalion. Their brigade left South Africa 5000 strong of which there are 243 left. He himself came out of the trenches Sept. 28. sick with trench fever and had been in the hospital ever since. He told me about the fever. it is something like Influenza only 10 times as bad. I walked around with him until 10.30 then went to back to turn in, but as I was getting ready to turn in, in came two fellows - one a Highlander from Winnipeg (49th Bat) the other an Australian. They had just come from the trenches for 10 days leave. I stayed and talked with them about the trenches until 2 a.m. and certainly was interesting. They had both been thro the fighting at the Somme. The Highlander was the most interesting as he had a good education and was a fine talker. He showed me maps of the Somme and told me all about the fighting conditions at the front, how the men are used, etc, and as he has been to the front for 19 month he ought to know something about it. The battalion that the Australian was in was all cut to pieces, there being only 13 fit men left - all the rest either killed or wounded. Turned in about 2.30 a.m. Still in fine health - weather fine. Tuesday - Nov. 7 Turned out about 9 a.m. Decided to go to Madame Tresseau’s [sic] Wax Works. Walked to Trafalgar Sq. and took the underground to Bake St. Station which is within about 50 yds. of the works. Paid 1 s. 2 d. to enter - the 2 d. being amusement tax. Walked up a flight of stairs, saw a policeman standing at the door, and not thinking where I was I went up to him and asked him which direction to go in and got no answer. I certainly felt foolish when I found that he was only a wax figure. But I was not the only one to be fooled, as a good many of the boys did the same thing. The first room is called the Grand Hall and in it are figures of all the English rulers from William I to George V, and they were so real that I could almost see them move sometimes. I could almost swear sometimes that I saw their eyelids move. From the Grand Hall, went into the next room where there were figures of all the principal men of the present and past. General French, Lord Kitchener, the principal members of the present parliament, Duke Nicholas, Joffre, Foch, Jellico, and all the other war heros. John Cornwall [sic] [Cornwell] V.C. and also a couple more V.C’s, the Queen, Queen Victoria, Mrs. Pankhurst and her sister and other famous suffragettes, Tom Thumb and dozens upon dons of others. When leaving this room I saw a young lady sitting at a table reading, and as she did not move, I walked right up, thinking she was a wax figure, and put out my hand, and believe me, it almost knocked me over when she asked me what I wanted. This goes to show how natural the figures are. I then went down a flight of stairs to the children’s room where there are figures of all the children’s heros, such as Jack the Giant Killer, etc. and scenes representing the Babes in the Wood and many others. From here, went into a large room in which there was staged some of the tragic scenes of history, such as, - The Death of Nelson, Death of Lady Jane Grey, Finding Hood’s Body after Hastings, The Death of Gordon at Khartoum (called Gordon’s last Stand) and many others of a similar kind. These are all life size and are staged just as they happened. There is a small chart near each one giving the names of the characters. Went back up stairs and paid 6d. to see the “Chamber of Horrors”. Just before going into the chamber there is a small room given over wholly to relics of Napoleon. In it are his state carriage - the carriage in which he rode from Waterloo. A piece of the tail of Marengo (Napoleon’s favorite horse which he rode at Waterloo, a walking stick of Napoleon’s, his rings, teeth, lock of his hair, pieces of his coffin, earth from his grave, a piece of the tree under which he was buried and hundreds of other things. There was also in this apartment the coat Nelson wore when he received his mortal wound, the bullet hole is shown. From here went to the “Chamber of Horrors” where there are to be seen all the noted murderers and noted men that have been executed and scenes representing some of the murders. Among the figures is that of Roger Caseman [sic] [Casement], all of the leaders of the French Revelution [sic] who were guillotined. All the principal instruments of torture, and a regular sized guillotine with the figure of a man with his head on the block to show his position and the way it works. Heads of the French revelutionists [sic] just as they looked after being guillotined with blood all over their features. After leaving this room, went into a small room where there were some of those curved mirrors which makes a person look so funny. I suppose these were to make one forget the gruesome sights in the Chamber of Horrors. One [sic] [On] the way out I noticed a figure of Edith Carvell [sic] [Cavell]. When I got outside it was 12.30. Went back to the house and had dinner and then decided to go to St. Paul’s Cathedral. Walked down to Victoria Embankment and thence to the Cathedral - about 25 minutes walk. First went all around the main part of the church looking at the statues and memorials. A guide explained to me who built the cathedral when destroyed, who did all the carving etc. but it was too much to go into my head at one time and I forgot it all. I then went down stairs into the Crypt. The majority of people buried there were military or naval heros. The most noted are Wellington & Nelson. Wellington has two monuments there. Both are about 14 x 10 at the base - one much higher than the other. There is also kept in this place his funeral carriage. It is a huge object supported by six wheels 3 on each side. It is made of bronze and at a cost of £20,000. On it are the standards of Wellington’s own regiments and around the sides are engraved the names of his principal battles. After leaving the Crypt, went up stairs to the famous “Whispering Gallery”. A guide explained all about the structure etc. There were a large number of people there at the time all standing around the gallery, the end of the line being about opposite the guide. He spoke in a whisper all the time and the people opposite him could hear much better than the mean next to him. I suppose it must have been about 150 ft. across, but every sound could be heard distinctly. Came out at 3 p.m. as there was going to be a service. As I was standing outside talking with Ed* and three other 219th boys the B.S.M. (Sergeant Major Ward) came past and stopped to talk with us. He had quite a talk and then he invited us to supper. He took us to a restaurant and gave us a swell feed and then left us. We walked around for a time and then decided to go to a good theatre. Met a Canadian who was living in London and he advised is to go to “His Majesty” to see “Chin Chin Chow”. Well we went and it certainly was a fine play. The scenery alone cost £50.000 and there were some of the best actors in London in the play. The music was something wonderful, I could feel myself rising right out of my seat about half of the time. The play started at 7.30 p.m. and finished at 11.15 but it didn’t seem to be much more than an hour. After the play went home and turned in at 11.45 p.m. In fine health. - fine during morning but clouds afternoon and evening. Wednesday - Nov. 8. Turned out at 8.30 and went to breakfast. After breakfast walked down to Westminster Bridge and stood there all the morning watching the water craft and the traffic across the bridge. There is a fine view of the Parliament Buildings from this place. Most of the pictures of the buildings are taken from the bridge. Went back to the house for dinner at 12 noon. After dinner went down to Whitehead one of the best museums (the Royal United Service) bought a guide at the door. Spent all afternoon examining the relics and models kept there. They are too numerous to start to mention. One thing that I took great interest in was a model of the Battle of Waterloo. The model covers an area of 400 sq. ft. and is made to scale every hill and valley being represented. The armies are represented by small figures and the ground is covered with the wounded and dead. The armies are in the position they were just after the defeat of Napoleon’s “Old Guard”. There were many other models of a similar kind, also models of battleships, dreadnoughts, battle cruisers, cruisers, destroyers etc., and a regular sized torpedo. There was a model of the battle cruiser H.M.S. Queen Mary - about 15 ft. long. Left the museum and went to supper. After supper went to the Hippodrome to see “Flying Colors”. This was a fine show but not as good as “Chin Chin Chow”. Went to the house and turned in at 11.45 p.m. Fine weather all day. Are in fine health. Thursday Nov. 9 Turned out at 9 a.m. and then had to be pulled out as we were all supposed to be down stairs at 9. Had breakfast and then walked down the Strand to Trafalgar Sq. where I met Geo. Wagner** and about a couple of dozen of the boys. We stayed there till noon playing around and making fools of ourselves generally. It was a holiday as there was to be a procession in which Lord Mayor was to be. The procession was to go past Trafalgar Sq. at 3.30 p.m. but the crowd started to gather at noon so we all stayed where we were till the procession came past. I thought I had seen crowds before , but they were just small groups compared with the crowd that gathered to see that procession. It was formed up of Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, South Africans, British Troops, Flying Corps, Scots Guards, Grenadier Guards, Coldstream Guards , Cadets, Boy Scouts, Captured German aeroplane, three captured German guns etc. After the procession passed I stood talking to a wounded soldier for a while and then started back but could not move along the Strand at all, because of the crowd. Had to go down to the river and walk along Victoria Embankment to Waterloo bridge and from there to the house. Had to wait 15 minutes before I could get across the Strand. Had supper at 4.30 p.m. then started to get ready to go back to camp. Started for Waterloo Station at 5.30, got the 6.40 train for Godalming (3 miles from camp) Arrived at Godalming at 7.35. Waited for a bus till 9. Arrived at camp at 8.20 p.m. but did not go in then as we found that the 219th was quarantined on account of Spinal Meningitis, there being 5 or 6 cases. Had to go in and report anyway, so went in at 9 p.m. First thing to do after handing in my pass was to gargle my throat with some kind of solution. Went to the hut, made bed and turned in at 9.30 p.m. Are in good health Has been the best kind of weather all day. Pte. E. R. Miller No 283361 H 2 Co. 219th Highland Bat. C. E. F. Witley Camp. c/o Army Post Office, London Eng. * Edmund McConnell Lewis (Service No. 283360) Yarmouth, NS ** George Morris Wagner (Service No. 282660) Tusket, Yarmouth Co., NS