In the Peregrine Acland Fonds at Library & Archives Canada, there is a small envelope containing about seven 3″x5″ notes comprising his “diary” en route to England aboard the S.S. Megantic with the 1st Canadian Contingent. The first few weeks in England are briefly covered as well. The Library & Archives Canada link for the diary is here.
Where Acland uses military abbreviations, I’ve added annotations in square brackets, and I’ve also added a few notes where he alludes to things already mentioned elsewhere on this site. Otherwise, I’ve attempted to keep my transcription as it appears in the notebook. I have made the dates bold for ease of reading.
Saturday. Sep. 26th Left Valcartier by rail and embarked in afternoon on SS. Megantic. In stateroom 28 with Lieuts. Jago & Dansereau. Other troops on board, Div Ammo Col. [Divisional Ammunition Column], Clearing Hospital, & 1st Field Hospital.
Thursday Oct 1 C Coy, duty Coy. [C Company, duty Company] Had charge of fatigue party loading wagons etc in afternoon at Quebec. Weighed anchor at 10:30p.m.
Friday. Sent letter to Globe from Father Point. [This article can be found elsewhere on this site].
Saturday. At Gaspé. 26 transports in bay, joined by four cruisers.
Monday- Rougher weather
Tuesday- do_ (but still comparatively good). Have been reading Doyle’s “Great Boer War.”
Thursday. Somewhat rougher weather yesterday & today. A number sea sick. Personally OK. Name of battleship with us is The Glory (pre-Dreadnought, but 12 inch guns). Another cruiser joined us this a.m. Larger than rest. Cruiser ahead of us Eclipse others, Diana, Talbot, Charybdis. Officers games on board started yesterday. [page break]
Oct. 14. Wednesday. Name of other battleship with was the Princess Royal (or Queen Mary?). – a super dreadnought. Land visible this a.m. ahead on port side. Passed French fishing scnack [?] flying tricolor. Passed close to Lizard [lighthouse] this a.m. At 1 p.m. close to Eddystone lighthouse. In early afternoon reached Plymouth (Accompanied in by number of torpedo boat destroyers & submarines) Other ships of transport fleet here are Laurentic, Royal Edward, Alaunia, Royal George, Franconia. Would like to get ashore but can’t tonight. [page break]
Friday. Oct 16 Landed this afternoon after several days waiting. Marched thro’ cheering crowds to Plymouth Station & entrained for Patney (Salisbury Plains). Reached there after midnight, waited for
second left half battalion and marched by night nine miles to South Camp. Slept in part of Saturday (had only got into tents about 7a.m). Started regular work on Monday Oct 18. (Neville [?] started to help again on Friday Oct. 16)
Wednesday, Oct. 21. Reviewed by Maj. Gen. Alderson (Highland Brigade). Yesterday formed into double companies [page break]
Oct 23-26. First visit to London since arrival. Stayed at Cecil with Dugrid Long, Daniels, etc, etc. Saw the sights (Leicester Lounge etc) but came away bored. Visited Miss Billings who hardly recognized me. Saw my old school (Univer Coll. School, now in Frognal).
Nov. 4. Reviewed by H.M. the King + Queen, Kitchener, Roberts, etc. Much rain this week has seriously interfered with work.
Nov 5. To London second time. Empire Theatre. Miss Million. Was not altogether enraptured. Stayed at Savoy with [page break]
Tod Bertto [?] later by myself. Friday morning, called on G.B.S. [George Bernard Shaw] and was fortunate enough to have a half hour’s chat with him. Saw Welch in “when Knights were Bold” at Kingsway. Excruciatingly funny.
Nov. 4. Coliseum in afternoon (music halls are poor). “Kingsway” in evening with the “Country Girl,” a most delightful production.
Sunday Nov. 8. Called on Mr. + Mes. L.H. Moore, Chelsea. Supper with Tod at Criterion. [page break]
Nov. 19. Have had fairly good work for the last week or so. Have had charge of Frank Smith’s platoon No. 12. Enjoy life much more with some definite responsibility. This afternoon to London again. With Bob D. to Empire. Later spent night with Elsie Kitchener one of [the] most charming little girls I have ever met. Daughter of a retired naval officer (?) and herself a thoroughbred. Returned to Savoy at 11 o’clock next morning. [page break]
Nov 21. Had lunch with Elsie at Piccadilly Restaurant, took her to see Beerbohm Tree as Falstaff in Henry IV at “His Majesty’s,” had tea with her at her flat (50 Delaware Mansions, Maida Vale) then went to dinner at the Moores (143 Sloane Street). There met Miss Daniels, sister in law of Alfred Noyes. I had met Noyes himself at the D.C. Scotts’ last winter. [page break]
There ends the diary. I wonder if that “Elliott” from Nov 21st could be T.S. Eliot, who was at Merton at the time. Somewhat less speculation is required to draw the conclusion that the “thoroughbred” Elsie Kitchener lent at least her name to Elsie Roberts, the working girl Falcon has a liaison with, beginning in Chapter III of All Else is Folly. The Roberts bit of her name may be an allusion to Field Marshall Frederick Roberts, who was amongst those dignitaries present reviewing the troops on Nov 4th above. I’ve commented before about Acland’s playfulness with names: substituting the name of one famous soldier for another is right up his alley.