William (Billy) Conroy, Bertha (Mrs. Conroy), and their son Gerald during WWII
I'm starting with a letter from a young man named Bamford, perhaps from Belmont, Nova Scotia, who is in training with the Canadian Active Service Force (CASF) during the second world war. At the time he wrote this letter, he's only been gone from Nova Scotia for four months and is training in Ontario. Sounds like Elmer and Donnie might be his brothers. If you know who Bamford is, please tell me! I like Bamford. He seems like the kind of man who could talk to anyone and his letter is chatty, sweet, and sad.
Mrs. Conroy is Bertha Evelyn (Tupper) Conroy, my great-grandmother, who lived from 19 Feb 1882 until 21 Dec 1980, mostly in Middle Stewiacke (Colchester), Nova Scotia. Bamford refers to three of her children in the letter: Gerald, who was 19 at the time; Dot, who was about 22; and John, who was almost 30. Billy is William Daniel Conroy, Bertha's husband and my great-grandfather. I think Grandma is Ruth Elizabeth (Bentley) Tupper, Bertha's mother, who was almost 90 and living with them at the time.
I'm preserving Bamford's spelling and punctuation and I'll do my best to be accurate. Here goes:
Barriefield Camp, Kingston, Ontario, Nov.17/40
Dear Mrs. Conroy and Family: --
Well, it has just been 4 months today since I enlisted but it hasn't seemed very long, time goes awfully fast in the army. Well I still havent any real kick against army life. There is'nt much to it, it teaches a man to be lazy I think, I know if I done a day's work now I would be killed. Well I guess I have a lot of training to do yet before I'm a soldier. This is supposed to be the technical unit of the army. They are taking a 3 yr. course and trying to get us to get it in 6 months. We have been learning the morse code on the buzzer, signal flag and lamp. I've got up to about 3 words a minute, which is pretty slow. I joined this outfit in order to do some work at linework or electrician work but I haven't seen any of that work yet. I've been feeling good every since I joined the army. I've gained a few pounds in weight and I haven't been sick a day. There are a lot of colds on the go though and a lot of guys are in hospital with it. There are also measles in the camp and a bunch of the fellows are quarantined in an isolation hut. The weather is getting winterish up here now. We had our first snow Thursday night and it snowed and blowed all last night then turned to rain this morning. The air seems awfully cold and damp up here, it chills a fellow right to the bone. We had firing practice on the range a week ago Thursday and I shivered so much I could hardly hold the rifle steady but I made a 60 out of a possible 95. I like the shooting part great, I wish we had a shooting practice every week. Well it will soon be Xmas, I don't expect to be home for Xmas although I would like to very much, more than any other time of year. All C.A.S.F. men are getting a 6 day special Xmas leave without travelling time, which would mean 2 or 3 days at home. My furlough is due January 17 so I think I would be better off to wait for it, as I will get 14 days leave besides travelling time, and it would cost me too much to go home both times. The ticket costs $22 or $23 and a person has to have that and 50% more for expense money before the Xmas leave is granted. There was a bad accident on the pavement here just above the camp gate last Thursday night. A young soldier from P.E.I. (he was just 20 yrs. old) was struck by a car and killed. Three of them were returning from Kingston from skating on the rink. It happened about 12:30 at night. I was walking out from town on the sidewalk and these three were just ahead of me and stepped off onto the pavement at our camp gate. I had walked toward the camp a couple of hundred feet when I heard a car coming and heard the crash. I don't think the poor fellow knew what hit him. I and 2 more fellows ran to him before the Barriefield camp doctor got to him. He was a bad looking sight, I guess his head was crushed, for part of his brains were mixed into the blood. The car that struck him took him to the Kingston hospital but I guess life was all gone before he was picked up off the ground. I guess his body was shipped home this morning, he belonged to Charlottetown. I feel sorry for his family. It would be bad enough to have him killed overseas, where it is expected, but to have him killed here like that makes it seems worse. Well how are things in middle Stewiacke now? I suppose it is beginning to look like winter. I wrote a couple of letters to Scotty and heard back from him once. I suppose he has went away and enlisted too. How is Gerald getting along now, how does he like his outfit. I see by the paper where he was taking a course at Ottawa and Petawawa. There are fellows in this outfit from all over the Dominion, all the way from Vancouver to Sydney. I've got to know an awful lot of fellows since I've been here. One thing I miss up here is going to the woods to hunt, although I never got much I used to like to be in the woods. Earl Davis from Stewiacke (he is in my company) was down home on a few days leave a week or so ago, he was telling me that the deer are awful thick in N.S. I suppose so many have enlisted and gone away and the rest are busy working that the deer are getting a rest. Donnie has got back from Los Angeles, he is working at electrician work on the new camp at Debert. Elmer is working there too at plumbing work and so is father. Mother has 4 boarders besides so she must be pretty busy. I guess Belmont is a boom town now, its a good thing that its getting a boom sometime in its history. I guess I wouldn't know the place now, according to the letters I get from home. I guess Donnie didn't like Los Angeles very much, I imagine it would be better than our climate in winter. Elmer took his 30 days N.P.A.M. [Non-Permanent Active Militia?] at Yarmouth, I guess he didn't think much of soldering, he said it was too monotonous. One thing about this soldering there isnt any money to it. If I was in civil life I should be making pretty good money. I just get $19 a month I send the other $20 home and mother puts it into Life Insurance. Its a good thing I send it home, if I had it I would likely spent it along with the rest. I guess the soldiers being at Debert has made a different town at Truro. I hear the people are kind of getting sick of soldiers. I can understand that if there are any of those Highland Battalions there, some of them are nice fellows but some of them are outlaws in their actions. I guess the climate is pretty severe up here in winter, I will likely mind it quite a bit, although I thought I was cold enough at times last winter when I was working in the mill. I see where Geo. Dickie had an appendicutus operation. How is Ernie getting along with his air-force training, I suppose he has done some piloting by now. I've been having quite a bit of dental work done since I came up here. I've had 8 teeth out, some filled and some more filling to do then I'm having a partial plate made. There is a dental clinic right here in camp, 5 dentists at work all the time, and they are sure good, they can pull teeth so a person doesn't know it. All this dental work is free gratis to us, so I suppose that makes up in a way for the money we don't earn like we were in civil life. I don't pay as much attention to the war news as I did since I enlisted, but I generally hear the news every night at 11 oclock. The Greeks are sure going to town on those Italians and making a mess of them, and the British have sure broke up their fleet, so old mussalini hasn't made much of a showing so far. I imagine Hitler will be feeling the pinch pretty quick, but it will be a long war yet. We had a man that lectured to us in the Y.M.C.A. he was a Y.M.C.A. organiser in Poland for 18 years, and was at the seige of Warsaw. He said that the war would end in the fall of 1941 on the plains of Eastern Europe, but I dont think anybody knows where or just when it will end. Britain will come out on top but there is a lot of hard scrapping yet. Well it will likely be quite awhile before I'm in middle Stewiacke again, but I'm home in January on furlough. I'll try to drop in to see you. What is Dot doing now? Is she married yet or is she working away someplace. I've written her 3 letters but havent gotten an answer to any of them. I wish you would ask her to write to me if you are writing to her or if she comes home to visit. I was just wondering to night how you were getting along. Your place was kind of a second home to me I guess, for I sure was there a lot of the time. How is Grandma these times. How is John getting along? Is he still in the West Indies? I'm not much on writing letters myself. I write home every week and I write a few other letters besides. Most of the soldiers seem to be good at writing letters, for there is some pile of letters sent out of here in a day. Donnie brought me back a 1 lb. can of Pince Albert tobacco from the States and sent it up, so I wont have to spend any for tobacco for awhile. Well I guess I'll quit pretty quick and take a bath and go to bed. We get up here at 6:30, have breakfast at 7:30 and go on parade at 8:45. But it is getting almost too cold for drilling and parading outdoors, so we will likely start lectures now. There is room for 68 men in each hut, so there is a lot of snoring going on when a guy comes in late at night. We have a great bunch of officers though, they are real nice and get along with the men good. Twelve of them were officals with the Bell Telephone Co. before enlisting. How is Billy now? Is he still scaling logs. I suppose lumbering is booming in N.S. now, as the dept. of national defence is doing so much building. They are working on 15 new huts here at this camp, besides two big drill halls. Well I guess this is about all the news I can think of for now. I hope you write and tell me how you are all getting along or get Dot to write if she will, I suppose you are pretty busy, but try and find time to write. In case I dont hear from you I wish you all a Very Merry Xmas and a nice New Year. I dont know how I'll spend Xmas up here but it wont be as nice as my last Xmas. Well remember me to everybody in middle and try and write to me. Hope you are all well and getting along fine
Donald Conroy was my grandmother's brother. The baby of the family; last of the thirteen born to his parents. The caption reads:
Shown in the above photograph are Mr. and Mrs. Donald E. Conroy, who were recently married in Truro. Mrs. Conroy is the former Miss Ruth Boomer, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. S. W. Boomer, Alton. Mr. Conroy is the son of Mr. and Mrs. W. D. Conroy, Middle Stewiacke.
This picture was taken to commemorate the 50th wedding anniversary of William Daniel Conroy and Bertha Evelyn Tupper. They were married on 28 Apr 1899 and went on to have thirteen children (including my grandmother, Alyce).
William was the son of Michael and Bridget (Lyons) Conroy. Poor Bridget died when William was only six months old, so William was left with her parents and Michael moved to the US to find work.
Bertha was the daughter of Robert G. and Ruth Elizabeth (Bentley) Tupper.