Am feeling fine and hope the hot weather keeps up for a little while.
Received your parcel today containing socks, handkerchiefs and soap. I have
lots of soap ahead now as I had a cake of palm olive on hand.
As a result of the recent change of course Ramsay and I both had to move
and we are now in two different tents by ourselves. I do not know how long I
shall be in this one but I only had to move across the lane into 'C' Company
lines and am now facing our old tent.
There is nothing much more to tell you. We have no news as to going
overseas. My letters will be fewer and short I shall endeavour to get a line
off to someone in the house every few days but long letter writing is nearly
impossible. We are duty battalion for the camp this week and as I expect I
will get soaked with it on the week end.
How is the little kid's cough and is Bunker keeping up her physical
jerks? 'She can do it so easy'
Lights have just sounded so I think I shall get to bed as 5:30 springs
round pretty quickly. Give my love to the various households and take care of
yourself. Did you feel any ill effects from the Pantages trip and supper? I
hope not. Tell Helen that I didn't half thank her for the supper.
With love to all am your affectionate son,
September 2 1916 - Vernon Camp (letter)
This as usual will only be a note. Nothing of very much interest has
been happening. So many of the officers are on special duty that we get
soaked with orderly duty pretty often. I got it last Saturday and again this
Sat. so I have missed two country club dances and the two before that I was at
the coast so I haven't seen many people since my return. We are working a
little now but can still go stronger.
Ramsay leaves for the coast with the C.O. tomorrow for a week's leave.
Jack Knight has returned and I am sharing my tent with him.
I today received your box with your note. Thanks muchly. Ramsay has
promised not to eat much supper at the dance and when he returns we are going
to have a chicken supper.
As this is just after payday some of the boys will be drunk and I have
been fairly busy since dinner handling one case that came in early. We have
no battalion jail accommodation so had to rush round and get him admitted to
Brigade Detention cells contrary to regulations. The Provost marshall is
Capt. Miller who used to be Chief of Police in Westminster.
Reverting to your parcel. The trip up jarred the lid loose and a little
of the jelly oozed out and got on the outside of the paper. Contents however
were all in fine shape. One of the boys came up to me later and asked me if I
had received my mail because there was a tin of jam for me.
Have just had a letter from Margaret McNiven. She returned to Vancouver
the day following my arrival here so I failed to see her.
The jitneys are beginning to arrive and they are pretty noisy fellows
this evening although not bad for after payday and besides a great many of
them are not our men.
Hope father had some luck on his trip. It will do him good anyway. I am
so glad to hear that the little kid is better. I suppose everything is good
for something although I never knew what garlic could do beyond stink 'Hip
stink.' Am very sorry to hear that Billie has been miserable and hope he is
better by the time you get this. He should join the army for his health.
Also Gran, has been sick. What was the trouble and how is she now? Give her
my love and tell her that I will write if I am able to get a letter off.
Saw of Capt. Peele's death in the Province and was much surprised as 'I
didn't even know that he was sick'.
The weather has been pretty warm ranging about 100 in the shade but of
course we cannot work in the shade because there isn't any. It is hot on the
range parade and it has gone as high as 112 here. The record is in the
medical tent which is one of the coolest tents in the bunch. As a matter of
fact I have enjoyed the heat as I stand it well up here and have not felt it
too hot to work so far.
You saw Plumridge had been made a lance corporal. That is another chap.
My man is Plumbridge, and a batman must be a full fledged private only. I
have another man at present as I am in 'C' Company and Plumbridge was D. So I
asked Ramsay to hang on to him until we saw what was going to happen to me.
Tell father that we had a first class 15 round light weight fight here last
night. Joe Bailey -light weight champion of Canada from Victoria and Jimmie
Clark of 158th Battalion Vancouver. went 15 rounds to a draw and they both
worked like the deuce and owing to a little hard feeling they went at it
As I have still a little frog in my throat I wonder if Father could ask
Rothwell what it was he gave me before when a cold in the head settled down.
he might send me the prescription.
With love to all and a big kiss for yourself I am,
Your Affectionate son,
p.s. Yes, I saw Art B. and also Tom Gifford. KCM
(postscript noted on top of first page 'received a box of home made
maple fudge from Doris McLagan. Kind of her wasn't it)
September 2 1916 - Vernon- (letter to sister Helen)
Have just finished a short letter to mother so you will receive what
little news I have through her, so I shall devote this to the question of the
snaps. I left you the 2 rolls and 2 films. You sent me 15 pictures and 16
films for same. The only one that didn't turn out was one I took of Billie in
his office. The one of Billie and Elsie and of Father and Mother are both
good and the two groups both good. They were on a film which I didn't
complete exposing until I got up here. I am just sending you the films and
all my military snaps which please put with my others. You will see from the
films the various pictures and any you want copies of get done and let me know
Taylor saw the one of Elsie and Billie and thought it a very good one
and quite a characteristic pose for Billie but corrected himself as he didn't
think it usual to see him with his hand in his own pocket.
Have had a couple of letters from Gertrude and have just written her.
You might be interested to know that we decided to cancel and call off all our
understandings owing to the uncertainty of everything, when I was at the
coast. She is a mighty fine little brick however.
Have just been out for about half an hour making my rounds after lights
out. Have about 38 men still absent at 10pm although I suppose several of
them have by now reported in through the guard. Payday and booze is a
troublesome combination. Several in the lines are more or less half shot but
I do not trouble them as long as they mind their business. Have yet to make
my report so will not write long. I hope that some crazy son of a gun doesn't
come home late and start something as we don't come off duty until 5:30 am and
that means trouble in the night as they don't give us any accommodation here
for handling the bad ones when they crop up and the Brigade joint will be
closed I presume. It is raining quite hard now. Has been showery all day
which is quite a change.
Monday being Labour Day we have Brigade Sports all day. I am asked to
act as our battalion inspector on the track which sounds like something but I
haven't the slightest idea as to what it really is. Ten to one it consists in
wearing a badge and standing round all day looking wise and hoping no one will
refer any matter to you. I believe I am to run in our officers relay race
team which means that one has to tear off 220 yards as hard as one can go
handing a stick to a team mate who tears along another 220 and so on. I am
much interested in it all because so much is accomplished. If there was a $20
bill at the end of the chase I might work up a little speed but all one gets
is this stick and it is given away to the next man and is eventually thrown
away or lost by the last. Rather thrilling I call it all.
Give Hennie my love and tell her that I took a picture of some men doing
the jerks, some of 'C' Co. It is among the snaps enclosed. They are standing
with arms stretched up. I suppose she will be surprised that they are not
working their feet or down flat on the ground.
Must stop now as it is getting late. be sure and get what prints you
want and put the films with the rest.
September 17 1916 - Vernon Camp - (letter)
I have been trying for ages to get a line off home but simply haven't
had time. last Monday the second bombing or grenade school commenced here
under Sergt.Major Ryder of the 16th Battalion. He is a Grenadier Warrant
Officer back from the front so he knows something about grenades. Everyone is
now supposed to have a knowledge of this work and I am taking this course. We
had 4 officers and 4 NCO's in the first school and the same in this one. It
will last for two weeks more. We are at it from 8:30 until 4pm and have a
long walk to the bombing area. We take a great many notes which have to be
rewritten after hours so by the time I get them up to date I have had all the
writing I want.
I today received the towel, socks and cigarettes all of which were much
appreciated. I also got a prescription from Hill which I filled and rather
thought that it was my old tonic more than my cough stuff. I think my cough
stuff was pink. However I remember this mixture very well. a day or so ago I
received another from Davies with a note from Rothwell saying he was sending
it at your request so I guess it is the right one. As the other cost me $1. I
am going to drink it anyway, first.
Ramsay and I had some dinner party off that chicken. It was as tender
as could be. The whole supper was very good and fully appreciated.
What does Billie think of the elections I suppose the soldier vote may
make a difference yet.
There are a great many little things that I could tell you about but it
would take months to write them.
Yesterday, the whole Brigade marched through Vernon out to the race
course where field work was to be done but after fooling around for awhile it
was time to come home. Our battalion had to climb half way up a small
mountain to defend an irrigation ditch and as we came right down again without
doing anything we call the parade 'The Good Old Duke of York's'. It made
quite a long column of men going through the streets however.
I will send you down postcards and snap shots from time to time all of
which please keep for me as they will be interesting.
Art Lloyd is in the trenches. Len d'Easum wrote that they had come in
Will also send a photo of the battalion taken some time ago.- one of
these long pictures.
I got 3 more photos from Wadds and will send you 2 of them. One for
yourself and the other you can give to Gertrude if she wants it. I gave the
3rd one to Ramsay.
Am glad to hear father is better and the Grandmother is OK. I hope they
both take care of themselves.
Give my love to all the McQuarries and Gowan's also the kids. Would like
to hear from Helen again sometime soon. Suppose that the little kid has quite
recovered ere this.
We do not know when we go. Two more officers Vine and Berry leave for
England tomorrow. We hope to pull out about October 1st but the Lord alone
knows. If we don't I would not be surprised to see us return to the coast.
With love to all,
p.s. Am going to motor out to Shuswap Falls this afternoon with some friends,
weather lovely, some nights pretty darn cold. KCM
October 1 1916 - Vernon Camp -(letter)
I get practically no time for writing at present. Am just finishing
course in bombing and our exams are early this week.
Received Elsie's socks also your two pairs with the cigarettes etc. also
the box of apples which are splendid and remind me of home.
We hope to leave here for the East before the 15th inst. and will be
glad to get away from here as it is getting darn good and cold on this hill.
We had 1/4 inch of ice on our water buckets this morning. We have had wind
storms lately with dust. It doesn't matter how tight the tents are pegged you
can't keep it out and the stuff comes off the parade ground in blinding
clouds. One can't see ten feet. The last was the worst and blew down several
of the tents in camp. My tent was all closed but everything was covered with
a thick layer and it even got into my overseas box which was closed and
Mrs Pyne sent me a fine box of good eats the other day. She is a dear.
Will you ask Helen to run through my films and send me two that are
there of the boys doing trench digging. One of the men wants to get some of
them struck off. Also ask her to dig up a couple there of myself which I sent
down recently and ask her to send me a dozen prints off the best of them and I
shall remit the amount of them. I think I have a print of the trench ones
there from which she will be able to recognize the films.
Before we go I think I shall pack the apple box with the clothes I have
here which I do not want and express them down. Some time you might mail me
what woolen socks and helmet I have there which I shall take along.
Am feeling fine and yesterday I weighed in at 145 which is about ten
pounds better than I used to carry round with me.
Had a letter from Farrer, Aunt Tweebie and Mary Loomie. Farrer sent me
a small snap of Eliot.
Will send some socks down soon, there is a hole in the heel of the green
pair. It is the first hole I have had in the home made ones.
As they want this table to set for lunch must stop. My pen is dry as
well so will call it off. The mess tent is about the only stove around.
Love to all at home and the outside families,
Your affectionate son,
p.s. Steve Knights brother who was a colonel I believe has just been killed
at the front, Steve was counting on joining him.
October 6 1916 - Vernon Camp -(postcard)
Our bombing class (photo on card) -excuse silly laugh somebody 'made de
joke'. We have just finished the course and had a three hour paper on which I
got a 'possible'. Quite well. Am writing Helen. Keith
October 7 1916 - Vernon Camp -(letter to Helen)
I enjoyed your letter very much indeed and am very glad to hear that the
kids are coming along so well. Hennie is certainly some kid.
Tell mother not to worry about the cold weather as the last few days
have been much warmer and Jack Knight is on leave just now so I have taken
both beds and made one good one out of it.
Am very sorry to hear that Grandmother is not up to the mark and I hope
that she is herself again in a day or so.
As to the battalion going away there is nothing definite and we may not
be the first to go either which is a slap as the first to go will rub it in to
the other. We don't know just how hard the C.O. is trying to have us go. If
they take us back to the coast half the battalion will desert I believe and
the junior officers will all quit if possible.
Mary wrote me that she liked the photos very much and the sitting one
particularly. I dropped her a line a day or two ago. A also wrote Aunt
Tweebie and one or two others so I am fairly well caught up on my writing.
Tell mother that I received her letter with the two prints enclosed this
afternoon. I also received a fine basket of grapes from Mildred DeBeck from
Penticton which was awfully good of her. They are from their own orchard.
There is a dance tonight at the country club but I do not think I shall
go. Major Ramsay and I went riding this afternoon and it was fine. He just
came from Kamloops today.
Atkin got leave to precede the battalion east and as our departure is so
uncertain he will have a fine long holiday in the east.
I have completed my bombing course and made a possible on the
examination paper. I lost 4 points on the throwing examination, so my total
was 96. I have not heard as to whether it is high score or not but the
instructor told me that it was the first perfect paper he had received.
Will drop a line from time to time but can't promise any long ones. Am
still in 'C' Co. and Rich is still a Captain but is only drawing subs. pay I
With love to all,
October 9 1916 - Vernon Camp -(letter)
Am expressing down this afternoon suitcase containing stuff I do not
intend to take over to the old country and you might kindly repack with such
woolen stuff as may be there and also my best blue serge suit with one good
shirt. I have decided to take a suit of civvies but will buy collars, hats,
etc. over there. You can express back at my expense. I will try and send
down my tennis racquet by Billie.
There is no definite word as to our departure so far. The weather
lately has been fine. Have to rush onto parade now as the company is falling
in. This is a pretty quiet town and everyone is getting dead anxious to pull
Your affectionate son,
p.s. I enclose key for suitcase. KCM
October 15 1916 - Vernon Camp -(letter)
I received your letter enclosing the key to my suitcase but so far have
not heard of the case. Presume I shall get a notice tomorrow.
Have been very busy since Thursday as Motherwell is at the coast and I
am adjutant. We are duty battalion for camp this week and are also trying to
rush training before leaving so i really have been a fairly busy kid. This
place is very quiet now and we shall all be glad to move. Expect to pull out
next Saturday unless something prevents but one can never tell.
On Tuesday I am best man for Tuck. he marries Marion Martin (Nora's
double). Not much trouble in the way of clothes but will cost me a ten or so
I guess, however, I am glad to be able to have a little fun now and again.
There is really nothing to tell you except that the weather lately has
been lovely and much warmer. Jack Knight sleeps in town and I expect to be
able to have my good bed until we go away.
Tomorrow morning all the companies are off to the rifle ranges and I
have been arranging for a six am breakfast for them...we have had several
night marches or sham fights lately and some trench work by night. In fact
for a week I wasn't down town once unless on a parade. I only saw Billie once
or twice and didn't even get a chance to find out how you all were. He was to
take my tennis racquet home for me. I sent it to his hotel but do not know
whether he got it or not.
I am feeling fine and fit. Got out this afternoon for two or three
hours on horseback all by my lonesome as our horses have been sent away and we
only have two left. Just as I was about to go an escort arrived from the
coast with a deserter and I had to take care of him before I could make a get
away. This office is
pretty busy now as so many things have to be arranged before an institution of
this kind takes the train
With love to everyone and yourself,
p.s. Let me know how Grandmother is. KCM
October 20 1916 - Vernon Camp -(letter # 1)
Your letter of the 26th received and I have received everything as I
have already written. Have just written a line to Gertrude. We leave Tuesday
24th. Do not know where we sail from and we can't tell when we find out.
Address to Farrer. Also would like to know who I should let know in Calgary,
Winnipeg etc. as our trip across will be slow and we shall be off at various
places for exercise. The 158th leave here on the 31st and they are a sore
bunch at being the last to go.
I enjoyed the Australian letter and I shall return it under separate
Tell Helen I had a letter from Peggy Morison some days ago and am going
to try and drop her a line tonight.
Tuck was married on Tuesday and they are at Penticton I think. It was a
very pretty little wedding and our sergeants acted as a guard of honour.
Would you have another photo, the same as the last I mailed to you
finished and mail it to Mildred DeBeck Penticton c/o H.L. DeBeck. I shall
remit you the amount.
The C.O. left for the east on Tuesday and Ramsay left for Winnipeg
Wednesday. We will pick them up en route. I suppose we shall be in Ottawa a
After addressing to Jarrer, mail to Halifax as I presume we shall sail
from there. Might tell Farrer to forward to that place if I should miss him.
Just address to 131st Battalion C.E.F.
I had dinner with the Ramsays on Tuesday night and with the B.of M. boys
Thursday. It tastes good to have a real dinner now and again although we
shall get lots worse than we are having now. The weather is getting cold
again but Jack Knight sleeps at home and I have two beds still so am good and
Please do not worry about me. I am a pretty good hand at taking care of
myself and should anything happen to me it would be an easy way to go so until
I let you know that matters are serious with me for goodness sake don't begin
to imagine all kinds of things. I don't think there is much chance of getting
to the front before the spring so we are still a long way from trouble.
I shall not have time to write to any at home but yourself I fear so
please tell the others how it is and tell them that my letters are for all.
Believe that I was high man in the grenade course with 96%.
Give my love to the Gowan's, McQuarries and to all the members of our
own house. You might include Hogan's Alley generally. Saw a film of
Marguerite Clarke last night and in one she looked just like Bunker.
p.s. Number your letters after this.
October 25 1916 - En Route - (letter #2) Field B.C.
Here we are and everybody OK. Left Vernon last night in good order at
8pm and 8;45 entrained in a light rain the first we have had for a long time.
This morning it is raining and the clouds are very low in the mountains but we
went through a lot of that division by night. It is just 13 years since I
came through the other way.
Have just sent a wire to Mrs. MacDonald at Calgary. I do not know how
many of the family is in Calgary but took a chance. We should strike there
this afternoon. In Vernon I had a lot of friends to see me away. They have
really been awfully good to me.
The Mickleboroughs, in particular Mrs M. brought down a box for me
containing a great big chocolate cake covered with nuts and also some small
cakes and they are all well cooked too. Mr M. had a box of apples packed and
the case put on board for me. They have also had me up to dinner several
Sunday evenings so perhaps it would show that I appreciated their kindness if
you dropped a line of thanks. In case you do address Mrs. George
Mickleborough Vernon B.C
I believe a C.P.R. strike goes today but will not effect troops,
munitions or mails. (we have gone ahead an hour in time since we hit Field)
I am on the second section of the train and have a platoon for once.
Was orderly officer on the section from the time I got on until 5:30 this
morning but I went today about 1am as I had been to a farewell dance at the
country club the night before. Am sleeping in an upper but knew I had no
chance for anything else. I am young and light and a sub. so that spells
I got a box from Gertrude the day before yesterday just in time to get
it into my suitcase. Will drop her a line. We are just pulling out of here
and it is hard to write. The sleeping car we have is a very old one and lacks
the little conveniences the new ones have but then anything is always good
enough for the troops. The CPR is feeding us so our meals are good. We put
on a diner and commissariat car at Revelstoke. My men had no complaints as to
breakfast so I guess the grub will be OK. I make it a point to be on the job
at meal times to see that the boys get what is coming to them because believe
me they are not traveling under the best of conditions.
Will drop cards along the way,
Love to all,
p.s. Expect it to be a long time before we see England - perhaps a
October 26 1916 - En Route -Broadview
All OK. Good trip, Saw Calgary people and Walter Hasard. Had a 20
minute march at Calgary. Winnipeg tonight. Was asleep when we hit Regina.
October 26 1916 - En Route - Winnipeg
Arrive in Winnipeg in about 1 1/2 hours. Had short marches in Calgary,
Broadview and Brandon. Am feeling fine and enjoying the trip. Past Camp
Hughes (Sewell) today. It is almost deserted. Can't write train is rocking
so. Will write a letter when we get to end of line. Love to all, Keith
October 27 1916 - En Route - Fort William
Still going strong. Lots of snow here but only about a foot in depth.
Wired Levise Laird and saw her and her husband last night in Winnipeg about
9:30 for a few minutes only as I was on a short march we had there. Also
paraded in Brandon. Hard to write on train. Should arrive Ottawa 2:15 am
Sunday. Weather has been overcast all the way.
Menu on back of post card
Canadian Expeditionary Forces
Ham, Eggs Bacon Eggs
Hashed Brown Potatoes
Tea Coffee Milk
October 31 1916 - En Route - Maritimes
Expect to arrive Halifax about 6 pm. At Moncton saw the Dodges,
Margaret Taylor, and Mr. Williams. Will write a letter When I get a chance.
Trip from Montreal has been very slow. Nova Scotia is very pretty but
children appear ill nourished. Love to all. Keith
p.s. Nearly everyone is trying to get a final line or two written to mail this
November 29 1916 - England -Postcard
Off for France this morning. Very short notice and large number of our
subs going. Expect to be at a base for some time. Sorry to leave Ramsay who
is going to attend to my affairs and forward mail. Don't worry. Ran to
London yesterday to finish my shopping. Will write you a long letter if I
have a minute, if not I wish all Merry Xmas and Happy New Year. I shall be
with you all in thought. Will send new address when I can.
December 12 1916 - France -(letter # 11)
Nothing new to tell you. We are still in the same place and same
billets. We expect to have a good bath in a few minutes down at the mines.
The weather was fine yesterday but today cold and a slushy snow falling.
Gertrude's dated Nov.14th arrived last night. Tell the bunch that if they
have any time to drop a line by all means to do so as letters surely look
On our way across Canada, we met girls at almost every stop and
consequently gathered a lot of addresses. I only sent a card to one however
and received an awfully nice letter from her. I met two of them together at
Montreal and they afforded me an hours very pleasant conversation while a
breakdown was being fixed. One I believe is the daughter of the Supt. of one
of the roads thereabouts.
I dropped a line to Art Lloyd to see if I could get in touch with him but so
far I have been out of luck in that respect.
I will try and arrange to have the kit left in England either sent to
the Officer's Storage Base at Cheriton near Folkestone or to Thos. Cook and
Son, Ludgate Circus, London E.C.
I believe the latter is the handiest in case one wants to get into a box once
a year or so.
Well the old war seems to be dragging on and I hope before long that it
takes a decided turn because the law business is daily sliding right out of
the back of my head so that I guess I will not be worth much to Billy by the
time I come home.
Let me know how everything is going. I often think of the five kids and
wonder how they are all coming on.
Give my love to the whole family.
Lovingly your son,
p.s. Lately I have been able to write fairly regularly but should the
battalion move I would not be able to quite so often so do not worry if
several days elapse without hearing from me.
(The Major just asked an orderly if he knew anything good for bugs and the
chap said 'I have tried nearly everything but the best thing is just to keep
picking them off to keep the average down, Sir.
December 20 1916 - France -(letter # 14)
Just a few minutes to spare so here goes for a note. Am in a nice
dugout near the front line and there is a war on, but unless they decide to
start something by way of a Xmas gift to Fritz there is not much danger. Of
course the artillery is always working and the big boys cross overhead
whistling like express trains. I came into the line on the 18th quite a
birthday present. I got your box with the socks, dates, figs, nits, oxo,
chocolates etc. Just before we left billets and it looked good to me. We had
a small company mess at the time and it all made a hit. I brought such things
as the oxo in with me as it is mighty good to have here. Can hardly write as
Bailley is sitting on the bunk trying to struggle into a pair of gum boots.
The mud is bad and the rats are plentiful, but the weather has been fairly
good. Getting cold, snow storm yesterday and cold wind blowing at night.
I saw a Bosche plane brought down about noon today. The British flew
faster and let him have it with machine gun. The flying is very pretty
especially when trying to avoid anti air guns. This afternoon there was a
strafe between the artillery to our flank and for a time they jumped right to
it. The whole life is most unnatural and as I am not a fighting man would be
willing to see a speedy end but I'm in the army now.
Your box with the cake has not arrived yet and I am glad it didn't
because I couldn't have carried it.
Tell father I have seen Billie Sloan. He is our QM Sergeant. He was on
leave in Blighty when I struck the battalion. He asked to be remembered to
Got a letter from Billie Mc Quarrie last night enclosing a money order
for a Xmas box. It was awfully good and will come in handy when I get to a
place where I can spend something. The only thing we can spend here is time
and no one is anxious to do that.
Got in touch with Art Lloyd by letter but failed to see him. I believe
he is a stretcher bearer now.
Thank Grandmother for the socks. Both pairs were splendid and I got her
card inside her 89th year ones. Tell her I have used both her pairs of heavy
P.E.I. wool also her scarf and they are all good yet and mighty serviceable.
I have plenty of socks at present, Have also used the helmet Amelia gave me.
Bought myself a sheep skin vest which has been a world of comfort.
So not know when we shall be relieved but it may be Xmas day. It is a
sort of an in and out business as too much in a stretch is more than men can
stand. Sort of a 'more than I expected' affair.
Must stop now as I have work to do between now 7 pm and 4 am. Oh this
is the life. Honestly I'm not a fighting man.
Love to all the family and the kids,
December 26 1916 - France - (letter not numbered)
We are out in billets again - a small village but our shabby old rooms
and bed rolls look mighty good after the line. Our relief came in Xmas day
and I left the line about 3pm. Some Xmas. I spent the eve out in No-mans
land on listening duty and in spite of clothes lying in a wet shell hole was a
cold proposition. I heard planes overhead and search lights were trying to
find them. About three in the morning I saw a bombing show away to our left
and it was spectacular while it lasted. Fritz was evidently nervous because
he sent up various signal flares and lit up the whole front with 'very
lights'. The trenches were very muddy up to the knees in spots and we got in
and had a good ration of rum. I only had a little sleep so that yesterdays
hike was a pretty hard one. I got into billets and managed to get to bed
about 9:30. Today is just cleaning up and if I could get a bath would be OK.
I thought of you all having dinner and of the kids competing and doing
stunts afterwards. Do you remember the one Hennie could 'do easy' and then
couldn't manage. Well Baillie and I had no place to mess last night so we got
into the back of a shop and had the people make us tea. Sardines, bread,
butter, tea and two quart bottles of Champagne. Some Xmas dinner mother dear.
Got Elsie's letter in the line and the box I got in (censored) last
billets may have been hers as she mentioned putting in a pair of Gran's socks
and I got them with a card attached. I have not yet received the Birthday cake
but suppose that it will turn up in good time.
As I was coming out of the line yesterday I met Jimmie McGregor. I was
tickled to death to see him and we had a few minutes chat. Art is well and
had gone into the trenches the day before. Do not know how long I shall be
here but perhaps a week. Had a letter from Billie and replied to it. Have
also herd two or three times from Ramsay. Swan and Hornby are going with a
railway construction battalion. I hear that Tom Trapp is going to return home
rather than revert one grade or rather rank. Have heard Stan Trapp was
Art Mills is again back with us and has done very well. The men all
speak well of him.
I see peace talk is on but terms apparently not go enough for us yet.
Any time Germany wants to admit she is licked will suit me. Never again in
the Infantry for me.
One of these days this affair will be called off and me for the high
spots at the earliest moment possible. I don't dislike the life but war has
always been a rotten thing in my mind.
I am going to send some postcards home which please keep for me. We are
not supposed to write on picture postcards of French places I believe so will
send them blank.
Would like to write to the bunch but it is pretty hard to write to many
but I like to hear from all. Had a letter from Farrer and Aunt Tweebie was in
Ottawa. It is a good thing she didn't try to see me in Halifax as we were not
there anytime. Straight from train to boat.
It is wonderful the soft jobs some chaps over here get. Some haven't
even been to the front yet. After a fellow has put in some time there don't
blame him for taking a job behind the lines on staff or something similar.
Guess I shall have to pull a wire through McBride for something but the
trouble is I don't even know the gent consequently I see nothing for me but
front line mud for duration. However, that is what I came for.
Am feeling OK except a cold in head and that is only to be expected, I
shall lose it before long.
The line where we have been and will likely be is fairly quiet and one
has only to keep low in certain spots to avoid the snipers.
Give my love to all, each one separately, with lots of love for yourself
Your affectionate son,
January 1 1917 - France -(letter not numbered)
A Happy New Year to all. I have not my number list so cannot number
this but will allow for it. I have only a minute to write. We are in brigade
support and the S.O.S. has gone up to our left front but I guess we won't have
to stand to as whatever the trouble is it is off our divisional front. Two or
three of the boys are joshing and I can't think.
Expect to go into the line in a few weeks before we get out of this
area. If all goes well I shall then be out for another month as they plan to
have more time out this winter than last. We moved from hut Phyllis Dare on
the night 29/30 and had rather a long march to this place. We are now in a
dugout (Canadian make) 32 steps down and we have a bit of a stove so are
fairly comfortable. I have two big boils on the left leg and the CO was
thinking of leaving me at the Transport Lines but I told him I could carry on
all right. THe M.O. has them in good shape now, all lanced and cleaned out
but he has again burnt a place on my leg which was not bad at all so I have a
three inch water blister which has to be dried up. He is the same man which
made a mess of my leg last July and I warned him before hand this trip but all
in vain. I surely made a howl and he knows I am not pleased. I today asked
the C.O. to allow me to congratulate him on having the poorest M.O. in France.
I don't think it will prove nearly as bad as last time however. I refused to
go to the T.lines but told them that if the M.O. was going to make a mess of a
chap that I wouldn't try to carry on and would insist on being evacuated where
I could have my foot fixed up for keeps. But I guess that I'll make it stick
Today I took a ramble with the Padre up over the old 'triangle'
battlefield to see if we could identify some graves but no luck.
Last night I got a memo saying that the Corps and Divisional Commanders
would be around the lines today so I had everything ready. This morning I
said to the sentry 'Take up a post a few bays further to your left and if you
see a party of generals coming let me know so I can meet them'. Half an hour
later Carmichael and Major O'Donahue who is a Brigade Major and wears red came
in to wish me a Happy New Year. They had the laugh on me saying that they had
caught my man red handed. he caught sight of them and started for my dugout
but they overtook him and Carmichael asked him what he was doing. He said
'Well Captain Macgowan told me to watch and if I saw the Brigadier coming I
was to tell him' Next question 'Did you think the Major was the Brigadier?'
Answer 'No Sir, but I thought maybe he was right behind' Such is life in the
I am enclosing a menu of a Xmas Dinner we had at the Transport lines,
also a copy of the recommendation for which I got the M.C. (they sent me this
a day or two ago) also a letter from Lt. Col. Francis our late C.O.
Tonight I received a cable from Billie as to his victory - please give
him my congratulations. I will tell him some funny things some days to my
'passing the word'. Also a letter from him and one from Helen. The photo of
the kids arrived safely and I am in love with it. They are certainly both
prize winners. Guess I shall have to take it off the mount in order to carry
it but Helen is a stunner and Joan following in her footsteps. All the boys
think they are great and all mentioned Helens eyes. I would give anything to
be able to see them all.
Must stop now. Tell Gertrude I really have not time to write. Tomorrow
I have to go up the line to reconnoiter my next lines. Fritz is still
dropping over the odd Minnie as he did before we left. We had an American
Officer with us today. Our new C.O. is a blooming good man but a fellow has
to produce the goods for him.
With much love I am ,
Your loving son,
p.s. Baxter is at Transport Lines running a class, I am sending his photo also
one I have of the guilty M.O.
January 16 1917 - France -(letter # 18)
The birthday letter arrived last night, Helen's #3 followed and this
evening I got a letter from Billie with Cassady's address and a box from the
Rand girls. I have got a Canadian letter for the last four nights - a card
also from Alma. I have enjoyed them all very much. The last I saw of
Davidson and Jack Knight they were waiting in France to be sent to a unit but
don't know whether they have been in the line yet or not. I wish Davidson was
here as he and I were great chums.
Am quite well but the nights are pretty cold now and I shall be glad
when summer comes. We should be relieved in a day or so now and I hope that
we don't come to this particular place again as our front is too limited.
Helen asked what system kept some in England so long and shunted others into
the line. Tell her I gave it a little thought myself and came to the
conclusion that it was not the fault of a system but rather the absence of
one. Was very sorry to hear Mary Dorsey had a relapse and hope she is well
Give everyone a kiss for me in reply to their birthday good wishes. I
wish I could just drop in and see you all but perhaps before long I shall be
able to. So here's hoping.
Helen's #3 letter (corrected number) arrived and I enjoyed the Hennie
Ballow items. I will write the little kiddies just as soon as I get a chance.
They have altered the establishment and have authorized a scout section
attached to Headquarters but only allow 8 men and a batman whereas I had 32
all told on my roll. All the rest are attached to companies for platoon
scouts so is a complete unit. The boys are feeling very disappointed about
the section being broken and so am I as I had a mighty good bunch. However it
may cut down on my patrolling duties as soon as it goes into effect. My chief
work will be intelligence unless special patrol work is to be done when I
could obtain what odd men I wanted for the job.
This afternoon a show was put on away over on our left just before dusk.
Some large raid I guess. The Artillery barrage was good though a ridge hid
the most of the bursting shells from view. Heine was up in the air in a
minute throwing flares and shooting his S.O.S. all along the line. His
artillery of course then answered the signal and the scrap was on. All the
machine guns in the country added their little rattle to the noise so it was
quite interesting but some poor devils were going through some hard stuff
about that time. If they would cancel all artillery and let us scrap this out
it would be a pretty good war. It has been a nice war around here for the
last couple of days and nights.
Peace proposals look good to us all but I guess there will be a good big
scrap yet before it is called off still I believe that the peace business is
under way when it begins to appear in the papers.
I write as regularly as I can but I fear my letters arrive in a batch
and then a long delay before the next. However don't worry about me because
my present habitation is a Headquarters and about a 45 minute walk from the
Tell Helen, Gladys Cooper is just as pretty as her picture. I was
greatly taken with both her looks and acting. she is quite strong in 'The
Misleading Lady'. Yes, I saw the Museum bit not the Abbey, no I didn't either
I was thinking of he National Gallery where I bought a package of postcards
unopened and found nothing but nude figures so couldn't send them round
careless like so mailed them home.
Yes, an individual does not count for much over here but if the
individual takes care he can perhaps be OK barring accidents and then no one
knows he is even in France save a few personal friends. There is to be true
no sentiment and Mrs. Macgowan's little boy is the same as any other little
boy (until peace comes). I have often thought of that 'I don't care who comes
home so long as Fraser comes home' and I know now how the old lady felt. I
did not get through Saltwood Castle - was rushed off as I have written and had
no time to attend to anything of that kind.
Be good to Gertrude I have received some of the sweetest letters from
her I have ever read. The girl has matured wonderfully in her thoughts since
war broke. Nothing foolish or 'slushy' about her letters at all but she seems
to be more or less fond of me if one reads between the lines as it were.
I hope that both yours and Dad's colds are better. Also that Gran is
still well and flourishing. It was good of her to add her note to the letter.
I think of her a very great deal and can see her writing away at her table.
I don't know why the Lord put so much mud and water between France and
B.C. He left quite a bit in France even at that. What always stumps me is
what they are going to do here after the war. There are millions (actually)
of sand bags in the trench works. Miles of trenches, tunnels, mining
operations, mine and shell craters as big as 30 and 40 yards across and say 70
feet deep...I have seen them this big in No-mans land with the opposing lines
occupying opposite sides. Thousands of unexploded shells of various
descriptions and countless numbers of bombs and small ammunition. I wouldn't
follow a plough here if I could reap gold bricks.
Well, I haven't anything of interest to write I think all the general
remarks I have made are permissable from a censoring standpoint.
Have been living better the last few days as I have turned my rations
into H.Q. and joined its mess, so am off straight rations.
There is little snow on the high ground but very little. I have to get a
good pair of leather mitts as I have nothing on the hands at present and they
get pretty numb in the mud.
Next week will be nothing but clean up and polish brass and equipment
for the Corps Commander's Inspection which is always threatened and sometimes
Must stop now, this is more than I expected when I started.
Love to all and a big kiss for yourself,
Your affectionate son,
p.s. Did I tell you the joke of the fellow with the pass word. One night it
was 'waffles' This chap was halted and the pass word demanded. he couldn't
remember it and after doing his darndest to think of it blurted out 'noodles'
Not bad. Oh, there are some funny things going on even here if one has time to
appreciate them. KCM
January 21 1917 - France (letter # 19)
Rec'd yours of the 15th and 23rd Dec. Nos. 6 and 7. Have no record of
receiving #5 yet. We have just come out of the trenches for a day or so more
but we move to another town today so am very busy - practically no time to
write at all. Weather very cold now with 6 inches of snow so things are
rather chilly and it made me feel as though there was someone on earth who
Sorry to hear of Sullivans death. Yes war will stop shortly after
spring I think. Fritz is getting pinched. However there is work to be done
yet as his army is still going strong.
All the boys seem to be in the war and altho I would like to be home
would not have missed joining in and trying to help out. If Gordon Hagard is
in the Orderly Room he will be fairly safe.
News of the kids excitement over Xmas made me feel a long way off. I
could just see them all.
I am in love with the picture of Joan and have it in this pocket pad
which is all the paper I have left - thanks to Mrs Lambert.
Was detailed to defend a chap before a Field General Court Martial
charged with desertion - penalty is death for desertion here of course - very
damaging evidence against him and I was rushed in on it at short notice.
Worked nearly all night. Do not know how it will turn out but hope for a
conviction for absence without leave which is a lesser offence and of which
there is no doubt he was guilty. Trial lasted a day. Will write Billie about
it some time when I get results.
Establishment has been changed and my section has been cut down. I wish
the business would wind up so that we might all go home to a natural life.
Our last tour in the trenches was comparatively quiet and don't think we
are always there as it is all done by reliefs. So long in the line, so long
in supports and so long in reserve, and about once in 3 months so long in rest
There is very little to write about which is allowable so will close -
letters will be further apart in future as I am very busy now.
Your loving son,
January 23 1917 - France -(letter # 20)
Am as usual pretty busy but just want to drop a line to tell you that I
am not going into the line with the battalion tomorrow as I have been detailed
to take a course in sniping - four weeks dating from 29th instant so I shall
be out for some little time I expect.
The weather still continues very cold but I am going to try and get a
bath today or tomorrow in spite of everything cold water or otherwise. My
last was December 14th.
I see by the papers that the Allies are asking for about everything they
want in the way of peace terms so suppose that it will be some time before
anything definite is arrived at.
One day is just the same as another here. We remember the date but
forget the day. I have seen one church parade since I struck the country.
Generally Sunday is just an ordinary day.
The chateau we are in ap present is a cold barn. Evidently was a fine
place - the floors after careful inspection appear to be hard wood and all
hand laid in squares and diamond shaped pieces. At present they are covered
with dirt and hob nail marks until they look like an ordinary dirty board
floor. The shutters on one side are shattered, the roof broken in in places,
and two or three shells have ripped right through the walls of the place.
The interior walls of the house - plastering and panelling all strike me as
being rather cheap surprises me in this country, I believe this house was
owned by a mining engineer.
In this country there seems to be numerous small villages only two or
three miles apart but no farm houses. The fields all seem to be tilled from
one of these small villages. And each village seems to have its chateau.
Must stop a;nd get busy. Love to all, I am very sorry that I haven't
p.s. Courses are apt to crop up any time so don't worry about me. We are not
always in the line you know.
p.p.s. Our padre has just reported back from sick leave and told the Colonel
that there was a man named Jamor at the Entrenching Battalion (a reinforcing
outfit) coming to us and as he was a genius at the piano the senior chaplain
wanted to secure him for concert work. I butted in and found that it was
Frank and gave him a good word as far as I could and said he was a dandy on
the ivories etc. Guess he will be kept at a base which will be pretty soft
for him and I am glad. Would like to be able to play even a juice harp
January 27 1917 - France - (letter # 20 -there are two # 20's)
This is to acknowledge receipt of Helen's #4 and #5 and your #8. I
received the last on the 23rd and Helen's on the 25th & 26th resp. Also
Gowans which was much appreciated on the 24th. It was written on my birthday.
I shall try and drop him a line this evening but I fear that it will
practically be a duplicate of this. That is why I generally write to you
First of all I will run through the above several letters and reply to
anything requiring it so excuse disjointedness,a la Hennie Ballow.
I was very sorry to hear that Gowan was under the weather at Xmas time
and I am sure the kids missed him on that day. I hope that he again fit.
I am always glad to get news of the kids and am sure as you say - little
Mary is growing a dear girl. By the time I come home fear I shall be a
stranger to them all. I have changed because as I no doubt told you I shaved
my lip just after I joined this unit. Am consequently again clean and my soup
gets to my mouth first hand as it were.
Will you kindly write Mamie for me and thank her for the socks. Tell
her I shall drop her a note when I can. It was very kind of her to include me
when I am so far from you all. I hope her health has improved.
I received on the 24th Jan. a lovely pair of white socks from Aunt
Tweebie. Isn't she a corker. Have to write her also. You really have no
idea how hard it is to get the necessary writing done.
Your description of Father balling up the Xmas gifts was very funny but
am glad Billie finally got his gloves and all lived happily ever after.
Don't worry about the air service I am in a unit the C.O. of which seems
to have a policy of refusing to let any officer transfer to any other branch
no matter if it would be advancement or not so the only way to get out is to
have pull started and be called out without any reference to him. Hence as I
have no pull I am in the Infantry for duration. The Artillery is the best
branch I see.
I often think of the ones I saw on my way across Canada but really have
no time to write to them all.
Tell Grandmother that there is very little Scotch whiskey in France and
that she might take a portion of her Xmas receipts and issue a ration to the
entire forces on the field.
Yes I am quite warm at night. Have a bedroll that is a dandy. Bought a
small eiderdown to put in, in place of a blanket. Lighter and warmer. It was
a good investment.
Tell Helen that Meyers enclosure was a visiting card with New Years
Greetings. He has always seemed perfectly neutral and keeps off war subjects
but I only hear from him once a year. Yes poor old Bill Keary is gone. I was
surprised as the artillery is generally safer than the Infantry but of course
now and again a shell gets a direct hit and then someone has to go.
Word of Roys accident was news to me. I had never been able to get any
track of him. Hope he recovers OK.
Should imagine the wives of the 225 Officers might be more or less
crude. Used to be about the Mandeville Apartments. I served a writ there once
at lunch hour and the smells of cooking were never equalled until I struck a
Helen wanted to know something as to whether all those who have been in
the line get glass eyes I think it was, tell her I have never heard of he idea
nor noticed anything of the kind. It all depends where one get hit and on the
price of glass. Mrs Diamond has sprung a new one on me in the glassy stare
Remember me to Tudor and Maiden - would like to have pictures of them
all but one can't carry such things here. Also tell Mrs. Scott (if still at
Rands) and Mrs.Pyne, Sinclair, and Molly Freeze that I think of them all so
often when plugging along thinking of what a wonderful little city N.W. is.
Also note that Gertrude looked sweet at Elsie's tea. The reason for that is
that she is sweet.
Now for what has been doing with me. I wrote you that I wasn't going
into the line as I was detailed for a course. Well the day the Battalion went
in I took my batman of whom more later and struck off for the Transport lines
about four miles. This is what I carried...(definition of a soldier, a man to
hang things on) trench coat, back pack, heavy haversack, gas respirator, steel
helmet, electric light, rifle, telescopic sights, large telescope, prismatic
compass, field glasses. There may have been other articles but can't
remember. Then take heavy trench boots and ice on roads and four miles is a
fair hike. Got to my destination and about an hour later a wire came through
that we were two days early and to join unit in line at once. Got supper and
tramped off for the trenches about seven miles. I put in the two days and
last night we walked out so tomorrow morning I am off for four weeks to
somewhere else in France. It was a long slippery walk last night especially
in the trenches as the trench mats are covered with ice, The weather for
about twelve days has been sharp. About 15 degrees above zero and about 4 to 6
inches of snow and the wind is bitter. It is cold in the line and no mistake
about it. Today is the Kaisers birthday and the artillery has been rumbling
away all day. I hope the old son of a gun never has another.
Never imagine me in the trenches or wonder what I am doing because we
are out of the front line as much as we are in it and then you never know when
I may be sent on detached duty as in this case. Was going to wire you in order
to give you a months peace of mind but they won't allow any 'move' messages
You know I bought a new suit in England and hadn't a chance to change
clothes before coming away and as I wanted to have a suit in England, sent it
back to Doug McLagan from Havre to be sent to Ramsay. Well Ramsay and I have
-'never seen the 2 cents, the boy, or the liver' so I am out a suit and now I
find I need a suit here so am just writing 'my tailors' for a duplicate order.
In this business one lives and sometimes learns.
Now as to my batman - he is a little chap, fine brown eyes, a scotchman,
name W. Linn, comes from Vancouver and is a plumber, having worked for Grumpy
Spring. He looks out for me and is OK. He is a scout and a good patrolman.
I took him on as my last man was dead from the seat of the trousers both ways.
He tried several times to get me a new pack as mine was badly torn and worn
and failed. We were in the Transport lines about half an hour when I passed
Linn with a brand new pack under his arm. That is just a sample and he doesn't
have to be told to do everything.
I got Linn when the section was broken up in order to hold an extra patrolman
as I was only allowed eight. As it happens the section is all reformed again
but how long they will be allowed to remain as a unit is more that I know.
If you...........censored.........address to Pt. W. Linn # 629530. Scout
Section 47th Canadians, France.
Now for English news I get this on good authority. Ramsay is O.C. of a
company at R. expects to get to France before long. Corbould and Motherwell
also have companies. Alec McA. was seen on leave in London. Don't believe he
has ever seen the front line yet and still gets leave. It beats me gentlemen.
Trapp is trying for the Forestry, Swan and Hornby are with the Railway Batt'n.
Fussy Chamberlain is still in England, and B.G.Walker the old stiff is
resigning. He should have enough to resign on by now anyway. Taylor demanded
a court of enquiry on the Brig. and O.C, 30th Reserve in Eng. for their
conduct and the way the 131st was treated. I expect he thought he had trimmed
them. The court decided that he, Taylor, had not looked after his Batt'n.
properly when they first arrived as he and his Senior Major and Adj. adjourned
to the mess and had drinks and never went out to see how the men were doing
and also that he was responsible for the whole trouble so he went home a
thoroughly discredited man. That finding suits me, believe me.
Mother dear this is the longest letter I have written for a long time
and will be for some time to come. As I shall only have time for a note to
Gowan and Gertrude you might let them both see this if there is anything of
interest in it but I fear that as far as war news goes you get more than we
The anti aircraft guns were after a Fritz today and it is quite
customary to see from six to twelve planes up at once and often more. Excuse
change of pencil but my other one was too dull.
Sent Linn over to a nearby town to get my last laundry as I won't be
near here again for awhile. I generally give it out when I go into the line
and trust to luck as far as getting back to the same place. So far I have
always managed to pick it up. Am hoping to get a bath as soon as I get to my
destination as Dec. 14th was my last and I have half a hunch that I am not
alone in this world but perhaps it is my imagination only.
Although my service here has been short I have seen quite a lot and
enough. Would like to have my dressing gown, a good book, afternoon tea, a
box of Purdys chocolates, a big grate fire and Gertrude sort of fussing about
- I tell you I'm not a fighting man.
Am at present in the Transport Officers hut and he is just leaving to
take the transport train up with the grub for tomorrow. He is a very decent
chap and we had quite a chat last night although I was very tired. You see I
got up about 7 am on the 25th and was out that night until about 3 am when
Fritz started to throw rum jars and minnies - just as I got back to H.Q. so I
went up and took a look and then had to dig up the Artillery Officer who
shares my room and get the batteries turned on for retaliation. It was nearly
4:30 am when I got to bed and was up same morning at 6:30 am to write a report
and remained up. Went up the line a hard 45 minutes walk and back and that
night after getting my day reports off my chest and arranging to leave had to
walk out nearly eight miles so naturally I was tired but I feel fine and can
stand a good bit and didn't have any 3 months hard training in England either.
Got soft on the way over, had six days leave in London and came to the unit.
Did I tell you the result of my case? - Found not guilty of desertion
but guilty of absence without leave and sentenced to 2 years imprisonment with
hard labour suspended until after the war. Carries on and if conduct is good
or he does anything extraordinary will likely be let down a bit. I was quite
I must stop now. Give my love to everyone and tell them all not to
think that I don't remember them because I don't mention their names. Keep up
the two letters per week if you can because they are good to get. Love to
yourself and the kids,
Your affectionate son,
January 30 1917 - France - (letter # 20A)
This is our second day at school and the weather is cold as ever but i
am out of the line which makes up for a great deal. This is a corps school
and officers and NCO's from all the Canadian Divisions come. Ed Rand is here
and I wrote Gertrude yesterday so she will likely show you the letter. Our
routine is about as follows for a few days. Get up 6:30am (darn cold) Parade
6;45 and coffee served, then Phy. jerks for 30 minutes. Dress between 7:30
and 8 and then breakfast. Parade 9:00, Lecture 10:30, Parade again 11:30-
12:30, lunch 1pm, Parade and lectures to 4pm. Off for one hour. Lecture 5-6.
Off from 6-9.Must be in by 9. All lights off 11.
I was platoon commander yesterday and consequently had to attend staff
parade 9:45pm. It seems funny to go right back to slow march and turning by
numbers after being in the line on service but as I am on a snipers and scouts
course our drill only lasts a few days and then we go on with our own work
while the general course goes on with drill and bayonet training etc.
Yesterday I counted over my socks and threw away two pairs. I still
have seventeen pairs on hand. Some never worn so go light on socks. My hands
are the trouble. Have nothing but kid gloves and have not been able to buy
anything better to date.
You may know that the officers have to censor their mens mail in
battalions. I have the greatest bunch in my section to write long letters you
ever saw. It is a regular fatigue but some are quite interesting. I have one
chap who was studying for the ministry and is evidently carrying on an
argument on some biblical subject. Am sorry to say it was over my head in
places but rather interesting.
I shall have very little to write about from here because it is all hum
drum routine but I shall drop a card every few days to let you know I am OK.
It struck me as funny this morning on the phy.jerks parade. We were
doubling through the streets of the adjoining village and it struck me that
just a year ago I was doubling along 2nd St. in much the same weather. My
army experience of winter has been rather severe. This is the coldest they
have had here since 1836. But it struck me as strange to be back on the same
old work of forming fours etc. after having gone to the front. However this
will not last long but I would be glad to form fours for the duration.
Later - Oh this is a fierce war. I wrote the previous pages at noon and
this afternoon instead of parade they had us filling sandbags to bank the
huts. Our hut had a space of a foot or so under the floor and the floor was
cold and drafty all the time. Each hut did their own and I handled pick and
shovel - held sandbags and carried them. Had a long pack across a frozen
parade ground and when you get two full bags across the back of the neck it is
some load. After carrying several pairs I saw some of these big six footers
carrying one so from then on I took one at a time believe me. After working
overtime we had tea then a lecture and then dinner. Tomorrow there are some
French Generals coming and of course some stunts have to be put on.
Our mess here is pretty good. Coffee in the morning - 3 good meals and
afternoon tea at 4:30. Cost 20 francs per week then we pay for our coal,
My news is nil and detail such as above uninteresting except that I am
satisfied I can stand more of that fatigue stuff than I could before. I
expected to get some mail tonight but none as yet so I guess this move means
another week added to the time coming.
With love to all I am your affectionate son,
February 4 1917 - France - (letter # 21)
We have just completed our first week at school and I think the course
is going to prove quite interesting. Altho the weather is still very severe
the nights in a good bedroll are fully appreciated and we should have three
weeks more of them in store for us.
Today is the first Sunday I have really had in France - Service this
morning which I enjoyed and I have just loafed and read all day beside the
stove and smoked. Last night I had a good sponge bath. The first I have had
since Dec. 14th.
Your #9 letter arrived last night and today the first News Ad came in.
I was sorry to hear that you have all suffered from colds and hope that your
winter weather is easing up. Am writing this on one knee so excuse blots etc.
Peace I am afraid is some time off yet. The papers today expected America to
come in and Norway and Spain both seem to be doing some tall thinking. That
chap Raikes was pretty lucky. He joined us and did one tour in the line. Was
sent to take a course before we went in again. Came back from it and was just
in the line when he took sick and went to hospital. He was sent through to
the base I believe and I have not heard of him since but he missed some
shelling. I do not think he is strong enough to stand the game.
Was surprised over Jack's move. But had just received a letter from
Hilda Morison in which she said that Vieve had written her that Jack had been
in Calgary. Hilda also gave me news of Clair. I hope he doesn't have to come
back to France.
I should love to see Joan and all the other kids but that will have to
be postponed for a time.
I told you I think that Doris McLagan came to the old country. Well she
married there almost immediately I believe. Just learned yesterday that an
Engineer Officer at this school named Winslow is the gink. Must stop the bird
and have a talk with him.
Carl Clement went into the flying corps and I hear he is now a flight
Commander. Pretty good for a kid.
Yesterday afternoon Ed Rand and I took quite a long walk through the
village, and the next beyond, and to the next. They are dotted all over the
place. It seemed strange to be wandering along a road in Northern France with
Ed. As far as the country goes, would be lovely in summer, undulating, but
now it looks and feels like eastern Canada.
Major Ramsay, Motherwell, and Trapp are all coming over I believe. Had
a letter from R. The last two were not very keen about it.
Reverting again to Hilda's letter. She says there is a chance of her
returning to her old work in Calgary. She also talks about a dear sweet
little baby being at the house so I guess it must be Doll's as Hilda isn't yet
married. Her young man has had Trench fever and has been in England for Xmas.
A couple of nights ago I received a small parcel bearing an English
stamp. I opened it to find my name written on the box in feminine hand and
inside a sample bottle of Canadian Whiskey and a Canadian tax stamp on it.
Also the card I enclosed which looks as though it were sent by some one who
knows me and not just one of many samples. I can't for the life of me imagine
who sent it. Can you clear the matter up in any way?
Since coming to the school I have received very little mail and I am
expecting it every evening. It is still further delayed now as it has to be
readdressed from the battalion.
Must stop now as I haven't time to write more and am short of news. You
might tell Gertrude about Doris etc. as I won't be writing her tonight.
Wish that a satisfactory peace could be arrived at before the spring
opens up because it bids fair to be a real war this year. Ed and I were
discussing the whole thing yesterday. For a great many it is a perfectly
lovely war but they are all in bomb proof jobs but for the ones doing front
line work a drive means hell and yet I would rather go over the top and drive
him out than stand and take the shelling we have taken on two or three
occasions without much chance for retaliation. We lose more men this way I
believe in the long run. Just the same I am glad I'm here and life wouldn't
be worth living in Canada, for the young man, after the war if he hadn't come.
I should also hate to go home feeling that peace had been obtained on
fruitless terms. As I have thrown over a good deal and everyone has done the
same to say nothing of the lives and money now gone I think that a clear job
should be made of it. Of course the actual army in the field can never be
defeated on either side. If we had to count on that the last seven years of
the war would certainly be the worst. I believe that Fritz is nearly 'fed up'
being 'under fed' at home and I hope that the first push this year will bring
him up to the mark. If the U.S.A. comes in I will be sure the end is near
because I always said they would butt in at the 11th hour and ever after claim
they ended the war if not actually won it. If they come in I should like to
see the Canadians returned to help handle the Pro-Germans in the U.S. and
Canada. That would be soft stuff.
Give my love to everyone from Grandmother to Joan. Wish I had more time
for writing but expect to do some studying in the evenings now.
Your affectionate son,
February 7 1917 - France -(letter # 22)
It is about four days since I got a letter but my mail is delayed a
little owing to it going to the unit first. The school still goes on and the
weather is as cold as ever. We have had practically zero weather I am told.
Heard a rumour of two Canadians being frozen to death on the road near here a
few nights ago but guess they must have been full or they would never have
One of the officers from our hut, a Canadian Guardsman who would almost
make Cassady look small and quite young has been sent back to Blighty this
morning owing to weak heart. He seemed more or less pleased but I would
prefer to go back up the line than have a weak pump.
This morning on physical jerks I was rather struck by the picture and
could hardly realize that we were away over in France. Most of the small
villages are the same with their Grand Place a small public or market square.
The various platoons about 25 strong run down and do our stunts here. Picture
if you can a widening in the streets something the shape of diagram.
This area is all cobble stoned. The stores a continuous line of
rather shabby houses, all shuttered and none of our show windows.
The roofs heavily tiled and sagging. The City Hall or 'Hotel de
Ville' a poor looking building and yet unmistakably different from its
surrounding structures. Signs indicating the various trades grocer, butcher,
tailor etc. are designed in rather small letters and stuck here and there and
several stores appear to bear no label at all. The ever present 'estaminet'
however is always marked. Add to the above numerous pigeons fluttering on the
pavement seeking a breakfast. Then six or eight platoons of Canadians all in
various positions of jerks. Some flat on pavement others with their hands
stretched high above their heads and so on. Here and there in the windows the
head of some interested inhabitant watching the performance of the strangers.
On the whole I enjoyed a few moments comparing the whole scene with our Canada
The Estaminet (pronounced Es-sta-man-ay) is a bar or saloon. There
appears to be a license necessary but every second house appears to be one and
with a small counter, half a dozen glasses or so, a keg of ale and stout,
white and red wine and cheap champagne is all that is necessary. In most of
them coffee, cocoa, eggs, french fries can also be obtained.
The country would be pretty in summer time, the fields are open and
country undulating with the peculiar shaped hay stack here there and
everywhere. So much for this subject.
There is a chap in the hut which is very much like Ward. Perhaps I told
you of him. He comes from Vancouver and knows Ward (who by the way I hear has
been wounded) is the same height and about the same build. He is rather funny
and it seems quite natural to have him around having seen so much of Ward in
the old defunct 131st. This is my latest and last news of the officers of the
Taylor tribe. Ramsay should be in France now. Also Trapp and Motherwell.
Cunningham expects to follow. O'Hanley is taking a 3 months course in
England. Ramsay called upon Mrs. Lambert to say goodbye but couldn't go in as
the daughter had the measles.
My brand new suit has never turned up so I have had to order another, -
7 pounds gone to blazes. Wore the suit twice.
Yesterday the French papers stated that the U.S. had severed
relationship with Germany and later, on account of a ship being sunk had
issued a declaration of war. I got the continental edition of the Daily Mail
which comes here nearly every day but it said nothing as to the declaration
but am not sure as the French news may have been later than the Mail's. I am
glad the States are in for the sake of the faction who were finding it hard to
hold some time getting into the swing. Their money ships and grub may help
however and should cut off some leakages in our blockade of Germany. Of
course it will be the U.S. that won the war if it stops next month. It looks
as though it would be a real war yet.
As yet I have not had a chance to get a Heine but this spring we will
all have plenty of show. I would like to have at least one officer or two or
three men ahead in case of being accidentally wounded and put out of it
myself. I'm not a fighting man but if I could only get a drop on a couple of
the sons of guns they would never become prisoners. It is really the first big
game hunting I have done. Fritz has any amount of fight in him yet but I
really think the chiefs in Germany are figuring on the way to by now. If not
they certainly will by the time summer comes.
Quarter dress has just sounded so must stop for now.
Later: Cheers, have just received nine letters, 2 from England, 1 from Jack
Cambridge, 1 from you, 1 from Helen, 1 from Totty Smith, 1 from Edith Helmcken
and 2 from Gertrude. Took me over an hour to read the lot. It was Helen's #6
and your #10.
Am very sorry that you have had such a series of colds and I hope that
you are all free of them before now. Also that Grandmother is quite well
I hope that Jack misses the spring advances which of course he should.
When does Helen expect to go to Calgary? It will be a nice trip for her.
Was writing by the light of a candle which rested on a stick over a tub
of water heating on the stove as Slim (Wadd's double) was just ready for a
bath I took up the stick to let him get in the tub. The candle fell into the
hot water and of course pretty much melted. Have been straining it with him.
He stuck his finger into it and it came out like a candle, wax all over it.
I was much surprised and glad to hear of Jeannette Peele.
A parcel always takes longer to come than letters, if you want to send
parcels be sure of careful packing and it is sometimes good to stitch a cotton
or cloth round it. Cigarettes or smokes of any kind are always acceptable.
We go through a lot of it over here. Cough drops are also good. Light cake
is of no use and heavy things cost too much to send.
Yes Sloan meant me when he wrote. I saw him the other day when on my
way here and he had just received some tobacco from father.
There was very heavy fighting at Courcelette which is near the Somme.
Our scout sergeant was killed near thee and I today got a letter asking about
his grave. He was a son-in-law apparently of H.C. Chamberlain of the 131st.
I see that Aunt Letty is still a candidate for a retreat for the lightly
demented. I really think that they should teach the kids German because it
seems to be the proper thing to be learned in the dead languages. Perhaps Ken
may have to take a chance himself yet if fit. So the old dame is all alone in
a 25' bedroom. The woman's mad. Who the devil did she expect to have with
her being a widow.
Don't bore people with any of my letters. Gertrude may care to read them
but others -nix- I know.
My throat has been A1 and I have two and a half weeks here yet. Don't
worry about the coming offensives, 'Remember the Lusitania' the States are
behind us. We should worry. I guess the above will be the States 'Maine'
slogan. (Helen will interpret if necessary).
Must stop now with love to everyone,
p.s. Got the clipping re Stacy. He should stay out of the game. fritz seems
to have his number. KCM
February 14 1817 - France - (letter # 23)
I have had no Westminster letters since Feb.7th when your #10 arrived.
I do not understand why because I received one from Ruth Pyne from Vancouver
this evening as Can. mail must be through. However our deliveries have been
all upset lately as the weather is a little milder and the frost is easing off
so I believe the heavy transport is reduced to a minimum to save the roads
until the thaw is over. It is a corker the things that have to be given
attention in this business. some letters come racing through. I got one in 3
weeks time and it often takes 10 days from England to us.
I have been putting off writing each day thinking there would be a
letter but then I haven't much news anyway.
Today Sir Douglas Haig with a bunch of 'Brass Caps' including our Corps
Commander Lt. Gen. Sir Julien Byng, inspected the school. Haig is a fine
I am afraid that this course has deprived me of a chance to get a hun or
two. Before I left I heard a hint of a coming show but thought I might be
back in time or recalled but the other day just before lecture we were told
that the Brigade (ours) would go over the top early next morning. I was
rather disappointed as I didn't have the Somme work and altho no one really
enjoys going over the sacks still I would like to have been with my section.
I listened for the artillery which puts on a barrage and bombards his lines
before hand and about 4am woke and the show was evidently on. The barrage was
a heavy one. The attack was to be about 1000 strong but I have had no details
except that it was very successful. I am very anxious to get details. we are
at least 12 miles from the line and the heavies have been doing a lot of work.
All day Sunday and Sat. and Sun. nights they hammered away. Usually they
bombard for an hour or two. Today they were at it again for quite a time.
We have a lecture every day at 5pm and tonight we had one from a mining
officer who explained (tho a poor lecturer) how the war ,defence and attack,
was carried out underground. Both sides have regular underground tactics so
you see we are fighting in the air, on land, and sea and under both.
I see by todays paper that Mr. Gerard has left Berlin also that he
thinks that the starvation of Germany will be a slow process. I don't know
what it is but something has got to be done and that mighty quick. This can't
go on forever. the credit just voted us 550,000,000 pounds which is to run us
until May. It is 'more'an I expected'.
Today several of the chaps in our hut had to rejoin their units as their
division has come out into reserve or rest so I guess they will have to train
and practice for the coming push as I suppose there is bound to be one. Last
night the hut had a dinner down town. Got a French family to put up a good
chicken dinner starting with a cocktail and ending with champagne. We had
speeches etc. and a barrel of fun. It is a long time since I have laughed as
much as I did last night. It is the first night I have been out of camp since
I arrived 2 1/2 weeks ago.
I really have no news. If I could have a talk to you all I could tell
you a great many funny or interesting things but to write them is impossible.
Life here is straight routine and in one way I shall be glad to get back
to the unit but am not worrying as I am going to be there quite long enough
and have no doubt but that I shall have plenty of chances of getting into a
show. I don't like the stuff but I would like to get a couple of huns just to
be on the safe side.
At some school such as this one meets officers from the whole corps.
Some fine chaps and some apparent bounders. A great many N.C.O.'s have
received commissions and altho in nearly every case I guess it was coming to
them now and again one runs into a fellow that's labelled 'likely good front
line man and an officer but no gentleman' I never criticize as I have done
very little front line work myself and in this game we need material rather
than veneer and polish. As associates however I prefer others. We have been
very fortunate in our hut as the bunch is a good one and we have two or three
ex N.C.O.s too but good stuff.
My fountain pen has gone on the rocks as I have to write nearly
everything twice. Also have to do most of my writing on my knee.
Am enclosing a clipping from the Daily Mail which you may have seen. It
gives the Canucks a good character but all joking aside what the Canadians
have stood and their ability to scrap is OK. They are not as undisciplined as
they are painted either.
Everything is fine with me and I am appreciating every night in bed. I
get there by 9pm generally and up at 6:30. The last two or three days have
been a little milder but a confounded north east wind is still blowing and has
been ever since we came. It is a bitter one.
We consume a great many cigarettes here but the stock in the canteens
keep running out. I would get you to send them to me but there is the danger
of them being stolen and besides I can buy Players here for 1 1/2 francs a tin
of 50 which is about 25 cents present value of french money, and you have to
pay twice that and postage so you see it is a poor business proposition.
Give my love to all and ask Billie to drop me a line if he has a minute
to tell me how things go with Rooms 605-610 New Westminster Trust Block. Also
conditions generally and as to recruiting. There was considerable noise in
the villages the other night and I understand that a new class has just been
With much love mother dear,
February 17 1917 - France - (letter # 24)
This afternoon I got your # 12 dated January 19th but your #11 has not
arrived. Until today have had no letters from 316 since the 7th but received
one or two papers. Also got the box of biscuits and cheese today. The
biscuits were pretty well broken up but still eatable.
Letters going make better time than those coming it seems. For instance
I wrote to England to have a tunic made. I received it two weeks later and
about 3 days after got a letter from the tailors saying they had my order and
would fill it as quickly as possible. So you see we cannot figure it out but
most of the stuff comes through eventually. I fear however that your #11 may
have been lost as I have not heard from Gertrude since the same date - 7th.
No word of many mail having been lost however has reached us. I was wondering
if the California could have possibly have carried any but that is most
unlikely. As you know I got your Nov. Boxes and cake and almond icing was in
great shape. Don't worry about the cold, the thaw seems to have set in and
everything will be fine now.
Yes I have Vivians address alright. Richardson went to 54th I believe.
I should think that Mrs. Diamond would have trouble getting back to England as
they are trying to get rid of Canadian wives.
I am glad to hear that you have a chinaman coming. The work is too much
for you altogether.
Dear little Hennie Ballow must be a great saver of steps for you all and
tell her that I am so glad to hear she is such a good girl.
The news of the 225th was a surprise. I wonder what became of Lockheart,
he was a Capt.
The car accident Johnnie Rushton was in was the B.C.E.R.Lakeview smash
when 16 were killed by the runaway freight train.
Yesterday I got a bundle of socks, must contain nearly two dozen pairs.
Mrs T.D. Trapp's name on. If I ever can get them back to the unit will give
them to the section as I presume that is the intention. Will manage somehow
and shall write her a note of thanks. Have just run through your letter so
will give you what little news I have.
Later - I left this to go down town with a chap from this hut, a Toronto
man who is with the 73rd Highlanders. We went into a tea room for 5 o'clock
tea and the first man I ran into was Elsa Burnetts husband...Ramsay. He is
with the 12th Machine Gun Company I thought he was in Vancouver. Only had a
few words with him.
The weather has broken and the frost is coming out of the ground so we
have mud again. I guess the trenches will be falling in in great shape when
the thaw gets well started. I sent you a Daily Mail, save it. Also some post
cards let me know if you have received three pictures of French places.
Our brigade show was successful but I have heard no particulars as to
our own casualties. Have heard a rumour that there is to be a larger show
tomorrow but do not believe it. If it is correct I have missed all the
excitement. This course is quite interesting but my shooting has not been as
good as I should like. Yesterday was the first day I really felt as though I
could shoot. Got 8 bulls out of 10 shots at 300 yards 6' bull. I pulled one
shot off and made an outer. My other was an inner and I was satisfied with it
when I let it go so don't know why I missed. We have only bull inner and outer
on the target 4.3 & 2. Got a score of 37 out of 40.
Have not heard the heavies working the last day or two but some days
they pound incessantly and we are along way behind the lines. We have had
several very interesting lectures, one on air photography and the study of the
photos (illustrated) and one on the cooperation of the flying corps and the
infantry were particularly good.
I have considerable studying to do this coming week and can hardly
believe that the month will be up next Saturday. Am feeling very well and the
jerks are helping out. I enjoy the morning run and exercise as much as
anything as we get little of that when with the unit.
Ask father to let me know a couple of months before he needs more money
so that I can arrange to send it to have it there for insurance and c.
Give my love to all and before long we will all have a gay old time
together. We do not expect to feel any change here for a long time if the
States come in and we have some months work ahead of us yet. I think it would
take years to actually drive Fritz out of France unless we could get in behind
from Hollands direction but we can smash them steadily and with the exception
of the Bavarians they haven't got much stomach for standing up to us. They
are clever defensive fighters and resist stubbornly at times but nothing
living can stand our artillery when it really opens up. The big boys go
overhead just like train cars but of course invisibly. Their infernal trench
mortars give us the most trouble. Range about 1000 yards and weight about 200
It is quite a sight to watch Fritz's flares when we start a barrage. He
throws up his S.O.S. all along the line and I don't blame him. I have never
seen our S.O.S. and no unit likes to put one up apparently.
Must stop now so with love and assuring you that I am quite OK I am,
Your loving son,
p.s. 9pm Have just heard that Hugh Stoddard was killed a few days ago but
have no particulars except that he was sniped. I am awfully sorry about it.
February 20 1917 - France - (letter # 25)
I got a mail tonight 7 letters and 2 postcards. One letter from
Billie, one from Elsie, Helen's #7 the missing #11 which was Father's, also a
card from Sam O'Hanley's wife from Boston(Valentine's) a letter from Phil
Coulthard, and Gertrude, a card from Totty Smith and a note from Mrs.
T.D.Trapp re:socks sent for the boys. It was the first real mail since the
7th and I have just finished reading them all. I will answer the family lines
Tell Helen not to worry about Jack as it will be a long time before he
gets to 'Sunny France' (it is raining like the devil today) and he is in a
Of course you know that when I came to this school I was Intelligence
Officer. At first I wasn't going to tell you but decided that you would be
sure to hear it from others and have all sort of ideas as to the dangers
attached to the job. Now to speak truthfully and to give you my personal
opinion I would choose the job in preference to the ordinary company work.
True I have to do a little patrol work to see what I can see but I assure you
it all sounds worse than it is. During the day I do not have to remain in the
front line if Fritz is shelling but can go on with other work while a chap on
duty in the line has got to stay there whether it is pleasant or not, so you
see it is not so bad. Then again if we go over the bags I do not go with the
waves, follow in after , gather information, captured documents etc. and see
that the scouts and snipers are pushing on for information. So far I have not
had to go over. I missed a show by being here. Again, when we go over our
artillery barrage hammers his lines all to pieces and makes it untenable.
This barrage creeps along ahead of us so that when we are in his front line he
can hardly live in his support lines. Consequently don't imagine me fighting
hand to hand every minute or any of that old stuff.
I am fairly lucky and it is 'wee'll' to be cautious. So far I have
never fired my revolver and have only seen Fritz once or twice and then
doubtfully. There is certain amount of a risk looking over parapet and I
don't do it now altho I did have to do so many times when I first came to this
new frontage in order to see his lines because my observation posts had been
destroyed but we have appliances with which we can look over without being
seen. A man may look over many times if he chooses a place no one else has
used and not be noticed but the fellow who stands round in a shallow part of a
trench and doesn't realize that he is partly under observation is going to be
out of luck. Again on patrol work we do not go to fight and I have never seen
a sign of a Fritz on patrol. Don't worry at all I am 26 years and can
generally use a certain amount of common sense. There is bound to be a
certain element of chance in war but we are all taking that but over here we
are not all fighting all the time. Only the other day I said to a bunch of
fellows, 'Good Lord we are at war and the people in Canada imagine us actually
fighting on the trenches all the time'. Here we are back of the lines and one
would hardly know there was a war on. Then to reserve and in about a months
time or less our division should be due for rest so you see it is not so bad.
Sometimes I may have written a gloomy letter but perhaps I was a bit wet at
the time. No I have a safer job than the majority realize.
Father would be very much interested in this course if he could get the
details of same. Some day I shall be able to give them to him. I was
surprised to hear that the 225 came to grief but guess recruiting as Billie
explained is slow for infantry.
Captain Carleton has my best luck and I guess he'll need it. I am glad
Billie didn't take the notion of raising the company.
So Marsh was made a Major, I should think he would have to reduce here.
Am glad the kids got their postcards. I wish I could send them something
Assure Billie that I can quite appreciate what 1775 Tax sale searches
mean. Still I would be willing to swap jobs if old Fritz would realize that
he has his fill of British shell fire.
Am sorry I didn't see Cassady. It is a pretty nice war from his
position I should think. Was glad to hear Sullivan had done so well. Ask
Billie to thank Mr. Martin and staff for their good wishes and thank Billie
himself for the letter. I enjoy one from him very much. Father asked for
some reasons I had for forming certain opinions regarding a particular chap.
I guess he will be fairly well aware of them by now as I have since written
letters to you that size him up fairly well. I am glad father ascertained the
value of my extra kit in dollars and cents with only one load of fountain pen
ink. I have a new one though. I get paid according to a dollar and cent
basis $2.00 per day, and .60 cents per day field allowance and $1.00 per day
extra messing allowance. The total is deposited monthly in the B.of M. London
in pounds, shillings and pence, then I draw against that by cheque for 125
francs at a time. The bank balance is maybe, and I take the passbooks word
for it. Father should charge all disbursements such as Mildreds photo and my
share of Gran's Xmas quilt etc. and if balance gets low let me know.
As to Aunt Tweebie business I could explain details easily enough with
the papers but it is pretty hard from this distance. Am glad Billie found the
assignments etc. in order and I do not think anyone but Collister is taking a
chance if a deed of a single lot is given. He might be.
The news of Pat Bowler's death was new to me. The miserable son of a
gun left quite a bunch of coin with him, the Coquitlam deal was a case of
'don't get you nothing'.
As far as being steady and keeping your head down 'Johnnie' has nothing
on me. I generally know just how near the top of the parapet my old tin hat
is reaching. I also quite agree with him that a live dog is better than a dead
lion but we are certainly having our dog days.
Did you get the postcards including my English actors?
Tell Helen my nerves are fine and that a 'Minnie' has to land right
alongside to scatter them and that isn't likely as one can see them coming.
Her chocolates I got were not so dry but were a lot mussed up and gooey. The
fudge is fairly hard but under the process of mastication once more becomes
creamy. Postal rates are pretty heavy tho on that heavy stuff.
Yes we are losing a few ships by the subs. but I think that the subs are
being sunk pretty regularly according to the papers here. From a conversation
I had with the chief officer on the ship coming over they have their own way
of rounding those little fellows up once they are located.
The address is vague but quite enough as I get all your letters but be
sure to put 'Canadians'.
Am sorry you have all had such a dose of grippe and hope you are now all
free of it. I wish you could get a good chink. The old scout Ling should be
back soon surely.
Alex McQuarrie seems to have a pretty good post. The law business is
the only one that really gets it in the neck on this business.
I can quite imagine that Mrs.Swan is delighted with the railway job Bill
So Fraser Allen was worried over a peace conference Fritz posted up.
Well we don't take any stock in peace talk, and won't until our G.H.Q.calls us
So George Trapp is off for the air. It is a very important branch and
does wonderful work. I should like to write you how it works with the
artillery and infantry but that again is 'ultra vires'. I said I missed a show
it was successful, 49 prisoners, besides destruction of works. This was
published. Read 3rd paragraph 1st page commencing 'early' 3rd column.
Tell Elsie to keep up the golf. We don't call 'fore' here before
driving but I guess it is necessary because there are softer things than a
golf ball to get banged with.
I think I have had Mrs. Peels's matrimonial affairs from about six
sources but they all differ a bit and so are more or less new. I have no news
from here. We should wind up the end of this week but I have lost track of
whether the unit is going in or coming out.
I am very well and have not missed a parade so far and have been out for
jerks every morning. Will write more if I get a chance but have a lot to do.
With love to all and assuring you that the cold weather is over and that
we only have our old friends the rain and mud and that one never takes a cold
in the trenches. You may feel punk going in but the cold disappears once in.
Now don't worry over the mails. If anything hurt me you would hear
mighty quick. Also don't worry about my work, it is OK and I expect to have
my section complete again for keeps.
Your affectionate son,
February 23 1917 - France -(letter # 25A)
I acknowledged receipt of your letter to mother a day or two ago so will
only write a note as I have not much time today. Naturally there are a great
many things that one should not mention in a letter and we cannot state where
Expect to return to the unit tomorrow and begin again the work in the
line. It is certainly nothing to look forward to as the conditions are
naturally not as pleasant as they might be. However, I hope that I do not
make a bull when the real work commences. So far we have been carrying on 'a
I explained to Mother that my scout officer work is really safer in my
opinion than that of the ordinary officer in the company. That is not just
talk for her benefit but is actually the case. Another strong point which I
neglected to mention is that I do not get called up to take charge of working
parties at night. You see when we are in support, parties have to tramp up to
the line every night for special work, such as trench digging or repairing.
Often these are shelled work the work is disliked more than almost any other
duty. So you see it is no small item to be free of those things. At times
parties get lost or broken, on the whole it is a miserable duty.
Things are going along fairly well and if I get off as luckily as I have
so far I will be OK.
My news is almost nil as I have written everything I knew to mother so
you will naturally hear it all.
Give my love to the household and believe me I will take any precautions
Your affectionate son,
p.s. I suppose by the unnamed party you meant J.D.
Facts were these, he just got everybody rubbed the wrong way, in my
opinion by his continual petty wrangling. Never had any idea of coming here
and when the bunch was split I am told he was assured that all ranks would be
taken care of and would go to the units they wanted also that N.C.O.'s would
retain their ranks, that all ranks would be provided for satisfactorily. He
wouldn't take that. Wanted his battalion or nothing. What he expected to do
with it is more than I know. Result was that we were sent here there and
everywhere whether we liked it or not, a lot of the seniors are still out of
jobs and the NCO's were stripped over here quite naturally. He never even
said so much as goodbye to any of us that I know of. beat it for London and
stayed there most of the time. He ran a big bluff apparently and I believe did
it knowing that he would not make it stick and would then have a good reason
for returning to Canada. As far as I could see and I was in the orderly room a
good bit he simply got the battalion in wrong every where it went. So much
for my reasons. KCM
p.p.s. There will likely be hell to pay before long. Many rumours but
nothing definite. In case of an advance in any particular place, some units
will have to go over and the others relieve and hold ground won. I fear we
are going to 'hold' if our sector is chosen which is almost certain. Would
rather attack any day because in that case our artillery hammers their line
until it is a veritable 'washout', the infantry goes over in waves behind a
barrage of artillery and generally fare fairly well. But when the relief
comes up, consolidates and holds. Fritz reorganized and collects for a series
of counter attacks and the holders in turn just stand and take the full force
of his artillery. There is no use talking, shell fire is hell. I don't
believe that one ever gets used to it and in fact it works the other way. The
first day I ever went into the line with an advance party to look over our
front a large shell nearly got the bunch of us when about 2 1/2 miles in rear
of the line. We heard it and threw ourselves before she burst. It was about
five yards on the other side of a bank I was leaning against. It hit in soft
earth and spent itself. Some of the old timers cursed Fritz and pulled out.
I thought that was to be the regular order of things and it didn't bother me a
bit. If a shell comes anywhere near as close as that now I hunt cover in a
hurry because I have since seen the effect of the things when they do hit. I
would just as soon stand his shell fire though as his trench mortar stuff.
Minnies, rum jars, fishtails etc. The first two are a corker.
I am satisfied that I missed being wiped out one day. They began to
strafe us one afternoon. Whiz bangs and 4.5's were coming pretty regularly
and our stretcher bearers were busy. I decided I would go up to one of the
posts to see how things were doing. I came to a quarry which the trench ran
through and a shell bit in it and on the hard rock it was a bird. Smashed one
of our kitchens in but didn't get anyone. I was going to cross and go on up
the trench when something said 'better wait a minute or so' I stepped into the
mouth of a Sap some pioneers were working in. I was there about two minutes
when I heard another.I looked to see where it was going and off she went. A
direct hit in the trench just up the steps beyond the quarry. I would have
just been about there had I gone on. I waited another five or ten minutes and
no more came so went on up. I saw what she had done and would not have given
much for the chances for anyone hear there in a narrow trench.
On the other hand some days and nights one would hardly know there was a
war on save for an occasional machine gun and the star shells, or flares as
they are properly called..KCM
February 27 1917 - France (letter # 26)
Just a line as I have only a minute. Am back with the unit and am OK.
We go back into the front line in two or three days and if lucky after this
tour our division may be due for a months rest.
I got back to hear that poor Elmer Warwick had been killed in the recent
raid. I was so sorry to hear it. We have also lost two of our best 131st
Sergeants who were recognised as being two of the best in this unit. Sgt.
McMan was killed and Broderick who was acting Sergt. Major in our raid did
great work and came through OK. A day or two after he was accidentally shot
and killed by one of his best friends also a 131st man who is now up for Court
Martial for manslaughter. I am defending and fear he hasn't much chance. It
seems such a needless waste of A1 material as the man was a valuable one.
I am sending home my fountain pen to have the nib fixed. Would also
like to have a small pocket knife and a couple of good erasers.
I have now a new batman. Linn wanted to get back to section work. He
only took on the job because the section was being broken and he wanted to
stay with the few left. He was a pretty good kid. I have now got a boy named
Peter Sproute from Vancouver. He is a nice kid and I think will be alright.
I don't know what I shall do without a batman after the war. At first I
did everything for myself now your shaving articles are handed to you and
clothes attended to and brass shined etc. It is a great business but a good
batman is worth a lot here.
I am enclosing a memo which please keep. I want it for the sake of the
fool memo on the back of it.
Give my love to all,
Memo mentioned in letter # 26 dated January 19 1917
To The Adjutant
In the case of #219766 Pte Desjardins E.
Kindly let me have at once the statements or summary of evidence of the
following witnesses appearing for the prosecution.
Sergeant Norris MMP
L/Corporal P.(can't read) MMP
(signed) K.C.Macgowan Lt.
answer on back
I can give you this personally at my quarters at 4pm. The evidence is
of arrest. These witnesses were not available for summary. Your request is
on the form of an order and similar notes in future must be modified in their
(signed) C.Cars..(can't read)
March 5 1917 - France - (letter #27) postcard written on both
Have been too busy to write letters. Will be glad when this tour is
finished. Am perfectly well at present. There should be rest in store for us
soon and I hope we get a good one. I need it as I am short tempered and
nervous when going without sleep but can do with about as little as anyone.
Have had my trench boots off a couple of times this trip. Day before
yesterday was beautiful. Someone told me it was Sunday. My snipers had good
observation and got six huns. Also succeeded in worrying a Fritz relief or
what appeared to be one by turning on some heavy artillery. I hope it will
all soon end as I am very tired of it but we will get him yet.
Love to all and I hope to see you soon
p.s. I left this side for address but will send in envelope. One of the
batmen just brought in 2 oranges. It is a long time since I have eaten one.
Got your box with cigarettes, dates, socks, biscuits, cheese, chocolate etc.
safely and in good condition. The cheese drew the rats so I had to eat it in
a hurry. fritz is chucking over a lot of stuff just now but it will stop
before I have to go out again. Have received certain letters which I shall
answer when we get out of the line. Summer is coming and my work will be a
great deal lighter because the night will be shorter. Our grub is good and we
get all we require in fact we mess very well. Nothing stylish but the
substance is there.
Lovingly your son, Keith
March 08 1917 - France - (letter #28)
It has been some time since I have been able to write you but this tour
has really been a pretty hard one and I got to reserve billets last night
about five miles back of the line dead tired. I have received the following
letters. Your 14th and your parcel. Helen's 9,10,11, Elsies of Jan.25th and
Gowans of Feb.4th. I shall just run through them and answer anything requiring
Elsie's - I do not mind the rats. They roam about everywhere but they haven't
bothered me. Your McLaren's cheese rather attracted them however. Yes Ward
is not built for the dugouts. Sometime the entrance to a deep one is about
3'x3'. You back down feeling for the steps. Our dugout this last tour
however, was quite comfortable. Elsie had better ease up a bit on the work or
she will have a breakdown. If Motherwell really wants to do something for me
he might just call this war off. I would really appreciate it. Was glad to
hear Gray, Fraser, and Sullivan all got in. I believe I have some horse shoes
on my neck, because the other night I came through a hot time without a
scratch of which more later.
Yours - The weather this tour was fine but today raw with wind and snow. My
men are nearly frozen to death because the snow comes through the roof of the
barn and the walls are full of chinks. Your box was OK. I got it just after I
got into the line. I got one from Gertrude last night when I reached billets
which saved my life also that of Purvis the Signalling Officer as our kitchens
didn't arrive until late so we ate half the box up.
Don't worry about me I am feeling fine I am not in any bombing business.
My work is information not explosives. Yes I hope it will be over before the
fall but the fall is a deuce of a long way off when one sees how much can
happen in an hour. Am always amused to hear of Bunkers speeches. She must be a
Helen's - You all seem to be worrying about the scouting. It is good work and
although there is no end to it I prefer it to the company stuff. I have
received nearly all your letters so don't worry about them either. No, I
didn't volunteer for scouting, I was so green I didn't know what a scout
officer had to do. I know now tho. When I got the job I had never even been in
the line or under shell fire.
The man Taylor refers to as having lost his job is with us as a
supernumerary Major. He was O.C. 30th Reserve. I don't think he likes the war
as well here as in England. Was tickled over Walkers opinion of the kids.
Great stuff Helen my hearty. If Jack has a chance for a commission in the C.E.
tell him to take it. The expenses pretty much take care of themselves and
allowances are larger. We received $100.00 when joining in Canada, $50 leaving
Canada and $100 when going overseas. So you have peace in the air eh? Well you
have different air from us. It is mostly charge with aeroplanes and shrapnel
here. Should enjoy a breath of yours. Yes Ward was wounded and Henderson was
hit the other night in a big show near us. he has just got a nice Blighty tho
I hear. Hope Helen will be able to take the expected trip. If the States come
in I should like to go to Minneapolis to lecture on trench warfare while she
My wants are few. I have sent my pen home. Cigarettes are useful in the
line because the canteens and Y.M.C.A. are bought out regularly.
Yes, Mary Dorsey is rich. She writes a clever letter. Sorry to hear that
Campbell hasn't fixed Billies nose up yet. He must be having a bad time of it.
Address 47th Canadians (Inf.)B.E.F. France, should be quite sufficient.
Going to Army P.O. takes longer but in case of casualty they know where you
are and the letter does not come to unit and then chase off to hospital.
Gowan's - I enjoyed his letter very much and I have no doubt but that he
will eat that sort of work alive. Would like to be able to take a try at the
skies with him. Tell him to go easy on the jumps. Am returning his sketch of
boat. It looks very comfortable to me and well planned. As he says it is
sometimes a good thing to be attached to H.Q. but a lot depends on the boss. I
never saw one more thoroughly unpopular with all his officers than this one
Have had a letter from Ramsay and he is at the front alright. Would like
to see him. Have to parade my fellows to the baths today - Quite a march but I
may see Trapp or some of the others there because I heard some of them were in
that village. You have all heard by now of poor Hugh Stoddard and Elmer
Was very amused of Gowan's description of father's dress on the Pitt
Lake trip. I could just see him in detail. I think I will keep it and show it
to Bill Sloan when I am next at the Transport lines. (also got a letter from
Elsie dated Feb.1st I think I have received all her letters)
Now as to what I have been doing. Returned from my course and found the
unit in supports. Everybody was out every night up the line on working
parties. I did not come in for these being a H.Q.Officer. Then we went into
the line. I didn't look forward to it a bit because the thaw was well on but
the line was much better than I expected. I had to go in the night before the
battalion. There was a show on that night by the Brigades on our immediate
right. It started at 3am. I watched the whole thing. It was a wonderful sight.
The artillery was fearful and the whole country seemed to be spitting fire and
the shells all bursting in a limited space. To give you an idea one battery of
small fellows fired 3000 rounds in two hours and there were many batteries
other than the heavies. The machine guns were a continuous rattle. Then Fritz
added his side of it and the flare lights.
I cannot speak of casualties but the whole thing was sickening in a
sense. We came in and after doing a couple of days had to take over a lot more
line in poor shape. I had been up practically for two nights and had been
round the lines that morning when I got the orders so had to rush off and go
all over the new front. I was very tired. Fritz is nervous and has been
handing us all sorts of stuff
One night I struck the front line at midnight to relieve a patrol I had
sent out and heard that one of my best men had been shot and had gone to the
dressing station. I rushed off for Co. H.Q. and reported my patrol in then for
the station. It was just one round of congestion in the trenches. An officer
met me and said 'Mac can you give me a scout?' I was out of sorts at having
this chap of mine shot and was refusing when I learned it was to help a man
with a broken leg out so I detailed one of my boys to assist and ran on.
Trench was blocked. I ordered them to make way but found in the middle a
couple of chaps who had just been buried and suffering from shell shot. Next a
stretcher case and so on. Got to the station just after my chap died. I was
pretty cut up. He was my first casualty and from our own bullet. Such is the
life when a strafe is on but that is not always the way. Some days it is quiet
and warm and everyone is working and one would hardly know there was a war on.
The night before last I struck the front line at 11pm with two scouts as
I was going to take a short run out when suddenly I saw Fritz's artillery call
go up and then another. Then an assortment of flares, gold, green, and long
flights of stars, beautiful but bad medicine. The trench was blocked with
working parties so I said to my boys 'There's a 'Red', come with me because we
are for it, right now'. I got along the front line and out a Sap leading into
No-mans land. I chose a place where the trench was deep and we stopped here.
Then things started. First rapid rifle fire and machine guns. Then the
artillery and rifle grenades. Front, Support, and Rear lines all came in for
their share. I would prefer Front to Support because the heavy trench mortar
(the 200 lb. Minnie) drops there mostly and it is a corker. I chose ahead of
the front line for us. We were there for half an hour. No one could move. The
shells were bursting everywhere and threw mud and water all over us but I had
a feeling that none of them had my name on them. Everyone that skimmed the Sap
for front line of course seemed as though it was yours and we just crouched
low and flattened up against the front of the Sap. Three hits were made on the
section of front line I left. As a matter of fact Fritz saw a large wiring
party of ours getting out and evidently thought it was a raid and that we were
coming over the top. He is expecting a raid all the time now. God help us if
we had been, I do not know how it happened but in that whole bombardment and
mess in the trenches we only had a few hurt and buried. I cannot understand. I
am glad I went through it because it is the first real bombardment I have been
directly under. Once is enough however. I wanted to look over the top to see
if he was doing anything in the way of coming across but the machine guns were
clipping the parapet so that one simply couldn't. The bullets just sound like
angry bees. Just after it started the chap near me said 'God here comes a
Minnie'. Everyone respects them. I looked up and sure enough there was the
comet and another and another. I watched its height and shouted back 'Its away
over' and sure enough practically every Minnie went to the Support lines.
After it let up I hurried along to see if the wirers had any casualties as I
thought I might have to go out after some of them but strange to say they dug
right out and got off scott free. It was some time before I could find their
officer but he turned up in one piece. I feel all right when busy but shell
fire is something no man can get used to. The more one sees of its work the
more one fears it. You simply can't argue with a Rumjar or Minnie.
The next day the weather was beautiful and the activity was all air. At
times there would be nearly 40 machines up, patrolling, manoeuvering and
fighting. I saw three of our planes come to grief that day. 2 came down in
flames and in another the pilot was shot through the head and both were killed
of course in the fall. I think everything I have written is general enough to
be permissible. Fritz is a clever fighter in all branches but he has his own
troubles because we pump a good bit of stuff into him believe me. I could
write a great deal on the last tour if permitted but it is only one of the
many we do. Some times they are very quiet and some times hot and so it goes.
We should get a rest soon, are due for it any time but whether we get it or
not is another thing. We certainly could stand it though.
Must get ready now to take my parade off. Our billets this time are poor
and I wish the weather would 'have a heart'.
Every now and again you might send me a small pocket pad that I could
use for writing I am using my intelligence report book now and they are hard
to get so rather begrudge this paper for letter writing.
I have received two pairs of socks from Aunt Tweebie and she mentioned a
box so I hadn't written to her until it arrived but it has not as yet come to
Would you show this letter to Gertrude as I haven't much time to write.
I don't want you to think that I go through what I have described every day.
My lot so far has been fairly easy and hope it will continue to be so.
I wish it was also over. The whole thing is rotten. The world has gone
mad and is amuck here. When one watches a 'show' and realizes that men are
deliberately letting loose that hell on other men it is sickening yet whenever
an unusually large explosion goes up on him you find yourself unconsciously
saying 'By God we got him that time' or something of the same effect. And if
we get hurt we curse and damn him soundly. It is a strange life and brings out
the good and the bad in everybody.
Must stop now. Give my love to all and I hope to be home before very
Affectionately your son,
March 16 1917 - France -(letter #29)
Have not had a Canadian letter since the 22nd inst. Our mails are most
irregular and come in bunches. I generally write when I get letters and when
they do not come the days slip by very quickly, they are so full. I am in a
bad way for men just now as I have three or four on the sick list including my
Sergeant and had three wounded last night. There was a show on. We went over
the top. All I can say is that you may be thankful I was not on the party
going over. The Signalling Officer, and myself were with the C.O. I cannot
tell you anything concerning same except that the more I see of Fritz in all
branches the more I respect his abilities. He is a chap that takes a lot of
beating and just add a touch of salt to that 'Kamerade' talk and 'starving
conditions' propositions. I believe that we have him but hard fighting and
good generalship is necessary.
Believe I got a hun this morning after the show. Three of them were seen
out in front of his lines looking for bodies I presume. I was carrying a Lee
Enfield as I had loaned my six shooter to one of my men. It was just coming
day and I drew on him over our parapet. My NCO said the man fell. At any rate
he wasn't there afterward. Don't worry if you don't get letters from me. I
have until the 19th. I believe and then perhaps I will get out to Brigade
Reserve for a few days. We all certainly need it. I am nervous from lack of
sleep but got from 9 this morning to 2:45pm when a runner called me to giveme
some fool report Lord how I wish it was all over. It is absolutely revolting
to me. It can't last forever and I am hoping that matters will shape up soon.
Have no time for anything more now. If you keep this letter as a
reminder some day I shall tell you some interesting things about it.
Give my love to all and a big kiss from your loving son,
p.s. Am out of cigarettes but will be able to get some in a day or two.
March 20 1917 - France -(letter #30)
Am writing this in bed and am in a most uncomfortable position so will
not write much. Came out of the line yesterday into Supports. We are just
behind the lines and of course under shell fire but only a few shells come
over each day. Yesterday I had to ride to a field ambulance to see a man who
had been in a 'show' and was wounded. He was in No-mans land for approx. 54
hours. His experience was a hard one and he was pretty badly shaken up. When I
returned the M.O. and I decided we would go for a bath, a walk of about 4
miles or more each way. It began to rain and the hardest wind I have seen in
France was blowing against us. We walked against it for nearly half way when
we caught an ambulance which was bringing out two or three men who had
collected some shrapnel from a shell which burst just before we started. We
couldn't hear it on account of the wind until it was right on. The Doc. and I
jumped for cover and beat it into the dressing station. It was out of our way
however or we should have been too late. It got these men slightly however and
the Doc. dressed them and we set out. As I said, it overtook us and we reached
the bath place. This consists of a house which has hog heads. These are filled
with hot water carried in by the jugfull and then four officers go at it. When
they get doubled up in them one is reminded of the gold dust twin pictures.
After the bath the tubs are dragged to the door and dumped over the step on to
the street. There they are scrubbed out and a new bunch take a chance. The
water was hot however and I enjoyed the luxury. The methods however are crude.
We then started back and after walking about a mile and a half were picked up
by a transport wagon of a pioneer battalion and got a ride the rest of the way
but it was a pretty wet trip and the mules were not overly fast and the
traffic was heavy.
Last night I had a good long sleep and have been on a court of enquiry
all day. It reopens again tomorrow.
This last tour was a long one and I hope that the ones to come are less
strenuous I hardly averaged four hours, per night, sleep during the six days
We have had no Canadian letters for 18 days. March 2nd was my last.
There will be a big bunch one of these days but everything seems to be
Things have been happening rather rapidly lately, Winsby goes back to
England I guess and we will get a new man. Someone is always getting it in the
neck. Cannot write more.
We seem to be gaining a good bit of ground at the Somme according to the
papers but one never knows why old Fritz pulls out. I hope that the big drive
never comes but I don't see anything to prevent it. Some day I guess it has
got to stop but it does not yet seem to be in sight. I have seen all the war I
want to and really cannot get enthusiastic over it.
Tell Gertrude I shall write soon and I hope that the mail comes along
soon. I received your Province of the 7th Feb. this evening.
Am pretty tired so will call a halt. Wish I could really give you all
some idea of war conditions here. If I ever get through it I will call
soldiering off and if I get half a chance I shall get out of the infantry
before it is over. No more infantry for me it is the family drudge believe me.
Give my love to all. Am going to try and get into one of the larger
towns for a day before going into the line again.
Your loving son,
March 23 1917 - France - (letter #31)
At last a Canadian mail has come through. Yesterday evening I came home
expecting a lot of letters and found none. All the others had some so I knew
something had gone wrong. This morning the acting B.S.M.gave me a bundle of
ten. They had come up with the sub-staff mail by mistake. I received Mrs.Homer
Adam's box last night in fine shape. The letters were as follows, your 17th
and fathers 18th (I have missed your 15th and 16th) Helen's 12th and 13th
(missing none but her 9th is not yet to hand) Grandmothers, Elsie's of the
22nd Feb. Mary's, 2 from Gertrude, and 1 from my Montreal friend. Have been
too busy to think of writing. Came out of the line and have had nothing but
court martial and court of enquiry work. Besides trying to get some
instructional work done so am generally tired out. I shall run through all the
family letters in order.
Helen's So far I have not received your mentioned gloves that you have
all gone to so much trouble over. They will turn up in time unless sunk. Yes
Hugh Stoddards death was a shock to me also as I was away when he was killed.
He was not one of my men but belonged at one time to the bombing section and
did a few patrols with us. He was sniped while standing in the line. Was much
interested in Elsie's tin wedding. Give her my very best. I was very sorry to
hear of the Moss trouble. It is certainly pretty hard. I have a new batman.
Linn wanted to get back to the other work. I didn't think I would keep him
long. Have succeeded in getting him back in my section. Had three casualties
(wounds) in a recent show. Hope your new chink is Ok a crank is no use.
I shall acknowledge all letters and boxes as they arrive but I don't
keep letters so burn them as I finish with them. We will have to cut down on
our kits before long in order to get ready should we have to close with Fritz
and show him back a bit. Our mails are very irregular, comes in bunches,
Transportation is very congested apparently.
Yours Thank father and Gowan for their trouble in the glove matter. I
have not had a chance to obtain any and have only a pair of kid which aren't
up to much for warmth. Gloves are necessary no matter what weather. Our
weather has turned cold again with snow. I nearly froze to death yesterday.
Had a long ride to and from a General Court Martial. Our coming tour will be a
wet one I fear. Am very much interested in Helen's proposed trip. Tell her to
be sure that Jack keeps out of the infantry. We are the goats. Sorry to miss
Will but his is only another of the small things this war does. Linn won't
know what has struck the bunch when his parcels start to blow in on him. Don't
worry about the sniping course. I don't snipe but supervise the snipers. I am
going to give more attention to this work than before which will keep me off
more patrol work.
I saw Willie Banks some time ago and meant to speak of it but didn't
know that he had no letters.
I ordered parts 1,2,&,3 of Fragments from France for you and they were
to be sent straight to you from England. They are good and true to life. Was
amused at Bunker's valentine stunts. Kids are certainly funny.
Father's The viscol soaked gloves should be Ok and I hope they turn up.
Expect to go into the line tomorrow night ahead of the unit as usual. My boots
are very seldom bone dry. They are fairly well full of oil all the time but
unless I am moving my feet get cold. Yes the old 131st has already gone into
the honour roll. Two of my platoon were killed in our recent trip over the
top. I was not allowed over.
Elsie's Be sure and thank Nora Adams for me. I simply haven't any time
to write and will be down to postcards soon. Good Lord ten years married. It
is more than I expected and I hope you have several times more together. Am so
sorry Billies nose is bothering him and hope he gets relief soon. Poor old
Bill he always treated me in the best possible way although the Lord knows I
made 'bulls' enough in the office.
Grandmother's Was tickled to get such a long letter but it must have
been a severe tax to write such a long one. Am glad she is feeling better and
with care I know she will be Ok. I enjoyed the letter immensely. You people
are certainly having a lot of trouble with your colds etc. The weather must be
very bad. Here we don't mind because everything is more or less mud and slop.
For instance as I write the drivers are pushing six horse teams up the grade
with nearly a foot of mud hauling ammunition and the artillery lets out a
split and crash every now and again and the shells rush overhead. Everything
is damp and the dugouts cold.
Gran enclosed a slip of an old lady 84 knitting socks but she certainly
has the picture madam backed off the map. Bet she couldn't write the letter
I wanted to write two or three more letters tonight but am really all in
and want to get into my bedroll. Have to get up early. Would like to give you
a lot of local news but can't however I can say we have a new O.C. nuff said.
Also a new 2nd in Command over the head of Rhodes for whom I am sorry he is a
decent sort but seems to be in wrong. Oh you get yours for small things in the
army if you are 'in wrong' and the old O.C. certainly was. They can can me for
a small thing anytime they like. If they don't like my fighting I am quite
sure I don't either.Honestly it is quite a beastly game. Perhaps a lovely day,
like today, for awhile you will be standing watching or working for perhaps
just walking along when - buzz - drawn out and increasing in noise - you yell
'duck' and crash away goes the shell and leaves the small cellar. I generally
crouch so that my tin hat covers the plan of me fairly well and don't like
falling flat because shrapnel landing on the small of the back doesn't look
good to me and I believe in giving these little things attention.
Today was up toward the line to an observation post with Hill who is a
staff Capt. I mentioned him. We are seeing heavier fighting by degrees and I
guess before long we will really see life. I wanted to write to Gertrude
tonight but simply can't get it done. Am tired to death and it is ten pip emma
now. Have just heard that I do not have to go into the line tomorrow night but
can leave the next morning so I get rid of a very uncomfortable night. Bedroll
looks good to me.
Must stop now. I am off to bed. Raley is just reading a Columbian of
Hugh Stoddard's death. It speaks of him dying of wounds. I understand he was
sniped. Shot between the eyes and never knew what hit him. I have seen a good
many who would have been far better off than they were if they had gone the
way Hugh did. Elmer was killed as I said during a show. But honestly everyone
here is so busy keeping his skin that casualties are mentioned once. Generally
'By God that's too bad, isn't it a corker?, Oh damn the war, will you have a
cigarette' I have heard it over and over again. Everyone is sorry but what's
the use. We are all happy and Fritz is going back a little - it is well to be
Give my love to everyone and I shall write Gertrude as soon as possible.
Affectionately your son,
April 02 1917 - France - (letter #32)
Am in reserve - got here about the middle of last night and have been
through a fair example of hell and back again. Am quite well and will describe
this last tour later. First let me acknowledge a receipt of the following
family letters. Your 15th,16th, and 19th. Elsie's Feb. 9th and Feb.16th marked
5th and 6th and March 2nd. Helen's 11th and bunkers Valentine. Gertrudes
25th, 26th, 27th,29th and 30th. Also Margarets box and Gowans two pairs of
gloves and a box from Gertrude tonight. I am in bed so cannot write. We are
quartered in what was a German prison camp and the huts are just corrugated
iron shells and cold as sin. We are having something to eat now as we all have
something and have heated up some oxo. So will stop for a few moments.
Now to resume - we have had some oxo, Gertrudes cakes, other cakes,
candied pineapple, figs, olives, dates etc. It is 10:30pm and I am dog tired.
Today has been a beast, a driving wind, rain then snow and the drafts are
fierce. Breakfast is off at 8am tomorrow and training has to be rushed. I have
not had a minute to write and from now on my letters will get fewer. We went
into the line on the 25th and we had rain. The trenches were in fair shape.
Then our troubles began. For two days Fritz chose certain hours, the first
between 2 and 3pm and next day begin at 3 and 4pm and subjected us to an
intense artillery bombardment of all sizes. His gunnery was good and he just
hammered the trenches and communication lines and the valley behind from end
to end. Every battle front has a valley somewhere and they are always a curse.
Personally I missed most of the fire because my headquarters were across the
valley. I was just crossing when it opened and was forced back also I
prevented about 8 Imperial Officers from crossing. The sight was one of the
most wonderful things I have ever seen both days but when I went over the
lines as soon as it eased up the sights are better left undescribed. The men
stood it well but by the end of the tour they wore the usual haunted
appearance that a severe gruelling gives them. We expected to go out for
Brigade rest for ten days but before we were to leave we had to go over the
top to cap the climax. I worked for two or three nights taking men over to
Fritz's lines showing them the way so that they could act as guides for the
Will finish tomorrow as I am too tired to write longer and it will take
quite a letter to give you an idea of the show.
April 03 5:30 (continuation of letter)
Received your box including woolen gloves, pencils etc. Everything was
in fine shape. Thank Gertrude for hers also. I have lectured all day to a
class of 50 men. Have not had a bath yet but have the lice proof stuff on.
Everyone nearly is crummy but so far I have not been troubled.
Now to resume my story...The show was early. We were to get prisoners for
purpose of identifying those opposite to us. I only had two scouts fit for
duty and as men should work in pairs I put them in charge at one side of the
affair and I took the other side as I knew I could always associate with
someone. I was to see them safely off, that the jumping off place was
correctly left etc. Major Rhodes was also on that side. Just before we went
over Fritz whiz banged our line. You would almost think he was wise to the
I will give you an idea of how barrages work. This is just a
hypothetical case as Judge Morrison would say. At a certain minute our
artillery and machine guns etc. open an intense fire on his front line and
over go the men. Allowing time enough to get over the artillery lifts at once
to his support lines and forms a box into which no one can enter. We enter
his front line and clean up inside this box. We leave at a certain hour and
the artillery drops back into his front line. Of course the instant our
artillery opens, up goes his S.O.S., and our front line supports and rear
areas get everything he has.
Well over they went and I saw one party going too far to the left and I
roared to an officer that they were going off a little too much so he said
'perhaps you could take hold of them'. So over the top I piled and caught up.
Steered as many as I could correct and the rest were in pretty good shape and
beyond control in the roar so I came back to my job. I had arranged with
Major Rhodes to take shelter in a mine shaft during the shelling so as to be
on the job after the thing was over. I met him and he said 'where are you
going Macgowan?' I yelled 'The mine shaft is the best place if we can make it'
but by now the C.T,s were under a terrific shelling. Rhodes said 'I think
I'll wait behind this traverse'. So we stood the barrage under the cover of
the stars leaning up against the traverse in the trench. You have no idea of
the roar. Shells burst on all sides and overhead and never a scratch. Got
covered with mud and stones and a small chink in the face that didn't even
scratch me. Finally wounded started too come along in charge of others. We
were only blocking the trench and couldn't do any good yet so I told Rhodes to
follow me and we would clear out of the way. Just before we started someone
stumbled around the corner and asked for water. I recognized Robinson who was
a company Sgt. Major in the 131st. I asked him what was the matter. He said
he had been hit in the stomach. I knew there was no chance of getting him to
the dressing station as he was badly hit, so I took him to an old mine shaft
entrance , the shaft of which had been blown and slid him down following with
him. As I did so I called for stretcher bearers and as luck would have it
they had taken up quarters in the hole, so they took him in charge at once. He
died last night. I didn't see him again as I left immediately he was in good
hands. I ran back and met Rhodes and we ran for the mine head where we
arrived safely outside of a couple of bad falls going overland. As soon as the
show was over I went out to get a wounded officer whom I found unwounded but
with a wounded man. I sent him in and with a party of men commenced to bring
in wounded. No one can describe the mud.. We went over to the German line and
took a couple of poor chaps from under his parapet. The men seemed stupid and
slow to work (they were simply all in) I cursed them loudly and got the man
on my own shoulders only to stagger and fall in the mire. The nerve of the
chap we were getting in was wonderful. He did everything I asked him to and
hung on to my neck which left my arms free. It seems ages before we had
everyone in as only one stretcher was available. It was moonlight and we were
all walking round upright within 30 yards of a german sentry who watched us
and never fired. I thought one of the fellows was going to fire at him and I
wouldn't let him as a machine gun could have cleaned the lot of us up.
Everyone was so weary that no one cared if they were shot or not. I finally
stumbled down the trenches to a company HQ. on the way I found another wounded
chap and sent a stretcher for him at once. At C.H.Q. they gave me a good shot
of rum. There I got my two scouts, one sick the other struck in the back by a
lump of mud but not cut. We made HQ (advanced) and I stumbled in and
reported. I had lost a pair of heavy mitts and I was a mass of mud. The
O.D.(our new one) said I had done good work, the reaction set in and I nearly
had hysterics for a minute when I was told that young Sparrow a Lieut. of whom
I was very fond had been killed. I left there and the three of us crossed the
valley. You never saw such mud. I stepped in a 6' hole which is nothing
under the ordinary circumstances but I simply fell headlong in the water quite
limp, got up and hiked on never feeling the jar. We got home and I stumbled
in to the HQ where a couple of Staff Officers were waiting for news. They
thought from my appearance that I had been mauled by a shell but I assured
them that I only need a cup of strong tea. Sproute my batman was there and
took charge and for the first time in the line I washed, stripped and got
into my bedroll. The whole thing was wonderful and was considered quite a
success also a splendid example of what the Canadian boys can do after
standing a weeks shell fire. this letter is chiefly the big'I' you will
notice but one can only see what goes on in his immediate vicinity. everyone
did wonderful work. Jimmie Scott went over in the raid and is unhurt He
acted splendidly I am told. At first I thought I might be frightened but when
the barrage started there was too much of it to bother about trying to avoid
it and there was work to be done. I rather felt that the new C.O. hadn't the
confidence in me that I would like and I hope that he has more now altho the
Lord knows I didn't do much. However mother dear if Fritz should ever get me
he spared me this time because my party was his for the asking. I became so
sure that he wouldn't fire that I put my gun in it's holster and buttoned it
up and got about my work. At least one German has a few humane ideas and I
shall never fire on a stretcher party as I know now what it means.
I haven't a scratch except several small chunks out of one hand where I
mired and fell into the broken and bunched German barbed wire and the poor
wounded chap went with me. I feel fine now and have three times the
confidence in myself. I hope I make good on the work that is all. It is a
glorious way to die if one has to and I am glad I did not remain at home.
We are now out for only four or five days instead of ten and we are
training all the time. Our meals are good and I am looking fine (for me)
Tell Mrs. Stoddart that I did not write because I couldn't get the
information. We see each other here very seldom. those in one company never
see the other companys while in the line and so I wasn't able, Bedsides it is
almost impossible to get any writing done and his platoon officer should have
You should see an army in motion. The traffic is beyond description.
Transport, artillery and infantry etc. a block occurred near us yesterday for
a short time and motor lorries were held up both ways for five miles. It is
really wonderful. The day after the show we held the line, an extra day, I
left that night with Raley, we walked a mile and caught a lorry, then a
transport wagon and another motor which got us nearly here. It is a strange
life. Fritz is getting many times the hammering we take and his trenches are
in punk shape. We will beat his head off for many miles this summer and we
have the artillery and men to do it.
I would like to answer all the letters I have of yours but feel so far
behind that I haven't the heart to do it. Please tell Gertrude I am well and
that I shall write when I can. I do not think that anything I have said is
objectionable to the censor. Remember me to everyone and I hope that before
long the guns will stop. Thanks ever so much for the parcel everything was
much appreciated. Linn told me he had received a parcel but didn't know who
it was from. He wants to thank you for it. I must stop now as I am really
tired very early these days and I shall try and write a few lines tomorrow to
I have wanted to tell you many things but forget them. I hear tonight
that Dick Baker formerly B.of M. is missing from the R.F.C. I wish I could
remember or tell you all the news I hear. Tell Billie that I met Bigelow of
Coquitlam (young barrister) here today. He was with the 196th and is now
46th. He is looking fairly well
Must stop now. Thank everyone for their letters. I cannot promise to
answer in future. The weather is cold as the dickens again with wind and
Gowans gloves were life savers and are the real things. Your woolen ones
are going to be useful when weather gets drier. I have Margarets -next to the
skin garment - on right next and if I find lice flirting in that stuff I will
get bug powder. I saw a party of them on a chap today that were the biggest
things I ever saw. Before I could get a machine gun turned on however they
Love to everyone and much for yourself and don't worry as I am well and
Your loving son,
April 15 1917 - France - (letter # 33)
My last letter to you was on the 2nd inst. I believe and I simply
haven't had a chance to write since. Just came out of the line yesterday and
I was just a mass of mud and dog tired. Will describe the recent fighting
generally. You no doubt have read it all in the papers and as we are now
through with the job I think I can tell you it was Hill 145 the highest point
of Vimy Ridge that we were operating on. We went to support on Sunday the
8th. I met Arthur Henderson and one or two other friends and later Jack
The first attack commenced at 5:30 am on the 9th and we watched the
'show'. No news came through for a long time but we learned it was successful
but hill 145 still held out.
That night Ramsay dropped in to see me. He is in charge of some railway
transport work and was rather badly crushed between a motor and a truck but is
now OK once again. I was awfully glad to see him and got tea ready which we
had and was getting ready for along chat when I got orders to go up the line
and relieve Major Baker. So I had to hurry off and was up all night at
Brigade HQ in a mine shaft where I got all reports that came in. In the
morning I had to hurry off for the Colonel and back again with him. Our unit
moved up and I went with Hill to see the boys go over on the next attack. I
had no lunch or supper but things were happening too fast to think of food.
We were well in the enemy's lines and about 3pm started to push down the far
side. We were up in the front lines which had been blown out of all shape by
our shell fire. The boys fought splendidly and soon the prisoners started to
come in some badly mashed. I was busy all afternoon and when we moved up to
hold the line, which is more telling than going over because you simply have
to stand and take artillery fire. I worked all night endeavouring to see that
the line was correct and complete. It is unbelievable how hard it is to
definitely settle where one is when the whole country has been churned up and
no trace of any landmarks left.
From that time on none of us had any sleep. None of us had anything
with us. Not even a haversack. I had on my first old suit I got in
Westminster. You should see it now. If we lived in mud before Fritz lived in
it many times over. He shelled us almost constantly and the weather was cold.
Snow fell often and there was practically a blizzard blowing when the boys
went over once although half an hour before it was quite clear. The mud got
so bad that the trenches were impassable. A company tried to move along to a
sector about 500 yards distant and took something like 1 hr 45 minutes. losing
eight men stuck in the mud on the way. One man was in up to his knee one leg
when I saw him at 12 pm when going on patrol duty I called two men and told
them to get him out at once. I returned at five, he was in nearly to the
thighs and a party were endeavouring to pull, push, drag and shovel him out.
He was released about 7 am. Men swear that the Somme has nothing on that
place. And so it went. The dugouts where we were were poor ones and the mud
ran down. There was no sleeping accommodation and of course all fires
forbidden. Wounded were taken out as quickly as possible but at first I know
where men had been dressed and covered with a coat in the trench where they
remained for 36 hours. The hun wounded was here there and everywhere. There
were also some of our lads (Canadians i.e.)in dugouts for days simply because
there was no possible way of taking them out. Fritz was shelling us and I was
making my dugout in the front line from HQ when I passed big Henderson. The
night we first came into supports he saw me and took me and gave me dinner and
I met a lot of his chums among the engineers he was with. I hadn't seen him
before. He was as usual quite cool and hearty and asked me if I had seen
those artillery officers beating it which I had. I heard yesterday that he
had been killed the following day. Was killed instantly be a shell while
coming along a trench. I wish you would write Mrs. Henderson R.A. in
Chilliwack and tell her of it. Henderson had done fine work and was very
I hear that Fred Meredith and Frank Myers have also been killed. I am
terribly sorry. Art Lloyd was wounded in the hand but not seriously. Jimmie
McGregor is still OK.
I think Henderson is the first 131st officer to be killed, altho
Ingraham has been wounded - also Davidson and Ward. Ingranham only saw the
line about once I think but he always was lucky. It is impossible to get
particulars of deaths but Major Sweet, and Ross and Jack Manley of 72nd were
To resume on the night of the 12th some darn fool started a scare of a
heavy counter attack to retake the ridge. In consequence we had to take out
strong officer patrols. Bailey and I had ten men and I started about 10 pm.
Fritz shelled us so heavily that we had to make a run for a coy HQ where we
took shelter for 3 hours. We were then out on defensive work until 5am
daybreak. I hadn't a casualty. After I had my men all placed in pairs we
settled down to put in the hours. The ground was simply a soft wet clay. I
studied the flare lights and signals pretty carefully and was so mad I could
hardly see straight because we were wet through and everyones feet were so
cold that there was no feeling in them all to guard against a counter attack
we knew wouldn't come. A shell dropped in rear of my line and fearing Fritz
might have a gun shooting short I moved my chaps into an old trench. About
five minutes later another dropped just where my sergeant and one of my best
observers had been lying. I walked home by daylight and owing to the mud in
the trenches walked along the top of the parapet stopping and carefully
studying the ground. No one fired at me so to show what I thought of counter
attacks I reported that in my opinion the enemy had withdrawn and was not in
That started something I guess. I slept for a couple of hours and a
signaller gave me a cup of coffee and we went out in front quite a long way.
I returned to report and got orders to investigate position of enemy. I took
the boys and the patrols worked in various directions The result was that
along toward 5 pm we were in touch with the enemy and about 2500 yards ahead
of our lines. I was working with and reporting directly to Brigadier General
Odlum to whose brigade we were then attached. He was very pleased. I found
him getting ready to establish a line well in rear and told him he might as
well go on because there was nothing before him. It was the first open
warfare we have seen. I was going along approaching a line of trenches and
had no cover so had to walk slowly up to find out what was in it. A Fritz
started to crawl for the trench and stopped behind a knoll and watched me from
I warned my two chaps to be careful of traps and covering him with my
revolver walked up. He thought I was going to kill him and rolled over with
his hands up. He was wounded in the leg. I got what information I could out
of him and took everything of documents from him and left him. We were
ordered to investigate a village and as I entered it 4 huns must have seen me
because as I worked round the brick yards up into the town 4 of them ran out
of the way I came in. They were seen and a machine gun was turned on them but
they got away. That was the only disappoint- ment I had all day. Talk about
foot sore, everyone was all in but we had to hold certain ground until the
troops were put forward. the Imperials relieved us about midnight and we had
advanced then about 2500 yards. We then had to carry in a box of Fritz armour
piercing ammunition and walk out to support lines. We crossed the valley
about 4 am and he was shelling it so we had to cross the open on the double
nearly, and I had this blooming box of S.A.A. on my shoulder as the boys were
pretty much all in.
We got in and had something to eat and fell asleep until nearly noon
when we came on here. This is St Lawrence camp -there is also Vancouver,
Niagara, Beaver, Canada etc. and the mud is still fierce. One can't step off
the duckwalk or down you go.
I forgot to mention that when starting on the scouting trip we found a
smashed British plane by a Fritz dugout and the two aviators were inside. One
with a broken leg and the other wounded in the head. they had been dressed
and prisoners for 5 days and were to be sent out but the hun had left in a
hurry not even taking his own wounded. We sent a runner back advising of
their location and requesting immediate assistance.
That night as I came through the tunnel I dropped in at the dressing
station and found one of them.(the chap with the broken leg I have not seen as
we were in a rush and only saw the one chap at the dugout) This fellows name
was Cooper and he was to be sent to Blighty. He was a good sport and thanked
us all for our kindnesses.
At the Y.M.C.A. we all got cigarettes and biscuits. I had been out of
cigarettes for a couple of days and hadn't had a real meal since going in.
The Y.M.C.A. is doing splendid work and has these stands established and
everything is given away. I wanted to pay for the lunch but they said 'no the
boys have it coming to them' I also got a drink of water. I searched many
shell holes that day for clean water but couldn't find any. Our battalion was
better off than many however.
We were all lousy. Margarets suit was still on in places but torn from
the neck down and nothing will keep the lice out in those dugouts.
Our attack was made about a week before the hun expected it and the
Canadians fought wonderfully. I did not get any souvenirs of interest. Am
sending one or two small badges off uniforms but I couldn't be bothered
packing most of the stuff.
The Canadians are death on souvenirs and are never too busy to secure
I have not given you half the particulars of the last few days but
cannot write for ever. The Imperials who relieved us are very funny. I was
patrolling the advanced lines which were at that time disconnected and all
flanks 'in the air'. Some one lit a light. I pounced on him and wanted to
know who he was. He was a Chestershire(Chesure) I gave him a cursing that he
fully understood and was going to slap him under arrest but shortly after
found that they were apt to do anything. They came out by night, had no idea
where Fritz was and were whistling and singing and talking out loud. They got
into position about midnight and went over at 5 am but I believe met pretty
strong opposition at a mine shaft I tried to reach the afternoon before but
found it behind Heines lines.
Every hun has a smell peculiar to him only much like a Hindu. Their
dugouts smell and their clothes smell. They had any quantity of good clothes,
lots to eat and all sorts of wine. The men were good looking specimen and
mostly Bavarian and Prussian.
Have lost my cap and water pail(canvas) and am wearing a borrowed cap
which looks like the deuce.
Now let me acknowledge receipt of Helen's of Mar 7th Your 20th Elsies of
Mar 9th. Also Margarets box and Elsies Box. For all of which please thank
them muchly. I got a letter from Tudor the other day.
Helen I suppose is now in Calgary. Let me know how she got along . Yes
the 72nd was near the gas stuff. I watched the show from right alongside. We
had gas everywhere at that time.
I saw Harry Bond yesterday. He is OK still looking well. Yesterday I
received a lovely box of chocolates from one of my Montreal friends met
crossing Canada. 'Bien pour soldats'
While writing mail has arrived bringing your 21st, Billies of Mar 13th 3
from Gertrude and one from Helen Rand, which I shall now read.
April 16th - Was too tired to finish last night. Tell Billie I got his letter
and no joking tell him to keep clear of the Infantry. It is the family
drudge. Do be careful of your throat I hope it is all well again.
Yes we will have to have a bit of a time when I get home again altho to
look at me now you wouldn't think so. Perfectly well and fat as a seal (for
. My legs are the only things that give me any trouble. I have cramps
from crawling. You see when trench boots are coated with mud your feet
resemble footballs and to crawl on ones stomach and drag them sooner or later
begins to tell on the legs.
I have taken note of the 'Knight boys' addresses but we never come in
contact with the Australians or N.Z.'s.
Alex Robertson just walked in. He is a Lieut. and is looking fine. He
is to be Brigade bombing officer I believe so has now got a safe job which is
coming to him.
Hope I hear from Helen. Had a letter from Peggy Morrison from Calgary.
Tell Billie that when he gets to England to tell Dick McBride that he wants me
over there and special leave might be worked from McBride. I couldn't ask for
it but I would surely like to do London with Billie. Also tell him not to
envy anyone over here. We are all doing our best but no one wants to stay in
this stuff. If Billie really arranged to come to the 47th for a tour I might
find him a place on my patrol gang. I can just see Billie crawling on his
vest through the muck. I spent too much time on our dockets to be stuck by
his writing and can carry right along without trouble so he needn't dictate
I have heard nothing further about Frank Myers. Perhaps it is not our
Frank and tell Capt. Myers (if it should be) that I am terribly sorry and will
make full enquiries as soon as I can get in touch with his battalion. I
believe he was with the 46th but am not sure it is terribly hard to find
people. You just run across them.
Am enclosing some German money and one or two small shoulder straps etc.
which please keep.
Love to all,
Lovingly your son,
April 21 1917 - France - (letter # 34)
Just a line to tell you that there is no change in the situation. We
arrived here on the 14th after our relief on the night of the 13th and are
still out and will likely not go back into the line for a few days yet.
Last night we put on a big dinner. Everything was fine and Brigadier
General Hilliam and one or two others came as guests and he told someone at
Brigade today that he had the best dinner at the 47th he had had in France.
Purvis and I spent a whole day at....censored...buying and had a mighty
long ride there and back. I am enclosing our menu. I had one signed by the
Brig. but someone swiped it.
Today we had an inspection by the G.O.C. Division.
Am in bed writing while lying flat on my back so make allowance. Was
cold so I turned in.
Had a long talk with Art and Jimmie yesterday. Art was only slightly
wounded in the finger and is on duty .
Since coming to France my only expenses have been messing and washing
etc.so have a few pounds not many in the B.of M.
9 Waterloo Place London. My box in England is at Folkestone at Messrs. Davis
and Davis 132 Sandgate Road.
I fear that the livestock must be in my bedroll. I haven't found any
but am scratching. Had no trouble until this last tour. They have to get so
big and numerous as to crowd me out before I'll leave this bedroll. Have cut
down on my kit. Owing to the mobile nature of our tours I can't afford to
carry stuff in as our quarters may change without notice.
Mrs Lambert sent me a tin of shortcake for which I have not yet thanked
her. Must do so but have really had no time for anything. Have to endeavour
to arrange a concert for the men now.
Have not been able to get any particulars about Arthur Creighton and
Frank Mayers but will try tomorrow. I think tomorrow is Sunday but every day
is the same here. Our breakfast is off at 8 am and we go on physical jerks at
8:45 and so on.
The artillery opened a few minutes ago and is pounding away full blast.
If Fritz is trying to make a come back he should be out of luck if not we may
get a call to turn out and go forward at any time but it isn't likely. There
is no sign of any end to it so far but something tells me it will end this
summer altho I can't see what is going to stop it.
Understand that I have been recommended for an M.C. They are very cheap.
Tell Gertrude I shall write as often as I can.
Love to everyone,
Lovingly your son,
p.s. You will notice on our menu that we had goose. We tried to buy chicken
and tried everywhere -finally got into a store where they had one dressed
chicken. We wanted nine. This was too many for them so they took us into
the back yard. This was all arranged with a bunch of wire cages with various
birds in them. Then the kid paraded the whole stock past us. A couple of
roosters and a few odd hens, 2 geese and a mallard duck with a few odd
creatures. It was the funniest sight I have seen for a long time so we picked
out the geese and the kid grabbed them and we called back for them later. The
geese were 22 francs a piece.
In this country you are apt to have a complete farmyard about 25 yards
from a main business street.
April 27 1917 - France - (letter 34A)
Only a note as I have no time for more. It has just come to my
knowledge that in case of death the government places to your credit or pays
your estate three months salary. I cannot understand how it is that I have
never heard this before but I at no time made any enquiries concerning post
mortem affairs. Thought I had better let you know and would suggest that you
allow my small balance to remain in the bank until you receive my pass book
which will either be with the bank or in my effects. Then you will be in a
position to know whether the quarters salary has a been deposited. It will
likely take about sixty days before the matter got through the pay and records
to the bank. As I am drawing $4.75 per day (approx.30 pounds per month) you
can see that it is worth looking after.
Everything is going fairly well. We do not yet know our new C.O. He is
a Major who will be given promotion. Have just received a wire saying Col.
Webb's progress quite satisfactory. I have lost a mighty good friend in him.
However, it is the war.
Leave is still closed and I expect that we shall have some work to do
before it opens. Am glad my cable gave mother two weeks peace of mind at any
rate. I enjoyed the four days but if we do succeed in getting to Nice now the
season will be over and the weather very hot. However 'the season' in any
place in France is a thing of the past owing to the war. I will see the place
if possible. I figure that if I get a Blighty I may have three months in
which to see the Isles.
Cannot see any chance of further promotion here for a long time to come.
There are too many ahead of me. Two substantive Majors only are provided for
and I stand about seventh. I believe however had an opening presented itself
that Col. Webb would have put me over the heads of at least three.
Must run as I hear the Brigadier is about my lines.
Your loving son,
May 8 1917 - France - (letter # 35)
It is days since I have written but I simply haven't had a minute.
Have been in the line for days and after a very hard tour we were sent over
the top. The fighting has been very severe and we had big Prussian Guards
against us. We have just come out into supports but had to stand to all day
yesterday expecting a call to go back into it as Fritz was counter attacking
steadily. He wanted the position as it is a sort of key. The situation is
still tense and we have been fighting since 10 pm. May 5th and the ground was
a triangle like this:
It seems a very little bit but we had to go over
four hundred yards to get there and in daylight we were
unable to get relief. Some day I shall give you a talk on the
fight. May 5th was one of the worst days I have ever put in
and the 6th was still worse. I have had practically no time. We have
suffered of course and yesterday when I reported by phone to the O.C. from
forward where I had worked out to see the situation he called me in to take
command of the company. No officers left in it. I took over during a 'stand
to' and mustered a small band. More come in today and I am busy re-organizing
and have one officer attached to me for assistance. One of my old scouts,a
private, was company sergeant major when I took over. The old 131 suffered
again. Sergt Sam Love and others were killed. My job is only temporary.
I received your parcel with pocket knife and all else in good shape. It
was a life saver this trip. Also your letters. I do not know what number as
I have not my mail here. Am writing on a casualties paper. Young Keller of
Westminster. He was rather badly wounded.
I am through with the scouting for the present. Had some rotten jobs
assigned me this last trip but I only lost one man killed and one wounded
although we were punished for 25 minutes trying to put ammonal tubes under his
wire on a brilliant night. These pipes are 30 feet long and 4' diameter. No
more jobs like that for me. The men I lost were not scouts. I didn't lose
one of them although nearly several times. I am very fond of them all and I
believe they are sorry to see me go but perhaps not. I had no hand to hand
fighting but did one good job if I do say it but it was one of those
unspectacular things that don't count. I ran along for a couple of days
without sleep or food practically and after being over to the captured area I
reported in at 6.30 am. At that time we were cut off entirely from the
position by open ground and the C.O. asked me if I could make it by day and
find a road to get information and assistance in. I knew my front was
impossible so I ran an artillery barrage across our front and the unit next
worked down a trench I found and up a railway cutting and entered the area
from the rear. Found the situation bad and ran the barrage to get back again.
We got parties together and at noon I set out with 60 men loaded with
ammunition, bombs, grenades and grub. The first trip took me from 6:55 am to
8:30. I left again at noon and the artillery fire was intense. I simply had
to get the men through for reinforcements and the stuff was badly needed. I
started through after instructing every man just how I wanted them to act.
Kept the party closed up across a certain distance and then increased speed so
as to make them straggle. I yelled to them to keep coming just keeping each
other in shape. They did and I reached the railway. I checked up and found
them all OK through absolute luck. My next bad area was getting into the new
trenches which had been shattered by shell fire and Fritz was sniping from
all sides. I made each man walk stoop or crawl as the man in front of him did
and then I set the example as I wanted them to come through and I made the
poor devils crawl and drag the boxes behind them in places. It was one of the
most satisfactory moments of my life when I counted the last man in without
losing even one by a wound nor a box of stuff or sack of grub and the hope and
cheer that came into the faces of the garrison when they heard I had arrived
with help and grub and particularly bombs etc. Then I took my runner and set
back for home. I hadn't the heart to tackle it the 4th time for 45 minutes
while I got my chaps - a couple of scouts - under cover - and when it lulled I
gave the word and we all made it again. I never saw such luck. It took
nearly 2 hours for my party to make the single trip. A party of 35 men which
came over behind me lost ten men at a crack. I have been under plenty of
barrages but I guess Fritz knew help would come that way if at all and he just
covered the area with his big stuff. I am feeling fine and believe that we
shall now be pulled out for a months rest. I hope so at any rate. Several of
the boys have done splendid work this tour. To give you an idea of the
position I shall give you a small sketch
Blue:my course You will see that
Red:our captured position when I finally found
Blue crosses: enemy still my way in I was at holding and
sniping the back of our
Tell Gertrude I shall write soon. She should have seen the fire works
Fritz threw at me in celebration of her birthday. Don't worry if you don't
get any mail from me.
Love to all. I think we will get a rest soon and we need it but am
still going strong.
May 13 1917 - France - (letter # 36)
I have received a number of letters from you numbering up to 23 and also
one or two parcels. I think everything has come through. The little jack
knife is what I wanted in that line. We are back at St Lawrence Camp France
which is now clear of mud and the trees are shooting. It is really lovely
here. The weather has been hot. One days rain in the last three weeks. We
are out for some days but do not know how many. We must reorganize before
going back. I am off the scout job and have been given 2nd in command of a
company for last tours work. I didn't do much the lord knows. Bailey is the
hero of the hour and has been given a company so I am his 2nd. He has also
been recommended for the D.S.O.
Was very surprised to hear of Jack being turned down. Never dreamed of
such a thing. One of these days they are going to need men because looking at
the scrap from the front line it is going to take a long time to decide this
little dispute and I firmly believe that in the end it will be a diplomatic
finish and they might just as well get the job under way and save a few
thousand men. Was sorry to leave the section. They were fine chaps and would
follow you anywhere and stay by each other when the fireworks started.
Our Brigadier was called before Sir Douglas Haig and was told that this
Brigade had gone through more hard fighting successfully than any other
brigade in the British Army. That is a pretty tall statement to make
voluntarily and when not half pickled after a dinner. Incidentally the Brig.
says the 47th is the best unit in the Brigade so figure it out. I don't know
what he told the other battalions however and hot air keeps the units fighting
Haven't seen Art or Jimmie for some little time. They are in the same
Division however so their brigade is never very far from ours.
I want to get to town in a few days to buy summer underwear etc. and I
surely need it. Had to throw away my clothes when I got out to get rid of the
lice. Made straight for the baths as soon as I had a bit of sleep as we
walked all night and got here about 6am. It is about a 15 mile walk to town
and the same back. A fair hike for one day. The motor transport is not so
good on those roads now because the fronts have changed and consequently the
bases. Enjoyed Helens letters also Elsies very much. Tell Elsie to case up.
Also heard from Mr. Martin and was very glad to get his letter. Thank Aunt
Tweebie for a parcel she sent me it came while I was in the line and it surely
we are parading early now and working all morning and in the afternoon
we have sports. This afternoon I have to play baseball and haven't touched a
ball since Vernon. We are having our usual spread - dinner tonight. Once
each time out we have a blow out.
Received letters from Totty Smith. She is a great kid. Writes in
bunches like she talks but her letters are newsy and I enjoy them. This is a
fair passage but don't by any chance tell anyone who might start it back to
her as she is touchy sometimes and I certainly have appreciated her letters.
'When you next see Arthur Lloyd please tell him I am so sorry for him about
his brother. Are there any dogs around the trenches?' all in one breath as it
Should like to be through with this business but before long guess I can
make Blighty sooner or later so don't worry as I have no intention of not
getting back to Canada.
There are all kinds of rumours about Russia quitting etc. but we can't
get anything definite. I would like to have worked well enough to have earned
a decoration but am not a fighting man so the medals I guess are napoo for me.
had a long talk to Billie Sloan after we came out. You see he doesn't go up
into the line but brings rations etc. up to the rear at night. Even at that
they have artillery fire to go through at times.
My old section seemed sorry that I was going and it gave me quite a
satisfaction. I have several recommendations pending for M.Medals for them
and I got a corporal put through for a commission. He is now in England
getting it and I just got a box of 100 cigarettes from him. Decent of the
kid. I want to have my sergeant put through now for scout officer and then I
shall be satisfied.
Must stop now and get ready for baseball. Cannot write often as I have
more work to do out of the line now than I had before. Every time I go into
the line I rather feel afraid that I won't make good but so far I have sort of
stumbled through by good luck. I am really a pretty bum soldier. Would like
to see it finish most any time. The men have been wonderful. There are very
few of the old 131 boys left with us. We showed them some fine material and
the 131 would have held its own well over here if it had been well led but its
life was a gay and short one.
Give my love to all and don't worry about letters not coming Address my
letters to 'D' Company
Lovingly your son,
May 17 1917 - France -(letter # 36A)
There is nothing new. I am just enclosing a few slips of paper for my
scrap book. Please keep them for me. They are now all ancient history here
so there is no objection to my mailing them. Have been out of the line since
the 10th. Went to town yesterday and we managed to get a couple of horses.
Meant to have a bath but Purvis not having his batman along couldn't take off
his riding boots so we called it off. Some boots. Rained yesterday and today
so we have some more mud. The flowers are coming up and I picked some violets
Have had no mail for some time but received a box from Gertrude.
Love to all Your affectionate son,
May 20 1917 - France -(letter # 37)
We have come to the end of a most enjoyable rest of ten days and move
tonight into supports. It will likely be eight or ten days before we are
again in the line. The time here has been spent in cleaning up, smartening up
drill and ceremonial stuff also a good bit of time devoted to sports. On the
whole our few men have picked up wonderfully and we are all ready to take
another crack at the hun. Yesterday afternoon we held battalion sports -
although gotten up in a hurry they were very successful. I entered in one or
two events in which we pulled out successfully. I ran in the officers relay
race team and we beat the field by a long margin but we had the advantage
owing to the fact that our boots are lighter than the mens.
We have some pretty good athletes in the bunch and have just got hold of
a champion boxer and he is a fighting machine. Took on the star of the 50th
the other night and made him look like a beginner.
As this is supposed to be Mothers Day I went out in the woods and am
wearing a white wild flower for your special remembrance although it is
directly contrary to dress regulations. This letter is also a further
recognition of your day. Many, many happy returns of it Mother dear and may
we all be together next year. Leave has just today opened and with luck we
will be able to send 4 men from the battalion each week and perhaps one
officer. If this fails I think a slight Blighty should be due me in a couple
of months and give me a good long time in England. Ten days leave is so short
that I am not very anxious about it but will not turn down anything of the
kind just the same. The fighting on this front has eased off a little and
with luck we should have some quiet tours.
I am way behind in my letter writing but one of these days shall take a fit
and clear it up. Mrs. Lambert sent me some Scotch short cake and I have not
as yet thanked her for it.
The other day a brigade of the 1st Div. held some sports near here and
the army commander attended. I never saw so many generals and staff officers
in a small place in my short experience before. A full colonel was simply out
of luck and just tagging along likely because he was ordered to attend.
My news does not amount to anything. Cannot figure out the Russian
situation but it does not look very cheerful.
I wrote a short note to Gertrude yesterday but just scribbled it off in
a hurry so I expect it was rather unnewsy.
Am enclosing a couple of additional scraps for a book please keep them.
I have a couple of samples of enemy armour piercing ammunition and shell nose
caps also an egg bomb but these cannot be sent out of the country I fear.
Brigle has just gone for church parade so must stop for the time being.
11:25 Just back. It seems strange to stand hear a sermon and the
chaplin assuring us that God is with us and so on while at the same time the
artillery can be heard pounding away up the line and the anti aircraft guns
throwing shrapnel at planes. The prayers for peace are said or offered in
Today is simply beautiful. warm and these woods are lovely and the
trees all in leaf. At night you will hear the owls and in the morning the
cuckoos. Then an order comes to move and we hang nearly everything we own on
our necks, as the transport will only carry 35 lbs. per officer, and move out.
Bailey will likely get the M.C. and a bar to it as he was recommended
for the D.S.O. He has made a good reputation. I hope that the C.O. will give
him and me a rest for a bit in the line as we have been working pretty
steadily. In a day or two Bailey is going to a rest camp for 14 days. He
never felt better in his life but got it so I guess I may have to take the
company into the line if we go. (You can add D Company to my address in
We have had such a snap for the last ten days that I guess the walk this
evening will come hard. I am feeling fine and everything is lovely so don't
worry. Am looking forward to a stay in England sooner or later but I really
don't need it as I have had nothing to grumble about and the work is not too
hard for a young man but line work is a young mans job without a doubt.
The other day we got to town and succeeded in raising a couple of horses
so had a 30 mile ride instead of having to trust to catching lorries. I think
I have received all your parcels etc. and although we can get food galore when
we are out and feed pretty well in the line as a rule we sometimes get stuck.
Players cigarettes run out and we cannot get them anywhere at present.
The B.E.F.canteens in the large towns which are good big grocery stores cannot
keep them in stock even. All officers messes are supplied by these canteens.
So when sending anything remember players cigarettes. I can buy good
chocolate here and as it is heavy stuff I don't think I would send too much of
We had a blooming good M.O. lately but he took sick and has gone to one
of the Field Ambulances. We have a new one just now but I hope we get the old
There should be a Canadian mail in now but the letters haven't come through
yet. It is about ten or twelve days since I heard last.
Am just told that we are going into a very quiet front this trip. I
have heard that stuff before and don't count on it but still it sounds better
than the opposite reports.
Must stop and get some details attended to before lunch and see that our
advance party gets off safely.
Give my love to all and tell Elsie and Helen that I enjoy their letters
and regret that I cannot answer them all individually.
With much love I am;
Your affectionate son,
May 22 1917 -France - (letter # 38)
Since writing you on the 20th I received a couple of letters from Helen
and one from Elsie and since that I got your box enclosing Mrs. Gifford's
socks. Please thank her ever so much for me, they are very fine ones. Today
I got Elsie's box of cigarettes. Please thank her and Billie for same. Both
boxes caught me when most needed.
I have wanted to write a great many letters but haven't been able to.
We are now supplying working parties each night and last night it rained hard
so we have mud today. Day after tomorrow we should move back for a few days
and then front line for a tour. Bailey went today and I am acting O.C.
company and just when I want to be about I am a cripple for the first time
since joining the army. Before we came here I began to develop a small boil
on the inside of the leg just above the knee but it got the tendons of the
leg. I made the march in alright but got the M.O. to let it out and put on a
bandage. Today I made a trip over the front and had to put on breeches to
wear high boots on account of the mud so when I got home I had a rather sore
leg, The M.O. took a look at it and said 'Hot fomentations for you' after
giving it a couple of squeezes and slapped on some boiling water soaked stuff
and did me up in oil silk until I looked like a Blighty case. It is pretty
sore but will be OK now and I am to have a new dressing tomorrow morning and
everything will be fine. I never remember having a boil before and it makes
me 'sore'. However I don't want to lay up just now as it would be unfortunate
to be out of business just now as I have three green officers to take into the
front line with me and will have to be able to be on the job.
Had a letter from Ramsay. He has a good job not far from where I am and
hope to see him in a few days. About a year ago today we were starting out on
our 80 mile Fraser Valley hike. I wouldn't mind starting the same trip
tomorrow boil and all.
At present the front we are on is fairly quiet and I look for an easy
tour. I saw old Vimy Ridge and one would hardly know the old place. Spring
and the rains are doing their best to bring forth a little grass here and
there but it is an uphill job. No description could ever give and idea of the
ridge during the winter months when we were holding and it was being churned
up daily. Am enclosing a copy of a report put into brigade on the employment
of my section during the offensive. It is now ancient history and I can send
it without violating any censoring regulations I believe. PLease tell me if
you get it OK.
Give may love to all and heaps for yourself. Leave is opening up fairly
well and if nothing happens I may get some before long.
May 27 1917 - France - (letter # 39)
Only have a minute. It is some days since I last dropped you a line but
the time has slipped along pretty fast. Have had things fairly easy since I
last wrote except that my leg gave me a little trouble. We go into the line
tomorrow and I hope the tour is a quiet one.
Everything is well with me and I had a long talk with Ramsay on the 24th
and am just going over to spend the evening and have dinner with him now.
On the 24th we came here to canvas and as the weather is beautiful the
tents are a big improvement on the dug out billet. We got here and the
officers supplied beer for the battalion after a dozen military medal ribbons
were presented to the men and N.C.O.s.
Art Mills and Carmichael are now Majors and Art is O.C. battalion owing
to the C.O. being away on leave. Im beginning to think that if they let you
live at this game long enough I might even get another star although I see no
signs of anything of the kind. Owing to so many officers being on strength -
some sick, some killed, some wounded, and the remainder carrying on with some
side unit or the other. They only grant an acting rank which gives the pay
but 30 days away from the unit and you automatically go back. Doesn't look
very good to me. perhaps a chap wins his promotion and later is wounded. He
goes to England and in 30 days has to take down his rank. Sort of rubbing it
The news is nil and I will endeavour to have something of interest for
the next time of writing.
I am enclosing one or two papers which please keep for me. Thank Elsie
and Billie for the smokes - they came in just right. Tell G.E. Martin that I
want to write him but haven't been able to. I enjoyed his letter. Simply
can't attempt to answer the back letters.
Love to all and for your information Ramsay says I never looked so well
in my life.
Lovingly your son,
May 29 1917 - France -(letter # 40)
...censored.......things are OK so far. Expect we will be here for some
days and then I hope to get ....censored.... The front is fairly quiet at
present but Fritz has taken the habit of throwing over an occasional gas shell
which of course is something which has to be guarded against as much as
possible. Am still a bit of a cripple but doing nicely and will be OK in a
day or two. The walk in was a hard one but I am actually in charge of a
company in the front line 'in slacks' (borrowed)
I had dinner and a long chat with Major Ramsay on the 27th and while
there a Captain Scott a cousin of Sheldricks told me that Ted (as they call
him here) Rand had been killed. I was so shocked that I did not even get
particulars but I do not think he knew much about it. Have not written
Gertrude or A.E. for fear there might be some mistake. I hope the deuce there
has been one. I was told he was killed some time ago so I may hear in my next
letters from Westminster. I haven't had any for a long time. Somehow I
don't feel as good a soldier now as I did before. Guess I'm worrying less
some foul accident should possibly happen to me on account of you and the kid.
If Ed is gone she will be worried to death over me I suppose but it is all
very foolish because our chances are splendid and it is just an accident if
something happens. Again, we came here knowing the conditions and if a chap
loses he should certainly not be mourned because he has died too well to
warrant leaving a lot of grief behind him. However one of these days I am
going to roll into the Royal City and invite myself to dinner. Should be due
for leave one of these fine days also if it remains open.
Have just opened Elsies last box of cigarettes and they are my last
until I get out so tell her that they have not been wasted.
A man in the line this morning turned to one beside him who happened to
be an officer and said 'I can see them and they are diggin like hell' The
officer took a look at the place indicated and the chap was looking at some
tall weeds. So it shows what a chap sees when he looks long enough in the
dark. When first on patrol duty I have seen a chunk of mud on the edge of a
shell hole grow a head and shoulders and move.
Am sorry I haven't more news but there is really nothing I hear. Have
not been to bed for about 36 hours so think I'll just turn in for a few hours
Give my love to all and tell them that Fritz is playing a losing game
but playing pretty tight poker. However happy is the dealer in the big
Write me and give me any news you have received of Ed. I am very
Your loving son
June 8 1917 -France - (letter # 41)
Am at a rest camp at the sea side for two weeks. Will not write all the
details as I have just finished a fairly long letter to Gertrude which she
will likely show you. I expect they figured out I needed a rest after
carrying a bum leg through the last tour. My leg is much better and is now
healing. As I wrote Gertrude there appears to be several letters missing and
I suppose I shall not receive any mail while here.
Im sending you some post cards of the neighboring places to which I have
been the last day or two.
Sometime ago I registered a box containing some of my old badges. I
intended having pins made of them as I had promised Gertrude one to replace
hers which was lost. Am also sending a copy of 'Canada' with an account of
the R.P.C. chaps I found. Two or three units and brigades claim finding these
fellows but I am satisfied we were first on the job and as it all 'amuses she
and don't hurt I ' I let it go at that.
The other day I picked up a B.C. paper in a dugout and found a half page
picture of May Day. It looked like home to see Cambridge and McKenzie and co.
looming up in the foreground.
Your letter 29, Helen's 28 and a long one from Billie all came together
while I was in the line. I see that it was all too true about poor old Ed.
The boy was a good officer and I can hardly realize that he is not yet
Yes I heard Motherwell had been wounded. There are very few 131st
officers left in France who have really gone through line work. Men like Swan
and Hornby hardly count as they are practically bomb proofers.
Don't worry about me. You never know how far from the line I am. here
I am at a rest camp miles away from the line and you are fretting your head
off. We cannot wire and by the time you get this I shall be in and out again.
Besides leave is due me before many more weeks and then I get a trip to
England. So don't imagine me in the line all the time. We are not in the
line as long as we used to be as the fighting is fairly severe and men can't
Would like to have seen the kids at May Day. To-day at the beach three
or four little kids were playing. One just like Mary. Red coat and white hat
short stockings and about her size. enjoyed watching them for some time.
Have not yet written Tudor. Received a paper from her the other day.
Incidentally this vicinity is full of Australian hospitals. As there is a big
show on now the wounded have been pouring in the last day or two. I saw
Fraser Allen and Charlie Major the night before I left camp. They all look
well and being on signals should be comparatively safe. Lloyd and McGregor
are both receiving commissions and are out of the fight for a time.
It is getting so dark in this tent that I can hardly see. Have been
quite interested watching the girls here. Over from England and holding
clerical positions. They are in khaki and look very smart. They are sworn in
I believe and receive a man's pay and rations. I saw about fifty of them fall
in, form fours and move off, the other evening. It is such a relief to hear
English come from a girl instead of this 'wee wee' stuff.
I really haven't much news. Tomorrow I intend going to town as Sunday I
am orderly officer for the Canadian Corps in camp. I had arranged to go in to
a band concert and see the town in bathing but guess I'm out of luck unless I
can unload the job on some one else.
We have here of course representations of some three or four Imperial
Corps. Some of them good sorts. Some talk English so jolly well I cannot
understand them. Another wears the single eye glass. Looks like a blooming
simp and would be rather good looking otherwise. Seems quite unconscious of
it and no one seems to object to it. Queer world. The Commandant here is an
Imperial Lt. Col. He isn't a bad chap but has what we would call 'buck teeth'.
His upper lip was certainly never expected to cover them. He holds his
cigarette between his lower lip and his upper teeth which throws it parallel
to the slope of his nose. As he hasn't any more chin than is absolutely
necessary the effect is rather a peaked cap.
This is really a rest camp. The whole day practically to one's self.
Must really stop this rambling and turn in. The bunch here isn't half
bad. A chap I don't know from the 1st. Div. has just bought me a bottle of
bass so I shall have to buy him a drink and call it a new acquaintance. Fool
of a life this.
Love to all,
September 26 1917 - France - (postcard)
Have practically no time to myself. Am terribly busy and my writing for
a time will be very little. Am quite well and have seen Jim Motherwell and
Luckie came to see me last night. He is over as a sub with the 29th. Darrell
Sheldrick came up last night and will be with us before long I expect. Bert
Bowell who left us in February was back to-day. He looks very well.
Charlie Bailey has got the D.S.O. for the last fight which took place
while I was in London. He has certainly done pretty well. Recd. parcel of
Aug 22nd OK
Give my love to all and when next sending a box put in a few of these
September 27 1917 -France -(letter # 54)
Your 45th and Helens 34th and 35th with your box of Aug 22nd. all
arrived safely. When I returned from an all night working party about 3 am.
I had two parties of 250 men each this time, here in reserve, and it is a long
hike to and from the job. It took nearly 2 hours each way and 4 hours pick
and shovel work.
Thank Mrs. Allen for the short cake; it was splendid.
Helen asked about cheese cloth suits. I don't think they will keep lice
out but as one can throw them away I suppose it is a way to get rid of them.
I picked them up again last tour in but haven't been troubled since. I have a
suit or two in my pack as we haven't been doing as many days in the line
lately as we did last winter.
Fritz is throwing shells over our heads at present trying to shoot one
of our observation balloons. The gas bag has been pulled all over the place
to avoid him. Just ran out as a shell forced the observer to jump. His
parachute opened well and he came down his 3000 feet very quietly. Fritz is
still trying for the balloon.
I was much amused with Peggy's production and Bunkers admiration for her
ability as an actress They are some kids.
It was very kind of Cash Henderson to remember me I am sure she doesn't
know me from a side of sole leather but she has a good heart anyway.
We go forward tonight and I suppose will eat our peck of dirt and dodge
the usual amount of Krupp's output. It is truly becoming wearying and
sometimes I think a fellow would be better off if he got it quick.
The Imperials have struck again up northwards and it has been a big
success. The German is very nervous and is endeavouring to learn what is
going to happen next, all along the line as he never knows just what minute
the whole world is going to open fire and our barrage light on him and our
infantry always follow. We have a bad reputation for mercy and I have given
an order that in future I want no prisoners unless they are required from us
for a certain purpose. I have gone through quite enough already to make a man
a savage. I wouldn't miss this fall in France if I had the opportunity.
Must stop now. We do not know when we will be called upon
September 29 1917 - France -(letter # 55)
We are in the line and I am out of paper. As it is quite a hike for the
batman to the nearest Y.M.C.A. will make this do. After Ross was killed I got
a lad named Firth but he was a dead one and I fired him. I fear I am getting a
regular grouch. Now I have a chap named Cook. He is new on the work but I
hope will be of some use later.
A day or two ago I think I told you about the balloon observers above us
then, having to jump to avoid shell fire. It was about an hour later when a
Fritz plane came out of the heavens and made a rush for the gas bag. Nothing
could save it although our anti-aircraft guns were putting shrapnel all about
him. He fired his explosive bullets and circled off while the bag burst into
a mass of flames and fell. One of our planes, a slow artillery observation
bus was between Fritz and his lines and our chap waited to allow Fritz to come
out of the mass of air bursts. Finally they closed and for a moment I thought
we had him but our battle planes which rushed to the spot at 120 miles per
hour couldn't overtake the fellow and he got home.
About 6:30 that same evening an enemy plane came straight over for the
next balloon on our left. He travelled like a streak and it may have been the
same man as before. The balloon men waited far longer than I would have and
then jumped. I believe he took a shot or two at them but went straight for
the bag and it went up as before. The whole thing burst into flame at once.
Our planes were on the spot like hawks but he fought well and handled his
plane cleverly. He succeeded in avoiding and I believe driving off the first
to attack him but there was no hope. Our boys circled and swooped in on him
and finally he started down and went out of sight behind a rise of ground. I
was told yesterday that he landed and was a prisoner. Was shot through both
arms. I don not know if he had an observer or not but guess he must have.
The air fighting is wonderful. Yesterday morning I saw a Fritz and our
own - evidently both observation machines pass within 400 yards of each other
and carry on. One scared and the other did not dare I guess. I was up
looking over the ground in front of us at the time. Incidentally it is ugly
looking ground. Nothing but railway embankments slag heaps, mine buildings and
30 foot brick retaining walls to say nothing of the houses and buildings
totally or partially ruined. Oh it is a good war.
Last evening the sky was full of planes and we got strong glasses on a
Fritz battle patrol flying very high over his own territory. We then saw some
of our own at much the same height going over. They were just mere specks and
must have been moving at an altitude of 12,000 or 15,000 feet. Suddenly we
saw a burst of flame and one chap came down. It took a long time for the
burning machine to reach ground and it fell in 'Germany' I fear it was one of
our chaps as a Fritz followed down for some distance. It is a very hopeless
sight, but I see by the paper last night that on the 26th we got 24 of their
planes. They take their chances but afterall they don't go through the
drudgery we do and we take certain chances ourselves in the infantry.
Our tour so far has been fairly quiet - save for a bombardment the
first night. We had a little trouble but our company was OK as we are just
behind the front line and will move forward in turn.
A chap bet me 25 francs that the war would be over by New Years Day. I
took him and will spend the money the first trip out. Offered to give him two
or three months pay on the same basis but there was nothing doing.
Am very glad that Capt. Mayers heard definite news as to Franks burial.
It is very hard to go looking for information and the best generally comes
I am feeling first rate and will write as often as I can but have a lot
of work on hand.
Love to everyone, your loving son,
October 3rd 1917 - France - Coy. H.Q.Front line (letter # 56)
We are still here and I have had a good sleep. Am in a dug out about 45
feet in the earth but our sleeping quarters are nil. Bailey had the boys
bring in a big mattress from one of the houses yesterday.
Talk about war. Yesterday I wanted to get an observation post so
Lindsell of B CO. and I went out and managed to get into the upper story of a
house which had most of the roof in the cellar. We got down a road and into
the thing and managed to get five observation over a very interesting front.
Of course all these houses are very closely watched. I took the colonel up
and he was very pleased and wanted me to make it into an established post,
which I intended to do but upon making enquiries found that the place was
frequently shelled. You see we were just fresh in and one has to learn the
bad spots. That afternoon Laidsell and Hincksman were up there and a sniper
smashed a bullet up against a piece of the wall so I am marking the place as
dangerous because the C.O. wanted to let every one use it and I considered
that the movement in and out would bring down the whistle bangs on us. They
always spoil a good thing. Later I got out from one of our posts and got some
good observation. Saw several Fritzies and today am going to try and get one
or two. The range wouldn't be over 500 yards and I believe that Clarke (a D
Coy. officer) and I can annoy them. Clarke is very enthusiastic and a good
shot. I wish we all had as much spirit as that chap has.
The men I saw are either one of his Jaeger regiments or else a
minenwerfer company. I am not sure which. They wore a light uniform with a
This country is ever so much more interesting than when on the old ridge
at Vimy. Al we could see there was a sea of mud. Here however we have every
different obstacles to contend with and the country is a beautiful one for a
defensive position. He has and is working hard to strengthen every natural
feature I believe but if we should go after him we'll get the place alright.
In the house I spoke of there was a fine oak bedstead downstairs and a
good range. All smashed. The front stairs on the parlour floor and the roof,
walls, ceilings etc.. spread about carelessly. On the table there was a text
book on geography for a school I judge similar to our lower public schools.
Everything looked as though the people had just walked out and that a cyclone
followed by various uninterested persons of both armies had mauled it. I can
imagine the feelings of an owner coming to it. Most of the houses are just
piles of brick dust and here and there a fragment of wall standing.
Factories and shops are masses of twisted steel. It is a beautiful
business and men take to it naturally. Smash anything and to blazes with
expenses - we have lots of them.
The nights are getting colder and longer. Before long we shall have the
good old winter and Jack Frost will spread his beautiful mantel of white over
all the scars of war - Sure! what it means is rain, mud and slush and the cast
iron continues to fly. The marches get longer the farther forward we go but I
hope we go because there are some Minnie men I want to get in touch with.
When on the ridge one prisoner put up his hands to one of our fellows and said
'I'm not a fighting man I'm a minenwerfer man'. Our chap took one look at him
and said 'You're the *@ we are looking for'. and put him out. After you
have dodged Minnies for months there is not much mercy in store for such non
combatants. Notes are hardly sufficient to meet the exigencies of the case.
Must stop this rambling nonsense as I have some work to do to further
the progress of this great and terrible war which is really a serious business
when one stops to consider it.
Am perfectly well and fatter than usual as you will have seen from the
Give my love to everyone and tell the kids that their uncle is desirous
of coming home but the Kaiser won't let him. That will put him in wrong with
them I suppose.
October 12 1917 - France -(letter #57)
A note only. We are very busy but haven't had any severe fighting for
some time and am at present out of the line.
You made a guess one time which was correct but not so now.
I really have no news to give you. I hear that Ramsay has returned to
Canada. I tried to persuade him to go back if possible. He is not young
enough for this game.
Billies letters arrived with yours and Helens. In fact we got a large
mail bringing me about a dozen letters and I have had no chance to answer any
The English papers are full of air raid reports. I got a letter from
there and it seems they raid nearly every night.
The weather is not nearly so good now and I suppose that our old enemy
the mud will be with us before long.
Give my love to the whole family and I shall write when I can but don't
expect letters regularly for some time,
Lovingly your son,
October 23 1917 - France - In the Field (letter # 58)
It is some time since I last wrote but it has been impossible to do so.
Have seen another side of war altogether. We are in the line and the weather
is wet. Am writing lying down because there isn't room to sit up. I was
sorry to leave F......
Am feeling fine except for a bit of cold which will leave me now that we are
back in mud and water. The conditions here are bad but I hope they will
improve soon. Raley got a nice little Blighty. A piece through the fleshy
part of the leg. He was on an advance party and had no trouble getting back
to the lines of communication. If the wet weather and shell fire keep up this
front will soon resemble old Vimy. It was not as low and flat as where I am
now. Our artillery is heavy. A steady pounding all the time so I take it
that Fritz is worse off than we are.
For the present we have left the old trench warfare as it is generally
known and the whole thing is a new war to me. Someday I shall be able to
attempt to tell you all about it. I hope the States throw in a big weight and
we go at it to a finish. Have gone through too much muck to grant quarter or
consent to a draw now so hope they make it a finished job although I am
heartily sick of it all.
Tell Gertrude that I simply cannot write and don't expect any further
letter from me for some time.
Got your 49th and hers of Sept 13th. the night I wrote my last to you, the
12th, but have had to destroy them.
Give my love to everyone and with exceptionally good luck will get home
to see you all soon.
Lovingly your son,
Please keep this short disjointed paper on patrols for me. I had to write it
as time permitted.
Had a letter from Pauline Balloch a day or two ago and will write her. She is
at Rouen. She wanted to know where I am. Have changed spots as often as a
leopard since. It is some war and one has to keep thinking to know what we
are fighting for but ....Remember Belgium.
October 31 1917 - Belgium -(letter # 59)
Am out of the line again and glad to be so. We have had the hardest
tour I have ever made and are still bombed nightly. Our air service is very
poor here and gave us no protection in the line. Raley and Jimmie Scott both
got Blighties and so did Frank Clark who was with us. He was a fine little
officer and I hope he won't have to come back. Poor old Hinkesman who was one
of my chums and is one of the group I sent you was killed. We were in a bad
hole and he and Allsopp and I had a consultation and they left me to return to
their company. Poor old Hinck was shot through the head. I was very much cut
up about him but had too much work on hand at that time to think of anything
but the situation.
I have received two letters from you and one from Helen and was so glad
to hear that you had had such a good trip to Victoria. A also had a letter
Leave has been extended to 14 days and is coming along well. With luck
I should be due again in about a month. Anytime after 3 months and I came
back hear Aug 25th
The Italian situation certainly looks bad to me and I hope that it will
be straightened out. We can't afford slaps like that.
I hope that we won't have another tour here but one can never tell.
Give my love to everyone and I will try and run over to see you all if
an opportunity presents itself.
October 31 1917 - Belgium -(letter #59B to Father)
I am going to give you a general description of our last tour. I can
not give you any names of places etc. but will speak only of my own
experiences which I believe is perfectly in order.
You know that we were billeted in a farm. It surely looked good to us
after we had left it as it was the last we saw of comfort. On the morning of
the 21st we had reveille at 3:30am and pulled out onto the road by 6. Thence
by motor bus, again by foot, and finally through a town to our camp for that
night. Fritz was slamming very heavy stuff into the town and we got mixed up
with one of them. We were given an area and everyone dug a hole. We got an old
tent and hoped for fine weather. It rained like blazes and at daybreak all
tents had to be struck to avoid observation from the air. We existed that
morning and in the afternoon moved forward. The area was one of the most
desolate one I have seen. The wastage was frightful and the ground strewn with
everything which moves into a battle area.
We got to our area in the evening and for the next two days we were
there and the weather was frightful. Wind and rain.
Knowing that there would be trouble getting supplies forward I got
everything well in hand and had all ammunition etc. correct and water bottles
filled and managed to carry in 30 tins of water. All this time there was heavy
artillery fire and our transport roads were being heavily shelled. The work
went on steadily. Streams of men horses, mules and motor transport and limbers
moved up and back on the double. No trenches. Everything done overland. We
moved further forward the evening of the 25th and it was quite clear and
bright. There was to be a show early next morning so we dug ourselves in as we
were support troops and Bailey and I dug a hole about 5 feet in diameter and
put a tarpaulin over it. During the night the rain came on.
Nov.2nd. - Excuse the jump but orders came to move forward again so we
entrained and are again in the confounded area though some six miles behind
the lines. Now to resume - and of all the uncomfortable places and frozen
chaps I ever saw that place and our boys were the worst. We were on high
ground and could see well forward. The country was undulating and nothing on
it save the 'German Pill Boxes'. Concrete emplacements and shelters
constructed so as to cover the whole country. From the time we arrived in the
country our artillery had kept up an incessant roar. Day and night. It became
very tiresome as the vibration in our little place was a corker. The gunners
were having their troubles. Pushing forward in the open. No emplacements or
cover and the mud was bad.
We were both up by zero hour and I had just managed to get a little
better than half rations for the men as our mule train had been hit by shells.
We watched the show until the smoke hid all movement. Fritz of course filled
the air with fireworks and his artillery and machine gun was beyond
I shall never forget the 26th, 27th, and 28th of Oct. if I live to be a
hundred. At intervals the battle field would clear a bit and we could see our
troops running here and there.
We waited for orders to go up. One by one our other companies stood to
and silently moved over the ridge out of sight. We spent the day there eating
a bit of cold bully and stuff full of mud and water. It was all most
disgusting but one ate heartily. Funny things cropped up on all sides in spite
of the uncomfortable conditions. I saw a chap standing in his mud hole,
shaving. It made a queer picture in the rain and shell fire.
At 5pm we got orders to go forward and relieve a company of another
battalion. We set out through the mud. As we went over the ridge an SOS went
up in front of us and both artillery opened up to full speed again. We trudged
on through the mud and the boys did well. We had trouble from one or two
shells of course but the soft ground saved us considerably. Arriving at our
destination we could find on one to relieve, they had gone forward. We got the
company into a fighting position (as we did not know what the SOS meant) and
sent runners to the nearest H.Q. to report and get orders and to find out who
we were now under. About dark we were ordered to move up onto high ground on
the right. We did so through heavy mud. We had one man mired, but got him out,
and the odd casualty.
Arriving here BAiley got orders to push his company forward. About three
different O.C.'s all had a crack at us I believe that day. He left me in
charge and took guides, going forward to reconnoiter. In the course of an hour
the guides were back to me. I was ordered to move the company forward in a
wave. This appeared tommy rot and impossible but not knowing the situation I
did it. The men were pretty well all in and I was carrying the load of one
chap then. We got forward and connected up with our B.Co.y Bailey and the O.C.
B.Co.y then pushed the line still farther out and we placed four posts to
watch our left flank. The hun did not seem to be strong but he shot a couple
of flares very close. I learned that B.Co'y had no one on the right.
Australians were on that side but patrols could find no one. Our left was in
the air by over 800 yards and we were a long way ahead of our other troops.
An officer came up and said we would have to go back. There was an
argument between this chap and Bailey also the B. Co'y. The result was that
Bailey turned the Co'y over to me with orders to fight to a finish and he and
this other fellow went back to straighten the matter out. The hun became
stronger every minute and the rain had cleared away leaving a bright moon
behind me with a distinct skyline I could not avoid.
Sniping machine gun fire became so that we had to jump from one place to
another. We had a few men killed and got a hew huns. The O.C. B.Hinckesman,
his second, and I had a consultation and they left me. Poor Hinckesman was
killed going back to their company. Midnight came and the enemy getting
stronger. I got a report that he was coming over on one of my posts. I did not
think this likely so issued orders that they were to fight and, if forced to,
to fall back on our line. Everyone stood to and we waited for we knew not
what. I had a hun prisoner over whom I placed a man with orders to put a
bullet through his head upon the first sign of an engagement. The false alarm
died away and about 1am the O.C..Co'y came up and said he had orders to me to
retire. By this time retirement was a very difficult thing but the men were
too tired to dig in and I knew that by daylight we would be picked off one by
one. I got my officers together and arranged with B Co;y so that we could
cover each other and we got back losing a few but not many. Just before we
started (the next part has been censored but readable) Bailey came back to me
and from that time until the end of the tour he acted like a boy. It was the
first time I was ever disgusted with him in the line. I could not get him to
attend to things and while he was there I had no authority....however, we got
back to a trench line behind a ridge but really too low on it to be of much
use. I saw one chap shot in the head on the way back. Lowe one of our company
officers and I were both watching him go back and the bullet actually sparked
in the dark when it hit him on the head.
At 2am I found that our rations had not arrived i took a runner and we
started for advanced H.Q. After traveling for a time we arrived back at our
starting point. In a new area and not a landmark, also only a general idea as
to where we wanted to go. Took a new runner and set out again. Fritz began to
shell. We had to run and take shelter and run again. We were twisted about
until it was impossible to say where you were. The moon had gone down and the
country a sea of mud holes. We found piece of trench at 4:30am and slept under
a ground sheet until 6 when I got my bearings and arrived at my destination at
7am, found my rations and made the front line again on the jump by daylight.
On the 27th he shelled us pretty hard and his planes were over us
constantly. Our air service disgusted me absolutely. That night we pushed
our men out to the top of the ridge and they dug in. Frank Clark left me to go
on duty and got a bullet in the arm which broke it and entered the thigh. He
started out after being dressed but it is an awful job to get out over six
miles of that waste through fire. He made it the next day. Before we shoved
our men forward Fritz gassed us. Threw the shells to our back area and the
wind brought it to us. He was trying for the batteries I think. When the
stuff struck me I gave the alarm and we all climbed into masks. Your eyes hurt
and the nose runs badly, the throat and lungs also feel it if you get enough.
We again had difficulty in getting our rations on the morning of the 28th and
all my 30 tins of water had been lost. He commenced to shell us the night of
the 27th but I slept fairly well except when we had to get out altogether. On
the afternoon of the 28th he shelled us intensely. Our support was the only
one he knew as his artillery had not yet found our front line. I thought I had
seen shell fire but I know now I never had before. Very heavy stuff crashed in
all afternoon. I got Bailey to make as many men as possible crawl from the
support to the front line. We stayed with the remainder. It was simply hell.
There was nothing to do and we just sat and talked each one wondering whether
the next had our names on it. Lowe was partly buried and we had to dig a
couple of others out but on the whole we were very lucky. No money could get
me to go through such an afternoon again.
Our relief came in about 8pm and after the company had gone I took Lowe
whose leg was very sore and we started on our tramp out. We were very thirsty
and I finally salvaged a petrol tin half full of water but it tasted like
turpentine. We had a good long drink and filled our bottles. It was a long
hard six miles but we got to the duck walk and would have done well but Fritz
shelled us with gas so we had to walk in respirators. You don't know what that
means at night but take my word for it that next to being blinded it comes
first. Twice we ran into heavy gas but came through without trouble. My lungs
and stomach troubled me a bit afterwards but I think it is mostly cold as we
were constantly wet and no fire. As we came to the transport lines a blooming
gun fired just as we were approaching. It had a 20 ft. flash at least and
slapped us on the chest nearly knocking us over by air alone. I called to the
gunner to know what size he had there. He replied 9.2 and carried on.
I met Chic Robertson on the road as I got in. Their unit had not been up
. We had something to eat and went to bed. Fritz dropped bombs around
carelessly but I was looking for sleep and got it. The next morning we moved
out by train and were supposed to be through here but after being bombed for
two nights where we were we went back. We are at our old transport base. I
have hopes of seeing the end of this place in two or three days.
This country is frightful. Everything gone and the people are worse than
that French peasant by far. We pay enormous prices for everything and
generally can't buy at any price.
The above is not written carefully and has been done as I could find
time. It will not give you any idea of what the actual thing looked like I am
afraid. Someday however, if you keep this for a reminder I shall describe the
thing a little more clearly.
In a letter some time ago I mentioned an Englishman we have here who is
the funniest thing out. He nearly shot a couple of pigeons the other day, and
would have bagged them had he had a shotgun, before he realized that they were
communication carriers. Oh he's some kid.
Must stop now. Hope to get leave in about a month and it is now 14 days
instead of 10. Sloan is on leave now.
With love to all I am.
Your affectionate son,
This note on Passchendaele was with the letters and seems to be part of a
letter that is missing.
'The battlefield of Passchendaele was a sight. I never saw such desolation
and waste - miles of mud and dead horses, mules limbers, guns equipment,
everything, and dead men lying all over the place, and the artillery fire all
the time was hellish.
I never underwent shell fire such as we sat under all the day of Oct. 28th.
Heine just slammed 8' stuff at us without a pause until it got on your nerves
and you wanted to yell. I worked off myself by cursing the flying corps
which up there gave us no support.'
November 3 1917 - Belgium -(letter # 60)
Since writing you I have received your 51st and 52nd, also Helen's 39th.
Your parcel mailed Sept 24th. arrived last night and Billies cigarettes (200
Players) a day or two before. Everything was in fine shape and thank Amelia
for the helmet. I wore it last night as we are under canvas at present. Don't
bother about putting figs in the boxes in future-they are generally all dried
up by the time they arrive. The socks were fine. Last tour I used eight
pairs but have had them washed and when dry will be OK again. The gloves were
splendid. Just what I wanted. I have a heavy pair for the line and a woolen
pair for dry weather while these will do to put on the odd swank with while
behind the lines. Straight kid is pretty cold on the hands.
Had a letter the other day from Gerald Hartley Hill. He is in hospital
in England with his eyes troubling him. Will write him today if possible.
I was so pleased to hear that you and Dad had been able to get to
Victoria for a wee small spree. Tell Helen to keep up the good work and to
push the two of you out of the house whenever any chance of the kind presents
On the other hand I was very sorry that father was not able to accept
Daltons invitation for the shooting trip.
Helens news about Bogey Jones was the first I had heard of it. Am very
sorry and hope his injuries prove less serious than at first thought. I have
seen men go out with apparently a good blighty and in a week get a report of
their deaths and visa versa.
So you have prohibition in. Here we manage to get some stuff but this
country is drained compared to France. From the first I drew the line on
whiskey. It is the prevailing drink in the mess as it comes through the
B.E.F. canteens and by not touching it I avoid a dozen drinks a day I don't
need. I take the odd shot of rum, brandy or champagne and I tell you the
former in the line is often a life saver when wet through. They all laugh at
my stand in regard to scotch but I am generally on the job when needed.
Bailey was drinking too much for a time so I went easy. he is a good chap and
deserves the Medal he is wearing.
I have heard nothing of Harry Bond and hope that his wounds are not
serious. There is really nothing to tell you. We are still plugging along
and are at present in the back area doing working parties. The present
salient is apparently worse than the old one and he shoots at you from about
three sides. If the Italian situation improves however I hope to see a big
improvement by spring.
Must stop and get squared away for the afternoon. Hope to get leave in
about six weeks and will likely go to the home of R.P.H.Leach - 8Balham Hill,
London S.W. for a sort of headquarters.
Ask father if the remittance I made to the B. of M. went through to him
Your loving son,
November 8 1917 - France -(letter # 61)
Your 53rd, Helens 40th and Fathers box of 200 Players all arrived today
and were all much appreciated.
I am quite anxious to hear how the Conservative nomination goes and hope
that Billie doesn't have much trouble with Gray still I wouldn't underestimate
an opponent having learned that much from a year in the line. On the other
hand the woman's vote is bound to be uncertain 'husband influenced' so I
wouldn't count on it as Gray's. I should be in the office and might have been
in a position by now to have taken on a good share of work instead of which I
am farther behind than when I passed my finals.
We are out of the line for a few days but expect to go back to the low
country for another support tour at least. You will have read that we were
sent in to clean Fritz off the Passchendaele ridge. I hoped we had seen the
last of the place but guess we will have another walk in.
We were marched about 5 or 6 miles to the rear for the first night and
Bailey and I managed to get nearly all the company on lorries. I tipped the
drivers of the trucks I took over, 20 francs which equal about $4.00. It is a
continual round of small outlay in order to help the men along and the
majority of them do not appreciate what is done for them at all. The hard
part of it all was that next morning we were obliged to march three miles back
to Ypres station (and that is an unhealthy town) to entrain for where we now
are when the train ran us back practically past the camp of the night before.
Then upon detraining we had a hard four miles to do with heavy loads. Such is
the way in the army.
Bailey went on leave yesterday and I have the company. Today has been a
busy one and tomorrow will be worse.
About young Hine. I have not had a chance to dig the boy up as yet. He
is in the company though and looked after as the others are. He is a bit
young. His mother should claim him and as a minor he would be sent to the
base until of age which means duration. In fact I have just this minute had
orders to send another young chap to the transport lines pending his departure
for the base.
Annandale has gone out to have an operation on his throat. It is a cyst
I believe. I fear he will not be sent back to us. He was a rattling good man
on the pay and record job and again someone who knew Westminster.
Have had another seige of boils. Four at once on wrists, neck and
cheek. Felt a touch of gas and a cold and the M.O. offered to send me out
before we came away but it would have stopped Bailey's leave and I wasn't
exactly keen on leaving the war for a boil so just took things easy for a day
or two and feel much better now. Am looking for a chance to get to a dentist
Had a nice parcel from Pauline Balloch and must write her. also had a
long chat with Tuck the other night. His brother is a corporal in our
company. He is a first contingent man.
We are under canvas and Lowe and I have a double lined tent. Also two
wooden frames with wire stretched over for beds. These covered with straw and
our bed rolls on top do first rate. We have a brazier but only green wood for
same so it is a smoke barrage one minute and the fire out the next. It is
raining and blowing but we are quite comfortable. The companies are separated
here so I am boss of my own area and have my own bugler etc.
Here's a fairly good one. One of our officers - a scotch chap who was
one of the old sergeants, named Jimmie Baxter C.Co'y. was censoring his
platoon's mail the other day and one chap wrote a description of his officer
(baxter) to his wife. After detailing Baxter's good points he added 'and he
is not an 'eye brow' Jimmie thought it was too good to keep.
Am writing on my knee and pen is not working well. Give my love to Aunt
Tweebie when you write. I would write her but really am on the go most of the
time and should be in bed now.
Tell Gertrude I will write her tomorrow if I am able to get the time.
Tomorrow I have to get through pay parade, C.O.'s inspection of the company,
specialist training commenced. Bath parade, gas apparatus parade to say
nothing of answering memos and calls to H.Q. and investigating why men fell
out on the line of March, cut down the odd great coat (to lighten pack) ate
iron rations without permission, lost their gas respirators, wire cutters or
rifle grenade cups and so on. Most of the parades are miles apart for
instance the nearest bath is a long way from here and no where near a gas gear
store. A chap surely earns the odd $ and is tired when night comes. Again we
have to keep our records of reinforcements and casualties up and try and write
to the next of kin which is a no bon job.
Well with much love I shall stop writing what is likely Greek to you and
get to bed. It is 10:20 pm and I have only one runner out now. When he
returns I hope to be through for the night.
Your loving son,
November 13 1917 - Belgium - (letter to sister Helen)
Another note. we are back in the area and Fritz is overhead dropping
darn heavy bombs. My scout corporal was killed by one of them yesterday
morning. We are about 6 or 7 miles from the line. Some air supremacy
alright, Bailey is on leave and I have the company. We did not expect to be
taken forward of here but fear that we shall have to relieve the line yet. I
am hoping not as we have already done our stunt. with luck if we complete
this week we should all be out for a month but one can never count on anything
and therefore I could not cable.
I saw Richardson yesterday. He looks OK and is Q.M. of the 54th now.
Before we left our last billet a major of the 29th came in and when I had a
chance to see him knew that I recognized him but couldn't place him. Asked
what part of Canada he came from and he said B.C. so I had him. He was Fred
Kirkland who worked for H.M. Smith. I also saw Thomas of the 121 Irish
yesterday and Jekill of the same unit is one of my platoon commanders.
Yes, as you say I look husky but I am not the same lad I was last winter
and dread this one coming on. Have been troubled with boils again and the
M.O. offered to send me out the other day if I wanted to go but I didn't want
to go that way and it would have interfered with Bailey's leave. If I should
really become sick I would go out but don't like to otherwise. would be glad
to be out of it though for the winter as it will not be over for a long time
yet. The hun is having too much encouragement on the other fronts and is
playing a good game on this one.
What luck did father have with the Mud Bay ducks? I am glad he still
gets a chance to nail a few of them. We have bigger game here but Bailey is
the man killer and I am more the one who sees that things are in shape for the
boys to do the killing etc. Lovely business, but it is certainly the young
mans game. Stiff limbs do not chime with heavy loads and mud.
Your comments as to the loneliness of the life having a lot to do with
the immoral conditions are very true. A man is still a man but the conditions
are many times as trying on him consequently those without certain moral
resolutions go by the board as they may be killed next day - they argue. I
see it on all sides among all ranks and don't blame some but I had my eyes
open long before I came to this business and a chap can scrap and live here as
easily as he can when surrounded by home ties if he makes up his mind that he
still thinks something of himself and those at home. The girls get a pretty
raw deal even in normal times.
Was surprised to hear that Tom Trapp was in the conservative field. He
is certainly not a member in any sense of the word.
Had not heard of Charlie Major being sick but tell his mother that any
chap who is sick enough to go out is generally considered lucky. Once away
from the unit the medical attention is first class and hospitals good.
My extra stripe was put on by an army tailor or helper in a very poor
manner but Bailey is ordering me a new suit in case I get leave next month
which I should providing everything goes well in the meantime.
I have not heard as yet as to how you liked the small photos I had taken
on leave or the one we had in France Poor Henckesman was the first to go.
Neal has just been in chatting with me. We are great chums. I had a letter
from Hinckes sister-in-law and have written his wife. Have also half a dozen
casualty letters to write to next of kin now. It is a miserable duty. The
corporal killed yesterday was one of my old scout section and a rattling good
Now my dear Helen I have to stop and forward to H.Q. a chit advising
them of map location of my anti-aircraft machine gun etc. The present
subject of conversation is the possibility of going forward. As usual I am
betting we go so you see I am still a gloomy gus but my hunches have turned
out right more than once and when they haven't I have been agreeably surprised
and the remaining times it has been a case of 'I told you so'
If I can keep on top for another week there should be no difficulty in
living until Xmas. which I am anxious to get past as it is a miserable time
of year for bad news etc. but old girl personally I have no fear of death if
it is down in the books for me and in case of the worst I would want you all
to carry on without any mourning business. I have never regretted coming and
feel justified in taking a little timeo out of the line if the chance comes
more for mothers sake than my own as I have nearly completed a years duty to
my country in the line and now I think mothers turn is due for a time. At
times I have been blooming homesick but work is a good remedy and tell
Gertrude (if necessary) that I have never forgotten that she was trusting or
leaving it to me.
With much love to all I am
Lovingly your brother,
November 17--1917 - France -(letter # 62)
Your 54th cam yesterday just after we arrived here. Got out of the area
without being drawn into the front line again and were mighty glad of it. We
tried (Neal and I) to get a bath but gave it up. After dinner we went to a
movie show at the Y.M.C.A. and the artillery fire was very heavy. It seemed
strange to be at a movie and knowing that same old mess of mud with the poor
devils playing hide and seek with the 5.9's existed only a few miles away.
When out no one worries about who is in.
Molly sent me a lovely box which came today. It was a dandy too. Billy
wired me. It arrived with your letter by mail. Took from 11th to 16th to
reach me. The last part of the journey is by post and mails run slowly. The
roads have to move grub and iron rations for the guns.
Fritz has been hammering us with our own heavy stuff brought
from the Russian front. All I can say is that I don't want to be in his
forward area when our artillery opens up wide.
It is queer to get your papers and read of things of which we know
something. Moral - Don't believe all you read in the press.
Tell Bill that I will pass it along in good shape and give him my very
best of luck and good wishes for success. The hun is fighting hard and well
and more men will be needed before he is beaten.
Glad you were pleased with the photos. Ask Helen if she thinks I have a
glassy stare. Have been under shell fire for a year now and it is a long time
, am nearly ready for a change but don't think that Mrs. Diamond's fancy's
have me as yet.
Am very sorry to hear that Clare is not so well and hope that he pulls
through OK. He must be very sick if it was necessary to wire for cousin
Louise and Vieve.
Yes I received fathers cigarettes and have already acknowledged them.
In fact I am still smoking them and have added those Molly sent me today.
This is miserable paper but in a day or two I hope to be near enough to
a French town to enable purchasing possible.
Our band was trying out some Chee Chin Chow music today. The officers
awhile ago all chipped in and we sent to England for a lot of late stuff as we
were all tired of hearing the same old things.
Atkin was in England while I was there. He was not over with Bailey. I
do not know whether he has his captaincy or not. He didn't have it then but
expected it. He was told it had come through and put his 3rd pip up while
over there but returned to find it hadn't come through.
Jim Motherwell has been wounded again It is wonderful the way these
fellows get Blighties. Saw Tom Cunningham yesterday and he told me about Jim.
I guess he was fairly hard hit in the leg.
Since writing you I have lost Jekill. He went out hurt by a chunk of
stuff that hit him flat on the chest. If it had come edge on he would have
been a wash out. I was told he was not cut but will have to be kept quiet
for two or three weeks. I have only two officers with me now and one of those
(Lowe) is developing water under the knee cap so I suppose it will be Blighty
Really have no news. We will likely move early tomorrow and it is dark
and cold at 4:30 in the morning now. The transport generally hits the road
about 6 am and our kits must be ready and breakfast over before that time so
it means an early rise.
From over here it looks like nearly another year before there is any
chance of a wind up. In fact there is nothing to show a finish at anytime.
It is such a blooming hopeless thing.
Give my love to all and kiss the kids,
Your loving son,
November 19 1917 - France - (letter # 63)
Have only two sheets of this blotting paper left so this will only be a
With luck I should get leave about the end of the month for 14 days. My
address will be c/o Mr. R.P.H.Leach 8 Balham Hill London S.W. England. When
I get an envelope large enough will send a post card photo of Leach to be put
with my other pictures.
We arrived here yesterday and we are billeted at various farms. We move
again early tomorrow. Yesterday we made an early start and in the dark it is
miserable. I had nothing to eat yesterday from 5:30 am to 6:30 pm. I made up
for it in a hurry however.
Love was sent out today with his flooded knee cap. His knee is puffy
and stiff just as Helen's was and he was sitting with it up on another chair
as she used to. I have only one officer with me now and that is Wall. He is
an ass in most ways too.
Am going to dine with C.Coy.tonight and the men are all in town until
8;30 blowing their money as they got a large pay today to provide for a little
Xmas shopping. I can see the shopping most of them do although one chap came
and gave me 50 francs for safe keeping. Unfortunately I had just cashed a
cheque for myself.
Have just this minute got a letter from Frank Clarke who got shot
through the arm and leg in front of Passchendaele. He was a hard looking
ticket when he left me there but a better chap never came into the line.
With much love to all and the best of good wishes and happiness to you
all at Xmas and New Years.
I am your loving son,
December 3 1917 - London -(postcard)
Everything is fine. Have seen a lot of boys. Will write later and give
you the news. Your birthday box arrived the day before I left and the icing
wasn't even broken. The cake was beautiful and we did enjoy it immensely.
Ran into Alf. and Ed.Johnston today. Also Harvey and Pat Turnbull, Donald
Rashleigh, Jimmie Scott (having lunch with him here today) and many others you
do not know. Am staying with my friend Leach. He is kindness itself and has
a lovely home. Shall send you a snap of him. He gives a great many
Australian and Canadian chaps a home here. Has a circle of friends and
insists on them coming straight to him. Mrs Leach is a dear. Have just sent
her up a lot of flowers. The weather is beautiful, clear and cold, and London
is the same old city that is different.
December 6 1917 - London - (letter # 64)
Here I am and leave is going splendidly. I have seen a great many chaps
I know and the other day ran into Blackman and had lunch with him at the club.
I must say that I couldn't afford to stay here long as the cost of living is
becoming something unheard of. I bought $20 worth of shirts etc. the other
day and could hardly see the parcel. Boots are very high. Street shoes are
up to $10-$15 and field boots cost from 5 to 8 guineas
I told you I think that your birthday cake arrived the day before I left
France in the best of condition and I did enjoy it. As I was coming away we
cut good generous pieces and the boys all seemed willing to take a chance at a
I am up with Leach. He insisted on me coming straight to him and they
have been so good to me. They have a lovely comfortable home and put it at
the disposal of several Australian and Canadian boys. Mrs. Leach is a dear. I
took the crowd to the theatre the other night. We had two boxes, holding
twelve. I do wish that you would write Percy and thank him for all the
kindness they have shown me. His address is Mr.R.P.H.Leach Tregothnan, 8
Balham Hill London SW. I shall enclose a postcard photo of him. Talk about
an Englishmans table. He surely is a good provider. Yesterday we had a big
lot of Devonshire cream arrive straight from Devon.
Expect to go to Scotland this week end and will try to get in touch with
Jimmie Scott who is home on leave following discharge from hospital.
Saw Bill Swan a day or two ago and he is quite well. Have dropped a
line to Mrs. Lambert hoping to be able to see her at Folkestone on my way back
and will call on Laura Pitt.Brown this afternoon. Ran out to see Mrs.
Richardson but missed her.
As I feared I would be delayed on return trip and might miss the poll I
voted here yesterday. Met Alf and Ed Johnston and have been passing the
election work all along. Am enclosing a few odd chits and slips which mean
nothing to anyone but myself but they recall a great deal to me so please keep
them for me.
Some days ago while in Bruay I bought a lamp made from an 18pdr. shell
case. I intend to have the burner taken out and electric light put on for a
desk lamp I have also bought a couple of rather well worked shell case vases.
All these will likely be packed and mailed to you by Cooke my batman. A glass
dish should be placed inside the brass case to prevent leak through base plug.
It is quite a relic as it combines a British shell actually used with the
French work since this chap hammers it apparently in his spare time.
Have been looking around the shops but have had so little time. Am
sending you a little 'drop' for the neck. It is silver and platinum and the
crystal is a very good one. It was the only one they had as it was a
catalogue sample and then I bought it in Regent St London so it is another
trinket from the great war.
The fighting looks none too good just now. I am keener to go back than
I was last time as I thought then we had it all our own way. There must be
something in the Britisher which gets his back up if there is any chance of
him being beaten. I am all for scraping it out now and having it a make or
break. We have given so much now that we may as well go through.
I heard a day or two ago that George Trapp had been killed. It will
surely go badly with his mother if this is correct. However such things are
to be expected.
Fritz raided London early this morning and bombed not far from the house
here. Percy rushed up and woke me about 4:30 and told me an air raid was on.
I listened to the archies firing and said something about them being fairly
close and went to sleep. I found that the household and all the others in the
vicinity were up half the night. The 'all clear' did not go until nearly
seven. I get a good bed so seldom to waste good hours shivering and waiting
for air bombs.
Must stop now dear heart, give my love t all and tell them that one of
these fine days we are going to clean this thing up properly but guess I'll
stay with it until we do.
Your loving son,
No Date 1917 - London -(letter # 65)
Leave is going along very well and I am having a great time. With about
a hundred dollars worth of new clothes etc. I am quite a nut. Have seen
several plays including 'The 13th Chair'. The Willow Tree and The Yellow
Ticket. My old favorite Gladys Cooper is playing in the latter.
Went to see Mrs. Richardson and had tea. Also called on Perkins Bull KC
at his office and learned that Laura and her husband had left unexpectedly for
Canada and are likely in Hamilton. Bull asked me to go to his place the next
evening for a bit of a dance and apparently runs a sort of open house for such
chaps as myself. I however refused the invitation owing to a previous
engagement. He left me with a standing invitation.
I may leave tonight or tomorrow for Edinburgh. Just a flying visit to
see the fleet and have arranged to have Jimmie Scott go with me. If I have
time I shall try and see the McGregor's but don't want to stay up north long
as my time is getting short and I want to spend a day with Mrs.Lambert before
sailing for France.
The Leaches have been goodness itself to me and this house has been a
home since I arrived. Leach is in the meat business and has four businesses.
The meat shortage is quite a problem here now. yesterday nearly all shops
were sold out and closed by noon.
It would be nice of you could drop Leach a line to tell him how much I
appreciate their kindness. Am enclosing a photo of their three kiddies. Mary
is six and they are all very fine little kids. Am also sending some snaps
home which please keep for me as I will only lose them in France.
I have heard that our O.C. is about to leave us 'going to England
(sick?)' I suppose something has gone wrong and he has been shelved. He
always did the square thing by me and I am rather sorry to hear that he is
Am horrified over the Halifax calamity. I hope Pope and his wife are
OK. Aunt Tweebie cannot stand much more in the way of trouble so I hope she
has been spared this.
Don't worry about my physical condition. If I can dodge the scrap iron
I think I shall weather the conditions. Bailey I believe will go to staff
work and is anxious for me to 'swing the lead' while here and not go back but
things don't look as well as they did at one time so I am going to return to
line work. That is what I came over for. Was sorry to hear of McLagans'
death. I heard it while we were in at Ypres. He nearly was on bomb proof
work but on that front the back areas were as dangerous as the line and he was
unfortunate. I will carry along dear and as I have lost so much time out of
the most needed years of my professional training don't think that I have much
to lose in that line over what has already been lost. So I will finish this
work if possible. Don't worry and remember that if an accident should happen
to me I can think of no way I would sooner go. But if the job can be done
without accidents so much the better. I am more a British subject than ever
and I want to see the thing finished properly. Germany must be in trouble for
food etc and I am all for playing a steady slow game until we have her
weakened. Terrific losses must have been inflicted at Cambrai. Our allies
are a bunch of spineless blighters I fear save France. Britain, France and
the U.S.A. will beat Germany eventually. After it is over I would gladly
enlist to clean Russia of some of her political microbes. We would have been
home this year had she really gone to war. They have fighting men too if
lead. One of our chaps, a Russian Corporal in B.Coy. won and got the V.C. the
other day. I hope she takes a definite stand soon. We will then at least
save our guns and munitions which Fritz has been taking from them and turning
on us. I have had a three day taste of that stuff and one taste is enough.
Enough of war. Im for finishing it out as it should be and no more
prisoners for me. And I'm not looking for decorations so don't imagine me
doing foolish things on that account. Should you again see old nurse thank
her for her very kind messages and tell her that it is just those messages
that keep us all going. It would be a lonely business if one had reason to
believe that nobody cared.
I have no mustache my dear mother. My safety blade slipped the other
Give my love to each and every one. I am very anxious to see them all
but I didn't come because I wanted to and the reason for staying is the same
that brought me so lets stay with it. We will all be home before very long.
Peace cannot be more than twelve months off.
With a big kiss and much love and wishes for a good years health and
happiness in 1918 I am as I always have been,
Your loving son,
p.s. Ask father the date of expiry of my insurance policy and be sure that
application for a permanent policy without war conditions is obtained in good
time before date of expiration. I will send more money when needed. KCM
December 15 1917 - Boulogne -(letter # 66)
My leave is over. On the whole I had a very good time and the Leaches
were kindness itself to me. I did not get to Scotland. had it all arranged
to go up and Meet Scott to go to see the fleet and expected to look up Mrs
McGregor but on the day I was to leave I took sick and in the afternoon they
took my temperature and I was just over 103 so they rushed me to bed and shot
a lot of dope into me to make me perspire and I surely did so. Next day my
temperature was practically gone but they kept me in.
The 13th I went to Folkestone and went to the Lamberts. They were very
kind to me indeed and have a beautiful home. Too much dog though. If I left
my room for five minutes the maid was in and rearranged everything. I had a
most beautiful room. After dinner we went over to Mrs. Lamberts married
sisters as they had a small bridge on.
Do you remember me losing a uniform when I first came to France? Well I
found it at the Lamberts. I do not know how it was steered there as it was
sent to Ramsay at the 30th Reserve but arrived after he had left there. I am
fairly well fixed with suits. Two with me in France. A new one in London and
one in Folkestone and three or four pairs of slacks.
The boat did not sail from Folkestone until nearly 5 pm and it was quite
dark. A little rain fell and it was cold. We had to stay on deck and I was
chilled through when I got to the officers club here two hours later. I had a
drink and dinner but couldn't get warm and the old shivers were racing over me
so I decided I wouldn't enquire about my train but go to bed so I came to the
hotel and turned in and slept late. This morning I enquired about the train
and it leaves at 5:14am so I have had all day here. I went out to Wimereux
and saw the people from whom I bought Gertrudes little bag etc. They insisted
on me staying to lunch with them and I rather enjoyed it. They had a Spanish
wine followed by a French beer but I wouldn't rave about either of those
Tomorrow I set out to find the battalion they have moved since I left
them I believe and have likely gone back to the Lens front but I am not sure.
Give my love to all mother dear,
Your affectionate son,
p.s. I had a little neck affair registered to you from a shop in Regent
Street. It is rather small and frail like but very good stuff and I simply
left a card so you would know who it was from. Small as it is it carries all
my love and best wishes for a happy Xmas and new year. I really had no time
for shopping and kept putting it off and then took sick. could have gone to
hospital but decided I would get back; as I am not feeling just right however
may report to the M.O. when I hit the battalion.
December 17 1917 note in letter
Please keep all these photos for me as they are of a most charming girl.
Arrived back today and received the M.C. It came through, for the
Passchendaele show, while I was on leave and they cabled me but the wire
missed me. However I got it for the glorious 18th and am at present a company
Received large mail today with boxes from Margaret and Holy Trinity.
Many thanks to everyone I will write when I can.
December 23 1917 - France - (letter # 67)
This is a night cap. I have been on the go all day today in spite of
the fact that it was Sunday and I had promised myself a long afternoons letter
I reached the battalion on the 17th where I had left it. On the 19th we
moved to our old St Lawrence camp billets and it was surely cold there. Snow
and wee bit ice with scarcity of fuel. On the 21st we left there and came to
these quarters - Hill Camp - It is still very cold and bright moonlight
nights. Our huts are better however and we have more fire wood. One of the
boys -Joyce has just run in here to the fire in pajamas, a sweater and
balaclava which tucks into th sweater. He looks like an arctic explorer.
Upon my return to the battalion I was given command of D. Coy. Bailey
is near Adjutant but I think expects to leave soon. The C.O. is gone and we
have a new colonel-Webb- who seems a pretty fair scout so far but I will wait
and see how he is on the line. Mills has gone sick and is at present at Field
We will not go into the line until after Xmas Day but I couldn't cable
because I could get no definite information.
Am feeling much better - as usual in France, and we expect to do less
line work this winter than last from a number of days standpoint.
We have had reports showing results of elections and I see that Billie
has got in and I guess the soldiers vote will only increase his majority.
Give him my congratulations. The old office would also look good to me also.
How I should have enjoyed Peggys birthday party. I am so ashamed. I
haven't the date of one family birthday and never would be able to think of
them a month ahead.
Yes the cigarettes have been coming splendidly and both Margarets boxes
have now arrived. The plum preserve was the same old brand and the boys more
than enjoyed it. I had it every meal. The sweater was also great stuff but a
small quantity of jam rambled into it so I have not yet worn it. I have
another splendid sleeping helmet also from Baxter. my second in command who is
a great chap.
I must close now as I have to scribble off one or two more notes. Would
have had time today but some ginks in England had me named as Commissioner for
taking the evidence of a chap here who is suing for a divorce and I have been
on the job most of the day but as usual there is no money in it as I am not
charging the boys for anything I can do for them. They are a pretty fair lot
and I get it all back in other ways because I think they would tackle a job
for me if I wanted them to.
Love to all and a Merry Xmas and Happy New Year. The former applies to
December 26 1917 - France - (letter # 68)
The only time I get for letters these days is late at night and then I
hardly feel like settling down for a long detailed account of what has been
happening to me but shall try and give you an idea of the splendid Xmas. we
have had this year.
Last year we were in the line and had a long march out on the 25th and
the only dinner I had was a tin of sardines and a bottle of champagne. Now
listen to 1917.
I wrote you on the 23rd so will carry on from the 24th. I worked hard
during the day and after supper three of us walked over to the 13th. Field
Ambulance where we know several of the M.O.'s and had a very enjoyable evening
and missed a fairly stormy night here as we had sent some of the boys to town
to buy for the xmas dinners. They arrived back full of cheer and the crowd
just carried on from there. Yesterday we had our company dinner at 1 pm owing
to the fact that some of my officers had to go up the line on the working
party. The work is being rushed so that no holiday could be granted for the
25th. Just after dinner I received a chit from Neal(one of the group of four)
inviting me to the Transport Lines for dinner. I accepted and Neal dropped in
later and wanted Baxter to go too; so I saw the C.O. and got permission for
the two of us to be out over night. We ordered our horses for six pm. Our
cold weather had broken and Xmas morning was green or rather brown because we
don't get much green stuff here. However, yesterday was cold and snow fell in
the afternoon quite heavily. It cleared before we left and there was a
beautiful moon so we enjoyed our five mile trot exceedingly and had a good
appetite when we got there. We rode across some of our old stamping grounds
and it was quite interesting. Upon arrival at the Lines we went through all
the huts and wished the boys a Merry Xmas and all that sort of thing. Had
quite a chat with Billie Sloan in his hut. Then we went back for dinner.
There were in the party eight - Art Mills, Capt Lacey(P.M.) the Padre, Neal,
Dad Quinn (acting Q.M.) and Cunningham (Mule Train Officer) then Baxter and
myself as guests.
The mess hut was decorated with greens, don't know how it is spelt but
it is called 'box'. The table cloth was a large Union Jack and the lights
were prettily arranged. It was one of the best dinners I have ever had
anywhere. I am enclosing a menu which I had the mess orderly make out for me.
I threatened to apply to have him back on company duty if he put anything more
on the table. They got hold of a great wine which was far ahead of the
ordinary stuff. After dinner we had a game of poker and then we all had a
snow ball fight about 1 am. Baxter and I rode home this morning arriving here
At noon we had the mens dinner on for C&D Coys. and the Band. Tomorrow
is A&B Coys. The seconds in command worked very hard over it. We had a large
tent in which we could sit some 350 men or more. It was a 'sit down' dinner
with dishes etc.(as well as mess tins for beer). The C.O. Mills, Carmichael
and Purvis and myself as O.C. companys were guests. All the remaining
officers and N.C.O.'s(sgts.) were waiters. We started with a ration of rum
and ran through a big meal with lots of beer. The motto was 'Give the boys
lots' and I saw some get away with three meat courses. After the King, Mills
proposed a toast to C and D Coys but gave permission for the boys to drink ut
as they were all C and D so Purvis and I did the sitting stunt. I arranged
for Tommy Todd (who used to live at Sloan's and is in my company) to reply for
D. Coy. Then the C.O. spoke very shortly. Someone gave a cheer for me and
the next minute everyone was shouting for a speech. All the rest had pulled
this..'Lt Col. Webb, Officers and Men'..stunt so when I stood up I just said
'Well Cheerio Boys'. It made rather a hit. I gave them just a short snappy
run of the usual soft soap and let it go. On the whole it was a big success.
Todd made a mighty good little reply and Don Company showed up well. Then I
was invited to Batt. H.Q. mess for dinner tonight and had another very
enjoyable meal. Have been giving all the boys the best time possible. Sent a
bottle of whisky to the Sgt. Major another to the Sgts., One to the cooks, and
one to the corporals. On the whole they all think that they have been treated
The tent for their dinner was all decorated with strings of flags from
poles to the walls and we had a piano which carried on despite the clatter.
As I came away I said to one chap 'well, lad, how'd it go?' He said 'Sir, it
was a dream, I never expected it would be like that.' The old Sgt Cook came
in to see me tonight pretty well lit up. I had to guess his age - for the
twentieth time. Have to do that every time he is full. He is over 50 years
and I always guess 37 so as not to take the wind out of his sails. He is a
pretty good old sort however and puts up the grub for the fellows in good
Tomorrow night if possible I am going to try and find Richardson as I
understand he is quite close to us here. We may go into support for eight
days before going into the line and when we do our line tour there may be
another month out for us unless something goes wrong to alter the frontages
and tours. I am all for this month out business during the winter as snow
water is no bon.
Well mother there seems to be no end to the war and I am losing good
years . I am beginning to think that I shall see if it wouldn't be possible
to get married before the confounded thing ends as if I wait until I get into
shape again in the office I shall be gray haired.
Many seem to be managing on army pay so I thought perhaps it might be
possible. However I always have been willing to try anything once. Must stop
now as I must get to bed. Have a lot of work to do tomorrow.
I have still several letters to write acknowledging receipt of parcels.
Farrer sent me a parcel of several heavy cakes of Neilsons chocolate for the
line etc. My friends have been very good to me indeed.
With much love and a kiss to all the kids. I enjoyed Peggy's letter so
much and it was very well expressed.
Every happiness for 1918 to you all. I thought of you many times
yesterday. I was the only officer to get a Xmas stocking. I think Baxter
hung it up but I found in it two tin whistles, a tin horn (which upended makes
a fine candle stick) and a bottle of beer. Your loving son,
January 9 1918 - note from Webb
Going around the left Coy. frontage tonight, I was pleased
with the general alertness of all posts.
I am very sorry to know of the lose your Coy. has had tonight, as I know
that such types of men are hard to replace, and in writing, especially to the
Sgts folks please tell them how much he was respected by all of the 47th.
January 15 1918 - France -(letter # 69)
Canadian Corps Rest Station
I left the battalion on the 13th and spent the night at the transport
lines. I came here yesterday. This is really a field ambulance and I hope to
be sent on far enough to receive vaccination or inoculation for the boils
which are again making my life miserable. I at last got one on the right knee
so I told the C.O.I was fed up hobbling around. He suggested that I go to the
T.Lines for a few days but I said nothing doing. I would go up the line or go
to hospital so they started me off. At the 11th F.A. I ran across Captain
McKinnon one of Billies cousins. He is a very nice chap and left yesterday
for England to take up work there. Young Gilchrist a brother of the Gilchrist
who was in the office is a clerk in the same ambulance.
The Xmas mails have been so large that the letters have been arriving
backwards and are still coming. During the tour I have received three or four
letters nightly and have a whole haversack full to answer. Am going to try
and make a start today. Will write you at more length when I have cleared off
the outsiders. In this ward there are eight B.C. chaps. I don't know many of
their names and don't bother much about them. They are a pretty decent bunch
Expect to be away from the unit a week or ten days.
I mailed you a copy of Canada in which you will see that I got a mention
in dispatches. I was in for a bar to the M.C. but my luck still pursues me
and I didn't get it so I should worry.
Will try and get in touch with Fraser Allen by post and direct him to
The company is in the front line tonight and then two nights in support
after which they come out for a couple of weeks. Baxter has taken them in. I
could write for hours on various details but can't be bothered. I always did
hate going over things. I had two bits of very hard luck. Fritz got two
direct hits on our line during the tour and each time got some of the boys. I
had four casualties -all killed instantly. Sergeant McLean who was a brother-in-
law of Tom Cunningham and used to work in Jean Brown's was one of the four.
Must write his wife today.
Love to all and I hope that some day this thing will finish.
Lovingly your son,
January 17 1918 - France - (letter # 70)
I am writing Billie Gowan and Dad so will make this very short.
Everything is going well with me and I hope to be back with the unit in a few
days. It comes out of the line tonight for a couple of weeks.
The condition of my health is quite OK. I am just about over the boil
All the Xmas boxes were received and I have acknowledged receipt of them
before. I got the photo of the two kids and in love with them. Helen is some
stunner and Joan lives up to what I have been told of her.
The other day I had a letter from Miss Jones -no Hughes - The one who
called on Elsie on her way from New Zealand. She wants me to call but it is
very awkward as I'm in the army now. However, when next in England I shall
see what I can do.
No I did not receive any word about Dr. Dohertys friend before leaving.
You see I was in England before I expected to be. Send me Fraser Allens'
number and address. I have no way of getting at him and if he is still in
England I will be able to make his stay enjoyable.
Unless urgent do not send me any more English addresses mother dear.
Leave only lasts a few days and I hate spending it running around looking for
people who have moved in the meantime. I have no desire to sight see or meet
strangers. I can live comfortably, well and easily with the friends I already
know so why worry.
Did you receive five or six photos of a young lady in costume? Forgot
to mention them in my letters. They are of a young lady I met here. She is not
now on the stage but expects to return to it. Sings beautifully and on the
whole I enjoyed her company very much. We did several plays together. A
great friend of the Leaches.
There is really nothing new for me to tell you. Was thinking of trying
to get home to be married as this is going to be such a long affair but of
course I'm broke and that always makes it bad. Of course it is also necessary
that the girl is willing and I am not clear on that point. Guess I'll stay
and kid the troops along. They are sure they are winning.
Am enclosing a postcard photo taken half an hour before my last return
to France. I have also a head and shoulder one without cap but the boys took
all I had so will have a couple of dozen finished and will scatter them around
among my correspondents.
Much love to all and tell the kids I am very anxious to see them.
February 3 1918 - France -(letter # 71)
St. Lawrence Camp
It is simply ages since I have written in fact I had no idea it was so
long until I looked at my list.
I returned from the hospital after a week there which was quite enough
and found the unit at a Petite place about three miles from here. We were
there until the 30th. when we moved here and should be here until about the
8th. I left hospital about Jan. 21st. Since arriving at the battalion I have
been working long hours. We have been doing range work and reveille has been
5:30 many mornings. Lately between training, meetings and courts of enquiry
etc. it has often been midnight before I have gotten to bed. The company is
going strong and the boys will follow me through a pinch I believe.
Some time ago I began to talk about going to Doullens which is too far
to ride. Pauline Ballock is there. I worked the subject along carefully and
the other day walked into the H.Q. mess and during the conversation which was
concerning places worth seeing I remarked that I simply had to go to Doullens.
Finally the C.O. arranged a little party which came off yesterday. He got us
an eight cylinder cadillac 1916 and Purvis Bailey Valiquette and myself set
out yesterday morning about 10:25. We ran down through Arras then to Bapaume,
Albert, to Amiens. We got there about 12:20 having had ten minutes at the
cathedral in Albert (the falling virgin) We passed through all the Somme
battlefields en route seeing Courcelette and the famous sugar refinery and
sunken road of that place. It was all most interesting. Amiens is a very
large city and we went to an A.1 restaurant and had a wonderful dinner (from
oysters to creme de mint with to kinds of dessert etc.) then we went shopping
and again hit the road for Doullens. There we ran into Gordie Corbould who
told me that Pauline was just going down the street. I did a double and
caught her. She was very surprised indeed. We gathered both into the car and
away we went to the hospital which is in the citadel.
We had tea here with the nurses and Pauline and I had a good long chat
with many interruptions. Then we tried to get Capt. Manchester on the phone
but failed so I went with Pauline and got leave so we all piled in again and
ran out to his hospital about five miles away. We found he had gone away to
dinner so we called him by phone and he excused himself and came racing home.
We all had dinner together with the sisters of his hospital and about 8:45 we
persuaded him to come back with us so he arranged a relief and we took Pauline
and Gordie back to Doullens and set out for home. All the roads have been put
in splendid shape and we travelled on an average of 40 miles all day. Arrived
home at 10:30 having done between 180 & 200 kilometers. Today being Sunday we
have an easy time so we got our horses and took Manchester over Vimy Ridge and
pointed out the places of interest. We rode probably twelve miles.
Brimacombe was in this evening and has his captaincy. Jack Knight and
Atkins were in a couple of nights ago. Upon returning today I learned that
Alex McQuarrie had come to see me and am so sorry I missed him. He is some
miles from here but I may be able to make it on the horse. On the whole
however it has been a very successful week end and no doubt Pauline will write
you all about it. Could write long descriptions of all I saw but everyone is
in bed now and it is cold so I must turn in. We have also an early start
I received Billies cable and will write him. I don't think there will be
anything doing. A couple of days after his cable arrived the Corps Commander
inspected this battalion at work. The things had no connection. He saw my
company at work and questioned me about several matters and we had a chat
together . The next day the C.O. had us (the O.C.Co)accompany himself at an
inspection of the transport. We went to the lines for lunch and while at
lunch the Brigadier called and the C.O. had to go out to talk to him. I was
then called out and the Brig. had a chat with me. I will break here and give
the balance in a letter to Billie. You know the story of the Scotchman who
bet sixpence on four aces.
This colonel is a strong disciplinarian and a hard worker. He knows all
the higher ups personally and if a fellow makes good with him he can feel
assured that ones job has been fairly well done. I have been working hard and
at present am OK.
You must have mixed your letter numbers. I have 62, 64, 56 and 65 here
now. I received a 56 long ago and also got your 63rd. Also have two of
Helens #47 and one of Dec 30th unnumbered
We expect to do a tour before long, and I am hoping to be sent on
a five weeks 'first army course' at Boulogne for company commanders, before
very long. I am next due for it I believe and have already paved the way
fairly well. Then leave will be coming shortly. On the whole we are having a
much better winter than last. Far more time out of the line and when in I am
a Coy. O.C. instead of crawling in the mud in No-mans land. The weather also
has been good for the past ten days. I missed a terribly hard four days front
line by being in hospital. The mud was so bad that both the Bosche and
ourselves were walking overland and our boys sat on the parapet to change
their socks and rub their feet on one occasion. Baxter carried on well
although I am sorry to say that one officer fell down badly and as I had had
previous reasons for complaint when he let Baxter down in my absence I upon
return jerked him up on the carpet and paraded him to the C.O. where I laid my
complaint. As the fellow wanted another try I agreed to take him back and
give him a chance to make good in order to save him from a court martial. I
find that there is considerable disciplining to do and I am not exactly the
easy going lad I used to be once.
Seeing that it is so long since I wrote I shall try and drop you a
cable. Tell Bill shall cable the office in future as I may be able to use the
I got my back pay of about 30 pounds. My captaincy has gone through and
is no longer an acting rank. If I got a blighty now I would not revert
Don't worry about me not looking out for myself. I am watching things
fairly closely but I came back here because I wanted to try and hold my
seniority. I am working up the list in this unit. I either want Canada or
this and the line. If I can't get home I will do what I threw everything up
for. Don't worry about me. If I am to be killed in France there is no way of
preventing it 'the book says so.' as Huck Finn used to say.
There is no chance for further promotion for a long time however barring
vacancies by casualties. Keep a stiff upper lip and we will call it home or
fight it out. I guess they will hang onto most of us as fourteen months
experience counts for something in this game where so many last a week.
However, the political man is never ignored and there is no use striking at
anything lower than the highest. If you can't read sense into this Bill will
be able to no doubt.
And now I must stop. If all goes well I shall make up to you all the
worry that you have been put to but if they don't I know you will still be the
wonderful brick you have been to date. I was glad I was out of the line when
I got your last letter as it was so full of worry that I should have shrunk
from a fight.
Would have cabled but could not get any idea how long we would be out
and don't like to cable saying I shall be out for two or three weeks and
likely be called up the line. A bad news advice would be like a bomb out of a
clear sky then. And incidentally I have seen a good many real live bombs drop
out of the same clear sky. At Potize we could see the blooming things
released from the gothas.
Will run through your letters and answer them all in my next. I really
must get to bed. My leg is nearly well. The other day I had to have the
scabs pulled off as a little matter was forming below but everything is fine
now and I am as lively as can be. Everything is fine on the Western front at
present and will be unless he drives and if he does he'll pay for his ground
as we have beaucoup wire and machine guns. It is an infernal combination to
buck which I know from experience.
Love to all. Everyone raves over the pictures of the kids.
Your loving son,
February 17 1917 - France -(letter # 72)
I have been trying as usual to write to you for days but there is
something doing every minute. We have just completed one of he most pleasant
tours I have ever put in. We went into bad lines for hun sniping but before
we came out everything was in pretty good shape. We had no casualties from
sniping but filled our own lines with ours and got some Bosche to our credit.
While in I got your 67th and 68th. Also Helen's 50 and 51st. Marys
letter came safely and I think it was beautifully expressed. I shall write
her in a few days. I shall just run back over your letters and reply to
anything needing answering.
Hope the shell cases went through OK. I paid something like ten dollars
Now for the 'neck drop' explanation. I bought the one I wrote you about
and took it home to the Leaches. Forgot that I had written you about it but
meant to send it on. One evening I showed it to Mrs. Leach who thought it was
very dainty. I had to get something for her anyway so I asked her to have it.
When up town I purchased the one I sent for you which by the way is something
considerably better than the other so you are not the loser by my
forgetfulness. When I got your letter I had a good laugh and thought of
Mrs,P.S. and her gifts.
Who was kidding the Ouija board? Ask it if a person can hear an eight
inch shell which is coming straight for him before it arrives and if so how
long before. Write me the answer.
Am very glad to hear of Clairs improvement.
Helen wants to know if you add an M.C. on address. I get them safely
without and when I have a couple of V.C.s she can stick it on.
The night before last we were relieved and came back into Brigade
support. We are in a village which has many houses still standing although
none intact. My H.Q. is in quite a comfortable cellar but not shell proof.
Yesterday he shelled us hard and I was coming through the town and he chased
me down one street and up another. With paved streets and brick houses one
cannot afford to be close to an 8' burst. I got home only having to drop to
the ground once. This morning I made along reconnaissance trip up forward and
got back just about noon. Lt. Daniel who was one of my officers until a day
or two ago and was made scout officer dropped in as he often does for lunch.
He had received a parcel for his platoon - that was - and he and McGregor were
just at the top of the cellar stairs which lead into a hall behind the front
room, all of which is now an open air porch, when Fritz got a direct hit on
the centre of the door step. It is a wonder he didn't get someone as we all
had to come in and out by that entrance. Of course the odd piece of house
came down and the explosion blew a good bit of filth on us here in the cellar.
Daniel and McGregor got a scare but were not hit. Poor Daniel was shell
shocked once and last tour up the line got another shaking up. He felt fine
and was laughing because an artillery Johnnie said he thought it was just a
careless shot as the shell was really y meant for the batteries that are round
us. At lunch a few minutes later I saw his face commence to twitch and I
watched him closely and was in time to have the boys beside him, catch him
when I saw the shock take him off. He faded away and we got him onto a bunk.
He presently came to and was ashamed of himself. I sent a runner to B.H.Q.
with report saying I was keeping him with me for rest and to relieve him from
duty. Shortly afterwards he had another convulsion so I wired for the M.O.
During the afternoon before we could get him evacuated to hospital he must
have had eight or ten of these fits. The M.O. says that he is through with
the war and will have to be kept quiet for a long time and look after himself
for a couple of years or it will become a habit.
It was funny today - Joyce was asleep below a couple of small window
holes and I was at work at a table with my back to the same windows and about
two yards from them. When the shell hit of course a blast of air and all the
dirt in the country came down, Joyce woke up with a start spitting the dirt
out of his mouth and saying over and over 'I've got it' between spits. I
looked at the ceiling and told him that I guess it wasn't coming in so went
over and sat on my own bed. Why I don't know but that seemed to be my home
and the proper place to be. Baxter was at the cook house a block up the
street when someone ran in and said 'Fritz has got H.Q.' Baxter hiked down and
found a goodly bit of the remains of the front of the house gone so ran down
stairs to see if we were OK. The shell knocked the chimney full of bricks
and dirt and my fireplace would not draw tonight until we got it cleaned out.
We had much softer time up the line. However we leave here tomorrow night and
go out to another shelled town to do working parties for a few days and then
we go back for another training period. We have had a pretty soft winter so
far and have been out of the line a great deal more than last year. The
weather lately has been beautiful and not much cold. A lot of air activity on
all the time but I have seen no fights. Yesterday I spent the morning
watching the Archies and the Heavies in action.
Tonight I had a letter from Doc Manchester. He had not seen Pauline for
Today I mailed you a copy of the Year Book. You will see that it does
not cover the Passchendaele shows and consequently I do not figure in the
decorations as mine came through following that tour.
The new OC is a hard man to work for but a darn good man. I am standing
in well with him at present so far as I can see. Carmichael told me yesterday
that the CO was expecting that I would be sent back as an application was made
direct to Corps. I told him that I had left it entirely to the General and
hardly expected that I should be returned. Honest I would feel an awful piker
coming home without a scratch. On the other hand I have done quite a time
here (which is no excuse) and would be glad to have the constant dread of a
misstep hanging over one. If it was only a case of 'do your best everytime
and we'll be satisfied' it would be easy but instead it is a case of 'win
everytime or look out for yourself'
Am enclosing one or two cuttings which I thought rather good.
I wish you could just have a picture of these HQ of mine. In this
cellar there is an open fireplace in the chimney. Six bunks round the walls
with Baxter lying in an upper reading. Berner and myself at the mess table
writing and Tupper who was a student in Corbould Grants office and wrote his
second when I took my finals is at a side table preparing my 5 am returns. He
is at present my company clerk in the absence of Sands. It is truly a strange
twist in conditions and circumstances for everyone.
I have holes through the walls into the adjoining cellars on one side
the runners and batmen and on the other our mess cooks and beyond them the
signal station. I have a C.P.R. cook of some years experience. I sent my
other off to a course to become and officers cook for which I stood the cost
of some $5.00 (Mrs. Allen)
Have just received my move order for tomorrow and have had to stop to
give details to various ones to cover the move.
I have also got to write to Mrs Daniel tonight as she has got a nervous
wreck of a husband for some time to come. He is a big heavy stolid chap too.
Am rather worried until I find out what the outcome of the Canadian move
will be. I would hate to be taken for a quitter. Would prefer to stay here
anytime because it is quite a game even if uncertain.
More bad luck on my last night of tour. Have just received the
following wire from the line where the battalion is furnishing working
parties. 'Privates Kilding, Gibault, Woods killed, Private Norris wounded all
D Coy. Norris has been sent out am bringing the three other bodies out later'
Isn't it a corker. All good men.
Must stop and get matters attended to. Fritz has got a spite against D
Company today alright.
Give my love to all and I shall write or wire depending upon
Your loving son.
March 13 1918 France - (letter # 73)
It is nearly a month since my last letter to you and I have written only
once to Gertrude since that date. I am really ashamed but we have been kept
on the go very steadily and when free some one has had a prearranged party of
some kind or other and I have gone to bed good and tired every night. We got
out of the town where the shell lit on my door step of which I think I wrote
you, on the 18th of last month and went to St. Lawrence camp of which there
are many on that date. Left there on the 21st and marched to another town
where we were in billets until the 3rd inst. (I will know this by the letters
Noeux L.M.) Here I wired you to say I would be out for some time but after
passing one censor it was returned from Army. I was easy in my mind as I
thought you had it, when I suddenly got my money back. On the 3rd we moved
back into army reserve at H. near the first town I joined the unit at.
We were here, we thought, for at least a couple of weeks but on the 11th
pulled out to Corps reserve. We marched to the town in which Corps H.Q. is
and stopped for a night. The next day, yesterday, we moved again and here we
are at Columbia camp which means nothing to you. In other words we have made
a complete circuit and are now heading toward the line and in Divisional
Since going out I have seen Bill Swan. He dropped in with a 'doctor'
from a Can. C.C.S. up north. They had tea and then we ran down in his ford to
see Jack Knight and Atkin who were only a few miles away. They both stayed
the night with me (Swan that is)
Yesterday on the line of march I saw Alex. McQuarrie for a moment. He
is with # 8 F.A. and is looking well. Have also seen Brimacombe and
Richardson a couple of times.
One day we went to a lecture at Corps given by Sir Julian Byng on the
Cambrai fight. It was very interesting indeed.
They wanted to send me on a three day trip to the bases to see how
supplies are handled for the purpose of lecturing on it to the other units in
the Division but I side stepped it. I am due for leave but am the 12th name
on the list for England so Valiquette and I have put in for leave to Paris and
Nice instead and I hope to get away in a few days. This will recommence my
three months for England and raise me a dozen places on the list. If I waited
for English leave it might be nearly two months before I got it and the result
would be that I would nearly lose a whole leave.
As I have been to England twice and have a chap who speaks good French
to go with I am rather glad to take France in.
While out this time the Corps Commander inspected us on the ranges. He
had only seen me once before but when I saw him and kicked off the usual
salute he said 'How are you Macgowan?' It nearly took my breath away because
you are generally asked your name by a general every time he comes in contact
I received your parcel of June 18th also the cigarettes. Everything has
been arriving but your letters come last first and so on.
Do take care of yourself as I hate to hear of you being sick. I am
feeling splendidly outside of a little cold in the head. The weather has been
wonderful. Some days just like summer. The winter has been a snap compared
to last. Instead of constant line work we have been out more than we have
We have a new M.O. A very decent chap. The last was sent to England
Don't believe everything included in a recommendation. A lot of it is
always hot air.
You speak of the nights of Oct. 26, 27, 28. I have just this minute
received enquiries for grave locations of a couple of boys killed the night of
the 26th. I know where they were killed well enough but who buried them or
where I do not know as we could not do so. In fact I refused to order a party
to carry out a wounded sergeant of whom I thought a great deal because four or
six sound men could not be sent to death to save one already badly hit. I
consented to a single man volunteering and the chaps brother succeeded in
getting him back when a party would have been wiped out. I recommended the
lad for a decoration. The sergeant died in hospital. One of the platoon
officers thought I was cold blooded that night but I had the homes of six
others to consider besides the effective strength of my company to keep up.
One has got to be cold blooded at times in this work and that night I had
difficult work to do under a bright moon which I cursed with all my heart.
Today I was training behind the camp. Had the men going through sham
attacks on machine guns and so on. A big 12' How. was roaring away a couple
of hundred yards off. It was a beautiful day and we were just doing ordinary
work with soft caps on etc. and yet that gun was throwing heavy shells into
the Hun back areas. Everytime it fired one realized there was a war on. We
are very comfortable in snug huts and yet an hours march on short notice would
take us right through a regular hell.
A couple of nights ago I was dining in the officers club at Corps H.Q.
A lovely big open fireplace and oak chairs etc. There were several Canadians
in civies there (over on the election work) and they were handed some great
stuff by the boys. Then one of them told us a lot of startling things about
the war which a friend of his had been told. He explained to me that if an
armour piercing shell hit a tank it would not detonate until it got inside
when it would put all the engines out of business and probably kill the crew.
They were going to be taken somewhere from where they could see the line and
had all been given new gas respirators. One of the fellows decided that they
didn't need these souvenirs as badly as he did so he salvaged a new one and
left his old worn out one in its place. I could give you a lot of their
conversation which would make you wonder what we are fighting for.
I am so glad to hear about Clair and hope that before long he is quite
About young Anderson. I wrote Mrs. Motherwell all the information I
could get concerning him. I am afraid there is little chance of hearing more.
It is very hard at times to get any information at all. If people wouldn't
worry about graves. It really doesn't matter at all if the man is known to be
dead. If he is wounded and missing for a considerable time death is pretty
near a certainty.
I sent the last cable you received because I had not written for a long
time and wanted to catch up with myself. I am again as far behind.
Helen spoke of Ilsa. Is she suspected? It would be interesting.
I know nothing of Swan being a Brig. He was a major when I saw him a
few weeks ago.
Tell Gran that Kathleen Lambert is very nice indeed and also pretty. My
visit was very short and they were all very good to me but I was just on my
way back and not there long enough to really get to know them.
I shall write you cards while on leave if the leave comes through.
We are all on our toes and watching Fritz pretty closely as he is having
considerable encouragement on the other fronts. The troops in the line, if he
pushes, would likely be a washout but he has got to be ready to pay a terrible
price if he wants to try to break through and then I guess he would not make
it. If he doesn't drive this year he won't be able to next because we will be
too strong. Our job is to hold him until the armies of the States can be
transported and then he is a beaten nation. I doubt if his people will stand
more than 18 months of it.
I am a bit tired of living in a kit bag and moving every week but I have
had a fairly soft time of it compared to others and my route marching is
practically over save for going into and out of the line as I have a mounted
job for all back area road work and have also been able to do some riding.
Have had several letters from people in England. None of which I have
been able to answer. The last was from one 'Cherie Brine'(I think) and
whoever it is she's a friend of Lauras who wishes to carry on the good work in
Laura's absence. Awfully nice you know but oh I am fed up with looking up
strangers. If I go to England I want to live quietly where I know the people.
Must close now as it is quite late and Baxter and the boys are all
asleep. The guns are booming away so guess I'll get to sleep.
Give my love to all and tell father to remember me to all the men
including Cambridge and the L.R.O.
Am glad the kids are so well and that the new chink is doing well. We
have plenty of them here now.
With much love to everyone in the family and tell Gertrude I shall write
inside of the next six months without fail, Heine permitting. Lovingly
March 29 1918 - France - (letter #74)
Things have been happening very rapidly and there has been little or no
time for writing as usual. On the 21st my leave came through for Paris and
Nice but I couldn't get away until late as there was a 'stand to' on and I
went up on the ridge to watch them throw some 6000 projectors of gas over on
We were to have from the 23rd -29th in Paris and from 30th to April 6th
in Nice. Our original intention was to go to the latter place first but they
made out the papers the other way round so we had to stick to it. As we rode
to the Transport lines things were active up the line and the S.O.S was
calling all the artillery into action. We knew the battle south had commenced
but had no particulars as to the size of the attack. The next morning
Valiquet who does not ride went down to the train some six miles away by mess
cart while Neal who was going to a course, and I took the horses and rode.
The first stage of the trip was made on a medium gauge train and we had lunch
at the changing town. Here we got a place in a train for Amiens. It was
packed. We had twelve in our carriage. French, Belgium, British Imperials,
U.S. officers and ourselves. We had a party of five made up at Amiens. A
French interpreter, two Americans, Val and myself. As the train came in the
Americans were to jump and grab five seats in a carriage while Val and I did
the same in the diner and if we made it stick then they were to come in and we
would have dinner on the way to Paris. We got our table and had a good little
party. We arrived in Paris at 8:30 pm and as we were leaving the station an
air raid took place. The fire department went screaming the alarm around the
streets and the people as usual got very excited. I went to connect up with a
missing member of the party and lost everybody. I waited round for an hour
and ten minutes thinking that they would know where to look for me so long as
I did not move away but no luck. While here I had time to make some funny and
interesting observations. A French girl of about 20 came along crying to beat
the cards and stamping her foot. She was in a wee small rage. She leaned up
against the fence of the station a couple of yards away and carried on with
the footwork. Seeing a dear sweet thing in distress alongside I was all for
putting my arm around her and telling her in English which she wouldn't
understand likely, that that sort of thing wasn't done, when a Belgium came up
and commenced to parley in her own language. Gee I was glad I had played a
slow hand. She just naturally turned on him and gave him a flow of sounds
that didn't strike me as being friendly. Away she went past me worse than
ever. I never learned whether her father has been killed by a bomb (of which
I heard none) or whether her fellow had just thrown her over. I mae a mental
note of how to treat that kind of case in future. To make a long story short
I got a taxi after much trouble and went to the hotel. The boys had not yet
arrived. I got a room and met another American chap so we went to a show. It
was late nearly eleven but we heard some singing and a darn good coon band. I
got home about 12:30 and went to bed. The next morning Val phoned me from his
The weather was beautiful and there was a constant air alarm on for the
first 48 hours. When the alarm is on half the town closes up and I had no end
of trouble getting my cable away which I wish now had never gone as I shall be
in the fight long before the 14 days are up.
We went out for breakfast and then to the bank and did a little
shopping. We had the Interpreter still with us and he was so excitable that
we decided we would have to shake him. Fortunately we learned he was leaving
by train that night. He would grab your arm every time we crossed a street
and there was a taxi coming 50 yards away. The French are some people. We
then reported at the Can. Commissioners and left our address and went to a
restaurant and had lunch. For tea we went to Ciro's. Here we were joined in
the odd drink by a pair of lovely little girls, who judging from their remarks
in English, had been existing in Paris waiting for us to arrive. However, I
am older than I have yet been taken for and even Paris has to go some to kid
the troops beyond overcharging them for everything. Prices are something
awful. The girls were nicely dressed, spoke well and we all had dinner
together during which time I was able to add quite a lot to my education as
far as Paris and the ways of its fair ones go. It is a city so distinct from
every other as is London. The women do dress beautifully and their feet are
as dainty as can be. they paint and powder more than the English perhaps but
when one does see a pretty girl one can look at her feet without going crazy
which happens when you do so in England. The girls are very nice about
everything. A good dinner is very acceptable and we just improvise another
engagement and they are still your friends. But Paris is no town for a kid on
On the 24th I got up about ten and Val. and I set out to see a couple of
places. The bosche was shelling the town with the mystery gun - 75 mile range
- and a shell came in not far from where we were. Lord the excitement. I
think that the constant air alarm was due to this gun as I believe they
thought the shells were bombs coming from a tremendous height as Paris was
considered out of range from the line.
We say the hotel de Ville or City Hall and went through Notre Dame
Cathedral. It is very fine with beautiful stained glass. The organ is
divided with a set of pipes at the alter and the other at the other end of the
We then tried to find a place to lunch and after two or three attempts
we got into a 2nd rate place where it seems to be against the rules to take
off your cap. It was very interesting and while there a French man had a big
row over a tip. Nearly everyone stopped eating to listen and a number joined
in the argument. We had a good lunch for about a third of what we generally
paid. We next went to the Eiffel Tower by taxi and the Palais du Trocadero.
We could not go up the former of course and nearly alls the buildings are
closed. Also all the monuments and statues of value are sandbagged in to
protect them from bombs.
I am sending you a couple of books of post cards. I have seen
practically everything in them. We then went to the Invalides and saw
Napoleon I tomb but it is now sandbagged..also the museum. We proceeded
through the gardens fo the Tuileries and from there to the hotel. We had
dinner at a little cafe called Adriennes. They serve a very good meal and the
hostess, she really is one, greets each arrival and comes around and has a
word with each one at dinner and then sees them off. You come away glad to
have met her and I went there two or three times just because I felt at home.
After dinner we went to see the Folies Bergere. This is a sort of variety
show and during the intermission everyone comes out to the rotunda and has the
odd drink, mostly beer, while they are entertained by a banjo band with expert
drummers. Everyone sings and the din is awful. An Australian who was pretty
well on his way was on the top of a table and it was a general mixup. The rag
band is good though and I enjoyed it all.
On Monday the 25th we set out at noon for Versaille. We had lunch and
left from the Gare St Lazare. Arrived at Versaille, got and English guide who
took us through all the Royal Palaces the grounds, the great and small Trianon
and the Swiss Village. Some rooms were closed but we saw all the rest. One
could write for hours on these buildings alone. The paintings, the tables of
the finest inlaid marble. The Queens and Princes stairway. The heavy
I had a very fine book showing the interior views but I lost it so will
get another some time. The gallery of battles and the gallery of mirrors are
beautiful. Then we saw the royal carriage and had the whole French history
repeated to us but I didn't bother attempting to keep all the various stunts
of each Louis separate. That night we had dinner at the Grand Cafe and
afterwards went to a show at the Olympia where I met Ed Lane who was a law
student in Whitesides office at one time.
On the 26th we took a taxi all through the Bois De Boulogne and around
the racetrack. We saw the Arch de Truimph and the Avenue des Champs Elysees.
We went to another cafe for dinner and the people presented several
interesting studies. Afterwards we went to the Casino de Paris .
On Wednesday 27th we took things easy. We had been following the Somme
battle and knew that our corps was north of it but all leave had apparently
been stopped and England recalled. There was the greatest interest around all
bulletins. We had tea at Ciro's. (Maxims is now very dead) and had dinner at
the Adriennes. We then went to the Casino. Things were at their height
during the intermission, when a corporal of the police kicked off a salute to
me and asked me if I had been warned to report back. Everyone was to leave by
the 11:40 train. Val and I looked at our watches and caught a taxi for the
hotel. When I got the order I thought of Vanity Fair. However, we got ready
and I was not down hearted at all. I had really expected it and afterall it
will be a good fight. I stood at the turnstile to the train with the A.P.M.
and I was proud of the Canadians. The boys came down singing, laughing and
joking, some of them on leave only two days. Everyone was in high spirits.
As the train pulled out they cheered and one of them sounded last post on a
bugle. I thought that if Hindenburg could only have seen that spirit he would
have realized how little chance he really has of winning this war. I see
today that he is in Albert and is being driven out.
It would be a hard thing to repeat the motor trip we took some time ago.
We travelled all night to Amiens. The service was very congested. We arrived
there 8 am yesterday morning. Refugees were coming in from all sides carrying
all their belongings and old men and women were sitting in the station waiting
for some train to take them away I suppose. We went on th Abbeville by the
same train. Arrived there at 11:30 am. We had had nothing to eat since
dinner before and were getting hollow. It was impossible to get anything at
the station. We were sent right on to the Can Base here where we arrived at 1
pm. We met Val's brother who is an M.O. and he fixed us up at the mess for
dinner and we were invited to share huts instead of having to take a tent.
Our division cannot move from here as I believe the division itself is on the
march and I know where to. I fear we shall have to stay here until the march
is over, then we shall be rushed up and probably join the unit just before it
goes into action. One is working under a handicap that way. I should like to
join it early so as to fully understand what is on foot. I figure that the
Canadians have been offered to take on the fight and I would just as soon
tackle him when he is in new position with difficulties to contend with in the
way of transport and artillery than I would to drive against his
established lines. We are going in at a good time. It may be a heavy fight
but I believe it is his last great effort and we have already made him pay
dearly for it.
When we hit him as we no doubt shall he will have to be ready to put up
a big price in men. He will never break through anymore than we could have
smashed through completely. He has driven to buck his people up. It will have
the opposite effect before he is through with it. I hope he puts his all into
it. I understand that his first day was a failure as he hoped to go much
further on that day.
I may not get much time for writing for sometime dearest. We may leave
here today. We may not leave for two or three. At any rate I hope to come
through and finish our leave to Nice and then perhaps something may crop up to
get me home but I wouldn't like to leave here now. I think we can get him
this year if he will keep driving.
Love to all and let Gertrude read this as I shall only scribble a note.
Your loving son,
Please don't worry.
April 2 1918 - France - Postcard ( # 75)
Expect to leave for unit tonight. Some time ago I got a very nice box
from Jessie McCallum of Seattle. Have lost her address. Could some one write
her and tell her it arrived in good order and was much appreciated. Cannot
place her unless it is one of Grandmothers relations. I thought they were
April 4 1918 - France -(letter # 76)
Am just leaving for the line. Left the base on the 2nd and reached the
battalion last evening. They have been moving from place to place but have
not done a tour since I left so I haven't missed anything but a lot of worry.
We are not in the big battle but are quite close to where poor old Ed Rand was
killed about a year age.
Upon my return I found three letters from you , 73 and 2-74's. Two from
Helen, Fathers and Billies. Tell father he applied for the policy I wanted
and everything is fine. Billie did not get me in wrong. I think he could not
have done more. It is out of the question to think of Canada now. I wouldn't
return just now if I could unless on war work.
Am enclosing a special order issued by the G.O.C. Corps.
Also received two letters from Gertrude.
I shall be back in the line before the expiration of the time mentioned
in my leave wire but hope that everything will be OK.
He attacked on this front some days ago but the retirement by the
Imperials was not very great.
When I have time I shall make my London account a joint one with father
if possible. He might get a signature card from the B.of M. fill it out and
send to me. Tell him I am on for some sport when I get back but to go easy on
any money outlay because the war will not end until probably this time next
year and it is a real one just now but the Canadians are recognized as good
troops so if he comes over he has got to make a clean up to get past.
Give my love to all and don't let anyone scold you. Write me what you
like. My own letters are most inconsistent according to mood.
Lovingly your son,
April 8 1918 - France -(letter #77)
We are in the line. Hence the note book paper. I had five hundred
yards of front line until last night when I was relieved and came into
immediate support. I left a good H.Q. for a very poor one. I have the
company at present in a tunnel under some old Bosche gun pits and we have to
go out to turn round. Outside of that everything is OK. It rained two of the
few days I was holding front line and kept everyone busy on trench maintenance
As far as war is concerned we have had an easy trip and have been left
alone by shell fire. He is still pushing according to the papers, down south.
We might get down to it yet.
I am enclosing a message I sent this morning also reply to it as I want
them as scrap book items.
This time I did rather a novel thing and that was to establish a cook
house, where I cooked all rations, fifty yards in front of the front line. We
took over from the battalion that Jimmie McGregor and Art Lloyd belonged to
and they were having everything cooked at the base and coming up cold because
they couldn't find a place. I found two but the best one was a deep dugout
out in front so we cleared a trench to it and managed first rate.
I see by the paper that the leaning Virgin on the Albert Church has
fallen in the last fighting. You will have a post card of it. When I saw it
our engineers had wired it so that it would not fall. The prophecy of the
Tommy has always been that when it fell the end of the war would be in sight.
For a time it looked good for ever but has finally come down. I guess one more
winter is all we shall have to spend over here.
I have at last got a good batman. His name is Srigley and he looks after
When I get out shall write father and Billie if possible. I see by
orders that my leave has been cancelled as it is possible to obtain four days
leave to Paris when leave is open, as I only had four days I am still entitled
to a whole new leave and will try to make Nice.
Give my love to all at home everyone is in good spirits and, British
like, are absolutely confident that the hun has no chance despite what has
been going on. We have to be kicked to make the higher commands get active.
Does Grandmother know we now have a pipe band of five pipes and some
drums lead by McKinley of Coquitlam? The C.O. calls it D. Coy's band because
the battalion never hits the road for more than an hour before I am after it
to march my company.
April 14 1918 - France - (letter to father)
I am sorry that I have neither time nor material to write you a letter
but in reply to your long one would say that you had better go easy on the
outlay of money for shooting gear until peace is in sight. When I get back I
am all for it but the situation here at present appears far more serious to me
than anything since the first of the war and I think it will take every man to
hold him up. After that we shall have to defeat him. In my opinion something
Thanks for your trouble about the insurance. It is a good thing to keep
in order at present. I think another winter after his drive proves a failure
as far as ultimate objectives go will see the end in view.
I shall enclose you a form and card to be signed and witnessed and
returned to the Bank of Montreal 9 Waterloo Place Pall Mall London S.W.1.
That will make the account a joint one. All cheques would have to be stamped
of course. It would make a withdrawal of money easier in case of my death.
In such an event you would wait probably 30 days to make sure the pay office
had deposited everything that might be due and then draw. The only trouble is
that my pass book is generally in my kit and you would not know the amount.
However, I guess a blank cheque would get everything there. I shall remit
more money toward the end of the year.
We are at present in the general vicinity of the place Ed Rand was
killed. We have been about this neighborhood since my return from Paris. If
we should go to the Somme I shall have seen a good long stretch of British
front. There is one chunk north of Lens and south of Belgium I have not
worked on but no more north for me.
Our artillery is working fairly hard. The whole country is given over
to the army. There are no civilians near the forward area and nothing on the
roads but army traffic of every description. It is a wonderful business if
only bent toward another purpose.
Am afraid there is no further promotion in sight for a long time. I am
a long way down from the majority and am not just satisfied. Have to go up
the line tomorrow morning to reconnoiter. Your son,
April 15 1918 - France - (letter #78)
Just at present I am not able to get any note paper but will next time I
am near civilization. Our easy time is over and from now on it will be
pretty much steady going. Leave is still closed so don't know when I shall
get away. Have cut down my kit and sent a bag to England as we are very
mobile these days. The situation looks very serious to me at present. He has
such a supply of men. As yet he has not struck at us but when he does I think
there will be a pretty gook demonstration of what a small determined army can
Don't send copy of stuff I send home around to the various relatives I
wont send anything home if you do. Am sorry to hear that you lost your chink
and hope you have another good one. Go easy on the work yourself. Don't
worry about me. Have a strong hunch that I shall come through OK. Don't
think I was born to finish up here. And so Aunt Lettie has gone West. Had a
letter from Helen full of sweet thoughts and ideals. Tell her the same horse
kicked me. Hennie Ballow sent her love which I was so glad to get and give
her a kiss from me.
Shall try to write Father and Billie on one of these funny things. I
hope they go through without being opened as it would be hard to close the
things again. We have been moved about since my last to you. After doing my
part of the tour in the front line we went to Brigade Support. After one
night we were pulled out and moved again the next night. I expect another
move back to the line in a day or two. The night I struck Brigade support I
was out from midnight to 3am going over my lines and it was pitch black. No
rations arrived and the parties were lost all night. The orders gave me an
incorrect map location for the dump and I didn't get them until 7 am. The
company had to move early for a working party so I wired to have permission to
feed men before moving to the work. A whipper snapper of an asst. Adj. wired
me on his own that party must proceed. I beat the party there and roused the
C.O. out of sleep and raised a row that lasted about three days. The C.O. told
me to take the men home and feed them. The result was that the job was never
done as we have long distances to march. I got to bed about 11 am. I was so
mad that I couldn't talk and the C.O. backed me up because H.Q. had kept us up
all night looking for a dump that didn't exist. I travelled miles and one
couldn't see a foot. Take a step and land in the bottom of an old seven foot
trench. One gets used to stepping expecting a rise or fall and generally all
you do is tear your clothes.
Oh we do have our dull days and before long I guess we will have a
chance to get at a few of these massed divisions of his.
With much love to all I am,
Lovingly your son,
April 21 1918 - France -(letter # 79)
Just a note from the line to tell you that your 75th letter came
on the 18th and your box last night. Everything was in fine condition and the
cake was much appreciated by the boys. The socks were very welcome and I got
the receipt for the cigarettes attached.
We are nearly through with this tour but there is dirty work at the
cross roads on foot before morning and I hope everything is successful.
Before we came into the line we were billeted in a camp in frame huts
and Fritz shelled the place two nights with heavy stuff. We remained with the
hut and managed to sleep most of the night but it was anything but nice. He
hit one hut which had been practically emptied and killed two chaps who had
gone back in. Today I heard a rumour that he had shelled our transport base
and had killed one or two. Billie Sloan I believe was hit and got a broken
arm out of it as far as my information at present goes. I have asked my
Quarter master sergt. to bring me a full report tomorrow morning.
I have little or nothing to write about. My mails are very small and
far apart. Have been under the weather for about 36 hours but feel OK now.
Think I caught a chill and my stomach went into reverse without notice.
Give my love to all and I shall write when I can.
Lovingly your son,
April 24 1918 - France - (letter # 80)
I wrote you on the 21st but since that we have been hit pretty hard by
bad luck. On the 21st Fritz threw some shell into our transport lines and
Sergt. Kennedy our Pioneer Sergt. and a man of the Q.M.staff were killed and
Bill Sloan wounded. Got it in the arm and with luck I guess he should be able
to keep away from the war. We were in the line. On the 22nd. the colonel
dropped into my H.Q. and remained to lunch with us. I left him about 1:30 and
he went back to Bn H.Q. Fritz shelled the place in the afternoon. The C.O.,
Mills, Purvis, Martin of another unit and a colonel of the medical corps were
all at tea. They stood up to greet this colonel when a shell landed and blew
the end of the hut out. The C.O. had his left leg blown off below the knee and
has since had it taken off well above. Mills had two toes on left foot
knocked off. Martin got a bruise on the head and will be back in a few days.
The med. col. collected some shrapnel and Purvis was just blown out of the
hut. Of course everyone was terribly shocked but I did not go to H.Q. as I
knew there were three in the line senior to me without Purvis who should have
been at the Transport Base. About 8 pm I got a wire to report to B.H.Q. after
I had finished certain duties and it was about eleven when I got there.
Purvis was in command and he asked me to carry on with him as second while
Carmichael was sent for to handle the administrative end of it. I knew it
would only be for 24 hours or so and as Brigade had sanctioned it I didn't
mind the ones who are senior to me. I think they were all more or less
peevish but such things are the least of my worries. In losing Webb we have
lost the best man the unit has had and I have lost a mighty good friend. Had
just got to know him and could arrange nearly everything I wanted with him.
Things were going fairly well from my point of view. I have had no word of
his condition since but he was conscious all the time. As he has will power
to burn I think he will put up a good fight against the shock.
This morning the chap who is to get the unit has arrived. A Major
Keegan who will be made a Lt. Col. Again we have to become acquainted with
him and his comical ideas. As this is the fourth in 16 months I am rather fed
A number of our senior officers who we thought had left for good are
coming back and it will be a surprise to me if some of the junior company
commanders do not get superceded. However, I am quite capable of telling them
what I think on most questions. Don't know how this man will prove up as I
had never exactly taken a fancy to him from the little chance I had of seeing
him in the past.
Your parcel with the socks and cake,arrived,it was mailed Mar 18th. The
cigarettes have not arrived yet.
The other day I got a most beautiful box packed by S.S. Pearce and Co.
Boston Mass. I do not know who sent it but all the contents were of
exceptionally good quality including preserved ginger stuffed prunes, bottled
acid drops. Chocolate, 100 Pall Mall cigarettes in a large box and a package
of layer raisins that are good ones. It also had a tasty little ginger snap
which made a hit with the boys. (I am writing this one on my knee so excuse)
The cake in your box was in splendid condition and I only had a chance
to eat a couple of pieces as the boys took to it and the candy like hungry
wolves at a hay stack. It is sometime since I have made oxo but as I was
feeling rather miserable and had to go easy on the eats I used yours this
trip. The socks were fine and a pair is already doing duty. The tie I have
as a reserve.
No leave as yet opened up. I guess it won't for the balance of the
summer. Our part of the line is still quiet except that we try to raid him
and he tries for us. If the situation north and south holds for another 6
weeks I guess his main effort is over and then I suppose at the right time and
place we shall start after him again. I hope they hit the right time and
place though. The Canadians are storm troops by now and when we again begin to
move I shall be on the lookout for parallel movements of other offensive arms.
The next time we go I want beaucoup tanks. I have only had one ride in the
things but have had two lectures on them. This was some time ago before the
Hun got busy.
Must stop now as I expect to be able to report back and taken over my
company by noon today.
Give my love to all and tell Gertrude I may not be able to write for a
few days more.
Lovingly your son,
April 26 1918 - France -(letter # 81)
Your 76th and 77th letters arrived last night and I am just scratching
off a line before the mail leaves. It is due to go any minute to catch the
ration train. In fact the trench Q.M. has just asked for it so I guess
tomorrow will be the earliest this will get away after all.
The news today is that Col. Webb is holding his own but cannot see many
visitors. I am beginning to realize that I have lost a mighty good friend in
I was very sorry to hear of poor Clares death. He really deserved to
get better after having put up such a good fight.
Your description of Joan makes me long to get home and see all the kids
again before they all get beyond the funny age. Mary, Bunker, and Peggy must
be getting pretty good sized children now.
And so Motherwell is about due back in B.C. I am glad he has got there.
So many of the crowd seems to be sifting back wounded or otherwise.
Motherwell did his job here however and I am glad he is through with it all.
No, I have had no further trouble with boils and I believe that I am through
with them. It is a good thing because I am a mass of scars from the things
I remember Storme very well seeing that we went through school together
and played baseball etc. Storme was Hugh Stoddards great friend. He was
wounded the first night of the triangle show and I was talking to him before
he went out.
We are in support and my H.Q. is about 35 steps down in the earth under
a railway embankment. I have the whole company less one platoon in this one
dugout which of course is all partitioned off. The big trouble is heavy
drafts with no fire arrangements.
My Q.M. has called back unexpectedly so I shall just address this and
get it off.
With Love to all,
May 3 1918 - France - (letter # 82)
It is over a week since I have had any Canadian mail and then only a
very small one. My English mail has absolutely fallen away. It is just after
midnight and I have only to be up until 'stand to' at 4:15 am and an hour and
half later I can get to bed. Company C.O's are supposed to take the night
duty and sometimes the shift seems a long one. I am in immediate support at
present after having finished my front line duty during which we had wet
weather and consequently beaucoup mud and work.
Fritz has been throwing over gas and high explosive tonight and I can
hear the crumps falling above at present. I am in my H.Q. which is about 25
or 30 steps down. The entrance which I measured today is 2'6' by 2'6' and the
steps covered with mud so we have a little physical training going up and
Col. Webb is doing very well and is to go on to England before long. I
hope to meet the man again after the war. He is a splendid type of a man.
Baxter and I are here together this evening and we have had a long talk
over how things are going. The company is not in a bad state but there is one
other which is giving me a hard race for first place in the battalion and I am
not at present satisfied because I know we can leave it behind but my big
difficulty now is the finding of good N.C.O.'s. I have weeded out and picked
my officers until I have only one dud left and before long I shall get rid of
him. I can say that my officers mess is the happiest of the lot. The others
are all having friction but I fired out the only disagreeable chap I had as
soon as I became satisfied that he would never make an officer.
As a company commander the men are not so much in direct touch with me
and as we get new men from time to time some hardly know me. Consequently I
am disciplining on a different basis and I guess before long I shall be
heartily detested but I'm going to have things as they should be. The longer
one is at this game the more important little things appear to be. A chap
finds a kick here or a buried grouch there and each has to be dug up, traced
down and cleared away or the trouble will smoulder and break out in a bad
mess. 85% appreciate kindness the balance only understand driving and take
notice when you get them 14 days Field Punishment and forfeiture of 2 weeks
Have just received a new officer (I suppose at least fifty have gone
through the company since I have). He was a newspaper reporter and a little
chap with the happiest smile ever. His name is Lash and it is a pleasure to
see him come into the mess. He is full of business and is looking right after
his men. His nick name is Kewpie.
It is funny the different ideas of different men. Webb issued an order
that no liquor would be carried into the line. None was. tHis man said he
would make no order on the subject so I told him if it was satisfactory to him
I would make a definite order so far as my officers were concerned, and issued
a distinct order that no booze would be taken into the line unless I took it
in myself. I wanted to be able to have some brandy on hand but had a fellow
who had more taste for booze of any sort than will power and I was afraid he
would get tight and I would have to arrest him. Consequently the other
companies I think look upon me as a crank and yet they have all seen me take
anything but scotch out of the line. I had two or three boys leaving on
stretchers this time after stopping portions of a whizz bang and a drop of the
brandy and a cheery word about Blighty helped get them over the two hours trip
to the dressing station. A stretcher party in a narrow trench with mud is a
very slow trip.
My gas N.C.O. has just been in to show me the nose cap off a German
'green cross' gas shell. He is very much interested in his work.
Tell Billie that I have an officer named Berner - a married man of at
least 35 years or a little over and I think he would make a rattling good
clerk. Too old to article but thorough as the deuce. A fellow runs up
against a lot of good material over here but each man has his own line and
plans for after the war. Each one believes that he is going to come through
all OK and yet the shells do make direct hits occasionally. It is a wonderful
study. You will see men who would give their lives for each other wrangling
and complaining over small matters like promotion or seniority.
Tell father that I made a blooming good revolver shot the other day. I
have a gun that shoots dead on up to 20 paces. Smith and Wesson. One of the
boys in my machine gun team of #13 platoon showed me a new revolver he had and
I told him we would try it out so we stuck up a target and it was a pretty
fair gun. Then I used my own. My runner picked up a tin canister. It was
about eight inches in lengthy and had a tin partition - there's a strafe on
must beat it....
Later: Its a heavy one and both artilleries are wide open but it is not
on our front away to the right. Now to resume - partition about 3 inches from
the open end - thus ....
This partition had a hole in the centre which gave it this appearance looking
down the open end.
The diameter of the open tin was 2 1/4'
and the diameter of the hole in the
centre of the partition was 3/4'. I paced off ten paces and put a bullet
through the open end down through the centre hole without damaging the edge of
the tin and out through the bottom of the can. I was so tickled that I at
once quit shooting and the runner saved the tin to show it to Baxter. When you
figure that the cartridge is a .456 which is practically half an inch there
wasn't much room to spare on each side of the bullet. Of course I admit that
I'm good but that rather surprised even me.
Must stop or I shall ramble on to 'stand to'. I have no news that I can
write. A lot that I cannot so don't worry. The hun has been pushing our line
all over France and yet everyone is quite sure we are winning and by gun we
will for that reason alone.
The papers say that Russia will have an immense army against Germany in
ten months. Did you ever hear the story of the pigeon message? There was a
big fight on and the situation was obscure. The Brigadier was kicking his
heels at Brig.H.Q. waiting for news of some kind. finally a pigeon flew into
the loft. A couple of pigeoneers pounced on it and took the message to the
General who hurriedly unrolled it and read. 'Am fed up with this bloody bird
-Pte. Smith.' Well that's my feeling about Russia. Give my love to all and I
shall write as often as possible
Your loving son,
May 12 1918 - France - (letter # 83)
Just an attempt. It is so cold that my hands are numb. This is Sunday -
Mothers Day. I would have forgotten it was either had we not had a church
parade at which the padre reminded us of the latter.
We have been in bivouacs in a wood for three days and the weather has
been foggy. cold and windy. We are up at 4:30 am and work carries on until
I wrote you on the 3rd. In the 4th we moved to a camp where we were
fairly comfortable until the 6th. (The boys have just asked me to play
baseball against the platoons so I shall have to finish later.
12 noon: To proceed - We were then moved by night into the back country and
into billets (poor). The district was one of the prettiest I have been in.
Neal and I had one good ride. I traded the horse I had and have a good little
mare now. After about 48 hours we moved to this wood.
There has been no shelling although we are within easy reach of
artillery. The day we arrived was lovely but it was the only decent one we
have had. I am writing on my knee. Sitting on the ground and my head is
against the roof. Our shelter is a piece of canvas 13' x 10' and without
walls, fires or lights and the usual dampness, bugs, snails and flies it is a
real picnic. I never did have any use for them. If it rains we have no cover
over our mess so we put on our coats and bolt our meals. Everyone is happy
enough and we hope to be pulled out of here soon.
The artillery fire lately has been pretty heavy all along the line and I
suppose there will be more fighting before the bosche settles down for the
I cannot see any end of the war this side of the middle of 1918. The
enemy has had too much encouragement this year. He cannot beat us in the
field but it will take either side years to gain a definite decision by
fighting. The fronts and forces are too large.
By the time we get home we won't want to settle down to anything because
after all this is a lazy life. We are messed about from morning till night
but the actual daily work accomplished seems little.
My mail has not amounted to much lately. I received the parcel of
cigarettes (200) OK. It is very hard to get Players here now and I was just
There is really no news to write because what little I have of interest
I cannot give you but I hope that before long we may be able to send you some.
The papers are full of all sorts of rot. Everything is a victory for
both sides and I am waiting until there will be something that only one side
can claim. I think things in Germany must be pretty bad and I would like to
see Austria break. Also Japan get busy. The States seem slow and I think we
had better get busy and win the war ourselves without waiting for them much
longer. We seem to have drawn a great many dud allies.
You never acknowledged receipt of a copy of the batt'n year book. I
mailed one a long time ago but guess it was held up.
Have not heard from Mills or Col. Webb. The latter has been moved to
the base or to Blighty and his leg is off well above the knee but he seems to
be doing well.
In spirit this is your day. As far as weather goes you wouldn't give a
franc for a dozen like it. I hope that before long summer sets in.
How is Grandmother getting on? Tell her that we have lost one of our
best pipers. We only had five and McInnes was killed last trip in.
Must stop now. Give my love to everyone in the family and with much for
yourself I am,
Your loving son,
June 13 1918 - France - (letter # 84)
It seems impossible that it is a month since I have written home. We
went from the woods to our old home St. Lawrence where we remained for two
weeks and came back here to the woods again. We have all been very busy
training and the time off is devoted to sport. Yesterday the Brigade sports
were held and our unit won out. We put a lacrosse team in the field but could
not get an interesting game. We have some good runners and we cleaned up
everything in the boxing and jumping.
I have all your letters up to #82 and one from Fred. I will write him
when I get a bit of time and ink.
The Canadian mails have been few and far between and I have given up
waiting for them.
Got a letter from Postill and he is in the army in some B2 class I
think, poor joker.
How did Bunker get on with the measles? I hope they were light and that
Joan didn't take them. The McQuarries surely do have their dull days when it
comes to sickness.
I was terribly sorry to hear of poor Jessie Allen's death. It doesn't
seem possible. I heard about two days before from Cherie Brine that Fraser
had that day returned to France in the Infantry apparently. Poor Mrs. Allen
will be frightfully worried.
Had not noticed Temple MacDonald's name in the casualties. Do you ever
get 'Canada' It is by far the best paper for army information and reports.
So far I have not written Elsie or Billie. Must do so, they should have
a pleasant summer out of the session
A few days ago I had the company on a route march and noticed a lorry
coming. I spotted Walter Cotton on the front of it and he saw me. We stopped
the car and had about five minutes talk. He is looking quite well and is in
some tunneling crowd I think.
That evening Harold Garden walked into my hut at St Lawrence. He is
looking as big as ever and is with the Heavies.
Some one is cropping up all the time. I do not know what is to become
of us here. If we had known we were to be out so long I should have cabled
but we don't know what hour we will be called up. We are only just behind the
line and he could shell us if he knew where to look. From our observation
post we have the most wonderful view. Away up to the north we can see the
hump of Kemmel and the whole country is spread out in front of us.
Fritz is starting something on the French front again and does not seem
to have gone far. If he isn't quick he will find that fall is on him and then
look out because if we catch him there is going to be a number of his men
strictly out of luck. The prisoners we take next summer will be few if he
keeps us here another winter.
Valiquet, my French leave partner has gone to England sick and dear
knows when he will be back. If I could find some one to go with would try to
get my leave again and make a try for Rome and Naples but I fear that it is a
pretty long shot.
By the way did you ever receive half a dozen photos of a girl in
costume? She played in the Marriage Market and is a great friend of the
Leaches. I sent them in small bundles and addressed some to myself. She is
an awfully nice girl. If they arrived open them and see what you think of
them. I want to have them made into a panel.
When I last left England I had a small photo taken. One full length
with riding boots and the other, head and shoulders. Did I send you them? Am
getting some more and will forward a bunch so you can hand them along and save
Gran placing an order at Wadds.
I was amused at your description of George Mitten. He was our Regt.
Sergeant Major here and was granted a commission. He was I believe slightly
wounded in the hand on the Somme. He never went through any battles because
Bn H.Q. is generally behind. He has seen some mud. Has never been to France
as an officer. He is an expert hot air peddler but not a bad chap.
I have plenty of socks and the open ones are all right for summer but
will not stand what the others will.
The other day the Brigade was paraded and Major General Watson
G.P.C.Division presented ribbons to a bunch of us. We had to stand at
attention for a goodly time while he came round and said the same few kind
words to each one. I am enclosing the ribbon. Also a letter I got from Col.
Webb which I want to keep. Our new O.C. can't touch him for knowing how to
run a battalion.
Must stop now as I could run on for ever. quite a lot has been
happening. I heard from Mrs Lambert the other day and have several short
notes to write England.
Tell Gertrude I shall try and write tomorrow or next day.
With much love to all I am
Your loving son,
June 23 1918 - France - (letter # 85)
First of all let me acknowledge receipt of your parcel dated May 10th
which arrived yesterday in perfect order. Everything was fine and the socks
lovely. I have now quite a stock of them. At present I am low in collars,
ties, and shirts but don't send any because I will buy from England. It is
much quicker. Besides save your money as it costs a lot to pay postage on
heavy articles. I really need nothing. Not having been on leave for quite a
time my pay is going to my credit and we are allowed to cash three advances
per month of 125 Francs each which roughly amounts to $75 and I seldom spend
that. Sometimes only a third of it. Leave generally shoots the account but I
have nearly $200 so don't skimp yourself while I have 1000 bucks not earning.
Bill Sloan played in hard luck because normally he should have outlived
the war without accident as he practically never had to go up the line. His
work was at the Transport lines and only once in a while he had to go forward.
I tell you this game is fate or luck. If your down in the books to get it.
It is coming to you and there is no good trying to side step it. And since
the book is out of print, why worry over it.
I cannot write Aunt Tweebie because I have no address. It was a lovely
parcel. If anyone is writing her tell her why she has not heard from me.
Am glad to hear that the kids are all well again and hope that Peggy
keeps clear of the measles.
Will you write and give me a list of the family birthdays. I simply
don't know any of them and didn't have Gertrudes right. I'm some beau
I was sorry to hear of the Steveston and Coughlan fires. The ship
building seemed to be doing very well.
Billie and Elsie should be home before this. I had a letter from Elsie
from Ottawa and will write her as soon as I can.
Tell Helen I have her last letters and am much interested to hear of
Ilse. The poor dear girl. She has lost her job. I hope they draw and quarter
her. Tell her to ask Mamie to drop a line now and again even if she is
married to James.
We have been training steadily. I have been out of the line now since
May 3rd. Couldn't wire because I may go in any hour and so it has been ever
I have eight officers under me now. That won't last long however. The
weather has been good and our life in the woods has been quite pleasant. My
Sergt. Major leaves today to take his commission. He was pretty tight last
night as I allowed him to give a little party to the sergeants of the co'y.
He came in to see me and was very funny.
Must run now as I have a parade in the next few minutes. The men were
not keeping their stuff properly cleaned so iI have kept them all in this
morning (Sunday) to remove the unnecessary.
Love to all, I am,
Your loving son,
July 9 1918 - France - (letter # 86)
We moved today and are in a more desolate area. Tomorrow back into the
line again. It seems strange after so long out. We really had a wonderful
time. I attended the Corps Sports and met Bella Lord. She asked me to go
down to the C.C.S. for a small dance. Capt. Pritchard and I went down the
following Thursday and made another never to be forgotten trip. We had a
barrel of fun and on our way back about (sixteen miles) Fritz bombed a town we
were going to stop in. It was midnight and the sight was quite worth while.
We got a billet and had a good sleep. Since then we have been very busy. A
Fritz plane was shot down by a couple of ours the other evening and it was
pretty to see them get him. I saw a very fine exhibition of a man trying to
kill himself in a plane at the corps sports. Nose diving etc. at about 100 '
up. The performance was very good though. You have no idea of the show the
sports day was. It looked like a fair and about eighteen or twenty thousand
people there all khaki and red.
I have not time to give many details now as I want to make a lot of
arrangements tonight in order to go into the line ahead of the battalion
tomorrow as the front is partly new to me.
I saw Sid Fletcher and Walter Cotton on the line of march today. Both
looked well. Also met Jim Motherwells sister at the C.C.S. but only for a few
Got a postcard from Elsie written on the train.
We had a big battalion dinner the other night before leaving the woods
and it was quite a success.
So far the summer has gone well but there is plenty of fighting months
left yet and every snap has to end.
I do not know when I can expect leave but not for some time. It is very
slow. Let me know at once if you receive a bundle of surplus kit I sent
home. It has gone astray between France and England.
Give my love to all and with much for yourself I am,
Your loving son,
July 12 1918 - France - (letter # 87)
I am in the line but so far it has been the quietest front that I have
seen. We have had a little bit of rain and consequently the trenches got a
bit muddy but as the ground was very dry it soaks up quickly. Last night we
poured cloud gas across no man's land on him. I went up the line about 3 am
to see how things were and got back to H.Q. about 6:30. There wire dozens of
dead rats in our own front line. Of course all our chaps wore box respirators
or else got out of the trench effected. I hope it caught him unawares. Some
claimed that they could hear his gas alarms working. His artillery hasn't
opened its mouth this morning so I hope their guns are all corroded.
The C.O. has gone on leave and Major Baker who took over called me to
B.H.Q. so I had to hand over the company to Berner as Baxter is away on his
course. Consequently for two or three days I shall be here. I am rather
surprised as I am not the senior company commander and the acting adjutant is
Major Baker had three months in Canada not long ago and was in New
Westminster but was not able to see any of you. He was only there for a short
time. Comes from Victoria.
I have absolutely no news that I can write. The war looks good. If he
doesn't drive inside of the next two months the weather will be uncertain
after that time. The Italians are more than holding the Austrians. Russia is
still unsettled and the Americans are pouring in. Next year is going to be a
hard and fast one for Fritz. If all goes well I will be home the latter part
of next year I figure.
There has been no Canadian post for days. Not since June 27th and
everytime I despair of getting any and write you the mail comes that night.
It comes in after dark with the rations.
I have a small boil on the right side of my chin. It is the first one
for months and I was in hopes that I had seen the last of the things. This
one is really nothing however to what I had in the past.
Remember me to Jim Motherwell. Am glad to hear he is doing so well. He
came over here as an Infantry officer and did his job which is more than a
good many of our brave 'Columbia Street Parade' officers did. He had a hard
time of it and deserves the rest he is getting. We are having a soft time of
it and there is not much of a war at present. Of course there is certain
amount of uncertainty about it and a 'regular home' can become a battle field
in ten minutes.
So the English bay sights did not meet with your approval. Spend six
months over in these free and easy countries and 'nothing can't make you sick'
Tell Helen that Fraser Allen came to France before I got his English
address. I do not know where he is at present. Cherie Brine was asking for
it also. She wrote me and said Fraser had just gone back.
Is there anything more in the Propst affair?
Must stop now as I expect to be up the line all night to night and make
a bit of a daylight patrol tomorrow at dawn. We are about a thousand yards
from Fritz and it gives you quite a field. It is so long since I have done
any reconnoitering that I am getting restless. I don't think we know quite
enough about Fritz here at present. We took over from the Imperials and they
are quite a free and easy lot and Fritz generally encroaches on no mans land.
Everyone here is feeling fine and in good spirits. One of these fine days we
are going to give him a bump he will remember for a long time. It is very
interesting to read his accounts of his recent attacks and the way the
preparations were carried out with instructions for future work. such stuff
is often captured and comes round to us. Several articles have been over
Must call a halt. Give my love to everyone. I will write Elsie and
Billy when I can.
Your loving son,
p.s. I am second on the leave list for Paris and eight for Blighty. The first
does not appear to be coming and the second but slowly so I suppose it may be
two months before I get away.
July 15 1918 - France - (letter # 88)
We came into support today and are on a quiet front. It got on our
nerves, there was no war at all and we suspected him of being up to something.
Yesterday morning the attack commenced on the French so I suppose that
explains the thing. About the middle of the tour I was called to Batt'n. H.Q.
for duty and am still here.
Expect to be with the company again in three or four days. I have no
more news. The last few days I have been taking the night shift and have been
in the line until after 'stand down' each morning. It is a long trip to cover
the whole battalion front and support lines and return to the B.H.Q.
I have no record of receiving # 85 or 86 of yours but may possibly have
forgotten to jot down the numbers. It is impossible to carry letters for long
as they pile up. Don't worry about small discomforts. We have been playing
in luck since last November and have really had a cinch.
From your description I can just see the rose bushes and ramblers. It
is quite a time since that old train pulled out of the station.
Am so sorry to hear that chinks are not to be had. Take things as
easily as you can. I would rather soldier than do housework. Did I tell you
that I have another wonderful batman? His name is Srigley and comes from
between Vancouver and Westminster. He was with the 121st. He surely looks
after me and all I do is to keep him in funds and he buys for me on his own.
Poor Billie has had more trouble with his nose. I hope he is fixed up
now for good and all. Colin surely ran a heavy temperature. I do not blame
Miss Mackay for being worried. Over here such a temp. would be worth a lot of
money. If they were clearing ambulances for a show it would mean a Blighty.
Tell Grandmother to keep up the good work of polling her vote. It is
worth more than the average by a long shot.
Here comes the ration train and this has to go out by it.
Yes I got the Percy Pope enclosure letter all right. They come through
but in bunches. You have not told me as to whether you take 'Canada'. It is
well worth while. If not I will arrange to send it.
I today read a report of a German Intelligence Staff Officer on his
examination of some American prisoners. It is very complimentary indeed to
the Americans. I was very much interested in the dispatch clippings. I believe
that this drive will be his last big offensive this year and he won't get a
chance next. We are going to break him if he doesn't lay down. The policy we
are adopting now seems to be a good one and after he is tired out I figure
that we shall have enough fresh troops to hit him hard.
I don't know anything but I have my eye on the latter part of this season.
With much love to all I am your affectionate son,
July 20 1918 - France - (letter to sister Helen #88A)
July 20 1918 - France - (letter to sister Helen #88A)
My Dear Helen,
This will be short and sweet for several reasons. It is 11:15 pm. We
move tomorrow. I have a bum wrist as I fell on the thing. Besides all this I
am peevish. All the envelopes I have to match this ink receiver have glued
themselves down tight with dampness of this 30 foot dugout.
Your # 67 came a couple of days ago. All the letters come fairly
regularly but in bunches. They sort of pile up I think in the army post
offices and are cleared in batches as fast as possible.
As far as I can see it will be at least a month before I get a chance to
go on leave. However it is quite a war now and as the last Bosche attack has
been a failure for him and the French has bagged about 30,000 prisoners we
might be called upon to do anything.
What is the matter with that finger of yours that it keeps splitting
open. I hope it is well by now.
You and Dad had quite a wait at the station for the McQuarrie's train.
I have never received Aunt Tweebies or Maiden's address. Did someone
let them know I got their parcel? It was a peach.
Expect to be back with the company in a day or two. We have had a
pretty quiet time of it this tour so far and we are about to commence the
second half of it.
Nothing much doing. We have it over him here in the air and bring a
plane down every now and again. It is quite a sight at night to see all the
searchlights looking for the bombing planes on both sides of the line and at
the same time all his ground signals shot up to denote that our planes are
overhead. Long chains of stars shot in the direction of the plane. A couple
of nights ago we had quite a thunder and lightening storm and with the flash
from the artillery made quite a picture. I was coming across country on a
light railway track with my runner about 2 am. It was only a short walk but
we just made it before the rain broke.
One of the most interesting things to watch in this business is the
arrival of the ration train. After nightfall it pulls up by electric motor to
the rendezvous and is met by the ration party from H.Q. and each company. It
is like the arrival of a train in a little jerk water town. One of these tri
weekly ones. It arrives this week and tries all next to get out. If you want
to hear a man soundly cursed let him strike a match at the dump. The remarks
are as good as a circus.
I am quite satisfied with the war and am more anxious to get at the
Bosche than before. I hope that we get a chance on the job when they decide
to break him.
Must get to bed now, which means taking off my collar and boots and
getting under my trench coat. It is much warmer than my blanket.
Will write mother in a day or two. Have a fairly busy day tomorrow. I
was wondering if there was any chance of transferring to the American army as
a Major. Would like the experience and change and my experience should be
With much love I am Affectionately yours,
July 30 1918 - France - (letter to Father #88B)
My Dear Father,
Yours of the second inst. arrived a day or two ago and I was indeed
pleased to get it. Mothers #88 and 89 came with it so I shall answer them
About May 25th I got a letter from the Bank saying that my letter of the
8th with enclosures had been received. I have no recollection of having
written them or sent any enclosures about that time and I thought probably you
had returned the cards etc. to change the account but I know now that
couldn't have been accomplished by that time so the matter is still a mystery.
About the 3 months 'post mortem' pay. I have since been informed that
this is not paid and that they only pay for the month during which a fellow is
canned. If I can get any reliable information I shall let you have it but
would not suggest making a demand for something the department knew of. It
sounded too much to me. A person who is of no further use to the Govt. gets
The cigarettes have been arriving quite safely and I do not think I have
missed any of them. $.15 straight is far too much. Here when we can get
Players we get about three packages for nine pence. So that figures out about
$.06 per package. I smoked a pipe for some time after arriving here and had a
nice little light straight stem which I bought in Victoria but some one
pinched it and I got out of the pipe habit. The cigarette surely crowds the
pipe out. The packages you send me contain 220 cigarettes.
How are the mallards coming along. I can hardly picture our place from
the rear. Lets see the side entrance is reversed. There is a dog in the
foreground, I suppose near the 'old apple tree' and the ash heap has given way
to a cement emplacement for domestically hatched wild ducks recreation. What
corner have you got your rhubarb in? That's a sure bet with you so suppose it
has not been overlooked.
I should give a good deal to see the kids growing up. Joan must be
quite a girl and the others getting well along. The time spent here is
certainly time lost so far as the individual is concerned.
Billie seems to have suffered a great deal with his nose. I do hope
that the last operation will give him relief.
If you can give the number of Fraser Allen's battalion I shall write him
about the Leach's and he will be able to look them up when he is again in
England. Poor Mrs Allen must be pretty badly shaken up. She certainly is not
the type to stand a strain.
I had a note from Mrs. Lambert and yesterday got a D.R.L.S. from a
A.W.Woods of the 3rd Div. Chaplain Services telling me he is about to return
to Canada and enclosing a letter addressed to me from Frances I. Stevenson of
Castletown Isle of Man. She wants me to go and see them when next on leave.
I cannot remember ever having met Woods but he speaks of Mrs S. as Frances. I
must write to her today. With luck I should get leave sometime in August but
there is a move in sight and it looks like the long expected storm at last.
Am glad to hear that Grandmother is getting smarter every day. Tell her
that when I get home we will do a fox trot.
The paymaster has just been in and cleared up the question I mentioned
above. It seems that pay is deposited to the end of the month during which
the soldier is killed. If one is killed on the 1st you win. If on the 30th
you break even. We have no regimental paymaster now. There are two to a
brigade. This chap is a very nice chap and reminds me of Jack Owen.
Just at present I am at the Transport Lines. Came down yesterday as I
thought I would take a couple of days away from the battalion. There are
signs of a move and we can look for anything anywhere. The chess game is
developing and will move fairly rapidly for the balance of the year I expect.
Everyone is keen for a show as we have done little since Passchendaele all of
which ground was evacuated this year.
The States are pouring in now and If Fritz has got another kick in him
he had better exercise his leg this year because it will be our turn next
The Canadian Corps. is in fine shape and all ready to give a good
account of themselves. When a show comes I hope it is a big one. There is
only one place I am not keen to go and that is Belgium. It was a no good hole
we got into up there although the job was done eventually.
The C.O. has been on leave and returned yesterday. Baxter is still away
on his course.
Would like to see a chance of getting a majority out of the business
before I am hit but there is no sign of any promotion in sight.
Am enclosing one or two notices and report I wrote concerning a patrol
fight I was more or less mixed up with this last tour. I came pretty near
getting my allotment of daisies that night
Must stop now as I have to drop a line to Mrs. Stevenson of Castletown.
Fritz has been dropping some very heavy bombs all over the area but the
actual damage as a rule does not amount to much. He happened to get a band
the other night which I heard play several times and they were splendid. Hit
their huts and cleaned up the lot I am told.
Yesterday I went through some very large caves just a few hundred yards
from our camp. They were dug I believe years ago by convict labour and have
been used during the last two wars at least. They were quite interesting. We
didn't get to the end of them and I haven't spoken to anyone yet who knows
where they run to.
With much love to all I am,
Affectionately your son,
August 4 1918 - France -(letter # 89)
It is amazing how the days slip by when they are full ones for us. I see
that it is nearly three weeks since I last wrote you and today I shall only
have a few minutes.
Some days ago we moved and have been on the go pretty steadily into the
line and out. A day or two ago we march out about ten am and marched some six
or eight miles to a town I had never been in before. We had a fair camp here
and the next day we had a clean up and drill. The following day we moved out
about 6 pm and marched a mile or two where we embussed. We debussed about 9 pm
and in a heavy rain piled arms in a field and waited for orders. The rain
stopped and the officers and men gathered in little groups around an
instrument or two and sang every song in the world not forgetting that
infernal Silver Threads. We tramped off in the darkness about twelve and it
poured very hard with rain. We then entrained. The night was far from
comfortable as there were no windows in the compartment and nine officers in
each. The men were also a bit uncomfortable We stopped an hour for breakfast
but as we were busy I only managed to get two hard boiled eggs. On the whole
the trip was quite a good one as we know exactly what to expect whether
walking, embussed or entrained and there were no complaints.
We detrained at 12 noon when it was again raining hard and shortly after
started on an eight mile march to where our billets and kitchens were. It was
either wet or hot and the march ran uphill and down dale. The pack and
haversack were pretty heavy toward the last but I set a short pace on the
grades and stepped out on the down slopes. The boys came along well and we
marched into the kitchen singing. After everyone was fed we had some tea and
toast from the field kitchen at 5 pm which was the first thing to eat for 24
hours excepting the two eggs. We got a dinner then about 7. Our billets are
good and the people very good to us.
The house I am at has a very nice garden with lots of roses. Behind
there is a splendid vegetable garden with an orchard behind it. I had not
seen red currants for some time. The chateau here is quite a large one being
built in 1633. All the places are quite interesting.
At one of our camps not long ago I went through a large cave system. It
is used as shelter from bombs now but has seen two or three wars. It was very
interesting and I did not get to the end of it. No one could tell me how far
it ran. It was constructed I believe by convict labour.
If I am to be permitted to live for another leave I should get it about
the middle of this month. If so I shall try to make the Isle of Man to see
I have not news to tell you. I could write a book on our life but as
far as military news goes I can say nothing. We move off tonight for instance
into the darkness and no one knows where to or why and I am glad to see that
no one cares. By the papers the French, British and Americans still have
Fritz moving back down south and I hope they keep him going.
I want to get a line or two written to Gertrude but I may not be able to
as I have to change my clothes and climb into working duds.
Tomorrow we commence the fifth year of war and I do not expect it to
last for the full year. I firmly believe that from now on the war is to be
ours and everyone is quite satisfied that we can give him a proper beating. I
expect to see his people become fed up before the fifth year is completed. I
only hope that whenever the Allies hit they hit hard and suddenly.
I am with my company as the C.O. came home from leave and Purvis back
from a rest camp. I would surely enjoy leave as my last was early December.
Our leave has been altered and we must now do seven months before we are
entitled to it.
I must close now and will drop you a card when I can I may be busy for
Give my love to all and I am betting on the next twelve months.
Lovingly your son,
August 11 1918 - France -(letter # 90)
Of course I cannot tell you where we are but it is quite unnecessary as
the papers have no doubt got all the news. I shall not stop to give you
details this time as I have so far only seen the army from behind. I was with
the unit when the 'show ' opened but Baker Allsopp and myself were ordered to
stay out and we have been coming along with the transport. This is the
morning of the 4th day of the battle and I am now about ten miles from where
we were when the attack opened. I was never so disappointed in my life as I
was when I had to leave the bunch and go to the lines. The whole show was
well worked up and we were counting on big things and I surely felt like a
piker walking to the rear. Since then we have been moving twice a day and
until this morning the battalion had not been in the fight. I have this time
however watched a big battle from the war correspondents point of view and no
wonder they write thrilling accounts.
The prisoners pouring into the cages, by the thousand, the wounded
coming through, the endless streams of traffic, artillery, ammunition, line
transport, supply columns, tanks, infantry, lorries and everything that goes
to make up an army. All this of both French and British poured along on every
road as far as the eye could reach. I have had an easy time so far but am
hoping that I shall be called up either today or tomorrow. Will write you at
length when I get out of it all.
Give my love to all at home and tell Gertrude I shall write when the
scrap is over.
Lovingly your son,
p.s. The evening we left our last billet for the final night march to assembly
positions I received your box containing the waxed eggs and fruit cake. This
is the first parcel that was badly hurt. The eggs were all smashed and beyond
use and the cake had been badly soaked with something. However, we were
having a bit of tea before leaving and I cut off what cake was fit to eat and
we had it then. We could not have carried anything forward at that stage.
I will describe our approach marches in another letter.
Yesterday I got a letter from you # 90 with enclosures. I had heard
Edith Helmcken was married and hope she has got a good chap. I enjoyed
Grandmothers clipping 'The Leddies Fra'Hell' and I don't blame Fred for not
believing the Chopin story. The gink who wrote that ought to have one more
dream and be admitted to an asylum. I also received Helen's #68 and one from
Gertrude. I am glad that Fraser Allen did not make France again as his mother
is so sick.
I don't remember having a photo taken in gaiters which Helen says you
received. I had one taken in field boots. Is that the one she means. Helen
says 'I hope Fritz will leave the Canadians alone.' He hasn't had a chance
to. The Yanks are coming but we're still here. I hope the battle goes well
as it is young yet. Our officer casualties are few so far.
Will give you a long account some day of this new style of warfare (to
us). The country we are in is really beautiful and the weather so far has
been good. It is nothing like the depressing fields of Passchendaele. This
lovely open country is quite cheering.
With much love, Keith
August 16 1918 - France -(letter # 91)
Cannot write much now as I am more or less busy. There has been a war
lately but so far I am OK. Am in a bit of a clearing but not out of the woods
Everything is fine. Weather very warm for fighting but the country is
fine and the most of it in crop which Fritz Was trying to cut. We have backed
him up some twelve miles and the Can. Corps I believe has the greatest
penetration on the 40 mile battlefront. I have had some more experiences
alright but missed the worst day of our fight.
Cannot tell when I shall get leave. Things are too unsettled but I have
not seen England since I left there Dec.12th last.
I received Helens 69th a day or two ago when we were relieved to rest.
She says she hopes Fritz leaves the Canadians alone. Just at that time we
were pretty much mixing it with him and he hadn't much choice in the matter.
Some of his prisoners are good looking men. The cages were a picture.
I volunteered to join the expedition for Siberia and when the C.O. found
I was really ready to go he called me in and asked me to reconsider the
matter. He made certain promises which I told him I didn't take any stock in
because I had been promised things before. However, I dropped the idea as I
thought perhaps that you would not like the idea. Again the war is well
established here and we are not nearly so apt to go without food and water as
we might be in Russia.
After all I guess this is as complete a war as a fellow will find in any
Haven't time to give you any details so will write when I get through
with the front. Would like to see the Cans. drop Lens before I leave France.
With much love to all I am
Your loving son
August 19 1918 - France -(letter # 92)
Just a note to wish you many happy returns of the day. Also the members
of the family who were married on the same day.
We are here. I am in a front line and my H.Q. is a miserable hole this
trip. We have some of his crack marksmen across the way and it is no good
Baxter got command of B Co'y but yesterday after I had left him for 2
minutes a Fritz sniper groved his thigh for him and the lad has gone out. He
is quite all right. The gink who shot him is not far away but very well
concealed. He got a man walking behind me and darn near killed him. I got
the trench mortars on him and I observed and gave corrections. It was fairly
good fun, we played the deuce around the area with 10 lb. bombs.
Everything is fine but I am a wee bit dirty. My leave should be along
in September if all goes well with me.
I have a few souvenirs this trip.
Give my love to all
Your loving son,
August 29 1918 - France -(letter # 93)
I have your #92 and #91 OK. Have been trying to write but there is
little chance while this fighting is on. We have been through some great old
times and then entrain, detrain, embus, debus, march and scrap again.
I cannot settle down to write a long description and doubt if I ever get
one off now as the stuff becomes stale and one hasn't the inclination to go
back over the details. So far I am OK although a lot of colds have been
floating round owing to sleeping and living in the open in all weather. On
the whole we have been pretty lucky.
My leave is still coming and (I should get away inside of the next week
or two but expect to be in a fight before that time. Nothing makes me sick
now though and I hope we keep on hitting him. He has his wind up badly and
two of his divisions broke and ran not long ago. His machine guns are the
only trouble makers.
Why is everyone in Canada crying down the Y.M.C.A. in France. I notice
some who do so had as much as two months in the line. The Y is doing good
work and should be backed up.
I see by one of your papers that Ike Hudson had a fall and hurt himself.
Guess this will put a crimp in all Mrs Ike's hopes of society now.
Tell Gertrude I received her box of candy cake and nuts and the boys
surely took to the candy. I enjoyed everything. We had the cake at lunch
before hitting the road. We were in a wood and all the same picnic. Saw
McDiarmid who used to be on the Burnaby engineering staff also Tina Mowbray as
we marched to the train.
I have no Richard's in this company.
Must stop now Give my love to all and if I get through this next fight I
shall wire from Blighty.
With much love I am
Your affectionate son,
September 10 1918 - France -(letter # 94)
It is a very long time since I wrote you but we have been very busy and
I have not had time to call my soul my own.
I shall now try to give you a more or less brief account of my doings
and movements since we left the woods where we were at rest early in the
summer. It is quite alright to give these particulars now as the whole affair
is ancient history and the press has been printing it broadcast. We went into
the line from the woods doing one or two tours and I was carrying on for a
time as second in command. We had one or two rough moments during these
tours. From the line we went into support and got orders to move. No one
knew where to or why. We all did our own thinking. We marched to a near by
village where we remained for about 36 hours. From here we marched to one of
the main roads about dark and took busses. We debussed at 9:30 pm and formed
up in a field. We did not entrain until 12:30am and it was raining very hard.
The picture of the troops in that field was subject matter for a deal of
thought. Our train moved about midnight and we stopped long enough for
breakfast the next morning. Our train was crowded. We managed to get a bite
to eat and have a shave. We detrained about 12:30pm and found we had eight
miles to march to billets. It was quite a hike but we were all in pretty good
trim. By this time we could guess generally the front we were heading for.
The country was beautiful and the people who had only billeted Canadians once
before made quite a fuss over us.
We remained here that night and on the next the 4th of August commenced
our approach marches for the Battle of Amiens. No one knew a thing but we
lectured the men on secrecy and all ranks entered into the spirit of the
thing. On the line of march discipline was strict. There was no noise no
questions were asked or answered passing through villages. The men did not
know whether they were north or south of our own front. All movement was by
night and the men were confined to billets by day and meals parades were
We hit the road at 9pm from Friecourt and March via Etalminil,
Hocquincourt, Hallincourt,Le Hamel, Chateau Airaimes(a big town) Soues, to
Fourdrinoy - 19 & 3/4 miles arriving at 4:50am on the 5th. Billets were only
fair and it was late before I got to bed. The weather was overcast and
drizzling. We were due to leave here at 9pm but were held until 1:15am on the
6th. We marched to Fluy via Saisseval, Seux arriving at 3:45am. Billets were
good. An old maid of 76 owned my billet and the poor old soul fussed over me
until I could hardly attend to my work of which there was a great deal. The
march was only about five miles. weather wet. We pulled out of here at 10pm
and I now had my horse. We passed the starting point in Pissy at 10:45pm
marching via Clairy to Amiens Road to Saleux station and to Saleux. Traffic
on roads was very heavy. We arrived at 3am on the 7th. The enemy bombed
Amiens about midnight and all the searchlights of the city made a really
wonderful sight. Billets were fair and the weather clearing up. This march
was roughly 9 miles. We knew we were approaching a fight and had been given a
very little bit of information. I had a conference with Pritchard in the
bedroom of my billet (to get to we had to go through the bedroom of the Madam)
and got to bed at 5am. At 7:45pm that day after a rush during which we issued
We had a meeting before leaving and I was ordered to stay out of the
show. I got permission to go to the assembly position. We marched via Dury,
St. Fuscien, Boves approx, 12 miles. Traffic was so heavy that halts were
frequent and to was 2:30am on the 8th when the battalion assembled on the
western side of Gentelles Wood. The men had a short sleep and I got a
stretcher under the medical cart and slept until zero hour. Tanks were moving
into positions forward of us all night. On the road we had passed few troops.
We were the reserves moving up last (with perhaps the hardest end of the fight
to play) and on parallel routes. All the others were a few hours ahead.
At zero 4:20am the barrage opened and the assaulting troops which were
forward out of sight went forward. The sight was one I shall never forget.
Calvary in a column of fours rode by on the trot for hours. I saw them start
some after zero and they were coming as far as one could see at 6am. Tanks and
aircraft were all busy. At 6am the battalion moved forward to the 3rd
assembly position missing the second one as the advance was progressing so
I said 'so long' to the boys and with a big lump in my throat
accompanied Major Baker to the Transport Lines at Boves Wood. It looked like
a great show and I hated to miss it.
Boves Wood was a place of interest. A large wood of shade trees and all
transport had been massed here. The night of the seventh saw 40,000 animals
in this wood. The weather had been wet and the mud was nearly knee deep.
After some trouble we found our lines. I had a cup of tea and turned
in. It was nearly five miles from the assembly position to the woods and it
was 8am when we got there. I was awakened at 10:15 and told that orders were
in to move in 15 minutes. We pulled out at once.
There were four roads converging at the Bove bridge and each road was a
line of transport French and British as far as the eye could reach. We had to
fight for place on the road and it took us until 4:30pm to cross the river and
move a couple of miles to the main Amien - Roye Road. We halted for dinner
close to one of the Corps cages and I again spent a most interesting hour.
The army was pouring forward behind the infantry. Artillery, transport,
lorries, motors, mounted troops, everything including ration trains and
supply columns and ammunition. coming the other way were the empties and
ambulances, columns of prisoners and stretcher and walking wounded.
A german brigadier general and his staff came to the cage which was
already packed full. A Tommy said to him 'well what do you think of this?'
and he replied 'oh there have been 200.000 English prisoners taken since
March' Tommy asked 'how many Canadians? ' The hun shrugged his shoulders, so
the Tommy said '200,000 eh will I'll tell you what we'll do - we'll give you
200.000 more and then lick the supreme hell out of you. Rank counted little
just then. The Hun had a hard looking face but he had a beautiful overcoat.
I had supper and road ahead to Hangard via Domart to pick out transport
lines for the night. Hangard was the original front line and the dead bosche
first presented themselves here. I could not make any time until I picked up
some cavalry so trotted along beside them and we cleared traffic pretty well.
I met the transport about 10pm and after seeing to the watering of the
horse got to sleep between the mess cart and a G.S wagon under a tarpaulin -
the weather was fine. The French were reported to be some ten or twelve km.
ahead and our cavalry well into the enemy country. So far the battalion had
not been engaged and were just ahead of us.
To be continued in my next. I am due to go on leave day after tomorrow.
Lovingly your son,
September 11 1918 - France -(letter # 95)
To resume: August 9th - At 7am I rode forward to Demuin and looked for
new transport lines. Returned and the train moved at 9am. we arrived at
Demuin and had lunch. Orders were received to move further forward. I again
rode ahead to Claude Wood at 12:30 pm and at a cross roads at hill 100 met
Thompson of J.P.H.Bole's office. He is a Brigade runner and the same as ever.
Reached wood at 1:30 and took over from 49th Batt'n 3rd Div. Slept for two
hours. We sent the kitchens forward to give the battalion a hot meal. The
enemy was retreating and the battalion had not yet been called into action.
At 8pm three whippet tanks returned and stated they could not keep up with the
bosche. Artillery fire to our left was heavy. The weather was fine and I
received some Canadian mail I turned in about 8:30pm. Enemy planes bombed us
all night. Night very cold.
10th - Orders came for an early move. We struck camp at 5am and moved
at 6am to wood to east of Beaucourt in Santerre arriving at 7:15. There was
heavy artillery fire ahead between 7:30 to 9:00. We moved again at 2pm to
Beaufort Wood approx.
3 1/2 miles. Our lines were in wood near the old chateau which had been an
enemy hospital. We arrived here at 3:45pm. The artillery was still pushing
forward. There were signs of fighting on front of Le Quesnel. Dead Bosche and
Canadians were lying about. Wounded men told us that heavy machine gun
resistance was being encountered. Here we caught up with 1st line transport
and I saw Neal. We were in touch with the battalion by runner.
While at dinner two or three lads buried three huns about ten feet from
our table. The comments were rather crude but funny. Fritz bombed throughout
11th - There was heavy barrage again at 4am and fighting still
progressing. Battalion was expected to go into action today We remained in
the same location all day. Three or four of our officers had been wounded.
Lt Wilson was killed while with the tanks. Night was fine and the enemy
bombed again. The battalion went over in the afternoon and met resistance.
It occupied a series of trenches part of the old Somme lines on the hun side
of old no-man's land.
12th - At 8:10am. I got a message despatched at 12:15am calling me up.
I reached B'n H.Q. with Neal, on western side of Fouquescourt about 11am I was
to relieve Capt Lindsell of A Co'y as he was worn out. I did so and formed a
joint H.Q. with Pritchard of C.Co'y Batt'n had reverted to trench warfare.
Men were weary and I had difficulty in having all necessary precautions taken.
13th - At 4:50am After a very complicated relief I was relieved by the
19th Battn and marched to Rosieres arriving at 6:30am. There was a good
breakfast for the men and they turned in about 8am.
At noon I volunteered for Siberia.
At 4pm we moved to LeQuesnel area. Weather was hot and roads very dusty.
We remained in the open here during the 14th and 15th receiving some
reinforcements. Fritz began to shell the back areas and the weather was hot.
The dead horses were very disagreeable and flies were rather bad.
16th - On this day we moved back into the front line at Fouquescourt.
The relief was complete by 3:15am on the 17th. The battalion in the line had
just pushed forward to Fransart and we took over while situation was still
obscure. I was the left front line company. The night passed quietly.
17th - In the morning I went over the front and the enemy snipers were
bad. We had Jaegars in front of us being part of the enemy's crack Alpine
Corps (green cap I sent home) Barnes of the 44th Battn(scout officers) was
badly hit while walking about 4 feet behind me.
I was with Baxter and a few minutes after patrols I wished to push out.
Jim was hit cutting a grove in his thigh. Nothing serious. I called up our
snipers and set them to work to get the enemy snipers location but he was well
hidden in their end of the village.
The hun had set traps along the trenches and I removed three of these
gun cotton charges from my front line and carried them to a shell hole warning
all men not to meddle with anything not familiar to them. The night was
18th - This morning I took two sections and carefully searched the woods
on my right rear as I feared there might be a few bosche still there. Shots
had come from this location during the night. We found no one. The sniper
was still active and wounded another officer so I got the trench mortars and
we pretty well blew up the whole area from which he was working. The sniping
stopped. Our patrols during the night did not get much definite information.
Fritz was using very few flares. Norwest the crack sniper of the 50th was
killed on this day. Hes planes were fairly active being over our lines at
intervals. Both artilleries were active. No cooking could be done except on
Tommy cookers and we got as many of these up as possible. Our run issue was
good. To be continued.
Lovingly your son,
September 22 1918 - France - (letter # 96)
August 19th - On this day my company remained in the same location at Fransart
and the enemy was generally quiet shelling intermittently. I had one man
killed who was my only casualty this day. At 3pm I got the Stokes under
McCallum, who was with us and wounded in the 'triangle' on May 7th 1917,
planing on the area occupied by the Fritz snipers.
August 20th - Was quiet except that over artillery hammered all day on sugar
refinery and railway crossing. The weather continued fine. On this day one
of my boys was accidentally shot and killed by a comrade. Such things will
happen now and again despite all precautions.
August 21 - We were to be relieved by the 44th but it was nearly 1am on the
22nd before the relief was in. We moved to (L11.a and c) back of Fouquescourt
and the weather was very hot. We buried two of our airmen who had been
brought down and the men rested for the balance of the day. Rations were late
and did not reach us until after midnight.
We remained here during the 23rd and 24th. On the 23rd I rode to the
Transport Lines some five miles in rear returning at 5 pm. The little horse
was very nervous in the forward area. On the 24th Fritz shelled us at noon
and about 8:30 pm. I was relieved by the 57th Regt. French and marched to
Transport Lines E27d arriving at 11 pm. Fritz was directly overhead and
bombing. Searchlights from all sides crossed above us in a vain attempt to
pick up the planes giving one the impression that he was moving under the
ribbons of an immense maypole. I had to put my men in single file and send
the platoons by parallel roads. I had no casualties altho while riding along
an avenue of trees a bomb nearly got me. Another battalion suffered quite
heavily while in a column of fours.
August 25th - Our reveille was 5 am and at 7:30 we marched to (W26.central)
via Caix arriving at the bath house at 9 am. The baths were good and the men
received clean clothes. We spent the day here in the wood moving off at 7:45
pm. to the rear arriving at Gentelles Wood via Cayeux, Ignasicourt,
Aubercourt, Hangard Domart approx. ten miles. This march started with
terrific dust and an artillery battery trudging past nearly smothered us .
About 9pm a thunder storm with heavy rain came on. The remainder of the trip
was made in pitch blackness and wet. We had no shelter at our destination but