Item is an interview/narrative of Alex Gerrard's experiences during World War I. Private Gerrard served with the 100th Battalion (Winnipeg Grenadiers), Canadian Expeditionary Force and the 1st Battalion, Canadian Mounted Rifles, Canadian Expeditionary Force. Interview took place on June 11, 1977.
Born in 1895 in Aberdeenshire (d. 1979) and, as a boy of twelve, came to Canada in 1907. Farmed at Alexander, near Brandon, Man. Enlisted at Winnipeg in the spring of 1916. Recalls that, during basic training, they drilled and shovelled snow and assisted in recruiting drives. Many of the unit were given a month off for spring planting. Reported to Camp Hughes and from there went overseas. About fifty of his battalion were sent to France, through Le Havre, as reinforcements for the 1st C.M.R.s. He recalls moving directly into the front line to guard duty in a "sap-head". These forward positions might be sited as close as twenty yards from the enemy. (15:00) They were thus able to give warning to their unit of any extra activity in the German trenches. The regimen of ten days in the front line, ten in reserve and then out to rest was a job for the younger men. Describes trenches, routine, playing cards off-duty, or a visit to the Y.M.C.A. canteen in the second-line trenches. Slept when and where they could: sometimes there were bunks in the dugouts. Rations fairly good. One round loaf of bread for four men, and always dixies of tea, coffee or stew. They underwent concentrated training for the Battle of Vimy Ridge, during which time he became a Lewis gunner.
During the battle the first objective was reached fairly quickly, stopped to clean their gun while others passed through their position. (35:00) The advance was preceded by a tremendous "fireworks" display at 4:25 A.M. Advancing under artillery-fire some Canadian troops overran the barrage and were killed by our own shells. Did not actually see any of the enemy during the advance except as prisoners of war. Badly wounded in the eye and shoulder. Hospital in Boulogne (45:00), then King George Hospital in London where his injured eye was removed. A special diet, including a bottle of stout each day, helped him to regain his strength. (02:00)