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■I'i C? i . , . . 1
mSD COWORTS COMIM
CORNELL UNIVERSITY LIBRARY
The original of this bool< is in
the Cornell University Library.
There are no known copyright restrictions in
the United States on the use of the text.
^WITH THE FIRST
CAN A D I ATSf
PUBLISHED ON BEHALF or THE • •
CANADLVN FIELD COMFORTS COMMTSSION
HODDER & STOUGHTON
THE MUSSON BOOK
LONDON : HODDER & STOUGHTON
Printed in Great Britain by Baeell, Watson & Ftn«y, Ld,,
hQr\dQn and Aylesbury.
This book is intended as a slight record of the 1st Canadian Contingent,
who endured the hard winter at Salisbury with such courage, cheer-
fulness and patience, and who fought so gallantly and determinedly
It is also a means of adding to the funds of the Canadian Field Com-
forts Commission, for the purchase for the Canadian Division at the
Front of many extra comforts, which are welcomed by the officers and
much appreciated by the men. |
My thanks are due to Mrs. G. W. MacKeen for the descriptions of
the two camps; to Miss Arnoldi for her impression of Salisbury Plain
as we saw it — we think there should be a special clasp for Salisbury
Plain ; to Miss Jessie Pope for " The Lads of the Maple Leaf " ; to Canon
Scott for two poems, " On the Rue du Bois " and " Requiescant " ; to
Captain Ambrose for " Mud " ; to an M.O. for " The Men of God," and
to many correspondents from the Front. I wish also to thank all those
who have allowed me to use their photographs.
In Valcartier, at Amesbury, and now from Shorncliffe, Miss Arnoldi
and I have had the privilege of working for our men. We have
known and admired and loved them, and they have brought to all
Canadians great honour together with much sorrow. This book of
pictures is dedicated to the 1st Canadian Contingent.
Mary Plummer, Lieut.,
Canadian Field Comforts Commissioner.
Salisbury Plain ......... 33
Mud ........... 41
Salisbury Plain ......... 43
The King's " Godspeed " 49
The Lads of the Maple Leaf 50
Letters from the Front:
Through a Storm in a Cattle Boat . . . .51
Something Quite New ....... 52
Standing-to in the Trenches 53
The Luxury of a Hot Bath 54
An Amusing Day ........ 55
Everything is Quiet ....... 56
On the Rue du Bois ........ 61
Letters from the Front — Continued :
Three Days of Our Work 62
Complimentary to our Bunch 65
Letters from the Front — Contimied :
A Ticklish Job 66
" We no Shoot, You No Shoot " 67
Back to Civilisation ....... 69
Billeted Over an Estaminet 70
Angels very Thoroughly Disguised . . . .71
A Quaint Old Town on the Border . . . .72
Amidst the Turmoil ....... 74
German Trenches^ on Three Sides. . . . .75
My First Aeroplane Battle . . . . . .76
A Spider's Web ........ 78
A Tremendous Battle . 79
Desperate Fighting . . . . . . .79
CoMMUNiQuiE Issued by the War Office . . , .85
Canadian Division . 85
Letters from the Front — ConUnmd:
In with the Pats ........ 86
A Strenuous Time ........ 86
Our Battlefield 87
A Novel Breakfast . 89
German Rations and Trophies 90
Letters from the Front — Contimied:
How WE Spend the Day
The Spirit of Cheerfulness.
An Argument with the Dog
On the Move ....
Sharing Good and III .
Out of a Peck of Trouble .
A New-comer in the War Zone .
Beautiful June Days .
A Warm Time ....
One of the Most Wonderful Things
Serting Beside Heroes
Something Doing ....
Friends and Visitors .
" A Poisoner in Germany " .
Heads Down and Spirits Up
The Occasional Gun
Three Men of God ....
Field-Marshal H.R.H. the Duke of Connaught, K.G., Govebnor-Genebal
OF Canada . . .2
Majob-Genebal the Hon. Sib Sam Hughes, K.C.B., Minister of Miutia
AND Defence ... . . ... . . .15
View of Camp — Valcabtiee . . . . . . . . . .16
Pontoon Bbidge — Valcabtieb . . . . . . . . .16
At Sea — ^The Dance ........... 21
A Welcome from the Tbaining Ship — Plymouth 21
At Sea — A New Sisteb .......... 21
At Sea — The Line Astebn .......... 22
At Sea — Gaspe Basin 22
Royal Canadian Dbagoons Lines — Valcartiee ...... 23
On the Ranges, 90th Rifles (8th Battalion) — Valcabtieb . . .23
Kitchens, 90th Rifles (8th Battalion) — ^Valcabtieb 23
Lobd Stbathcona Hobse Lines — Valcabtieb ...... 24
Field Comfobts Tent — Valcabtieb ........ 24
CoBOURG Men, 2nd Battalion — Valcabtier 24
Kit Inspection, 11th Battalion — Valcabtieb 25
48th Highlanders (15th Battalion)— Valcartieb 25
Review, September 20th, 1914 — ^Valcabtieb 26
Colonel Victob Williams, Camp Commandant — Valcabtieb . . . .26
Going to the Review — Valcabtieb •••..... 26
Pipes Out fob Practice — Valcabtieb 26
Disembarkation — Plymouth 27
Lying Alongside — Plymouth 27
At Sea— The Bows 27
At Sea — Recreation Hour 28
At Sea — Boxing Match .28
At Sea — Church Parade 28
At Sea— a Fine Day 29
At Sea — The Start 29
Lieutenant-General E. a. H. Alderson, C.B., Commanding 1st Canadian
By the Roadside — Salisbury Plain 31
Artillery at Review — Salisbury Plain 31
Church Parade — Salisbury Plain 81
Kit Inspection, 48th Highlanders (15th Battauon) — Salisbury Plain . 82
Huts at Larkhill, Canadian Scottish (16th Battalion) — Salisbury Plain . 32
One of the Remounts — Salisbury Plain 32
Salisbury Plain .36
Digging Trenches — Salisbury Plain 37
Stonehenge — Salisbury Plain .37
Canadian Engineers building Stables at Larkhill — Salisbury Plain . 87
West Down South Camp — Salisbury Plain 88
Churchyard at Netheravon — Salisbury Plain 38
Huts at Larkhill — Salisbury Plain 38
Review by H.M. the King — Salisbury Plain 39
Surgeon-General G. Carleton Jones, D.M.S., Canadians . . . .40
King Edward Horse, Royal Canadian Dragoons, and Lord Strathcona
Horse — Maresfield, Sussex 45
Canadian Cavalry Brigade Sports — Maresfield, Sussex . . . .45
The Floods at Shrewton — Salisbury Plain ...... 46
-Transports passing through Amesbury — Salisbury Plain . . . .46
Ward in Bulford Manor — Salisbury Plain 47
Field Comforts Depot, the Vicarage, Amesbury — Salisbury Plain . . 47
No. 1 General Hospital (Cavalry School, Netheravon) — Salisbury Plain . 47
Out for a Stsoll — Sausbuey Plain *8
The Floods at Bulfobd Manor — Salisbury Plain 48
Are We Downhearted ? — Salisbury Plain ....... 48
Fort Garry Horse — Canterbury 57
Branding Horse with R.C.H.A. — Maresfield, Sussex . . . .67
A Gun in Action — Maresfield, Sussex 57
Royal Canadian Dragoon Horses — Maresfield, Sussex . . . .57
Highlanders Entraining — At the Front ....... 58
A Consultation — ^At the Front ......... 58
In Winter Kit — At the Front ......... 58
St. Patrick's Day — At the Front ... ..... 59
In the Trenches — At the Front ........ 59
The Sniper — At the Front ......... 60
Watching for Them — At the Front ........ 60
Dinner — ^At the Front .......... 81
Filling Sandbags — ^At the Front ........ 81
Lovely Warm Fur Coats — At the Front ....... 81
In a Dugout — At the Front ......... 81
A Quiet Read — At the Front 82
News from Home — At the Front ........ 82
After a Jack Johnson — ^At the Front 82
In Billets — At the Front 83
Quarters in France — ^At the Front ........ 83
" Some " Sandbags — ^At the Front ........ 88
Stables — At the Front .......... 83
A Disused Trench — At the Front ........ 84
A Home from Home — At the Front ........ 84
The Morning Shave — At the Front ........ 84
A Trench Toilet — At the Front ........ 84
Canadian Artillery — At the Front ........ 97
An Observation Station of the Canadian Artillery. . . . .97
Canadian Artillery — At the Front ........ 97
Bbig.-General J. C. Macdouoall, Commanding Canadians — Shoencliffe . 98
Ward in No. 2 Stationary Hospital — Somewhere in France . . .99
View of No. 2 Stationary Hospital — Somewhere in France , . .99
No. 1 Stationary Hospital — Somewhere in France 99
Loading Supplies — Ashford ......... 100
Canadian Field Comforts Commission — A Truckload of Comforts . . 100
Canadian Field Comforts Commission — Moore Barracks, Shorncliffe . 100
Canadian Field Comforts Commission — Packing-room .... 109
Canadian Field Comforts Commission — Bales for the Front . . . 109
DiBGATE Camp — Shorncliffe ......... 109
At the Convalescent Camp — Monk's Horton . . . . . .110
Evening Meal — ^Dibgate . . , . . . . . . .110
Band of 11th Battalion at Moore Barracks Hospital . . . .110
A Street Corner — Folkestone . . . . . . . . .111
Tents at Dibgate ........... Ill
St. Martin's Church — ^Shorncliffe . .112
St. Martin's Plain — Shorncliffe ........ 112
GENERAL SIR SAM HUGHES
-^' In Fafewell Address to the First Contiitgent
" What reck you whether your resting-places be decked with the golden
lilies of Prance* or b,e apiidst the vine-clad hills of tfie Rhine ; the prin-
ciples for which you fought are eternal."
Photo Elliott & Fry.
MAJOR-GENERAL THE HON. SIR SAM HUGHES, K.C.B.,
MINISTER OF MIWTIA AND DEFENCE
VIEW OF CAMP— VALCARTIER.
PONTOON BRIDGE— VALCARTIER.
By Elisabeth Flagler MacKeen
Where a little river winds over a sandy, slightly hilly plain, dotted
with woods and lonely farms, among lovely Laurentian Mountains,
grew Valcartier Camp.
Electrically lighted, with purified water and baths for every unit,
with broad roads and board walks, with post-office and hospitals,
a network of telephones, a bank and Y.M.C.A. tent, with canteens for
soft drinks, goodies and smokes : in two short weeks it was ready for
Then came our lads —
" from Montreal,
From Quebec and Saguenay,
From Ungava, Labrador,
All the lands about the Bay, '
Which old Hudson quested for."
Eager and earnest they were. Many had given up valuable
positions, others with only their strong bodies and loyal hearts to
give ; they came from every walk and grade in life — ^trappers, ranchers,
old soldiers, deep-sea fishermen, commercial travellers, lawyers,
clerks, Indians, Jews, Americans, many English, and above all the
Canadians born — but only the fittest, the Dominion's finest and best.
Ten miles round was the big camp, and to reach it one boarded
a train at Quebec and rode for an hour or so, through a smiling land,
to Valcartier Station. On the way was felt the change from normal
life : the many officers and soldiers, the hospital car attached to the
train, and at every bridge a little tent for the soldiers who guarded
A mile from Valcartier were seen the rifle-butts — the most exten-
sive in the world ; next came the station and the crush : crowds of
geople, ambulances, army transport waggons, cabs, motors, orderlies
olding riding horses ; and a distracted provost guard trying to
18 VALC ARTIER
Down the sandy road to the near-by camp one passed seventeen
miles of switch tracks, crowded with cars of the Army Service Corps.
Driving by the main guard, next was reached the office, where passes
for entrance within the lines had to be obtained. Then down a long
street, past headquarters — to the left a hill, and after that straight
away on the right for three miles, through battalions of infantry and
brigades of artillery and cavalry.
The camp was scrupulously clean; metal incinerators, like burning-
ghats, lined the streets ; left-over food was hourly consumed, while,
nightly, carts removed all refuse. On either side the main roads,
ditches four feet deep, crossed by many little bridges and filled with
branches of spruce and fir, carried away the dirty water.
The carefully guarded pumping station was by the river. Beyond
it floated the pontoon bridge leading to the big compound across the
river, where thousands of horses were kept. One night they broke
loose and made things lively. Three times the general alarm was
sounded as the frightened creatures tore madly through and around
the tents in their wild stampede. For the men perhaps it was good
practice — a foretaste of night attacks.
Driving down the lines, one was struck by the "camaraderie"
of the men, and enjoyed the little touches of daily life — such as two
tall Highlanders scrubbing away with serious faces, washing their
clothes in the waist-high troughs provided therefor, and gaily
waving a pair of socks in greeting to the visitor. Perhaps near by a
chap shaved himself before a small glass held by a friend, while across
the street, in a slab chair, a barber was haircutting a cavalry-man, and
another, standing by waiting his turn, gave sage advice. Farther on,
a Habitant bade farewell to his black-eyed wife and child, exclaiming,
"Brace ton pdre, petite ! " as he kissed them both. Next there was a
great merriment over an unfortunate who had slipped into the deep
ditch and was extracted muddied to the neck. Farther up the street
a kicking horse held up a whole battery of field artillery, returning
from the ranges in the hills to the north. Only the deep disapproval
of the other horses at last induced him to cease his antics.
The camp had plenty of mascots : a cinnamon bear from the
West, a cross little black one from New Brunswick, a calf kidnapped
near Winnipeg when a troop train stopped for water, a (powder ?)
monkey for the artillery, and dogs beyond mentioning. Strangest
of all, however, were two doves of the Royal Canadian Engineers;
bill by nose with the horses, they used to eat their oats. Poor little
emblems of vanished Peace, when will you come to your own again I
By noon always rose everywhere a blue wood smoke, and a
savoury odour permeated the camp. Under their open sheds cooks
bustled about, cramming fuel into the little sheet-iron stoves, boiling
water, frying potatoes, roasting meat.
Every man's daily ration, beside salt and pepper, was 1 oz. tea ;
^ oz. coffee ; 1 oz. cheese ; 2 oz. each of jam, beans, butter and sugar ;
6 oz. fresh vegetables ; 1 J lbs. bread ; 1 lb. fresh meat ; 1 lb. pota-
toes. Other allowances included 1 pint of oil and 1 cubic foot of
wood. Each horse had 15 lbs. of hay and two of straw. Much fruit
was also sent to the camp — notably from Ontario.
There was no loafing at Valcartier ; it seethed and hummed like
a hive. But in spite of the constant drilling, riding, marching and
practising with rifles and artillery, the men were still keen for foot-
ball and baseball ; while on Sundays and rainy days^ a sound of hymns
and songs rose from the dripping tents.
And always and ever, never-ceasing, all-pervading, was the
silvery sound of bugles. Buglers practising their calls, and bugles
blowing for rising, for sleeping, for eating, for marching and hourly
duties ; always that music rang in one's ears, till the thought of
Valcartier and it are as one.
So came at last the day when our first Contingent, perfectly
equipped and, as an Army, absolutely self-contained ; sailed away in
thirty-one great grey transports guarded by seven cruisers, down the
big river so many would never see again.
"Au revoir, God be with you, brave sons of the Empu-e,
Afar o'er the ocean, 'tis yours there to find
The reward that is due to the soldier heroic :
The prize-gift to Duty, by Courage assigned.
Stalwart to stalwart, goodbye one and all —
Our own giving heed to the Motherland's call.
Our own steeled to face whate'er may befall 1 "
Watch an ye will and pray, no prayer forgetting.
For the brave hearts on yon dim waters rocked ;
But fear not for the end of that sun-setting.
The fire that bums on: faith wins-^God is not mocked."
R. E. Vernede.
AT SEA— THE DANCE.
A WELCOME FROM THE
TRAINING SHIP— PLYMOUTH.
AT SEA— A Ni;W SISTER.
AT SEA— THE LINE ASTERN.
— — - A,
AT SEA— GASPE BASIN.
ROYAL CANADIAN DRAGOONS
N THE RANGES, OOTII RIFLES (STH
KITCHENS, 90TII RIFLES (8TII
LOniJ SIHATHCONA HORSE LINES-^
FIELD COMFORTS TENT-
COBOURG MEN, 2ND BATTALION—
KIT INSPECTION, IITII ISATTALION-
4STH HIGHLANDERS(15TH BATTALION)
REVIEW, SEPTEIIBER 20TH, 1914-
COLONEL VICTOR WILLIAMS, ADJL TANT-GENEUAL
GOING TO THE REVIEW— VALCARTIER.
PIPES OUT FOR PRACTICE— VALCARTIER.
LYING AL(_lNr.SIDI';— PLY.MOirj'H.
AT SEA— THE BOWS.
AT SEA— RECREATION HOUR.
AT SEA— BOXING MATCH.
AT SEA— CHURCH PARADE.
AT SEA— A FINE i)AY.
AT SEA— THE START.
I'tiaU) EllwU * l-ry.
LT.-GENERAL E. A. H, ALDERSON, C.B., COMMANDING
iST CANADIAN DIVISION.
BY THE, ROADSIDE— SALISBURY
ARTILLERY AT REVIEW— SALISBURY
Pholo bij A. I\ Muriill. Shrcwlnn-
CHURCH PARADE— SALISBURY'
Photo bii L T. Fuller, Amcsbnru.
KIT INSPECTION, 48TH HIGHLANDERS
(15TH BATTALION)— SALISBURY
HUTS AT LVRKHILL, CANADIAN
SCOTTISH (ir.TH BATTALION)— SALIS-
ONE OF THE REMOUNTS— SALISBURY
Photo by T. L. Fuller, Anic^hunj.
By Elisabeth Flagler MacKeen
" From the Islands and the Highlands,
From the outposts of the earth.
On a hundred ships we hasten
To your side to prove our worth.
For, wherever peril calls abroad
For loyal hearts and guns.
We'll show the foe, that weal or woe.
We're Mother Britain's sons."
Last winter in Canada there were probably over 50,000 people to
whom " Salisbury Plain " meant only the place where dwelt " our
Johnnie," or " my poor Sandy," or " Cher Pierre," When they
opened their papers of a morning, briskly they turned to news headed
" Bustard Camp," or " Larkhill," or " Sling Plantation " ; perhaps
wondering that it contained no mention of the dear one. But whole
units — ^let alone one man — ^were swallowed up on that huge plain, as
many who tried to find a friend, or even a regiment, sadly dis-
covered. Valcartier was puzzling enough in such a hunt, but
simplicity compared to those two hundred square miles of rolling downs,
of woods and rushing streams, of sheep-grazing fields and ribbony roads,
crossing and intersecting, and often congested with caravans of motor-
lorries or groaning traction engines.
Here and there were not only the many camps, but picturesque
typical English farms and villages, and stately old mansions amidst
their lovely parks, while from many a hilltop appeared the spire of
Salisbury's beautiful cathedral, pointing fairy-like, in the misty distance.
Though many little birds had the poor taste to winter here, though
bushes, vines and grass stayed green, and even in January ploughs
furrowed the fields, yet to the heart-sickening, apparently never-
ending fall of rain, how preferable would have been ground-hardening
frost and good deep snow, to keep out the cold !
Of course the dominating interest of the Plain is Stonehenge — ^that
relic of prehistoric days, and deeds as dark as are the Germans'.
Our men were never tired of examining the ruins or speculating over
84 SALISBURY PLAIN
the barrows and " rings " and traces of earthworks left by ancient
Britons and Romans. Some antiquarian among them started a theory,
which obtained popular credence, that the object of Stonehenge s
lofty pillars and cross slabs was to provide a place where the Uruid
priests might sit during services and keep their feet out of the mud.
Be that as it may, a significant sight last winter was the Church parade
of Earth's latest khaki-covered soldiers held by Canon Scott, amid
those ponderous ruins, where in bygone ages other religions once
held sway and other warriors worshipped. And ^vhat more significant
sound than the gushing song of the ever-present little larks mingling
with the drone of an aeroplane from the military flying school at
Significant, too, of the difference 'twixt Old- World ways and New
was an amusing incident which occurred to a Montreal regiment the
morning of their arrival. To men, many of whom had roamed
trackless forests and been as free as the wild creatures therein, the
sacredness of an English tree was news. Therefore great was the
horror and indignation of the owner when a number of chaps, equipped
with axes, saUied joyously forth to a near-by grove and proceeded to
chop down firewood, as had always been their custom in first making
camp. Right there and then they learned the force of the proverb
about other men and other customs.
There were 50,000 men on the Plain, for a part of " Kitchener's
Army " trained there too. The Canadians were some under canvas
and some in huts. Bulford, Larkhill, Sling Plantation and Tidworth,
are big camps of permanent buildings ; there were others of tents like
Bustard, West Down South, West Down North, and Pond Farm.
In addition, our men were billeted at Shrewton, Tilshead, Devizes,
Edington, Potterne, Upavon, Netheravon, Pewsey, Winterbournestoke,
Figheldean, and Woodford. At Bulford Manor, Netheravon and Lavington
were large hospitals, besides those purely regimental, and the Field
Ambulances ; Headquarters and General Alderson were at Bustard in
an old inn. But the Plain swallowed up all, and one could speed along
for^iles in motors or on the light railway from the city of Salisbury
to Bulford and see never a sign of a camp and hardly a soldier, save at
the stations. Like Valcartier's, they were always lively and crowded
with boxes and bales, vehicles, munitions and men.
Marching from Portsmouth or landed from trains, at this and
that station, at all hours of the day and night ; to these huts in the
making, and canvas cities that were to be, blithely came our lads.
And there they stayed for weary months of the rainiest, most flooded
winter, England has known in years. With roads oft-times impassable
from mud and water, with sickness bred of exposure and damp, with
SALISBURY PLAIN 85
their home mails going astray, often overcrowded in huts or tents, yet
they never lost their cheerfulness and courage. They made the most of
what fun was to be had ; what work they could do they did ; their
only deep complaint was that they were not at the great, fierce work
which they came for.
Twice the King reviewed them : soon after their arrival and again
early in February, shortly before they left for the front. That time
the word went forth — ^the Canadians had done well : they were ready
for the fiery trial, and on the 6th began the move to France by way
of Bristol and St. l^azaire.
But not all shall fight the good fight. Under pathetic little mounds
by the grey old churches of Netheravon and Bulford lie some of our
heroes. Theirs not to give their lives on the field of glory 'midst bursting
shell and whistling bullet, like many a brave friend and comrade. But
though dying through accident or disease, yet nevertheless it was for
their country and in the path of duty. For not only those who achieve
honour and distinction, who have " gone West " or suffered the
martyrdom of wounds, have made the " Great Sacrifice " ; but all who
give themselves to fight and to strive, that Liberty and Empire be
preserved and Canada remain inviolate.
" Living and dead, thefr brave hands garland thes
With love and honour, an unfading crown,
A goodly heirloom to be handed down
To children's children that are yet to be."
DIGGING TRENCHES— SALISBURY
STONEHENGE— SALISBURY PLAIN.
CANADIAN ENGINEERS BUILDING
STABLES AT LARKHILL— SALISBURY
Plwlo bij A. F. IMarett, Shrcwton.
WEST DOWN SOUTH CAMP-
CHURCHYARD AT NETHERAVON-
HUTS AT L.\RKHILL— SALISBURY
REVIEW BY^H.M. THE KING-SALISBURY~PLAIN.
SURGEON-GENEKAL G. CARLE-|().N ..ONES D ^^^^
4B] , CANADIANS. ' ^•^^■^-
On this thick and chalky loam,
Where'er the eye may roam,
The brutal truth comes home —
Of the mud.
It is said the great god Buddh
Is " an idol made of mud " ;
You coiild make a million gods
Of what once was grassy sods —
But is mud.
The ancient homes of Britons were of mud.
And one need not of reflection chew the cud
To quickly understand
They took what was next to hand
As they dotted all the land
With homes of mud.
In the morn when we arise
There are but the rainy skies —
And the mud
Nine inches deep it lies,
We are mud up to our eyes,
In our cakes and in our pies
There is mud.
Our soldiers like to stroll
In the mud,
And the horses love to roll
In the mud;
Our good Canadian shoe
It goes quickly through and through.
Peels the sole and melts the glue —
In the mud.
This ditty I have written
In the mud,
For wherever I've been sittin'
There is mud :
It has covered every spot,
On my hands there's quite a lot.
When I'm dead, oh, plant me not
In the mud !
G. M. A.
To tell of Salisbury Plain and our boys camped thereon, is to tell a
tale of hardship and discomfort not only bravely but cheerily borne ;
of men who came full of keen courage and anxiety to learn all they
could of soldiering before facing their well-trained foe, and who, despite
weather and many other hindrances, must have fully learned their
lesson, as shown by their magnificent behaviour at the second battle
Salisbury Plain is a vast sea of land — miles in extent. The camps
were widely separated; Pond Farm, the outermost of the first lot of
camps, being eight miles from Bustard, where General Alderson
had his headquarters, and where the First Brigade were encamped.
This Brigade stayed under canvas until they moved to France; but
in January the 2nd and 3rd Brigades moved from their tents in the
awful mudhole called West Down South to the huts at Lark Hill.
Here the mud was, if anything, worse. In the meantime the Artillery,
who had had a very bad time at West Down North, moved into billets
at various small towns surrounding Devizes, and the Cavalry were
billeted at Winterbournestoke and Pewsey.
The Field Comforts Depot was established at Amesbury, which is
on the way from most of the camps to Salisbury. Of course England
has never known such a winter as the past one. One could count
the simny days on one's two hands. We knew the camps very well,
as many a day was spent by one or other of us on a transport, dashing
along the awful roads through the mud and rain to deliver much- wanted
socks or boxes, or parcels sent from home. We can never say enough
for the kindness and courtesy we received always and everywhere
from all ranks, and their warm appreciation of our efforts on their
behalf was most encouraging.
During the floods in January the roads were almost impassable,
and I must in this connection tell you of our wonderftil nurses. Every
one knows of our sadly-full hospital at Bulford, overflowing into many
tents. Here these devoted sisters were to be seen, skirts tucked up,
wading round in mud and water to the top of — and sometimes over —
their rubber boots, always with a bright smile and a kind word for their
44 SALISBURY PLAIN
patients. To hear the men who have been in hospital speak of " our
Sisters " with such unbounded admiration and respect is delightful.
This is no military description of the camp, but just a few items
of the woman side of life there. Dviring January a London friend,
who is untiring in her work for the Empire's soldiers, wrote asking the
Commission if a concert party to give four concerts would be appreciated
by the Canadians if she should send them. Her kind offer was, of
course, jumped at; and never, I think, have performers had more en-
thusiastic or appreciative audiences. Four ladies came down, and
we can only hope their reception repaid them for their kindness. Two
concerts were held at Netheravon Hospital in the afternoon and two
at Lark Hill camp in the evening. Those big huts, packed with a
thousand men, were a wonderful sight. We were sorry there were
only two evening concerts, so only two units benefited. One, a Western
regiment, deserves a special word for their wonderful staging and
lighting arrangements, not to mention their decorations. At the last
moment the violinist's music-stand was missing, and in literally five
minutes the neatest and most practical stand had been made by the
The poor horses were the worst sufferers, as they for the most part
had no shelter from the awftil weather imtil the end of January, and
many a man was found actually crying over his poor gee.
The Y.M.C.A. work for the men cannot be praised too highly.
What the camps would have done without their efforts to help and
amuse the men during their free hours, I do not know.
On February 6th the Division began its move to France. Of
course it rained all those days — or rather nights, for they moved at
night — ^but nothing could dampen the spirits of the men. As they
passed the Vicarage (our Depot), marching through Amesbury to the
station, they sang and cheered, and always came the cry :
" Axe we downhearted ? — No. Are we wet ? — Yes." And in those
few words are epitomised the main points of the winter's history.
J. L. A.
KING EDWARD HORSE, ROYAL CANADIAN DRAGOONS
AND LORD STRATHCONA HORSE— MARESFIELD, SUSSEX.
CANADIAN CAVALRY BRIGADE SPORTS—
Photo by A. F. Mareit, Shrewton.
THE FLOODS AT SHREWTON— SALISBURY PLAIN.
TRANSPORTS PASSING - THROUGH AMESBURY-
WARD IN DULFORD MANOR-
FIELD COMFORTS DEPOT, THE
VICARAGE, AMESBURY — SALISBURY
NO. 1 GENERAL HOSPITAL,
CAV.\.LRY SCHOOL, NETHERAVON—
OUT FOR A STROLL— SALISBURY
THE FLOODS AT BULFORD
MANOR— SALISBURY PLAIN.
ARE WE DOWNHEARTED 7-
THE KING'S "GODSPEED"
TEXT OF HIS majesty's MESSAGE TO THE CANADIANS
Following an inspection of the Canadian First Contingent on Febru-
ary 4th, on Salisbury Plain, His Majesty the King wrote a gracious
message to the troops, to be read to all units on board ship after their
embarkation for France. It is as follows :
" Officers, Non-commissioned Officers, and Men :
" At the beginning of November I had the pleasure of welcoming
to the Mother Country this fine contingent from the Dominion of
Canada, and now, after three months' training, I bid you Godspeed
on your way to assist my Army in the field.
" I am well aware of the discomforts that you have experienced
from the inclement weather and abnormal rain, and I admire the
cheerful spirit displayed by all ranks in facing and overcoming all
" From all I have heard, and from what I have been able to see
at to-day's inspection and march-past, I am satisfied that you have
made good use of the time spent on Salisbury Plain.
" By your willing and prompt rally to our common flag, you have
already earned the gratitude of the Motherland.
" By your deeds and achievements on the field of battle I am
confident that you wiU emulate the example of your fellow-countrymen
in the South African War, and thus help to secure the triumph of our
"*I shall follow with pride and interest all your movements. I pray
that God may bless you and watch over you."
THE LADS OF THE MAPLE LEAF
By Jessie Pope
Ripe for any adventure, sturdy, loyal, and game.
Quick to the call of the Mother, the young Canadians came.
Eager to show their mettle, ready to shed their blood.
They bowed their neck to the collar and trained in Wiltshire mud.
Shipped, in the fullness of time, across to the other shore,
Heard a deep hum in the distance, the basso prqfundo of war ;
Fretted to get to the business, chafed for the firing line.
Forward — with throbbing pulses, like pilgrims who near their shrine.
Spoiled for a fight, and got it — ^lurid, merciless, red —
Trifled with death in the trenches, braved and battled and bled.
Then, at a given order, gathered together and backed —
Not because they were bending, but to keep the line intact.
Four of their guns defenceless — ^left in the enemy's hand !
That was a bitter buffet, more than the lads could stand.
Back charged the Men of the Maple, routed the jubilant Huns,
Captured a pack of Germans and saved their beloved guns.
Ripe for any adventure, sturdy, loyal, and game.
Quick to the call of the Mother, the keen Canadians came.
Hurrah for the young Dominion ! Cheer them with heart and voice.
The Maple shall never wither ! Bravo — Canada boys !
Printed b; kind permliBlou ol tb« Fubliiben, OBAlil Riobards.
LETTERS FROM THE FRONT
' THROUGH A STORM IN A CATTLE BOAT
February lith, 1915.
Just a few lines to let you know that I am quite all right and feeling
just as fit as ever. We are billeted " somewhere in France," I can't
tell you where we are, where we have been, or where we are going,
as we have had strict instructions not to do so, and if I did the names
would only be obliterated by the Censor. We had an awfully rough
passage by sea. You can imagine what it was like, with the boat
traveUing very light, practically nothing in the hold, and practically
three-quarters of the men ill.
Those who were left had to look after the horses, as they were
very frightened. We were in a cattle boat, with no bunks and no
room for such a crowd on deck, so all the fellows gathered in the hold,
where they slept and stayed. The first night four of us slept on deck,
and it was all right. The next night we found a place in an extra hold.
That was the night that the storm came up, and we were sleeping
right under the hatch. The water came through like a deluge, and
" drowned " us. We moved our bed three times that night before we
could find anywhere dry. In the morning I got up, and I have never
seen or realised such a sea in all my life. It just tossed the boat about
like a bottle ; but we got through all right. Ours was the only boat out
of our Brigade to get through the storm — all the others ran with the
gale, and got in after us, although they started some time before. We
got off and entrained in the evening. Our platoon travelled apart
from the Battalion, as we were escort to a battery of Artillery. We had
four box cars, exactly like covered goods trucks, only very much larger,
and there were twenty to twenty-five in each. We all enjoyed the
railway journey, as we were treated well all the way through. We
lived ever since we left England on bully beef, biscuits, bread, jam, and
cheese — all right for land but no good for sea. We had a great time
getting off at the stations and singing to the crowds which gathered
at every place all the way through. They couldn't understand what
52 LETTERS FROM THE FRONT
we were singing about, but they clapped just the same, and gave us
apples, pears, onions, cider, wine, and all sorts of things. Wine is very
cheap here, and you can get a quart bottle for a franc — viz., a shilling.
The weather coming through was fine, and we travelled very slowly.
When we landed we were served out with lovely warm fur coats,
and they are quite 'a boon to us, and will be yet. We slept very warm
in the train. We passed through lots of the big French towns, which
I can't mention, and yesterday we arrived at where we detrained, and
walked about two or three miles to where we are billeted now, in the
bottom floor of a flour mill.
We don't know when we are going in the trenches, but have seen
lots of fellows who have just come out, and it is very quiet there now.
The place we are in now the Germans were in at one time, but were
cleared out. We are quite all right here, and our men are the best
every time, as the paper says.
All the way along the French people were asking for " the souvenir,
souvenir," so we gave them any old buttons we had. I managed to
make them understand by the little French I remembered and learnt
up in the book you sent, and got along all right in that respect ; but up
here they speak Flemish, so we are " done in."
Kindest regards to all the people.
SOMETHING QUITE NEW
Monday, March 1st.
This is something quite new, writing a letter in the trenches. We
paraded at 5 p.m., marched to the edge of the town, where we waited
till 6.15, when it was getting dark, and guides met us and brought us up
to the trenches. As I said this afternoon, these are de luoce ; the officers
we are with had me in to dinner with them. We had bully beef and
potatoes, welsh rabbit, cake, jam, bread, butter, whisky, and coffee,
with cherry brandy and cigarettes to follow. Then we went round the
sentries to see all was well, and now I am in my own bedroom. It is
a dug-out on a side trench, about six feet square and about four feet high.
Opposite the door is the bed — canvas on a frame two feet from the
ground, with straw pillow ; beside it a box for a table, with a magazine
and weekly paper, with a candle burning ; and beside the door a fireplace
made of a biscuit tin and burning charcoal. Over it are two pictures
from an illustrated paper. The carpet is empty sand-bags, the sides
are boards with mud outside them, roof corrugated iron with earth on
LETTERS FROM THE FRONT 53
top. They dig a space out, put in the wooden props and sides, put
corrugated iron on top and fill in the top, etc., with earth, hang a bit of
canvas or rubber sheeting on top ; and who could be happier ?
There was some excitement this morning when two German Taubes
flew over the edge of the town and our guns started to shell them.
They were a long way up, but you could plainly see the shells bursting,
and some of them seemed to be pretty close.
Then this afternoon the Germans started shelling the town near
our billets ; several shells fell near the Company School. Also some fell
on the stable right next to where my horse is, smashed the roof, and
broke all the windows ; but it is really surprising that with it all so very
little damage is done.
From Officer of 15th Battalion.
STANDING-TO IN THE TRENCHES
Monday, March 8th.
We paraded at 5.30 at ova billets, and had a long trying march in
pitch black with very bad roads. In some places the water was three
inches deep across the road, and we had to pass motor transports, etc.
It rained nearly all day, but cleared up by night, but was still very dark
and cloudy. When we arrived near the firing line we picked up more stuff,
as everyone had to carry 24 hours' grub, coke, kindling, etc. The
men were terribly ladened down, but were splendid. We met our
guides, and marched down a road and across a ploughed field — you can
imagine its state after the rain ; had to cross two plank bridges, step
over a wire, and at fast stumbled into our trench. On getting in every
man " stands-to," that is, stands up at the parapet at the place he will
fire from, and peers out into the dark where one knows the German lines
are. The other company then fell out, our chaps take off their packs,
etc., sentries are posted, the men heat some tea in a brazier and try
to snuggle into a tiny dug-out. I report to the outgoing CO., sign for
shovels, etc., he is leaving, find out what has been happening, and all
the news, and then start my rounds. As we have some detached posts,
this means floundering around in the dark in thick mud, speaking to
each sentry and seeing that all is well. We had some supper first, then
I made my rounds, which took till nearly three o'clock, then turned
in for a couple of hours, and then we stood-to till it was light enough to
see all was clear. This brings it to Sunday morning, which was another
wet, cheerless day.
54 LETTERS FROM THE FRONT
After breakfast everyone started in to dean the trenches, pump
out water, which in some places was quite deep, and generally settle
down. Then we started in to fix up our dug-outs by enlargmg them,
putting better roofs over them ; and we built three new ones. All this
time I have to send in written reports on different things at all sorts
of different hours, ranging from 3 a.m. Our rations are all carried up
by hand from some distance back, and had to be distributed in the
dark and sent off to the different places. Then I went round agam.
The mud behind our right is awful— it is a ploughed field. The old line
trench is behind and is chuck-full of water, so that if one does not stick
to the line one gets damp. It "is now tea-time, and there are five of us
waiting for it, so you can imagine the size of the dug-out — it is a regidar
From Officee of 15th Battalion.
THE LUXURY OF A HOT BATH
We got into our billets about 1.30 p.m. yesterday. We had a
cup of tea and went off in lots to have a bath. The men's place is
just an old factory with about fifty large tubs. They have ample
hot water, and every man gets in and has a thorough wash. The tubs
are about the size of a washtub, and there is hardly room to get all
parts of one's anatomy in at the same time, so as a result every one
was trying all sorts of antics to get in, hanging their feet out and screwing
round. Then there was a small room for officers. Our tub was a
little larger, and oh, the luxury^ of a very hot bath. I had not had
my clothes off for five days, and just wallowed in it. Next there was
a huge vat of luke-warm water into which one had to jump from the
top, and it was just up to one's neck, and thirdly a vat of cold water
the same size. The men all got a clean pair of socks from Queen
Mary and the women of the Empire. Another funny thing was a
cart some of the men made to take rations, etc., up to the front. They
found some old wheels that looked like a perambulator, put a box
on top of it, and all sorts of things inside, including two small puppies,
pots, pans, and grub, with a French flag on the back. It upset three
times, much to the disgust of the puppies, but they only broke one
egg, and said it was much easier than carrying everything on their
backs. Do you remember the kitten some of the men found at Val-
LETTERS FROM THE FRONT 55
cartier ? It has travelled everywhere with us ; one man qarries it
on top of his pack ; it goes into the trenches with him, and seems to
enjoy itself and be quite happy.
We did not know what mud was on Salisbury Plain : this is a
very flat part of the country, and the water seems to just lie on the
roads and fields and never sinks in, also it is very misty to-day, and
one can only see about 100 yards, which is hard on both the artillery
and the aeroplanes. It is wonderful to see the artillery firing at a
flying machine. You see the car sailing along, hear the explosion,
and then a puff of black smoke away up in the air. It must be pretty
ticklish work. You can follow the course by the shells bursting, and
sometimes they bring him down.
From Officer of 15th Battalion.
AN AMUSING DAY
March nth, 1915.
We have just had rather an amusing day. As you know, we are
rather an Irish regiment, and as we have an Irishman in command, the
men were convinced that we should make an attack diuring the day.
This did not come off, but the men had to celebrate St. Patrick's Day
somehow. They started off by sticking the Irish flag, the Union Jack,
and the tricolour on the parapet. Where they conjured them from
the Lord only knows ! They then sang the National Anthem, the
Marseillaise, the Maple Leaf, and Wearing o' the Green. The Germans
riddled the tricolour with bullets, but left the other two alone. Our
men have fotmd a sure way of annoying the Germans. They shout
across to them, and the following remarks are sure to draw a reply
in the form of some perfectly ineffective rifle fire. " Hi, Fritz, bring
the menu ! " or " Herr Lieutenant, why don't you pay your washing
bill ? " The latter is in some subtle way a particular insult.
From Officer of 90th Winnipeg Rifles.
56 LETTERS FROM THE FRONT
EVERYTHING IS QUIET
Everything is quiet, though we can hear the Germans pounding
away at stakes, probably on new wire entanglements. They send up
occasional flares, which make everything very bright while they are
up, and there is more or less firing on and off all the time. Going
down the trench at night rather rfeminds me of a Pullman sleeping-
car. There are lights inside the dug-outs which shine out of canvas
curtains, and there is a narrow passage down the middle. There
goes a machine gun popping away ; they are making more noise than
The farmers all seem to have their fields in pretty good shape right
up close to the firing-line, but, of course, in some places the houses
are in ruins ; wood all taken for firewood, and even the bricks taken
to put down on the floors of the trenches or to improve a bit of road.
The other day when we were going to bathe we saw a brush cleaner
going along the road, trying to get the mud off, just as one might see
Fkom Officer of 15th Battalion.
Phofn bij Fisk-Moore, Cantrrbnrti.
FORT GARRY HORSE— CANTERRURY.
BRANDING HORSE WITH R.C.H.A.
— MARESFIELD, SUSSEX.
A GUN IN' ACTIOM— MARESFIELD,
ROYAL CANADIAN DRAGOON HORSES— MARESFIELD, SUSSEX.
HIGHLANDERS ENTRAINING — AT
A CONSULTATION— AT THE FRONT.
IN WINTER KIT— AT THE FRONT.
ST. PATRICK'S DA%-AT THE FRONT.
IN THE TRENCHES— AT THE FRONT.
THE SNIPER— AT THE FRONT.
WATCHING FOR THEM— AT THE
ON THE RUE DU BOIS
By Frederick George Scott
O PALLID Christ within this broken shrine.
Not those torn Hands and not that Heart of Thine
Have given the nations blood to drink like wine.
Through weary years and 'neath the changing skies,
Men turned their back on those appealing Eyes
And scorned as vain Thine awful Sacrifice.
Kings with their armies, children in their play
Have passed unheeding down this shell-ploughed way.
The great world knew not where its true strength lay.
In pomp and luxury, in lust of gold.
In selfish ease, in pleasures manifold,
" Evil is good, good evil," we were told.
Yet here, where nightly the great flare-lights gleam,
And murder stalks triumphant in their beam.
The world has wakened from its empty dream.
At last, O Christ, in this strange, darkened land,
Where ruined homes lie round on every hand.
Life's deeper truths men come to understand.
For lonely graves along the country-side,
Where sleep those brave hearts who for others died.
Tell of life's union with the Crucified.
And new light kindles in the mourner's eyes.
Like day-dawn breaking through the rifted skies.
For Life is born of life's self-sacrifice.
Holy Week, 1915.
LETTERS FROM THE FRONT— Confwuea
THREE DAYS OF OUR WORK
In a Canadian War Hospital,
It may be of interest to you if I try, however inadequately, to describe
three days of our recent work here as the best means of conveying a
picture of the conditions to your minds.
This is by no means " the front," and compared to many other
sisters, our experiences have been tame, but nevertheless last week
echoes of the fierce fighting round La Bass^e and the dearly bought
success of Neuve Chapelle have connected us very quickly with the
battle-line, and human wreckage has been cast up to our doors almost
on the next tide.
I am on night duty at present, and on the evening of March 11th a
message from Boulogne informed us that a train load of about 250 was
being sent on, of which number 84 were bad stretcher cases. The
night sisters hurry from room to room of the hotel (which has been
converted into a very convenient hospital), making themselves acquainted
with patients admitted since morning, doing necessary dressings, and
carrying out whatever orders can be done ahead, so that they will
be free later. The day staff don rubber aprons and remain on duty
to assist in receiving the patients, getting ambulance beds prepared,
shirts hung on radiators, and emergency dressings ready. Activity
also reigns in the big central kitchen, where gallons of cocoa simmer
on the range. All the day orderlies are caUed up to assist in undressing
and bathing patients, while the other men of the Unit assemble at
the entrance to carry up stretchers or give a " boch " to others who
walk with difficulty. Each story of the building contains about 100
beds in charge of one nurse and three orderlies at night, about ten
nurses and six orderlies by day. It is close upon midnight when the
ambulances make their first journey from the station, and the unloading
LETTERS FROM THE FRONT 68
and passing before the Admitting Officer begins. It is a ghastly
enough procession, to which we have become accustomed, but the
men of the Canadian Corps have won a good name for the speed and
care with which they handle the wounded, though each stretcher
has to be carried up three stories, and you will remember there are
eighty-four helpless cases.
Quietly and silently they file along the corridors, these broken
men from the trenches, whose accumulated miseries even we cannot
realise. Khaki caked with clay, ragged, dirty, and worn out, they
stagger into the warmth and light of the wards; and in the patient
droop of the body, the dull retrospective eye, and restrained speech
one catches a glimpse of the weeks of horror that followed Mons, the
countless nights of slow agony in the vigil underground, and the sudden
parting of comrade from comrade in a delirium of noise and blood
only a few hours ago. A long line of stretchers fills the hall-ways next,
and even here it is the exception to hear a groan or complaint. Bodies
are literally shattered, and the journey must have been a terrible one,
even in the wonderfully fitted hospital train. At each station we were
told some dead had been removed, and cases of gas-gangrene have
already developed, and in thirty-six hours are very far advanced.
" How many hours before you were picked up ? " asks a sister of
one. " Twenty-six, sister, but I dug my head into a refuge, and was
only hit once again, thank God."
" How were you wounded ? " another is questioned. " It was at
the last of their trenches that a big Prussian got me, but it was his
last shot," and he shows a helmet with a bayonet thrust cleaving it,
which he has treasured all the way from the field. Some of the patients
fall instantly into a deep sleep, or rouse themselves only to murmur
" This must be heaven ! " Another apologises : "I can't sleep, a
bed is sort of queer ; haven't been near one for eight months ; but
it is good to have a hot bath and clean clothes, mine haven't been off
for a month."
All important dressings are cut down and replaced, and those suffer-
ing greatly made as comfortable as circumstances permit before the
day staff are dismissed. A sergeant makes complete rounds, checking
money and valuables, and a detail collects from each ward the muddy
and blood-stained clothing to go to the steriliser.
About 3 a.m. one has time to walk from bed to bed and inspect
the new patients.
Here is a child of seventeen moaning softly with shattered arm;
there lies an old soldier, cigarette alight, declaring cheerily, " It's a
bit sore, but it will be all right soon, sure." In one cot there is a lad
picked up on the field without a coat, identification disk is absent, no
64 LETTERS FROM THE FRONT
name or number can be found about him, and a brain injury makes
it a question whether he will ever be included in any list but "missing."
Over in the corner is a quiet form, for whom a letter home and a
summons to the chaplain are the only services we can render.
As a rule these sufferers are silent, but here and there writhing
forms and smothered groans tell of agony drugs cannot relieve. Some
have limbs reduced to pulp, others have lost an eye, while a few un-
conscious cases claim close attention. Lifting a sheet perhaps one
discovers a haemorrhage, or reveals a gaping cavity where shrapnel
has torn away a joint. A German prisoner looks up from his cot, and
receives inquiries with a blank stare, though in an unguarded moment
he shows he has learned the language during his sojourn in England
as a waiter or otherwise.
An electric light flashed on will make half a dozen patients look
up hastily for a flare or the bursting of a shell. And, as one passes
along, a voice says : " It's awful quiet here, sister, but I seem to hear
the guns yet. There were 500 of ours speaking at once yesterday
morning, and it was hell ! "
Now and then a sudden cry and convulsive awakening indicates
the exhausted nerves of a dreamer. He thought he was stmnbling
through the mud and thorn bushes — a " Charge," the papers call it —
warily, with quick-beating heart, towards the enemy's trench; the
alarm is raised, a hail of lead bursts around, the cheer he tries to raise
chokes him, in the gloom he is wrestling with the man who may kill
him, he feels his bayonet free, he is falling himself into an abyss full
of unspeakable horrors, he awakens pantijog and perspiring, and sitting
up staring in front of him, sees agaix^TO^ dim light of dawn the wet
brown field, the colonel's body, bBphum's upturned face, the con-
torted forms thick around him of h^ regiment, and beyond the hard-
won ditches the grey heaps of the German slain. . . .
Just when the new arrivals are finally settled, a list of names is
sent up to the wards of those to be transferred to another hospital farther
south, owing to the pohcy of constant evacuation in order to keep
vacant beds nearest the front. Many of those to go have been in only
a few days, and will be stretcher cases again. This necesq'" "
dressing all wounds, perhaps twenty-five in an hour, and
putting each article of clothing on the helpless patients. The'b
waken those known as Class C, " walking cases," and take t
the pack stores to draw their clothing, while the bed-patients have
theirs carried up to them.
Breakfasts also have^o be served, and the convalescents assist
with these. Somehow we " muddle through," and at 8 a.m., when
the day staff arrives, the patients are starting off; and though the
LETTERS FROM THE FRONT 65
entire ward looks like a Belgian town after a bombardment, the essen-
tials are more or less done.
For brevity I must omit the day duties, but you can supply the
details of business entailed by the admission of 250 surgical cases in
a night. The nursing-sisters do nearly all the dressings, and many
minor operations are done in the wards. The next night another
convoy comes in filling the beds vacated in the morning, and the same
routine is enacted each time. We are rushed like this for several
days after a big engagement, but there are periods in between when
the wards are almost empty. We sometimes pass thousands through
in three days with just sufficient time for a bath, dressing of wounds,
a couple of meals, and a few hours' sleep in a clean bed. Gratitude
for trifling attention is unbounded, and we have all learned anew to
appreciate the wonderful qualities of these very gallant gentlemen in
the ranks. The fields of Crecy and Agincourt lie close at hand, Waterloo
will be re-won, and the famous regiments now fighting over the same
ground where they gained their battle honours in past centuries have
proved that the spirit of the British Army survives from age to age.
COMPLIMENTARY TO OUR BUNCH
March 23rd, 1915.
I have to thank you very THi^h for the lavish amount of " good
cheer " that greeted us all when^^ came out last night, from a five-
day tour in the trenches. Quant^ was not the only thing, quality
was a good second. Between this, that, and " t'other " from personal
friends, we are faring very well, so far as the necessities of life go. I
rather imagine.it is rather useless my giving you a detail of our experience
since landing, as no doubt you will have had it already from so many
correspondents. I may say that the daily mail hour is one that is
looked forward to with unmitigated pleasure. Of course you know
tha^we were inspected by General French shortly after we arrived, and
mflfnie was more than complimentary to our bunch, and harked back
to when he inspected these fellows in Sewell Camp, five years ago.
Then we took the trenches with the regulars for a week, were detailed
back to our billets, but at a moment's notice we marched " here " and our
Canadian Division relieved the " " Division, regulars, and we took
on our own line. Our particular line is 1,100 yards long — pretty
long. If you look in the Illustrated London News of February 20th,
66 LETTERS FROM THE FRONT
pages 236 and 250, you will see four photos of our particular lines— they
look beautifully clean in a photo ! The Headquarters is in a " dug-
out " just in rear of this wall. We have all had more or less varied
experiences with rifle and shell fire. They always give us some atten-
tion daily with shell (H.E.) or shrapnel. We have only had twenty-one
casualties in my lot since we landed, which is about the average run per
battalion. We were in the recent heavy fighting, but our chance did
not mature, and we never left the trenches, but all the same did what
was required. I hear marvellous tales of Lark Hill, and also the
superiority of the 2nd Contingent. Are they really true ? One never
sees any one to talk to here. I wonder what it would feel like to be
turned loose in the " Old Town " to-night. I don't think I should
know how to " carry on." We are all in Al spirits and the men very
From Ofticek of 5th Battalion.
A TICKLISH JOB
" In the Dug-Out." At the Front,
March 23rd, 1915.
Many thanks for your letter of 14th inst. and for the parcel.
We have been enjoying the many good things in the latter very much,
and the men passed you a hearty vot^of thanks. I don't know whether
I told you that the company officer^all stay with the companies both
in the trenches and in billets, and have their own messes. The Q.M.,
Transport O.C., Paymaster, and Padre stay at what we call the heavy
base about two miles in rear, rations being brought up at night and
within about 800 yards from where everything is carried into the
trenches. We came back in last night after having been out for five
days. This came about by reason of ovir changing from a three to a
four days' relief and the other battalions had to stay on another day, so
that we would not be relieving on the same night as the third brigade,
as we both use some of the same roads and in the dark a good deal of
confusion ensued. Now we have orders to pull out altogether. One
of the divisions which was in the Neuve Chapelle show is coming up to
take over. We don't know definitely where we are going, but I have
no doubt we are to be used in the next attack wherever that may be.
I don't quite know if I am sorry to leave here or not. We have done so
much work on these trenches and improved them to such an extent that
LETTERS FROM THE FRONT 67
some of the men naturally feel they would like to get the benefit of their
work. As there is a bit of a moon, it was quite decent going round the
trenches last night during tour of inspection. When we were here
before it was so pitch dark that it was not at all pleasant. First of all
there is a large field to cross, and as there are any amount of J. J. holes
it was a ticklish job. These holes are full of water and while baths are
at a premium while we are in the trenches, one does not want to fall
headlong into a J. J. hole. In the trenches themselves one has to look
out, as there is lots of water under the narrow planks which have now
been put down, and a false step means you go over the top of your gum
boots in water which does not smell exactly like eau-de-cologne. The
company officers have pretty comfortable dug-outs in the trenches,
and always seem to have plenty to eat and drink. It does not sound
very exciting, does it ? The main feature, I think, is the weirdness at
night. Every one is on the go. Working parties out in front fixing the
wire, others inside working at the parapet, and so forth. Fatigue
parties bringing in rations and fuel, and listening posts and patrols
coming in reporting if there is any movement in the enemy's trenches.
We come back from the right along a road running parallel to the
trench, and only a short distance behind it, consequently the bullets
come cracking over, but it is not " aimed " fire, and as all the fatigue
parties for the right section go along it, and no one has been hit, we
regard it as pretty safe.
Fkom Officer of 1st B.C.'s (7th Battalion).
"WE NO SHOOT, YOU NO SHOOT"
Mca-ch 2ith, 1915.
I was glad to get the news about the battalions in England. We
have heard all sorts of rumours here — how 4,000 of them had been
diverted and were on their way to Egypt ; how they were simply rein-
forcements for this Division here, and sundry other destinations for
them. I am glad to know they are such a fine lot of men ; the Army
here needs them, for it is not the Army it was last August. You will
be glad to know that every day the officers of the Army are referring
to the Canadians in kinder words, and our reception here has always
been of the happiest kind. You will remember — for who could ever
forget ? — what they used to say about us in England, about our discipline,
68 LETTERS FROM THE FRONT
our this and our that, until one wondered if we had any friends in the
country. That reputation preceded us here, I know, but m less than
a week all was changed, and on more than one occasion I have heard
Staff Officers say, " I wish to God we had a few more like the Cana-
dians." We were on arrival put in the trenches with British troops.
That was to go on for a week and then we were to be taken back to
some place for further training, but before the week was out that pro-
gramme was changed, and we immediately took over a section of the
line all by ourselves. At the end of this week we will have five weeks of
trenches and we are turning over to another Division (one which has
been here from the beginning almost) and going for a few days' rest.
The Brigadier of that Division told us to-day, after he had been through
our trenches, that they were by far the best trenches he had seen over
here. That will give you some idea of how hard these boys have worked
and with what success. I know you won't think this bragging, and I
am only telling it because I know how keenly interested you are. Things
with us have been very, very quiet this last week. We thought at one
time it might be just the reverse. Our friends opposite are almost
rude — ^they cut us dead ; ignore us. We try to get a rise out of them,
but no, they won't answer. When we first came their snipers were
very active, but whether it is because they don't want to shoot or
because we give them six shots for every one they fire us, things are
different now. They have a sense of humour, though ; one day they
stuck up on the parapet a wooden horse such as a child might play
with. Our chaps shot it down ; they put it up again with a bandage
round its neck, and one round a hind leg. They call out at times such
things as, " We no shoot, you no shoot." " We are Saxons and you
are Anglo-Saxons." " If you come half-way we'U give you cigarettes."
" Hello, B. C, how would you like to be walking down Hastings Street ? "
They seemed to know and apparently did know exactly when we took
over. Their system of espionage is perfect. Of course when we came
we took up very actively the detection of spies. For a time every one was
suspicious, and reports were constantly coming in of lights that looked
like signalling. We ran a great many of these reports to earth, and
many amusing explanatioiis of these lights was the result. In one
instance one of our officers went out by himself one evening to watch :
soon he espied a suspicious light — signalling was surely going on. He
stalked it, fell over fences, ditches, into "J. J." holes, until he was a
pretty sight, wringing wet and covered with mud. His enthusiasm was
in no way dampened, and get to that light or die was his determination.
Visions of catching the traitor in the very act, alone and unaided, crossed
his mind. He looked again ; the signalling surely going on. At last
he got to the house, crawled in a window, stealthily climbed the creaking
LETTERS FROM THE FRONT 69
stair, drew his trusty gun, burst in the room from which came the light.
What met his disappointed eye was one of his own men sewing a much-
needed patch on the seat of his trousers, the passing of his hand and
arm before the light, as he laboriously stitched, making intermittent
flashes of light mistaken for signalling. Another light run to earth dis-
closed four medicos having a quiet game of draw. Then we had all
sorts of tales of sniping behind the lines — ^that is, some contended that
German spies were behind our lines and were shooting at our men going
up and down at night. Of course we investigated this as best we could,
and the more we investigated the more stories were told of men being
sniped at. I never believed the yarns, as I had been up and down many
nights and no suspicious shots ever came over. Still, many believed
the stories and every one was on the qui vive.
Well, one night we sent a test measure to the artillery. One battery
in our area let drive each gun immediately after the other just like
rapid fire. On the road within 100 yards of this battery was coming
along a gallant machine gun officer and his section. They did not know
the artillery were about to fire — ^time was about 10 p.m. when snipers
were most busy — so when the battery let loose this detachment was
very much startled. The officer drew his revolver and stepped back on
the top of the sergeant, who had thrown himself flat on the road, tripped
over the body, and rolled head over heels into a well-filled ditch. The
men are so light-hearted and cheerful — ^full of life and ginger. Some-
body is going to be badly hurt when these boys are let loose.
BACK TO CIVILISATION
Mca-ch 26th, 1915.
Thanks for papers which I received this morning, including
Despatch with account of Neuve Chapelle. I must read that by and
by ; we get very little news over here unless we happen to get hold of
a paper now and again. The day that scrap was on our fellows were
holding their line, and we were standing to with equipment on all day.
We didn't have a lot to do, as the advance didn't reach as far as us,
but our artillery were in it. We came out of the trenches last night
after three days in. We are back for a longer rest this time, as the
Regulars have relieved us at our old place in the trenches. We had
about six or seven miles to walk to this town, where we are billeted now
— quite a nice place and about the biggest town we have stopped at on
70 LETTERS FROM THE FRONT
this side. The place lies just behind that place where the battle took
place a week or so back.. We didn't have a very exciting time on this
occasion, and, therefore, there is very little to tell you. The night we
went in it simply poured with rain all the way, and we got in practic-
ally wet through. About half-way up we got to that stage when we
didn't care what happened. We were guarding some forts just behind
the firing line, so there was very little to do. It rained on and off pretty
well all the time we were in, so we didn't get a chance to dry our clothes
until the last day, but I haven't made my cold any worse. The billets
we left were shelled the day after we had gone to the trenches ; this is
the first time that has happened. There were a couple of fellows hit,
I believe. We shall have a chance of fattening ourselves up now we
are back to civilisation, and we have started well to-day with three
boiled eggs apiece this morning and steak and eggs for supper to-night.
It has been snowing to-day, and very cold. I was hoping that the cold
had cleared away, and it was fine and warm yesterday.
BILLETED OVER AN ESTAMINET
March 31st, 1915.
Just a few lines to let you know that I am still fit and all that. We
are still "resting." They work us a good deal harder when we're
" resting " than they do when we are working, as the Irishman would
say. We have about the same routine each day — ^physical drill, skir-
mishing, trench-digging, etc., for three hours in the morning, and route
marching in the afternoon. We walked a good twelve miles this after-
noon, and I feel pretty tired. We had a good bath on Monday— the
first real hot bath for about two months, and we didn't half enjoy it.
The biggest trouble was to get us out. We are billeted over an Esta-
minet— that's a kind of coffee-house— and the old lady treats us all and
looks after us like her own boys ; she gives us coffee before breakfast,
and soup at noon, and cooks any stuff we want cooked. I like the
people around here much better than the Flemish people we have met
nearer the firing line. The band played the " Retreat " to-night— the
first time I've heard it since we left the Plain. We had a little " sing-
song " down below to-night— lots of the Regulars and some of our boys.
There were four artillerymen who have been over here seven months,
and to-night was the first time they have been in a decent-sized town'.
LETTERS FROM THE FRONT 71
and then they came in without permission, so they'll be in for it when
they get back. We have just finished the cake to-night, but the mus-
catels and almonds, sweets, etc., are still going strong. We can't have
a feed outside because we're all " broke," and don't know when we
shall be paid again ; in a day or so, I guess. The weather is still fine
over here, cold, but dry lately.
ANGELS VERY THOROUGHLY DISGUISED
April ith, 1915.
It is a long way now to Amesbury and your big sitting-room, and I
have often wondered where you are. Since coming across we are living
in Company messes. I am of course in the Headquarters Mess, and so
do not see so much of our officers as we used to at Lark Hill. We have
been billeted most of the time in farm-houses, and the regiment is
scattered over a mile or two in each place. We are quite comfortable
as a rule, and do not lack for much, though, of course, the feminine
element which makes life possible is rather lacking. The French of
this part are mostly mixed with Flemish and do not possess to a notice-
able degree the airs and graces which we usually associate with this
land. However, they are kind, hospitable, and forbearing to a degree,
when one considers that for months they have entertained angels very
thoroughly disguised. They are frugal and sell us eggs, milk, and
bread at more than Front prices, but it is better for the men to spend
their francs that way than in beershops. In the largest towns one
finds real croissons and gateaux that remind one of Paris, but most
of the shops are closed, and black is the prevailing colour of Easter
Our regiment has, thanks to the Bon Dieu, been very fortunate,
only two men killed and a dozen or so wounded, so my work has not
been heavy. They did their work in the trenches like veterans, and
owe to their steadiness under fire the small losses they have sustained.
We have not yet been in an attack, when we do the tale will be longer.
The weather here is warm now, and spring has come ; the men are
discarding their woollen scarves and belts, and I do not think that they
will need so much knitting again. They are well supplied with most
things, and we owe to your kind thoughts a supply of fine cigarettes.
There is one thing which I believe would be most acceptable and
would not be expensive, and that is a supply of reading material in the
72 LETTERS FROM THE FRONT
form of old magazines or cheap, paper-covered books of all kinds. The
men in these regiments are in many cases accustomed to reading, and
in billets in the long evenings coming, and in the trenches, they have a
great deal of spare time, and I know welcome a book on the rare
occasions when it can be got. They are passed around till they are
worn out. Some packets of cheap playing cards would be welcomed
too. The cheaper the books, etc., are, the better, for we move often,
and such things cannot be added to the already too heavy packs. I
know how anxious you both are to find out what is most needed.
From an M. O.
A QUAINT OLD TOWN ON THE BORDER
Headquarters — Infantry Brigade,
1st Canadian Division,
British Expeditionary Force.
April 8th, 1915.
Our office is in a fine large house where we occupy by far the finest
rooms we have ever had. We have our mess in the same building, but
only the Brigadier and the Brigade Major have rooms there, the rest
of us are billeted about the village.
I have a room all to myself, and everything is very clean and com-
fortable. All the natives here speak French only, of course, and their
idea of furnishing a room is to get as many chairs into it as possible.
My room, though small, possesses no less than nine. I have also a
bed with lace curtains, a washstand with toilet set, a chest of drawers
apparently filled with female attire, a mirror, and numerous religious
images under glass covers. My windows have lace curtains and good
blinds, and my floor has a strip of matting and two of carpet.
This is a rather quaint old town just on the border of Belgium.
Some of our battalions are billeted in Belgium and only one, the 5th, in
the town. As I censor my own letters, I might of covirse tell you the
name of the town ; but that would not be playing the game. I under-
stand we are to move into Belgium in a few days, and take up another
line of our own ; the other brigades going into the trenches, and we
going in reserve.
When I arrived here the Brigadier was surprised to see me, for
he had no idea a staff officer was being sent. Perhaps I shall soon
be sent back to the Depot ; but I hope to see some of the fighting first
anyway. As it is I have nothing to do whatever ; but, of course, I
LETTERS FROM THE FRONT 73
shall keep myself busy studying the general situation, and helping out
as much as I can.
The weather is fine and warm here. It rained hard all last night,
but is fine to-day except for a shower this afternoon. Farming is going
on here just as usual. We are about fifteen miles from the fighting
and I haven't heard a gun yet. Everything is done in a most leisurely
fashion, and everybody seems as comfortable as you can imagine.
This morning General Alderson inspected each battalion of this
brigade in its billeting area. I was told off to accompany him, and
rode a borrowed horse. Our billets extend along a main paved highway
for about three or four miles, and the men are certainly far more
comfortable than they have ever been since we went to Valcartier.
Every one seems highly contented, and the brigade looks to be in good
I got back here at 2.30 p.m., and had lunch, and then went out to
see the Grenadiers practising throwing hand grenades. I have just
returned from there. These grenades can be thrown into a trench very
accurately up to thirty or forty yards, and make a tremendous explosion
when they hit. Some of them are exploded by fuses and some by per-
cussion. They are principally used to throw at an advancing enemy
and also to clear a trench, when you have taken part of it, by throwing
grenades from traverse to traverse. They are so powerful that a few
of them thrown into a trench pretty well demolish it.
Mind you, I have just learned that this is the town where the original
Valenciennes lace is made, and the curtains in my room would be worth
hundreds of dollars in England or Canada. It can be bought quite
cheaply here, I believe. The old women make it all by hand. They use
about fifty bobbins at one time, and the way they shoot them back and
forth is simply miraculous.
We get up here about 7 o'clock and breakfast at 8. This morning
for breakfast we had porridge, ham and eggs, bread and jam, toast
and tea, served on a snowy cloth in perfectly clean dishes. Our cook
is a wonder, he makes everything so good. Of course, I was very
late for lunch ; but he dished me up a nice plate of soup, some cold
ham with potatoes and baked beans, and a bottle of light wine ; after
which he brought on some most delicious pastry, fruit fritters, fruit cake,
cheese and tea, so I really managed, by eating a good deal of bread and
butter, to make a fairly good meal.
From a high hill a few miles from here, they say almost all the
fighting line can be seen. I must go up to-morrow and have a look.
Now I must stop and get washed up for dinner. We dine — ^real
dinner, mark you — at 7 o'clock jmd get to bed early, as there is nothing
to do in the evenings.
74 LETTERS FROM THE FRONT
AMIDST THE TURMOIL
— Canadian Infantry Brigade.
April 15th, 1915.
We are in the midst of an artillery battle just now, and I ,am at
Brigade Report Centre with several French batteries in action in my
immediate vicinity, so you need not be surprised if my letter is some-
what disconnected. However, our Report Centre is not being shelled
this afternoon, so I am quite safe amidst the turmoil. The 7th Brigade,
though, is being severely handled, and have had nine casualties so far
to-day, nearly all from shrapnel.
We left our billets yesterday at 10 a.m. to come here, and got the
battalions into the trenches at 12.30 at night, having only -one man
killed and three wounded in the process. We came in 'buses about
nine miles, and marched another seven miles to our position. The last
three miles had to be made during total darkness, while the enemy
searched for us with shrapnel, so at times it looked as though some one
might get hurt, but we got on all right.
Our Brigade Headquarters is about three and a half miles from the
firing line, and so is almost quite safe ; it is located in a house on the
outskirts of a small village. I rode back there to sleep last night, and
had a room and bed all to myself, and so was quite comfortable. From
my windows I could see shell bursting about in the darkness, while the
firing line was made most conspicuous by the flares continually sent up
by the enemy and the search-lights constantly looking for air-craft.
Rifle fire was continuous all night, but no bullets came our way.
To-day I came down to the Brigade Report Centre and shall remain
here instead of at Brigade Headquarters.
The Report Centre is really the most interesting place to be. Here
we handle only the details of the fighting, while administrative arrange-
ments are all made at Brigade Headquarters. I am about a mile from
the trenches here, and so within easy range of the enemy's guns, but
we don't allow people to wander about our house, and so the Germans
don't know where we are. The Report Centre is in the remains of a farm-
house. There are two mattresses in it, and it is fairly comfortable.
The signalling section is here, and we have a cook and a cow. Our grub
has to be brought to us at night, so as not to give us away to the enemy.
All communication with the outside world is by telephone, with which
we are well provided.
This is the nearest to war conditions I have got yet, but still I am
really very comfortable. I had to go without supper last night and
LETTERS FROM THE FRONT 75
breakfast this morning, but I had a good lunch of beef steak and pota-
toes and baked beans to-day. Yesterday at noon I was halted in a
little Belgian town. I bought a goodly pork chop and carried it to a
" Werberg," where I had it cooked with French fried potatoes. I made
an excellent meal of it, which lasted me until noon to-day. I managed
the transport and supply of the move yesterday, and, though I suc-
ceeded in getting ammunition, blankets, and supplies to the troops in
the trenches, I clean forgot to keep even a sandwich for myself. I
shan't make that mistake again.
Word has just come in that we are to expect an attack to-night, so
I must see about getting bombs, ammunition, and supplies into the
trenches. It is now 6 p.m., but we can't approach the trenches until
dark. The guns are still at it. The house next to this was nearly hit
by a high-explosive shell just now.
GERMAN TRENCHES ON THREE SIDES
— Canadian Infantry Brigade,
April 16th, 1915.
We are on a long salient here, near the apex, with German trenches
on three sides of us ; so we have a pretty jolly time both day and night.
Last night we got it fairly hot, being subjected to pretty heavy shell
fire all afternoon and all night. Reports of casualties are not complete
yet, but so far as I can find out by telephoning the trenches, we have
lost about six killed and nineteen wounded here so far. Last night we
got ready to receive a German attack. Divisional Headquarters noti-
fied us that the Germans intended to attack with tubes of poisonous gas ;
but it didn't materialise, at any rate not in our sector, though there
were considerable rapid fire and lots of flares along the line held by the
British troops on our right. Diu-ing the evening the Germans bqgan
bombarding our trenches with heavy trench mortars at close range —
from one hundred to two hundred yards — and caused us a lot of annoy-
ance, but didn't do a great deal of damage. They kept it up all night.
To-day is quite normal. The air is quite smoky and not good for
artillery observation. Of course, they are blazing away a good deal,
but no shell are coming near front centre. We are supported here by
76 LETTERS FROM THE FRONT
French artillery altogether so far. Our own 18-prs. and howitzers will
be along next week.
I had a fairly good sleep last night, actually undressed and went
regularly to bed before 1 o'clock. I had to wake up frequently to
telephone ; but got a good rest just the same. Last night we had a
good beef and kidney stew for supper, and this morning porridge, bacon
and eggs, toast and marmalade, and tea. We got a good stock of water
and rations in last night, and a few bottles of wine, so we are all right.
I wish I could send you some souvenirs, but it is not allowed. I
could easily send you a houseful of bayonets, shells, rifles, etc., etc. A
gunner of the R.F.A. is buried just outside our door here. His grave
is surrounded by a little fence made of empty 18-pr. cartridge cases with
75 mm. at the corners, and bits of shrapnel in designs on the mound.
We met with a heavy loss this morning. Our cow escaped during
the night, ^and has not yet been recovered. Last night, when some
of our ammunition mules loaded with bombs and hand grenades were
close up to the trenches, a shell exploded near them, and they stam-
peded over the country. We thought for a while we had lost them ; but
some of the men succeeded in rounding them up without the loss of a
MY FIRST AEROPLANE BATTLE
Eighth Battalion (Winnipeg Little Black Devils),
Somewhere in Belgium,
April 18th, 1915.
I received your letter of April 13th last night. I started in to
answer it, but I went into the town to get a few things, and am returning
We are in billets now after having come out of the trenches for a
little rest ; we go in again to-morrow night.
Our present billet is a Belgian Chateau situated on a famous Canal.
It has glorious grounds and a beautiful view. The town which we are
near has been bashed about very much, and it is a very terrible-looking
thing to see houses, public buildings, and churches all a mass of ruins.
This has been the centre of a bit of fighting, and to a certain extent
still keeps up its reputation. You can appreciate Will Irwin's story
of the famous battle when you go over the country in which it took
Yesterday I witnessed my first aeroplane battle. All I can say is
LETTERS FROM THE FRONT 77
that after seeing it I am very sorry that I have not sufficient command
of the English language to write a good description of it. It was actu-
ally the most thrilling event I have ever seen. Time, 5.30 a.m. Bright
spring morning, hardly a breath of air.
1st round. — ^Two aeroplanes appear — first German, in all probability
on a bomb-dropping expedition. The British 'plane beats it over to
2nd round. — Aeroplanes at a good height circling around each
■)ther, each trying to get above the other, and firing at each other. The
manoeuvring of the machines at this point is simply marvellous, almost
8rd round. — The German has apparently had enough and starts
to beat for home. Our machine is after him, they are going at a great
dip, our machine is gaining and veering off to the left and above him,
machines about 100 yards apart. He opens fire again, the German is
hit and drops about 100 feet ; he regains control. But his engine is
not working. From here on this German is giving the finest exhibition
of volplaning I have ever seen. He has taken several straight drops,
but always somehow or other manages to right himself. At last he has
gotten pretty close to the ground, when he turns over : exit one Gerboy,
one Taube. One man badly wounded. These Germans certainly
deserved a better fate, but the beggars have not done any acts to deserve
any sympathy. In the meantime the British 'plane continued on with
its job of observing as if nothing had happened. Last night the worst
artillery fire I have ever yet heard. It started at 7 p.m. and finished
this morning about 7 a.m. I suppose there was an average of fifty
shots a minute during that time. Believe me I don't want to be a
German under those circumstances. This morning at 5.30 the Gerboys
dropped a bomb in our garden — it woke me up. But as I had had only
about six hours in three days it did not take me long to go back to sleep
again. I do a little grenade throwing in my spare time, and I have
charge of the Battalion Grenadiers besides my platoon. As far as
danger is concerned this is more or less of a graft, as there are fewer
casualties among the Grenadiers than in the companies.
Well, I must close now — ^remember I have been here two months
and have seen a little excitement, and so far it's the Sport of Kings.
To look out the window and see the chaps peacefully fishing you would
think the war was a hundred miles away.
78 LETTERS FROM THE FRONT
A SPIDER'S WEB
April IQth, 1915.
Your letter of the 15th came yesterday afternoon, I hope naine
get to you regularly, I have a good deal of time to spare here, and so
can write every day, though I can only send my letters back by night,
on account of the gun fire which never stops day or night, but is natur-
ally less accurate at night. By day the German batteries shell wherever
they see any one moving, but of course by night they can only shell our
gun emplacements and positions. This afternoon they a,re amusing
themselves by dropping high-explosive shells on a little village about
half a mile from my house, to my great glee ; for though we have
about five hundred men in the village, they take to their dug-outs when
the sheUing is on. There has been rather more gun fire all round the
clock to-day than usual ; but no shells have come near here. Of course
we have good dug-outs to run into if they should open up on us. In
the last twenty-four hours we have had only one man killed and five
shghtly wounded in the whole brigade. You see we are improving
our trenches and breastworks every day, and are gradually cutting down
the casualties. The defences were very poor when we took them over
from the French.
. The British to the south of us made another successful attack last
night. It was a repetition of the previous one,
I live in great luxury here. Undress every night and sleep in my
pyjamas. Have my hot bath and shave in the mornings. Get up
about 7.30 and breakfast at 8.30. Have lunch about 1.30 and dinner
about 7.30. Generally get to bed about 11 or 12. I have only had
the one trip to the trenches, but expect to make another trip soon.
This is a great life, though a Report Centre is very much like a spider's
web on account of the vast number of telephone and telegraph wires
connecting it with all the units in its area. There have to be separate
wires to each unit, because they are frequently cut by shell fire, and
they sometimes have to all be in operation at once. Our signalling staff
here and at the 'phones of our various units runs to about fifty officers
and men, not including messengers.
We are to relieve the battalions in the trenches by putting in the
reserve battalions. This means a lot of work, so I shall have to close
LETTERS FROM THE FRONT 79
A TREMENDOUS BATTLE
April 23rd, 1915.
We are in the midst of a tremendous battle. All night long the
Canadians have been having a rather bad time, but this morning we
got some reinforcements, and are getting on all right now. We have
lost a lot of men, but none of the staff of our brigade have been hit.
We have had to stay in our dug-outs nearly all the time, though, and
the din of the bursting shells and the batteries has been ^^ simply in-
About an hour ago I saw a German sniper crawling along some
scrub, so I took two men and went after him. But he got away in the
scrub. However, we picked up three of our wounded and brought
Last night I had to ride with despatches a good deal, as the shell
fire cut most of our telephone wires. It was rather interesting, I can
tell you, with the air actually filled with bursting shrapnel and high-
explosive shell. At one place I rode into a party of Germans who had
got in behind our line. They opened rifle fire, but both I and my
orderly got away without a scratch.
We are holding our line strong now, and think we may not have
much more trouble. It is rather quieter now, though shells are biirsting
every few seconds around this house.
The Germans certainly dusted our jackets well this time, and at
times it was actually uncomfortable, but the fact that we managed
to hold the salient against a force greatly superior both in numbers and
position is certainly to our credit.
Must stop now. We shall probably have a lot of work to-day.
It is now 6.30 a.m., and the cook is preparing a good breakfast as usual.
April 23rd, 1915.
The sun has risen on many a dead Canadian this morning. You
can say that it is very unlikely that braver troops can be found than
the Canadians ; they have behaved splendidly. Canada can expect
a startler re the casualties, but she can be sure she has good fighting
material. I have been up all night, and feel very tired. We were
shelled out of our last billet and had a narrow escape. I am sitting in
the same place, and the same noise is going on and shells are whistling
past and shaking the house as usual. A bomb from an aeroplane has
8 LETTERS FROM THE FRONT
just burst by the house, a man wounded and a horse killed, and as I
stood at the door to give an order, one of these steel arrows dropped at
my feet. This is the fifth day of the battle, almost without interrup-
tion. I still have my clothes* on, but have been able to get a shave and
two feet washes. I breakfasted on hard tack and jam, with a mixture
of nim, water, and tea that I had in my water bottle to wash it down.
Yesterday I had tea and a box of sardines. The medical people jare
splendid, and work hard and lose many. It is a strange sight to seethe
Belgian peasant women and children fleeing, some too old to walk far,
the poor souls ! You see an old woman with a few household goods and
a few children in a two-wheeled cart, and with a boy and girl in the
shafts and perhaps three dogs harnessed under it pulling, while larger
children push behind. We brought down an aeroplane this morning.
They shelled a town in our rear last evening, and drove the hospital ^^f^^^i
people out of some house, so that two hundred or so wounded had to be
taken out and laid in a field. When I went up to ... I rode through
quite a few batteries all going full blast. There were English, Cana-
dians, Algerians, French, Senegalese, Arabs, Belgian, and Indian troops
around. I have had no sleep or clothes off for some days and nights,
and the fighting is desperate. My hair is cropped close — ^yes, I am a
beauty — I have no use for brush or comb.
Fbom Officer of Divisional Train.
DINNER— AT THE FRONT.
FILLING SANDBAGS— AT THE FRONT.
■Nfc. j l^l^iEfe..*^ , -S ! 1*-'
LOVELY WARM FUR COATS
—AT THE FRONT.
IN A DUGOUT— AT THE FRONT.
A QUIET READ— AT THE FRONT.
NEWS FROM HOME— AT THE FRONT.I
AFTER A JACK JOHNSON— AT THEF
■w ^ jStl^^^^^^^^^^^^H
s-HH^V ^^H^V* ^^^^^H
IN BILLETS— AT THE FRONT.
gUAUTERS IN FRANCE— AT THE FRONT.
' SOME " SANDBAGS— AT THE FRONT.
STABLES— AT THE FRONT.
THE MORNING SHAVE-
AT THE FRONT.
A DISUSED TRENCH— AT THE FRONT.
A HOME FROM HOME— AT THE FRONT.
A TRENCH TOILET— AT THE FRONT.
LETTERS FROM THE FRONT 85
THE FOLLOWING COMMUNIQUE WAS ISSUED
BY THE WAR OFFICE
The fight for the ground into which the Germans penetrated between
Steenstraate and Langemarck still continues. The loss of this part
of the line laid bare the left of the Canadian Division, which was forced
to fall back in order to keep in touch with the right of the neighbouring
In the rear of the latter had been four Canadian 4*7 guns, which
thus passed into the hands of the enemy. But some hours later the
Canadians made a most brilliant and successful advance, recapturing
these guns and taking a considerable number of German prisoners, in-
cluding a Colonel.
The Canadians had many casualties, but their gallantry and deter-
mination undoubtedly saved the situation. Their conduct has been
Following received from Commander-in-Chief begins Please for-
ward following to General Alderson begins I wish to express to you
and Canadian troops my admiration of the gallant stand and fight they
hq.ve made A.A.A. They have performed a most brilliant and valuable
service A.A.A. Last night and again this morning I reported their
splendid behaviour to the Secretary-of-State for War and I have a
reply from him saying how highly their gallantry and determination in
a difficxilt position are appreciated in England ends.
From 2nd Army.
Time, 2.05 p.m.
86 LETTERS FROM THE FRONT
IN WITH THE PATS
East of Ypres.
April 3Qth, 1915,
Your more than welcome letter was brought up by the ration party,
and I enjoyed reading it by the JBrst streaks of daylight this morning.
Owing to the reserve troops being taken to support the action a
couple of miles to our left, we have been left in the trench for ten days
now with no word of a relief. This action has cut our division up, as
you know, but it is all in a day's work. They have made a great name
I am with the P.P.C.L.I., and like them all very much.
You will remember that our battalion was left behind, so I was
fortunate in getting in with the Pats.
Thank you very much for holding on to my kit bag. Would you
mind sending it.
P.S. — (May 6th). We are out, but having it hot at present. We
were very badly shelled day before yesterday, losing over 150 men and
three officers. We go in for forty-eight hours to-night.
A STRENUOUS TIME
We have been having a pretty strenuous time of late, and as I have
not had my clothes off for a fortnight I rather look forward to a change.
We had an awful hammering from the 22nd to the 25th, and any one
who said that the Germans were short of ammunition before that time
made a great mistake. They literally plastered the place with big shells,
and then what was much worse and a low-down trick, they turned
poisonous gas over the trenches. Most extraordinary stuff, a sort of
bluish-green mist, was blown over the trenches ; it felt cold to breathe,
and immediately one felt it in one's lungs and began to cough and gasp
for breath. It knocked the men out like nine-pins and several have
died of it. All the same the regiment hung on to their trenches, and
really did wonders. It was an anxious time. However, outside their
machine guns, artillery, and poisonous gas, the Germans are not really
a very dangerous lot.
We are going back to billets now to refit, with a very much reduced
battalion. Our casualties were heavy, but we hope to see most of them
back again soon, as many were only slight wounds and the effects of the
gas. Nothing could have been finer than the way the battalion behaved.
LETTERS FROM THE FRONT 87
I expeet you will see some of the wounded at home and hear all
about the engagement. I am afraid it has been a very costly battle.
The 24th was our hard day. Since the 25th what remains of the regi-
ment has been in reserve, standing to, but as they appear to have
collected lots of troops now and the German attacks seem to have
slackened, we expect to go back to billets in a day or so to refit. Poor
M. was hit in chest, D. in leg, E. escaped ; he did very well. All the
regiments have lost heavily. I was lucky myself, and was not touched
and feel in first-rate condition, but I won't be sorry to get a week or so
We have not had any mail for some time, as I suppose they are
accumulating it for us when we get back ; then I hope to have news.
Well, I must turn in to sleep.
In a Dug-out.
Mag 5th, 1915.
.... What a life ! what an escape ! Really I ought to be a stiff —
way out there on our battlefield — because I said my prayers and pre-
pared for the inevitable bullet to do its worst, but nothing came except
one clean through my hat. I saw stars with a jerk, thought I was -hit,
but nothing doing, and this day I am situated in a dug-out on the banks
of the Yser Canal at 6.30 a.m., just having dined. You can imagine
our charge. We were in three lines, B and C Companies in the first
line, A and D in the second line, and two companies of the 16th Bat-
talion Scots in rear. We had to retake a wood the French had lost.
We were called out from Ypres about 5 o'clock, as people were
streaming over the hills, and the sky was a hell of bursting shrapnel,
and we took up our trenches about 6.30 on the Thursday night. We
lay in reserve until about 11.30, 1 believe, and then they told us we were
to take the wood at the point of the bayonet. Shortly after we
charged across 500 yards open country, and by a series of rushes
got to the trench — during that charge we lost many men out of our
battalion. I saw poor C. go down and stopped to help him, but he
urged us on. Then A. fell — ^poor old chap — aright through the head.
Wben we got to the skirt of the wood we found a trench, just dug by
the Germans, which we did not know was there. This is where hell
began. They had two machine guns moimted, and the fire was awful —
like hailstones on a zinc roof; but somehow a few of us were missed, while
other fellows were cut in half by the stream of lead. At this point
poor P. fell, right in front of his men — his revolver empty, and only a
88 LETTERS FROM THE FRONT
cane for defence — ^right through the wood, jabbing here, stabbing there.
I remember I laughed, but it was nervous tension, and they do
wriggle so too ! N. had a fence with one 6' 6" Prussian, and to clear
he parried, lunged, and then lunged again quickly — ^the latter took
just all of the lower part of the Prussian's face away. We tried to
stick the part on to the whole next day, but the 6' 6" was dead. We
held the trench that night, and as I got sent down with three prisoners
I missed the rest that day, but that night got in again on rations. We
repulsed two attacks that night, and next morn when sun was well up
we were ordered to file out of our dearly won trench, and to take cover
in a cabbage field behind. In order to get there we had to cross 35
yards open — braked by m.g. fire and rifles from a German trench 150 yards
away. The two in front of me, F. and H., went away. F. dropped
with one amidships and H. got one right in the neck, so it came my
turn. I crawled, and then suddenly an idea came as it does to most
when in great danger. I lay and lit my pipe, and suddenly got up and
ran as hard as I could. Bullets whizzed and I dropped — a pitiful
object, and slowly raised on my side and dropped again, slowly spread
out my right arm and then lay still — ^imitation, but really to get my
pipe I'd dropped and to crawl to cover. I got to the cabbages safe and
sound — sharp left wheel — sharp right wheel, and then on hands and
knees for about 100 yards, when I came to a shell hole into which I
crawled. Here I nearly got it. Whilst looking up a bullet came so
close as to scratch the lobe of my right ear, and just bm-nt the skin,
but it made my head sing for a day and a half. Out of the cabbages,
down a slight slope put one on dead ground (safety). Two others and
I crawled to some dug-outs to get our wind and pluck back. That
cabbage field must be full of dead men. I took shelter behind one for a
space — ^then back again to headquarters for a space until we reinforced
the 8th Battalion. The rest was plain saihng as compared with the
other, except we had poisoned fumes to deal with.
We had two days off, and now have been in reserve trenches for six
days, and look like being here another six. I have often wanted to see
a fight, and now I have done so I don't want any more. I think of all
awful sights it was the field the next morning prior to vacating the
trench — of all the dead and dying lying all about in contorted shapes.
One poor chap lay with his chin in his hands — eyes wide open — all
equipped where he had dropped for cover when the flares went up, but
a little blue hole in his forehead. That sight, combined with the cries of
the wounded during the night, I shall never forget. We had the charge
and bore the brunt of it all. I don't know what the 16th lost. Lots
of our poor chaps were wounded in the trench, and had to be left behind
in the retreat. We know what they got.
LETTERS FROM THE FRONT 89
We are going back to the base to be reorganised, and it's then I
shall try to transfer, as most of my nerve has gone, what with the terrible
sights to one unused to it, and the loss of one's friends — it's hell. Never
you mind — we made an undying name in history, and it was the " now
famous 10th " that actually did it. We had twenty-six officers before
and two after, so you can see it was pretty bad. Poor M. — an awfully
nice chap — was wounded, and whilst being taken to the hospital his
ambulance was hit by a Jack Johnson, and all inside as well as car
blown to smithereens. To give you an idea of a J. J., the Empire
Hotel at Y. in the market square was hit by one. The whole hotel
was blown across the market, and blew to bits seven civilians 200 yards
away. The hotel was about as big as Southampton Hotel at Surbiton.
That's no fib at all. You see the shell weighs 2,000 lb. of high
explosive, and when it bursts it goes like thunder followed by a crash
and clouds of red smoke. Here's another J. J. — hit a large elm tree
to which was tied a horse. After the explosion and dust had cleared
there was a hole in the ground 30 ft. across, 16 to 20 ft. deep — no sign
of the tree or the horse except a few bespattered splinters. To see is to
believe. ... It was so bad that when we filed out of the wood — about
twenty-five of us — a wounded German officer, poor chap, raised himself
up to a sitting position and saluted us, saying : " Brave men, brave
men," and then he fell back dead. We would have saved him if we
could because he was a sportsman. You must remember that they
have to fight.
A NOVEL BREAKFAST
Back in Billets,
May 1th, 1915.
Gee ! but I had a novel breakfast the other day. We-Teturned to
town in ones and twos, and as young G. and I came into Ypres a jolly
artilleryman came forward and said : " You boys 10th ? " " Sure ! "
" Well, come in here and have some supper." We went in, and what do
you think — ^roast chicken, lobster salad, jellies, and champagne — ^the
latter galore. You can imagine what a feed after six days' fighting on
dry biscuits and water. The first pint made a man of me, the third a
fool, but it helped us to forget the horrors we had seen, and left. The
next morning brekker was cold chick-egg omelette, which I learned
to make out here under the direction of a little French girl. I lost that
Thermos — ^they put a bullet clean through bottle and all. We lost all
our kit — everything.
I received last night parcel containing two shirts, two vests, three
90 LETTERS FROM THE FRONT
hankies, and this pad, for which I am truly thankful. I had a top-hole
bath in a ditch this morning, and with a complete change of under-
wear I changed from a pack-mule to a human being. By the way, that
clean shirt is the envy of the platoon.
The country is great here — green fields, cowslips, buttercups and
daisies, birds' nests. I am going birds'-nesting on Sunday — nothing
like having a real holiday when the chance comes along.
GERMAN RATIONS AND TROPHIES
The Canadian Scottish
(16th Battn. C.E.F.),
May nth, 1915.
I have had very little chance to write letters, or I should have
written you long ago. Just now we are having a rest amid some beauti-
ful green fields where the coxmtry has not been disturbed by the devasta-
tion of war. We still have the guns going and we are liable at any
moment to be ordered to the front line ; but it is a delightful change
after the strenuous time we have been through. No doubt you have
seen something about it in the papers. The Canadian Scottish with
the 10th Battalion had to make a change the night the French lines
broke. It was just to make a slam at the Germans to check them on
their onward rush. The French had cleared out from in front of them
and we were back in Ypres in reserve. The rest of the Canadians were
holding their part of the line. We marched out several miles at night,
formed up and charged the forward German positions. We bayoneted
them out of the trenches they were digging for the night, and chased
them out of a large wood for a thousand yards through their lines. We
then settled down in their trench before daylight arrived and held it
for a couple of days, until we were relieved by another regiment. We
jolted them so severely and gave them such a scare that they did not
come on any farther, although they must have outnumbered us tre-
mendously. Our men fed on German rations for the next day, which
were found in the trench, and all of us got trophies in the shape of
German helmets, bayonets, mess tins, etc. Our losses were severe, and
some of my best friends are gone, but seldom is a success attained in
war without anguish for some one. The men are good stuff. They
fought splendidly and never wavered for a moment. We took quite
a few prisoners, but the Germans must have lost heavily in killed and
wounded. I saw lots of them.
When are you coming over to see the Canadian troops ?
LETTERS FROM THE FRONT 91
HOW WE SPEND THE DAY
May 18th, 1915.
I am still in the best of health, and on the whole having rather a good
time. I am sure that by now you ought to have received some of my
letters and postcards. It takes about three weeks for a letter to go
from here to England, and of course it is censored before leaving and
on arrival. This is a fine healthy spot, and the sea breezes are glorious.
We have very comfortable quarters, and the longest way around the
island is a mile and a half, which gives us a good walk ; also we have
plenty of room for games and exercise.
We have a nice lagoon where one can fish, and as soon as the weather
gets a little warmer we will be able to bathe.
You would like to know how we spend the day. We have to get
up by 8 a.m. ; coffee generally comes up about 8.30. Then we exercise
or read until 1 p.m., when we have dinner. After dinner we enjoy our-
selves until about 6.30 or so, when we go in and have tea or supper.
Dinner is supplied, and we buy whatever we want for tea or supper.
From 8.80 to 9 p.m. Roll-caU in your rooms. 10 p.m. lights out ; there-
fore, you see, your chief occupation is to put in time and try and keep
from getting too fat. I would like to know how many of our chaps got
put out of action in the engagement in which we were captured, and
also how many of the officers are still left.
We do not get any English or American papers, and news is very
scarce. I was very sorry to hear the Lusitania had gone down. I
hope there were no home people on board. You can expect a letter
or a postcard from me every Monday or seven days, which is four post-
cards and two letters per month. These letters and postcards I will
send to you, therefore you can look forward to the arrival as per sche-
dule. I want you to try and find out about our pay, because we have to
pay for breakfast and supper, and it costs about 8 marks a day to live
for food alone ; also I have borrowed some money from some of the
chaps here, and want to pay it back. If you could arrange to have
about £5 sent out every month, it would be far the best. Has my
sleeping-bag been sent home yet ? Most of my kit is in it. I under-
stand from most of the English officers that their pay is going on as
usual. Keep all the papers which have anything of interest about the
Canadians. They will be jolly interesting after the war is over, par-
ticularly home papers. We ought to very soon start to receive our
parcels. I am anxiously waiting for both the clothes and food, and
f)articularly the white bread. Brown being our ration, one is apt to get
ittle tired of it. Also anything you see in the eatable line that you
92 LETTERS FROM THE FRONT
think would be acceptable, send it along. Cocoa or chocolate will
also be very welcome.
Now, you must write to me every few days and give me all the
news of home. We are not allowed to receive any war news or any-
thing which is in any way against the German Empire. Are you still
at Folkestone ? If so, how long do you intend to stay ? What sort of
weather have you been having ? The weather here is jolly fine, but a
little colder than . It is a much nicer place and we are all very
pleased over the change.
If you can get me some books and magazines they will help to pass
the time — cheap bindings for the books, because it would be a waste of
money to have good bindings.
How are auntie and uncle getting along, not to mention P. and I. ?
You might write to them for me and tell them why I cannot write, but
that letters from them will be very welcome. You can also tell them
what they can put in their letters. We have a chap here, H., whose
mother is in England. He is from home. You might drop her a
line or get in touch with her if possible. He was captured the next day
to us and we have been together ever since. Needless to say he is a jolly
I hope that you are all well. I will feel very much relieved when I
hear from you. You might send me a Prayer Book and a Bible. Both
of these I lost.
I must hiu-ry up and finish, as they are waiting for the letter. If
you can get a copy of the American motor paper I would like to have
one. Well, good-bye, and don't forget that I am waiting for the money,
about £10 to start with and £5 a month. Of course I realise this will
be impossible unless the pay continues.
This life is just like living in an English public school. We have
nineteen in our room, and they are a very cheery lot. You never have
much of an opportunity to get dumpy. One chap at had seventeen
wounds, including a shot through the jaws. Outside of being slightly
disfigured he was quite all right and very bright. Another chap here
was in a trench which was blown up, and he was buried for three hours ;
finally dug out by the Germans, when they were digging a new trench.
He was pretty nearly dead, but has apparently not suffered very much
and he is fit as rain now. When I finally get home I will be able to tell
you of the experiences of some of these chaps, which read like a story
B., who was killed with us, was buried, and his grave marked.
His people might like to know that he was properly buried.
After the war we will get a motor-car, and I will drive you
around Belgium and France, just to show you the different battle-
LETTERS FROM THE FRONT 93
fields and trenches, because I am sure it will be very interesting to
I might say that I am now very well aware of the value of money ;
after being practically penniless for a month, with a prospect of perhaps
another before it can possibly arrive from home, sort of teaches you
economy in the true meaning of the word.
Have there been many promotions ,or any recommendations in the
Remember me to all my friends, and if you see any chaps from the
regiment, tell them to drop me a line.
P.S. — I have grown a moustache. This is just to warn you, so that
you will not be too severely shocked when you see me after the war.
You might also send me out a soft service cap. This I have is too
THE SPIRIT OF CHEERFULNESS
May 19th, 1915.
On the Monday after the fateful 22nd I was taken with numerous
others from the base to reinforce the battalion. And here was an
ordeal. You were afraid almost to ask who had been spared. Never
shall I forget the look on the faces of the men who in providence came
out unscathed. It was a look of distress mingled with pride — distress
for their fallen comrades, pride when they remembered what they had
accomplished. After the charge I spent five days and five nights in the
support trenches, and there you have ample opportunity of seeing what
manner of men make up the Canadian Scottish. You would naturally
think that, after what they endured, nothing could save them from
nervous collapse. Nothing of the kind. Over all is the spirit of cheer-
fulness and pluck which never deserts them. As one fellow said to me :
" This is no time for the pulling of long faces." The loss of their com-
rades and the endurance and memory of that never-to-be-forgotten night
only stimulates for further effort. The tales of heroism I have listened
to would fill a column — ^the wounded helping the wounded and dying ;
officers mortally wounded buoying up the men to victory. To our
Colonel and the gallant officers under his command great tribute is due.
When the time comes when deeds are recorded, their courage and
bravery will be read with glowing satisfaction. The fact that eighteen
officers were either killed or wounded out of one battalion will bring
home the magnitude of the struggle. But it was victory, and although
we mourn for those who have fallen on sleep, we do not mourn as those
94 LETTERS FROM THE FRONT
who have no hope. The Dominion who sent them will send others like
unto them. It was just our gift to the Empire.
AN ARGUMENT WITH THE DOG
May 20th, 1915.
Well, we are somewhere in the mud about four iniles from the
firing line, whichj from present signs, we should reach this week. They
have battered us over quite a section of country during the past two
weeks, and some of our abodes have been anything but desirable.
Barns are the prime favourites, and occasionally one of us has an argu-
ment with the dog as to who will occupy his house ; needless to say
the poor dog generally loses. They hold us down so fine as to what
we may write, that it is rather difficult to work in any stuff that would
be of interest to you, and even at that you will no doubt have difficulty
in deciphering this drivel of mine, which is being scribbled on my knee
whilst sitting by the roadside. Here comes a bunch of German prisoners,
so please excuse me while I look them over. Well, they have passed,
and save from their yellow faces (caused no doubt by the lyddite) they
don't look too badly at all. Some are pretty husky-looking chaps.
'Twas ever thus — we have to fall in for something or other, so I must
ring off for this time. A. sends his love to the Comforts, as do I also.
From Officer of R.C.D.
ON THE MOVE
May 20th, 1915.
Since leaving England we have been constantly on the move. In
fact we have moved about more than any other Division out here.
At Ypres the whole division was splendid, the Infantry, Artillery,
Medical, Supplies, all did their work equally well, and with the same
We were pulled out of action badly shattered, but still with a sting,
on May 3rd, and after resting for a few days to refit and reorganise we
are at it again. Our 2nd and 3rd Brigades attack to-night.
Everybody too busy to get into trouble or to write long letters.
If there is anything that can be done to help you in your good work,
it shall be done cheerfully.
From Officer at Divisional Headquarters.
LETTERS FROM THE FRONT 95
SHARING GOOD AND ILL
May 27th, 1915.
How glad I am to hear about you again and your good work. I
can hardly say how proud I am of our lads. At the same time
the loss of so many of them has been a great and trying sorrow.
You cannot for months on end share the good and ill with these lads
and not grieve. A finer bunch of fellows it has never been my lot to
meet, and I have made friendships time will never efface. We are
passing through evil days, but it may be that after tribulation we
may inherit the Kingdom.
OUT OF A PECK OF TROUBLE
Now, just to give you an idea of the time we spent during the three
weeks we were in the trenches. For the first two days we were in the
front line it was Al, but after that fireworks started. It was on a
Thursday morning that we got our first real taste of modern warfare
in the shape of an extra heavy artillery bombardment. From then
until Sunday night this was kept up untU nearly every one of us " had
Immediately on our left the Germans tried their gas plant, and
a very funny thing it looked like to see the heavy banks of yellow-green
clouds roU down on the trenches. We took it for sulphur fumes, but
this was only for a few minutes, as the taU-end of the cloud caught
some of our battalion. The Germans, besides using this gas, were also
using gas shells, the smoke from which got in your eyes and nearly
blinded you. I can assure you we got our fair share of these stinkpots,
as they sent them over at the rate of eight an hour for fully twelve hours.
Up to this time our casualties had been very few, but when we got the
order on Sunday night to retire this was reversed.
We had to cross an open field which the Germans had covered with
machine guns. A person has not the least idea of the havoc these
guns work until he has been through the mill. We got out of this peck
of trouble all right, but we got stuck into another the next day, as we
were sent up as reserves.
It was here I saw the prettiest piece of manoeuvring it has been my
luck to witness. The were being sent up as reinforcements to the
firing line, and as the shells were falling all around like hailstones it
was really pretty to see the men run forward a few yards and then drop
down flat, and so on. This was carried on for at least a mile on either
96 LETTERS FROM THE FRONT
side of where we were lying. An ammunition column, with six horses
to each wagon, also went tearing across the open fields, with shells
bursting all around. You would have thought it was only a regular field
day instead of a red-letter day in Britain's history.
We were at last relieved as every one thought for a holiday, but it
turned out to be a false alarm, as we were only marched back about
six miles. We stopped the night there, but, thanks to an aeroplane,
we were shelled out in the morning. We moved back for about a mile,
where we stopped for about thirty-six hours. Then about eight o'clock
in the evening came the order to pack up ready to move off, and for
almost a week we did guard duty.
We were at last relieved, and on the march to our billets we covered
about twenty-two miles. Of those who started on that march only
about a score landed, the rest having dropped out on account of fatigue.
But little wonder, for from the time we went into the trenches until we
reached our billets — a period of twenty-four days — ^not one of us had
had what could be called a regular sleep, as we were all on the jump
in case of an attack.
A NEW-COMER IN THE WAR ZONE
Pretty neab the Front.
Well, here I am, actually only a day away from England and all you
dear people, but much farther in spirit. I have seen many little things
on my way through of interest to a new-comer to the " war zone " and
I must write to you before the impression fades.
To begin with, the crossing was calm and uneventful. There was
a proud moment at Boulogne when I passed the lined-up civilian pas-
sengers, waiting patiently with passports in hand, and stepped off the
boat with the magic formula " Militaire." A megaphone inquired up-
roariously, " Is Nursing Sister aboard ? " and I was covered
with cpnfusion as I modestly replied from the gangway.
By good luck, a Red Cross car was coming straight out here that
evening, for reasons of State, so I was spared all tiresome delay in
Boulogne. Perhaps it wouldn't have been tiresome. I caught a
glimpse of quite a gay little party in the hotel lounge, and some of our
sisters, not known to me, looked happy and busy on a shopping excur-
sion. I love our uniforms.
We left at 8. It was an event to pass the first guard and show
our papers. Every now and then we were stopped by another of these
determined httle Frenchmen. One very nearly shot our chauffeur, who
CANADIAN ARTILLERY— AT THE
AN OBSERVATION STATION OF THE
CANADIAN ARTILLERY— AT THE
Photo Lambert Weston,' Ltd.
BRIG.-GENERAL J. C. MACDOUGALt, COMMANDING
WARD IN NO. 2 STATIONARY HOSPITAL
—SOMEWHERE IN FRANCE.
VIEW OF NO. 2 STATIONARY HOSPITAL
— SOMEWHERE IN FRANCE.
NO. 1 STATIONARY HOSPITAL-
SOMEWHERE IN FRANCE.
CANADIAN FIELD COMFORTS COMMI!
SION— MOORE BARRACKS,
LETTERS FROM THE FRONT 101
was bit hesitative about slowing down, and I thought all was over with
him. Certainly I never felt a car decide to stop in quite such a hurry.
I am quite satisfied that there is very little chance for any one foolish
enough not to give instant obedience to their " Halte ! "
At first it was all quiet country and funny little French villages,
then we came to the billeting areas — cheerful British tones everywhere,
clusters of soldiers at each turn of the road, glimpses of lighted barns
with long tables full of them, a khaki-coloured bit of France. No one
knew very much about our road, which pleased me immensely, as I
ked to hear the various discussions, crisp officer directions, eager and
" lling explanations from the Tommies, and friendly but quite unreliable
Volubility from the natives. They all peered cm-iously at me, as it is
very rarely that women travel these roads. The Matron tells me, in
awful warning, that even experienced and valued sisters, who have
had to take leave (it is a long strain since the war began) find it difficult
to get back to this advanced post. One strange thing was to see the long
lines of motor 'buses extending along the road-side, sometimes ten,
one after the other, sometimes more than a hundred. I do not see
how there are any left in London. They are all painted the same dark
grey, and are used to bring the men from their billets to the trenches
or else to take the happy ones back to the paradise called leave.
In the shadow of a stone waU at a turn of the road we came suddenly
upon the tall, motionless figure of an Indian, one of the Bengal Lancers,
keeping silent watch over their camp. He looked very impressive in
We were delayed somewhat by banks of low-lying mist, which
made one sniff curiously, and which even made one's eyes sting. Of
course I decided that this was caused by the remains of the gas blowing
from the Front (not so many miles away), but am told that it was
simply the gunpowder smell which hangs in the air anywhere near the
Later we came to support trenches and wire entanglements, or
rather to the name of them, as I could see very little by then. We
passed two or three strings of ammunition wagons, returning empty
from the trenches and making very little noise about it. The flare of
the German " star shells " showed up very distinctly from time to
time. Ours are less brilliant. We stopped the car when the first
sound of the guns reached us, stopped and listened to their dull, remorse-
less, deadly sound. What a dreadful concrete fact war is to us now.
At first it was only an idea, appalling and terrible, but far off ; now it
presses so on us, it is in all our lives. War seems pretty grim and hard-
working close at hand, and this is not the most light-hearted place in
102 LETTERS FROM THE FRONT
It is a queer, big, rambling place of courts and narrow stairs and
low, dark rooms. The street was sadly easy to find by reason of the
long string of ambulances making their careful way. My dear, do you
know it just goes on all the time ! Always the constant stream of
ambulances and the huddled figures inside with their poor pathetic
feet sticking out. They lift them out carefully, in the dark, and last
night some had to stay on the floor for hours. The surgeons work turn
about, all day and all night. It is an overworked, overcrowded hospital
with no time for fads or frills, but with wonderful people working here
and wonderful results. The sisters simply adore the Tommies, they
are so good and endure anything cheerfully, and there are two boy
officers being very brave men and a grey-haired subaltern who is dying
absolutely ungrudgingly for his country. Their courage himibles one.
I may never have time to write you a scrawl like this again ; besides,
one can scribble about outside impressions, but not of the real things
inside these walls. It is a hard life and sad, and I don't count one
bit, but I am proud and glad to be here to do something for our men, our
P.S. — I forgot to say we might really be shelled some night !
BEAUTIFUL JUNE DAYS
— Field Ambulance,
Canadian Expeditionary Force,
June 6th, 1915.
I was delighted to receive your note ; it brought back some pleasant
memories of afternoon teas and " The George " which stood out like
oases in the desert mud of Sling Plantation.
It seems like a thousand years since we left England. The past is
a haze, the future unknown ; one lives only in the present, glad to be well
and alive in these beautiful June days. The longer you live here the
more you believe in predestination ; why a shell should burst in an open
field over there, or burrow a hole in the ground a few feet away from
you without bursting, or blow the top of the place next door off, is a
mystery, and always will be a mystery. We lived a thousand lives at
Ypres ; we treated in our ambulance alone some 5,200 cases in six days,
at times under heavy shell fire, carried hundreds by hand, out of danger,
into fields and never lost a patient. A good many of our own boys were
wounded ; I had the luck to get hit with a piece of shrapnel, but it hit
the bone in the front of the leg, and did not amount to anything, did
LETTERS FROM THE FRONT 108
not even have to quit work. We have been hard at it again down here.
There will be many a sad heart in Canada, and many, many more before
the end ; it is only the beginning now. If you could only supply
thousands of guns and millions of high-explosive shells, the war would
soon end, for a British or Canadian soldier is equal to two Germans minus
high explosive. There is no shortage on their side.
Hope you are not tired. My best wishes and_many thanks.
A WARM TIME
June 1th, 1915.
We have had rather a warm time since we came out, in two senses
of the word, as the weather has been absolutely superb, barring one or
two bad thunder showers.
I had rather a humorous and at the same time hair-raising exploit
this afternoon. We came out of the trenches on Friday evening, and
came along eventually to this village, through which was a dandy
canal, broad, clean, and deep ; and as the day was awfully hot, we had a
bathing parade this afternoon. WTiile we were swimming around enjoy-
ing ourselves the Germans started chucking shells across ; one fell in a
field about 100 yards away, which only made the fellows look, as they
have got so callous ; but about half a minute later one fell on the
bank and wounded five, and three more fell near us in the water in quick
succession. Well ! you should have seen the scatter ! I broke all
records for the fifty yards' dash to the bank, picked up my clothes, and
streaked naked over a hedge, railway, and about three fields before I
stopped and looked round ; all I could see was naked bodies darting in
all directions ; I simply had to laugh. Well, they dropped another
half-dozen shells and then stopped ; that is only an afternoon's pastime
for the Germans.
]But I have a nastier one than that to tell you. On the way from
the trenches on Friday we stopped in a village about two miles back
from the line ; mind, this was fully inhabited, that's where I think the
authorities make a big mistake. Anyway, we stayed until Saturday
night, then a spy either gave the news away or an aeroplane saw us, and
the shelling started ; they fell all. round us. I was standing talking to
my best chum, a fellow from the wilds of Canada, in the street, and a
shell fell just beside us. He pitched forward into my arms and gasped :
" Good-bye, I'm done ! " I laid him on his back, and did all I could
for him ; but he died with his jugular vein severed and a gaping wound
through his lungs. While I knelt over him, another burst near, and I
ran across, as there had been some women near ; when the dust had
104 LETTERS FROM THE FRONT
cleared I found two women, a girl about sixteen, and a little baby
about nine months, all mangled, lying dead. We carried them into a
house and covered them with sheets and placed my chum beside them.
Another shell wounded badly five of our fellows, then we were ordered
to pull out, which we did, and came on here ; but no jjlace within ten
miles is safe. I made a cross, put all particvilars on it, and made a
wreath of beautiful flowers, which I got in the garden of a house ruined
by shell ; then, yesterday, Sunday, a party of a dozen of us went back
and buried him under a beautiful pear tree in a quiet place, and as we
turned away I don't think I ever saw a more beautiful picture than
that quiet grave.
From N.C.O. or Royal Canadian Dragoons.
ONE OF THE MOST WONDERFUL THINGS
No. 2 Canadian Stationary Hospital.
June 10th, 1915.
As you know, with the advent of the First Contingent in answer
to the Mother Country's call. No. 2 Canadian Stationary Hospital
enjoyed the distinction of being the first unit of that Colonial Division
to receive orders to proceed across the channel in discharge of duties
upon active service.
We established ourselves in what is known, during peace time, as
a hotel. Here, since the month of November, we have unceasingly
assumed our share of the burden of caring for the sick and wounded
Canadian and British Tommy alike.
We had at the beginning initial accommodation of 300 beds, but
since then, across the road, on the golf course, we have established a tent
hospital and now have a total of 560 beds. During the memorable
stand of our Canadian boys, April 22nd, and following days, this hospital
was filled to overflowing, and I can assure you no effort was spared by
officers, nursing sisters, orderlies in every ward to alleviate the suffering
of each and every one. In the short period of seven days' time about
2,000 patients were cared for.
One of the most wonderful thing§ in the present war is the magnifi-
cent hospital arrangements which have been made by the British War
Office all over Northern France. All the large hotel buildings in all
the coasts cities are now fitted up as hospitals, and fitted up in such a
way that you would hardly know that they had not been built for the
purpose. There is practically nothing in the way of equipment, re-
modelling buildings to make them suitable, hospital supplies of every
LETTERS FROM THE FRONT 105
kind, good food, and hospital comforts that the War Office have not
generously given us to help us with our work.
We find that in our tent hospital our patients are hiappy and con-
tented, and make equally as good, if not more rapid, recovery than in
the hospital buildings. We have treated during the past six weeks
many patients suffering from the notorious gas used by the Germans,
and in the treatment of these cases the outdoor life in our tents gives
wonderful results. At present we have the smallest number of patients
in our hospital that we have had for many months.
SERVING BESIDE HEROES
June 13th, 1915.
What a satisfaction it is, and honour, to serve beside such heroes.
A wounded London officer told one of ours in Boulogne Hospital that he
never saw anything like the Canadian stretcher-bearers. His men
tried to hold back our fellows from going out to the wounded one day,
thinking it nothing short of suicide. But nothing would stop them. It
was their job and they were going to do it, no matter what the shelling
was. The morning the 5th made their charge. on the fortified German
post (May 24th) when their losses were so heavy; they charged right
over the parapet where the Londoners were. The latter cheered them
to the echo and some jumped over and joined in too. This post, I may
tell you, had previously resisted attacks from the regulars and us three
times. The 5th were bound to get it, if it took the last man, and they
did. We were anxiously waiting for the news. When the time arrived
at which the attack was to be made, one grew very anxious. Soon
I heard the most murderous machine-gun fire, and I could not help
thinking that once more the attack had failed. Then I heard the hard
" tat-tat-tat " of the Colt, and knew we had not stopped. By and by we
saw the three blue lights go up and knew we had once more won. The
taking of it was not the worst, though ; it was the awful pounding we
had to endure the next day to hold it. The same thing happened to the
10th two days before. They took 450 yards of German trench, but
suffered frightfully holding it, as the Germans seemed to turn all the
guns in creation on them. But once you get these things you must
hold them, or what's the good of spending valuable lives getting them,
and the 2nd Brigade has never given up a thing yet that could be held.
Twice in that week we had the message, " Well done. Second Brigade ! "
but gratifying as such messages are, they do not console us for the loss
of not only brave men, but of dear friends as well, for I think of all
friendships those cemented on the field of battle are strongest.
106 LETTERS FROM THE FRONf
I suppose when they take the Division out, ajjl they^inust soof,
some may have a chance to get away. We need meiftadly|ind ajjg top
10,000 are on their way from Canada now. I hope ifa^tn^^t we
must have time to break them into our way of doing, thi«! a^^^tting
acquainted with them. The last time in the trei^^#we -^ only
1,600 rifles in the Brigade. I am sorry I must stop, asjjie o^ply has
warned me the mail is closing. I have so much to tell'you, l^rc^t must
wait until I see you.
Somewhere in France,
June Uth, 1915.
Swing your kilt, keep your eyes on the papers, there's going to be
" something doing " soon, and we arching to be in i*. Don't kmow
what part of the line we will be, Ijjif have been given to understand it
will be where we will have some fun — " let-'em-all-come."
The firing line is great fun, I don't think. Spent last Wednesday
on Piccadilly, Regent Street, Leicester Lounge, and other interesting
streets in the firing line. It's all so wonderful, you can't realise you're
fighting, but you bet your life we are. Our C.O. is a splendid chap ;
he talks to you all the time — at least it seems like that, and all the time
they are orders ; it is such a welcome change, I can assure y<5u.
Quite a lot of rain lately, but to-day the sun is out, and we are enjoy-
ing it very much. Last night there was quite a warm time " up front " ;
we could see the flares and the J.J.'s and C.B.'s were very noisy, and
the blooming things don't care where they drop, but sure our poor old
dug-out would last about as long as a snowb^l in N.C. if one should
Waiting for lunch now. You ought to see our " chateau de luxe,"
it's " some joint." One thing in its favour is lots of air.
How are the Comforts ? Have yoa been doing as much manual
labour as when we saw you last, and your very competent staff of
assistants ? Nearly all our old men are here, and best of all, I have my
old servant back. You can't imagine how glad I was to see them again.
Have had your respirator with me constantly ; they are new out
here, and think will be O.K.
Went past Col. L.'s dug-out, but did not call : we were in a
Have been spending most of our time watching aeroplane duels and
shells dropping on right flank ; football on our front, and mosquitoes
iETTERS FROM THE FRONT 107
This is ^t^ti3p"|i letter, but there is absolutely nothing we can say,
amd hav^t(Mcen^» our own letters.
D<ptioJ^p^ou%ill answer this before the war is over.
No. 2 Canadian General Hospital,
British Expeditionary Force.
June 16th, 1915.
About three weeks ago I received orders to join No. 2 General
Hospital — Canadian — and a man was sent to relieve me. I don't
know whether the change is permanent, all the M.O.'s who were through
the terrible time in May were relieved for a while and sent back, but it
is the policy to send senior officers to the hospitals where presumably
their special qualifications will be of Qiore avail, and so I may be kept
here. * '
We are in a beautiful spot, the ishospital has 1,100 beds and is in
tents. We have tennis, golf, and Ithe country around is beautiful;
there are many delightful walks and villages. The work is very interest-
ing, and there is plenty of congenial company, so I am enjoying life.
This is quite a gay resort in ordinary times, but of course will be quieter
Of course, one misses the excitement and constant change of life at
the front, but the everlasting crash of shells and the feeling of un-
certainty and danger gets on one's nerves, and then the terrible losses
we sustained ; the wiping out of so many of one's intimate friends and
the complete disorganisation of our splendid regiment was awfully
disheartening. Life was very blue after Langemarck, and the interest
seemed to have gone completely out of it, so I was glad to have a change,
just as I will be glad to get back among those who are left and take a
share in their trials, for life becomes little else there — the officers feel
that it is only a question of time till something happens.
The books and magazines were distributed in the regiment, and I
can assure you are very much appreciated. Thanks for all yovir kindness
— ^it is so much appreciated.
FRIENDS AND VISITORS
June 20//1, 1915.
The following somewhat rambling remarks fell from the lips of a
private in the P.P.C.L.I. or the P.P.'s, as they are usually called with
the Army at the front, where every regiment has a nickname and time
108 LETTERS FROM THE FRONT
is sometimes everything. Troops passing at night will ask : " Who
are you ? " " K.S.L.I., M.G.S.," which is King's Shropshire Light Infantry,
Machine Gun Section ; or " 3 K.R.R., S.B.," being the King's Royal
Rifles, 3rd Battalion Stretcher-bearers.
This good fellow, whom it was my privilege to visit, when in Canada
is a prosperous land-owner and ranchman in Alberta, and was badly
wounded on May 8th in what Sir John French now calls the Second
Battle of Ypres. The raiment joined the Expeditionary Force early
in December, and has done much since to sustain the name and honour
of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.
" Sit down," says my host, " and don't let us make a noise, _ as
that poor chap in the next bed got it in so many places ; it is taking
the hard-working doctors and cheerful nurses all their time to keep
what there is of him together. Everybody is very kind to us, and all
sorts of people just blow in here, and we talk to each other as if we were
old friends, and after the war is over we will all tmderstand each other
better, and realise something about the brotherhood of man, if we don't
all start trying to make money too fast, and put false values on it.
I have never been so happy as during the last few months in France,
realising that the only value one had was as an individual fighting
unit, and we have all tried to become millionaires, but without and
unlike the financial bother, it need not be at the expense of the other
" A few days ago an officer in uniform sat beside my bed, and
asked me all sorts of questions about Canada and France. He said
he was not a Canadian, but he tried to be a good subject of the Empire.
' I wish I were a younger man,' he said, ' and not so full of engagements
in London, as I really have a lot to do. Two of my boys are at the
front, one in the Army, the other in the Navy ; they are both youngsters,
but I am told they are trying to do their bit. They keep me posted in
the news, and I often think a week in the trenches and a few hard night
fatigues would do me more good than my morning ride in the Park at
half -past seven.' A few minutes afterwards a lady chatted to me
about my wound, and was very interested in m^ X-ray photograph ;
if the nurse had not been firm, I think she would have examined
my wounds. Imagine my surprise when the sister told me after-
wards it was the King and Queen. I remember in Flanders the Prince
of Wales walked into our billet in a pretty dirty farm barn ; the barn-
yard was in an awful state ; and talked to us about the quickest way
to drain it. None of us were keen on a drainage fatigue, as you seldom
occupy the same billets twice ; we all thought he was one of our new
subalterns, full of zeal.
" The poor old regiment (we are not one year old yet) has gone
CANADIAN FIELD COMFORTS COM-
CANADIAN FIELD COMFORTS COJI-
MISSION— BALES FOR THE FRONT.
DIBGATE CAMP— SHORNCLIFFE.
AT THE CONVALESCENT CAMP, MONK'S HORTON.
EVENING MEAL— DIBGATE CAMP.
BAND OF IITH BATTALION AT MOORE BARRACKS HOSPITAL.
A STREET CORNER— FOLKESTONE.
TENTS AT DIBGATE.
ST. MARTIN'S CHURCH— SHORNCLIFFE
ST. MARTIN'S PLAIN-
LETTERS FROM THE FRONT 113
through a lot since we left Ottawa last August. ' Our great loss was
Colonel Farquhar ; I think we all felt he was our personal friend. He
was very strict on parade, and if you were up before him in Orderly
Room he looked right through you, and you knew there was no good
trying to work off the best-thought-out fairy tale, so we just took our
medicine. He used to dole out punishments with a smUe, and often
reminded us that if the medicine did not effect a cure he would have to
change the treatment, and most of us were cured first time. After a
man had done his punishment, he never held it against him for promo-
tion. He used to come down to the trenches at night and discuss with
us how the ditches they called trenches could be improved, and he
always liked us to suggest schemes. I think if we had met the Germans
the night he was killed we would have left our mark, and the same
spirit is still with the regiment. I remember on the night of May 7th
an officer saying to his company, when he lined them up to occupy a
new trench : ' You may expect a bad day to-morrow ; if you get your
chance, don't forget the men over there killed our Colonel.'
" The regiment left Ottawa, in August, 1,130 strong, and 34 officers ;
we have had drafts amounting to 612 and 28 fresh officers. On the
6th we had 140 casualties in the same trenches, but we held our ground.
Sir John French had sent the Division word the day before, that at all
cost the ground must be held. His report to us afterwards is worth
reading, and to those who have lost relations it should be a consolation,
as no praise could be stronger, and British generals are pretty stolid
fellows, I hear, and not given to saying things they don't mean unless
it is bad language, and they must often have an excuse.
" I think we will all be better men for our experience. We are a
cheery lot, often a rowdy lot and you might think devil-me-care and
hard sort of fellows, but I think the real secret is that each of us always
wants to buck the other chap up, and I know every one of- us is con-
stantly mindful of the comrades who have taken their long leave. When
my Company Sergeant-Ma j or Dames was instantly killed by a high
explosive, I heard a lieutenant — ^badly wounded by the same shell —
say : ' I would willingly have taken his share.' This officer has since
died of wounds. Such experiences as these must make men of the
worst of us, and the word Man has taken on a different meaning, and is
not the man as I used to know him ; often liked him, was generally
indifferent to him, frequently disliked him, reasonably hated him, and
generally turned out to be a fool if I trusted him. In this war I have
come to know a new man, to admire him, follow him, and always trust
him ; perhaps he does not know himself, and wonders, and I wonder,
if this can be man as we thought we understood him a year ago. I only
hope that nothing will ever happen to change him back to what we
114 LETTERS FROM THE FRONT
thought he was, and theiew of us who are left to go back to Canada will
be the better for it— but what a price we will have paid to find each
other out ! "
"A POISONER IN GERMANY"
July 1st, 1915.
Some of the sayings of the men are very funny. One man writing
to his wife said : " You will be glad to learn that our son is not dead,
but is a poisoner in Germany 1 " Another tells of the Germans shooting
from the ends of our trenches and says : "I think they call this in-
validing fire," — ^not far wrong either, is he ?
During a long, weary march, one man was running to catch up,
having dropped out to fix his puttee ; immediately a voice told him to
" stop that galloping on the hard road," this having been a stringent
rule when we had our horses.
HEAD DOWN AND SPIRITS UP
Julu lUh, 1915.
Thank you so much for the mouth organs, they were simply great.
The day they arrived we were leaving for the firing line, and had
music all the way. They were divided among the platoons, so each had
its own band. In the trenches it is a case of keeping your head down
and your spirits up. Needless to say, the mouth organs you sent were
almost entirely responsible for our splendid spirits during our stay in
the front line, and sure it would have made you very happy to know
you are partly responsible for the cheerfiolness of our boys. Thank you
for them and for myself very, very much.
Heard a pretty good thing the other day. One of our men was
writing home, and he started like this : " I am alive, and so is my shirt."
I am sorry to' say that means me, but they help to pass away the time.
" It's an ill wind," etc., etc. Am writing this in my dug-out, a very
comfortable one, only you have always to be ducking your head. Have
had quite a lively time for the last week, but thankfiil to say our com-
pany came out without a casualty. Am sorry to have to teU you C.
and F. have both gone to hospital, so our original family is dwindling
We are holding the line where one of the largest battles was fought ;
sorry I can't tell you where it is, but perhaps you can guess.
Saw Major H. the other day, he seems quite fit. Lots of rumours
about our going back to England to reorganise, but am afraid they are
LETTERS FROM THE FRONT 115
THE OCCASIONAL GUN
— Field Ambulance,
July 15th, 1915.
So far at least we have had only three or four days that were really
hot, usually it is cool, especially in the evenings.
The firing line has been for the past couple of weeks the quietest
since we came to France. Only occasionally one hears the hoarse
cough of a gun, instead of the constant-roar to which we have been more
or less accustomed. Expect that both forces are storing up aU the
ammunition possible for a big flare-up, but when or where no one knows,
but expect that the Canadian Division as usual will be somewhere near
the centre of the disturbance. It is marvellous the difference between
safety and danger, how little it is at times.
At present our work consists in running a large Convalescent Hospital
for the Division, in a quaint old French village. We have about two
hundred in-patients, and besides a large outdoor clinic, so that we are
kept quite busy. We keep all patients who will probably be better in
a week or ten days. It keeps us going to properly equip and look after
them, as of course we are not equipped for such work ; however, they all
seem to be quite happy, and that is the main thing.
Best wishes for the continued success of your work.
THREE MEN OF GOD
There are three of these who from time to time hover around my
various Regimental Dressing Stations.
I imagine the powers that be give them a roving commission, as it
must be difficult to frame orders for the clearance of souls. Our wounded
all go down towards the base, so all our thoughts are turned in one
direction. Not so the Padre's, as long as there is a biblical or ecclesiasti-
cal doubt cast on the ultimate destination of the departed, he has to make
his arrangements for either direction. Generally I expect it follows the
line of least resistance. The result is the golden opportunity of un-
There are, I say, three. Faith, Hope, and Charity.
Faith is calm and steadfast. His soul is yoimg, although his hair
is grey. He is pedantic to the last. I am, mark you, a Presbyterian —
in his dispensation of the word — but his ministrations to the wounded
are as unmixed balm in Gilead.
Faith is quite unconvinced by shell fire, and when the high explo-
sive commences to drop around the dressing station he strolls forth to
enjoy it as a maid going forth to bathe her face in the dew of a May-day
morning. Parenthetically I may say that at these moments the
medical officer is usually to be found in the cellar.
On the night at Gevenchy, when we brought in the dead, yes, and
the wounded too, who had been lying out in No Man's Land for three
sun-dried, waterless days. Faith was there. Faith was everywhere, and
they say he was almost up to the German wire in his endeavour to get
a really good burial party. Fifty-two he buried at one time. Did
ever Padr6 have a more fulsome opportunity ? Poor was shot
beside him as he concluded, yet Faith never turned a hair.
" In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength." That
is Faith's motto. I gave him it, it seemed so appropriate. Being a
Padr^, he doesn't damn when things go wrong, yet there is at times a
light in his eye by which I recognise that he also is human.
Hope is a Scotsman, or at least ought to be, but I never asked him
if he preferred George Wishart to Cardinal Beaton. When he retires
THREE MEN OF GOD 117
from the Church he will make a most excellent policeman. The drivers
of the field ambulance know him as a director of traffic.
I met him early one morning stalking through the grey dawn of
village. He was finding out where a certain regimental aid post
was. I asked him why he bothered. He answered, " Sapienta potenta
est." Later in the day, he guided an ambulance convoy to the same
place through a hail of shrapnel.
Hope has a hip pocket ; that is where I come in, as a horse after sugar.
He is also a poet, yet the poetry that he writes is a faint reflection of the
music in his soul. He dreams and versifies, yet we who know the true
depth of those silent waters see that the verses, though marketable,
are mere froth to be blown away to disclose the submerged glories of the
Hope refuses to retire. Rallied a company whose officers had all
perforce entered the casualty lists, and led them up the hill again.
At Ypres some one suggested to Hope that he should retire; he
answered, " I thought they were just straightening the line ; if it's a
retreat, I must return to the firing line."
" Charity suflereth long, and is kind,
Charity envieth not,
Charity vaunteth not Itself."
Where all are so kind, so willing, so gentle, it were invidious to say
" the greatest of these is Charity."
Charity arrives at the dressing station armed with hot-water bottles,
malted milk, Oxo, sleeping-socks, and Bibles.
Charity makes you feel better just from speaking to you for two
minutes ; and being Charity, is the most generous thing on earth.
Charity has been bombed out of our dressing-station into another,
he has had his boots filled with shrapnel, and his trousers with high
His many escapes are probably due to the fact that he wears the
devil in his cap and the Cross on his breast, and so is protected on either
He neither smokes nor drinks, yet being a Christian has been known
also to dispense many comforts to the wounded.
He scents a wounded man from afar, and is out to meet him while
the medical officer is still rubbing his eyes and demanding how any one
dare get wounded so early in the morning.
Charity can carry a stretcher, and has done so many a time and oft.
He knows most of his boys by name, and every casualty is a wound to
118 THREE MEN OF GOD
' These are just three. The three I have happened to meet, the three
I delight to see in the dressing-station; the men with the roving' com-
missions, who come to you in the energy of their calling and leave you
the better for their visit.
We in the Canadian Division are well served by our men of God.
What we would do without them I do not know. They figure in the
casualty lists ; do they figure enough in the honours list ? Perchance their
reward is in heaven ; at least we will hope so.
By Frederick George Scott
In lonely watches night by night
Great visions burst upon my sight,
For down the stretches of the sky
The hosts of dead go marching by.
Strange ghostly banners o'er them float.
Strange bugles sound an awful note.
And all their faces and their eyes
Are lit with starlit from the slues.
The anguish and the pain have passed
And peace hath come to them at last,
But inv the stern looks linger still
The iron purpose and the will.
Dear Christ, who reign'st above the flood
Of human tears and human blood,
A weary road these men have trod.
Oh, house them in the home of God.
PRINTISD IK BREAI BBTTAIN
BT BAZELL, WilSOH tSD yViST, W.,
tONDON AHD ATLBSBORT.