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of the 

By Sergeant 







The Plain Story of a Lucky Soldier 


Toronto Regiment, 1st C.E.F. 
Returned Prisoner of War 


New York 



Dedicated to My Dear Brother 

26th Canadian Infantry, New Brunswick Regiment 

Killed in Action at Lens 

July 4th, 1917 



Toronto Regiment, 1st C.E.F. 
Returned Prisoner of War 



Foreword - - - - - - -.'-,- xi 

Getting Into It - - - , - 

In It - ..... - -77 

Further Into It - - ^ - - - - 117 

Getting Otrt Of It *79 



The Author - Frontispiece 

The Author in the Front Line Trenches - - 57 

The Author as he Appeared on his Arrival in 

England - I3 1 

Lusitania Medal -----. - - *33 

Giessen Prison Camp - 155 

The Author Appealing for Recruits for the American 

Tank Corps ------- 194 


Upon my return to Canada from the prison 
camp in Germany, I was repeatedly urged by my 
friends to enter the field as a lecturer to inform 
the ones who were forced to stay " back home " 
of conditions as they existed at the Front, and 
behind the lines in Germany. 

Previ'ous to the war I had never made a public 
speech in my life. I was only a boy, just eighteen, 
and my object in life seemed to be to enter into 
as many athletic sports as possible. Therefore, 
when it was first suggested that I become a lec- 
turer, I was terrified at the prospect and would 
much rather have gone " Over the Top " in an 
attack than face an audience. I did not make 
myself into a lecturer ; I was just " wished " on to 
the public platform. My first month on tour was 
one continual round of terror and stage-fright. 
How I survived, or what I said in my lectures, I 
do not know. 

The authorities, however, seemed to be pleased 
with my efforts and soon I was placed on the 
staff of the Recruiting Committee for Ontario, 


In five months I recruited over twelve hundred 
men for the Canadian Expeditionary Forces. 
During the same period my lectures inspired many 
of the people at home to form a number of 
societies for sending relief to the boys who were 
still suffering in German prison camps. 

Later, when the United States came into the 
war I was sent across the border to lecture for 
various patriotic causes. I have been on the staff 
of the National Council of Defence, the Red 
Cross Society, the Military Y.M.C.A., the Muni- 
tions Board and on various Chautauqua circuits. 
During two of the Liberty Loan campaigns I had 
the good fortune to be instrumental in selling 
more than seven million dollars worth of Liberty 
Bonds. I am told that I have raised half a million 
dollars for the Red Cross and about two hundred 
thousand dollars for the Y.M.C.A. military funds. 

On my various lecture tours I have been from 
coast to coast, both in the United States and in 
Canada, and at the time of writing am still 
" carrying on." 

Practically every day since I commenced lectur- 
ing, I have been urged' to put in the form of a 
book the story of my experiences while " Over 
There." At last it is done. I have written the 


story and told of incidents as they happened to 
me. The narrative is, therefore, one of my own 
personal experiences. Many times I have longed 
to tell the story not only of my experiences in the 
war, but also those of my two brothers. There 
were three of us, I being the eldest. When the 
war began my two brothers were aged respec- 
tively fifteen and seventeen. All three of us were 
under the age limit for military service, yet we 
determined to get to the Front. We all three 
managed to do so. David, the second boy, and 
myself, said that we were nineteen and after some 
little trouble were accepted. 

David was killed in action at the age of twenty, 
during the storming of Lens by the Canadian 
troops on July 4th, 1917. 

Albert, the third boy, being only fifteen, was 
not allowed to join the army, so he " attached " 
himself by the simple method of stowing himself 
away on board one of the transports that carried 
Canadian troops to Europe. Eventually he 
reached the Front and saw plenty of hard fight- 
ing. He is, at the time of writing, just nineteen 
years of age, yet he now wears chevrons on his 
uniform indicating that he has been four years on 
active service. 



Having read many of the various war books 
that have been published since the outbreak of the 
war, I feel that my efforts, here set forth, are 
indeed poor, but if my reader can find something 
new and interesting in my narrative, and if the 
many friends that I had the pleasure of meeting 
while on my lecture tours, who really inspired 
this effort, will only look upon my work with a 
kindly eye, I shall feel that, after all, this book has 
not been written in vain. 

TORONTO, December ist, 1918. 





The news went from mouth to mouth, from 
desk to desk ; clerical duties were forgotten. 

At first the news seemed to stun) us all. Then 
the reaction came, and all one could hear through 
the office was: "Will Canada send troops?" 
"I wonder if we shall get a chance to fight?" 
"Will the 'Queen's Own' be called out?" and 
such remarks. 

I was working at the time in the office of the 
Toronto Electric Light Company. Most of the 
male members of the staff were members of the 
Queen's Own Rifles the crack militia regiment 
of Toronto. Upon several occasions I had tried 
to join the Q.O.R., but had been turned down as 
under age and because I was not tall enough. 



I had always envied the fellows in the militia, and 
my ears burned when they talked of the doings 
of the regiment. 


Then the war came. If I had envied the mili- 
tary fellows before, envy did not now describe 
my feelings. A day or two went by with the 
excitement at fever heat, and at last it was 
announced officially that a contingent of volunteer 
troops was to be sent across the ocean to the aid 
of the Motherland. The militia regiments issued 
orders for all members to report for physical 
examination and to state whether they wished to 
go on active service or not. The morning after 
(I believe it was August 8th, 1914) I watched 
with a heavy heart the boys come into the office. 
In would rush one or another, his face covered 
with smiles, and announce proudly that he had 
been accepted and had passed the examination. 

Occasionally one would come in slowly and, 
in a very dejected tone, say that he had been 
rejected. More than half of the male staff had 
signed for active service by this time, and as each 
new one told the glad news of his acceptance my 


spirits drooped lower and lower. There were three 
of us in the office who had become great chums 
Jim McCreery, Slim Berrill and myself. Jim was 
a big, young Irishman, Berrill a very slim English- 
man, and I a very small Canadian. I was eighteen 
years of age and just five feet four tall when the 
war broke out, so I thought there was not an 
earthly chance of my being accepted for overseas 
service as a soldier. McCreery and Berrill were 
not members of the militia, but they decided that 
they would try to enlist. 

Just before the office closed that day, they came 
to me and Jim said, " Well, Art, we are going to 
try our luck to-night; do you want .to come 

" Aw, what's the use?" I replied. " They will 
never take me." 

However, I decided I would go along, and I 
remarked to Berrill : " Gee ! if they take you with 
that chest, they will be tickled to death to get me, 
even if I am not a beanpole." (Berrill was so 
slim that none of us thought he had a chance of 
being accepted.) 

That night the three of us went to the 
Armouries where the Queen's Own were taking 
recruits. In going through the main hall we 


passed several of the boys, who were formerly 
employed in the office, rigged out in their 
uniforms and drilling. To us they looked like 
generals. "Oh, if we could only be like them!" 
we thought. Then we reached the recruiting 
office. Will I ever be able to describe the feelings 
I had at that moment ? I think not ! There were 
several hundred men waiting and they were 
formed up in two lines leading into the office. 
We wondered what the two lines were for, but 
we were not left long in doubt. A big sergeant 
(his breast fairly covered with campaign ribbons) 
shouted out : "Men for home service in this line," 
indicating the left, and then " men for active 
service in this line," pointing to the right. We 
made a rush for the line on the right, but had no 
sooner secured a place than the sergeant an- 
nounced " only men who have served in the 
Imperial Army will be accepted for active 
service." Again the feeling that I was not wanted 
came over me and, with Berrill, I began to get 
out of the line. Jimmy McCreery, however, 
grabbed us by the arms and pulled both back. 
" Wait a minute, you two," he said. " Stick to 
me and bluff it out. Tell 'em you've served in 
any regiment that comes to your mind." Berrill 


and I had our doubts as to whether this plan 
would succeed and we did not hesitate to say so. 
However, Jimmy was firm and kept us in the 
line until we at last reached the door of the 
recruiting office. Another sergeant was there and 
we had to announce to him the service we had 
seen before he would let us in. We pushed 
McCreery ahead of us and he walked boldly up 
to the sergeant and announced, " Three years, 
Dublin Fusiliers." He was admitted without a 
word. Berrill came next. I could see he was 
nervous, but he was a hero compared with myself, 
as I was scared stiff. " Well, where did you 
serve, me lad?" the sergeant boomed out. " Er-er, 
two years. Er-er, Bedfordshire Yeomanry," 
Berrill replied. I believe the sergeant suspected 
him but he was admitted. I moved up quickly 
and shot at the sergeant, " Two years, same regi- 
ment, Bedfordshire Yeomanry," and before the 
sergeant had recovered from the surprise, I was 
inside the door. I expected him to follow and 
drag me out, but I guess he took pity on me and 
felt sure that I would never get through the 
examination. He was right! The office was 
jammed with men waiting to be examined, and 
when at last I got near Berrill, I gasped, " Why 


the devil did you pick out such a regiment ? Gee ! 
if they ask me anything about the Bedfordshire 
Yeomanry I am stuck, sure! I never heard of 
them before." 

Berrill had given the name of the first regiment 
that entered his head. It appeared that he had at 
one time seen the Bedfordshire Yeomanry in 
England and so he thought of them. 

Jimmy and Berrill stuck to their story of 
having served in the Imperial Army and were 
accepted, but when it came my turn, I was 
told to go and join the Boy Scouts. I 
left the Armouries that night in a most 
depressed frame of mind. There were my 
two chums accepted for service abroad and I was 
to be left at home. How I managed to live 
through the next day at the office I don't know, 
but night came at last and I decided to accompany 
Jimmy to the Armouries once more to watch the 
boys drill. We had been at the Armouries some 
time when a squad of recruits went past in charge 
of a sergeant of the Medical Corps. Jimmy 
grabbed my arm. " There is your chance," he 
said in an excited voice. " Go and see if the 
Body-Snatchers (Medical Corps) will take you." 
I thought it was no use, but I decided to take 


another chance. I overtook the Medical Corps 
sergeant and asked him if he were taking recruits. 
" Yes," he replied, " but I don't think you can get 
in." He invited me to follow him, however, and 
see the officer in charge. I did so, thinking that it 
was another forlorn hope. Jimmy came along 
but was forced to wait outside the office. I was 
first questioned and then received my physical 
examination. The doctor was an old man and 
he did not notice that I was standing on my toes 
when he took my height. I was accepted and duly 
sworn in for service abroad with the Medical 
Corps. I rushed out of that office and grabbed 
Jimmy by the shoulders and yelled, "Jim! Jim! 
They took me at last." 


We were sent into barracks in Toronto a few 
days later, and we stayed there about a week 
being outfitted and equipped. However, I did not 
like the corps to which I belonged, as I felt that 
I had what we called at that time " a safety first 
job." Therefore, when at the end of a week the 
Queen's Own Rifles sent out a call for more 
recruits and we were given a chance to transfer 
from the Medical Corps to the infantry, I was 


one of the first to step forward and apply for a 
transfer. I had two reasons for this: one was 
that I wanted to be along with my friends; the 
other, that I wanted to be one of the fighting men, 
as the infantry were then termed. 

We left for the mobilization camp towards the 
latter part of August, 1914. By this time I was 
a fully fledged member of the Q.O.R. About a 
week before the First Canadian Division sailed 
for overseas the process known as " weeding out " 
began. Every regiment had entered the camp 
with several hundred men over the number called 
for and the surplus over " War Strength " was to 
be weeded out to be sent overseas later as the 
Second Division. 

I was one of the first ones weeded out from the 
Queen's Own Rifles and was told that I should be 
transferred to one of the regiments forming part 
of the Second Contingent. 

This did not suit me at all as most of us 
believed that there was a possibility of the war 
being over before even the first troops from 
Canada got across, and none of us believed that 
there would ever be a second contingent. 

We realize to-day, as we look back, how wrong 
our ideas were at that time. 


I, therefore, promptly went and joined the 5th 
Royal Highlanders, Canadian Black Watch. I 
was only a member of that regiment for a day 
and a half when I was weeded out again. 

This ill-luck continued for some time. In less 
than a week I joined and was kicked out of no 
less than six of the first contingent regiments. 
However, two days before we started for over- 
seas, I was securely linked up with the Victoria 
Rifles and felt sure that, after all, I should be with 
the first troops to leave Canada. That afternoon 
I visited the camp of the Queen's Own and saw 
the captain of my old company. In the course 
of our conversation I said to him, " Well, you 
turned me down, but I am going across after all." 
" Glad to hear it," he said. " But to what regiment 
do you belong?" " The Victoria Rifles," I proudly 
answered. " But they are from Montreal," he 
replied. " Why not go with a Toronto regiment ?" 
Then I told him the story of how I had tried to 
go with my friends and stay in the Q.O.R., but 
had been turned down. The captain was very 
sympathetic and promised to see what he could 
do to have me re-transferred to the Q.O.R. 

He must have been successful, for the next 
morning I was informed that I was once more a 


member of my old regiment. Shortly afterwards 
we lost our name and identity as the Queen's Own 
Rifles and became known as the 3rd Overseas 
Battalion, Toronto Regiment, of the First Cana- 
dian Division. The 3rd Battalion was composed 
of the Queen's Own Rifles, the Royal Grenadiers 
and the Governor-General's Body Guards, all 
crack militia regiments from Toronto. 


Next day we left for overseas. Will I ever 
forget that day? How wonderful it seemed that 
so many of us were on our way to the great 
adventure. The first Canadian Contingent con- 
sisted of thirty-three thousand men, a great 
number of whom were mere boys, and we sailed 
from Gaspe Bay, Quebec, one lovely September 
afternoon. What a wonderful sight it was to see 
those transports! There were thirty-three in all 
and we sailed in a formation of three lines, eleven 
ships in each line. We were convoyed across the 
ocean by five British battleships. This was the 
largest Armada that had ever crossed the Atlantic. 
Our journey across the ocean was uneventful and 
the weather magnificent. 



Three weeks after leaving 1 Canada we- came in 
sight of the shores of England. It seemed to us 
as if the whole population of the Mother Country 
was there to greet us as we drew near the docks. 
The shore was black with a living mass of people 
and their cheering and shouting reached us far out 
in Plymouth Sound. We landed at Davenport. 
Did we receive a welcome? I don't believe any 
troops ever received, or ever will receive, such a 
welcome as that given to the First Canadians on 
arriving in England. At last we disembarked. 
As we marched through the streets of Plymouth 
women and girls rushed into our ranks and, 
throwing their arms around our necks and kissing 
us, exclaimed, " Welcome, Canada !" It did our 
hearts good. Men rushed up to us and filled our 
kits with good things and gripped our hands and, 
with tears in their eyes, said how good of us it 
was to come over to help the Mother Country. 
For a whole week Plymouth was a regular gala 
town. Business was almost suspended, and the 
excuse for it all was, " Well, the Canadians are 


A little later we entrained and travelled to our 
training camp at Salisbury Plain. " Salisbury in 
the mud," " The last place God ever made " ; such 
were the names given to it by all soldiers. Mud ! 
Mud!! Mud!!! We lived in mud, we slept in 
mud, we literally ate mud, the whole time we were 
on Salisbury Plain. When I state that during the 
four months we were there in training hardly a 
single day passed without a downfall of rain, some 
slight idea of what it was like can be obtained. 

Our battalion, the Third, was placed in the 
First Brigade. This brigade was composed of 
the First, Second, Third and Fourth Battalions 
all from the Province of Ontario. During the 
whole of our training period our brigade lived in 
tents. It speaks well for the boys of the First 
Brigade to be able to say that they were the only 
brigade in England who lived under canvas that 
winter. I feel that it is unnecessary for me to go 
into detail and describe the manner in which we 
were trained and the life we lived in camp, as it 
was much the same as in any of the thousands of 
camps which have been established since the war 

We had to learn a great deal and we had to learn 
it quickly and so, perhaps, we found it a little harder 


than the recruits do to-day. We were out from 
early in the morning till late at night marching, 
drilling, digging trenches, fighting sham battles and 
learning the hundred and one things necessary for 
us to know before we were ready for the Front. 
We trained under very severe conditions and were 
forced to endure a great number of hardships 
because of our lack of preparation, but in spite of 
it all we were always cheerful and stuck to the 
work like heroes, for we wanted to get into shape 
as soon as possible so that we could get over to 
the Front and take our place in the fighting line. 


The battalion was formed into four companies, 
A, B, C and D. Unfortunately most of my 
friends were detailed to B Company, while I was 
placed in C. Fighting C is the name we have 
since earned for ourselves. 

Jim McCreery and Slim Berrill were in B Com- 
pany, therefore we did not see very much of each 
other except when off duty. However, we used 
to foregather every Sunday afternoon and play 
cards or go for a walk, or raise the dickens gen- 
erally. One Sunday (the day being almost fine, 



for a wonder) we decided to go for a walk 
together. We had no particular place to which to 
go, but just wandered on hoping to strike a 
village where we could procure some " good eats." 
Now, anyone who has been to Salisbury Plain 
knows that it is a great, bleak, barren stretch of 
country miles long and it is a simple matter to 
get lost there. A few miles from our camp was 
a place about a mile square which had been 
reserved for artillery target practice. There were 
a few deserted farmhouses and occasionally the 
artillery would playfully drop a few shells in the 
vicinity to give the gunners practice against the 
time they were to drop their souvenirs on the Huns. 
We had been warned to keep away from this dis- 
trict and notices had been posted in the camp to 
the effect that it was being used as an artillery 
target and was therefore a danger zone. We had 
gone some miles before we discovered that we 
were lost. That did not worry us much, however, 
as we felt sure we should soon meet some soldier 
or another, who could tell us which direction to 
take. We were walking along, talking of our best 
girls, I believe, when we heard " B-o-o-m !" 
Something whistled over our heads and we heard 
a crash about two hundred yards away and saw a 


cloud of smoke in the air. " Gee whiz !" gasped 
Jimmy; "look there the artillery targets." We 
looked and saw, at the other side of a small wood 
near by, the farmhouses about which we had been 
warned. Before we had recovered from the shock 
we heard another cras'h and another shell burst; 
this time it seemed closer than the first. " Good 
heavens ! They are firing shrapnel ; what shall we 
do?" I managed to gasp. (Shrapnel bursts twenty 
or thirty feet in the air and scatters dozens of 
small bullets over an area of about twenty feet.) 
" Run !" yelled Jimmy, suiting the action to the 
word. Berrill followed him. I yelled after them, 

" Don't run, you fools, you may run right 

into one." 

By this time the shells were screaming overhead 
every few seconds, but most of them seemed to be 
going far over our heads before bursting. Jimmy 
and Berrill turned and ran back to me and we were 
all three terribly excited. " Let us lie flat on the 
ground and hope for the best," I whispered. We 
did so. The shell fire, I now believe, only lasted 
two or three minutes, and I feel certain that none 
of the shells burst within a hundred yards of us 
or near enough to do any damage, but it seemed 
to us then that it was lasting for hours, and we 


felt quite sure that each shell was going to blow 
us to pieces. 

We hugged the ground for a long time after 
that last echo had died away and then got up and 
ran like jack-rabbits until forced to drop from 
utter exhaustion. Then we looked at each other 
and the reaction came. We laughed outright and 
told each other what a narrow escape he had had. 
Finding our way back to camp after such an 
adventure seemed quite a simple matter, but it 
took us longer than we had thought. We arrived 
at last, tired, dirty and worn out. What a story 
we had to tell the boys, though! Why, we were 
heroes! Had we not been actually " under fire " ? 
What did we care for the Huns after that ? Yes, 
we were heroes, I don't think ! We each got extra 

drill for being " out of bounds." 



As time wore on we began to receive short 
furloughs. What a great time we each had upon 
our " leave," and what wonderful stories of our 
various adventures in the cities we had to relate. 
We realized, though, that before long we should 
be leaving for the Front. We had been on the 


Plain training hard for more than three months 
when we were informed that on a certain date, not 
far distant, we were to be given our final inspec- 
tion by Their Majesties, the King and Queen. 
That, as we knew, meant that we should soon be 
fit for service at the Front, as most of the regi- 
ments at that time, before embarking for active 
service, were reviewed by Their Majesties. 

The day of the review came. The Division 
(33,000 strong) was drawn up in mass formation 
on the Plain. It was a wonderful sight to see 
those troops. Magnificent men, a splendid 
example of Canadian battle glory. Cavalry to the 
left, infantry (with bayonets flashing in the sun) 
in the centre, and artillery to the right. Their 
Majesties, accompanied by Viscount Kitchener 
and several members of the General Staff, passed 
along the lines, inspecting as they went. I heard 
the King exclaim, as he passed by : " Splendid ! 
A magnificent body of troops!" Kitchener did 
not say anything as he passed our company, but 
we felt that his eyes pierced us through and 
through. After the inspection we marched past 
in review order and were again reviewed by Their 
Majesties and the Staff. Then the special train 
carrying the royal party pulled out from the siding 

and we all lined the tracks for miles and stood 
waving our caps on our rifles and cheering for all 
we were worth. 


A short time afterwards, preparations were 
made for our departure for the Front. We left 
Salisbury Plain one midnight in a downpour of 
rain. It seemed as if the weather were giving us 
a farewell reminder of our stay on the Plain by 
drenching us at departure. We needed no 
reminder of this kind to keep the weather con- 
ditions of Salisbury Plain in our minds, and I feel 
sure that not one among us was sorry to say good- 
bye to the Plain forever. In spite of the rain, 
however, we were all in the very best of spirits, 
and so during the memorable march of about 
sixteen miles we continually sang songs and 
talked of the things we would do when we reached 
the Front. 


Partly on account of the large number of 
troops in our division who were to be transported 
to France, and partly because of the submarine 
peril, we did not cross the Channel by the usual 
route (Folkestone or Dover to Calais or Le 


Havre), but were sent a roundabout way, via 
Avonmouth, on the west coast of England, to 
St. Nazaire, somewhere on the Bay of Biscay. 
Our battalion sailed on board H.M. Transport 
City of Glasgow. The trip was a terrible experi- 
ence for us all. We had imagined that it would 
take us just a few hours to reach France, but, 
instead, it took us three days. The weather con- 
ditions were very bad, so most of us suffered a 
great deal from sea-sickness. There was no 
sleeping accommodation at all on board ; we were 
forced to sleep on deck or anywhere else that we 
possibly could. Frequently when asleep we were 
drenched to the skin by the waves that dashed 
overboard. The best sleeping accommodation on 
that ship was in the stalls, down below, with the 
horses and mules. Imagine us, then, sleeping on 
the straw at the horses' feet and taking the chance 
of having our brains kicked out any minute. The 
numbers of stalls being limited, the officers and 
non-coms, soon grabbed most of them for their 
own use. 


It was on board the City of Glasgow that we 
made the acquaintance of " bully beef " and 


" hard tack." (How those words bring back mem- 
ories !) Bully beef is a concoction of pressed beef 
that is put up in one pound tins and served to the 
British Army continually. It is as salty as the 
devil, therefore hated by the soldier, and, worst 
feature of all, is labelled " Made in Chicago." The 
British Tommy swears that the bully beef which 
was issued during the first year of the war was 
left over from the stock that was bought during 
the South African War. 

" Hard tack," or army biscuits, are hard 
biscuits about four inches square and about three- 
quarters of an inch thick. (It is necessary to use 
a bayonet or some other weapon to break them.) 
We believe that the reason that a recruit is 
required to have good teeth before joining the 
army, is that he will be able to eat hard tack when 
on service and on occasion be prevented from 
starving to death. 

Well, bully beef, hard-tack and tea (oh, yes, the 
British Army lives up to traditions and serves the 
men tea) were the only rations that we received 
during the journey, but we managed to survive all 
right. It seemed as if years had passed since we 
left England before we came at last in sight of the 
shores of France. Arrived at St. Nazaire, we all 


breathed a big sigh of relief and were greatly 
pleased when we received orders to disembark. 


Together with about fifty others, I was put on 
duty helping to unload the boat. The work was 
very hard and we were all on the look-out for an 
opportunity to cut and run or be put on some 
other duty. By this time I had become very 
friendly with a fellow in my section, by the name 
of Gamble. He was a regular Cockney (Lon- 
doner) and one of the finest pals in the world. 

We had been working for some time when 
Gamble came up to me and said : " Sye, Gibby, 
how'd yer like ter see ther town ?" " Fine," I 
answered, " but how are we going to do it ?" 
" Well, just put on your equipment, pick up yer 
rifle as if yer were going on guard and foller me," 
he said. I did so and we started off. When we 
reached the end of the dock we were stopped by 
an officer and asked where we were going. 
Gamble saluted and said, " Baggage guard, sir," 
and with that the officer allowed us to pass and 
we soon found ourselves in the town. 

Our next problem was to find some place where 
we could procure something to eat. We walked 


along one of the main thoroughfares looking in 
vain for a place that in any way resembled a 
restaurant (we afterwards found out that in 
France restaurants are not quite so plentiful as in 
other countries), until we came to a large con- 
fectionery store. " Come on in 'ere," Gamble 
said, suiting the action to the word. I followed 
him and we found ourselves in a fashionable tea- 
parlour surrounded by dignified French ladies and 
their maids and children partaking of afternoon 
tea. Gamble walked up to the counter and said 
to one of the ladies there, " Sye, have yer got 
anythink to eat?" The lady looked at him as if 
she thought he was insane and it seemed to me as 
if she were unable to decide whether to run away 
or stay there. It was no wonder, for there we 
were, two soldiers in a strange uniform and as 
dirty and filthy as one could imagine after our trip 
across the Channel and the work of unloading the 
boat, demanding something in a strange tongue. 
The people of St. Nazaire had not seen the British 
uniform before, as we were the first British sol- 
diers to enter the town. That lady in the store 
may have heard English spoken before, but I am 
sure that she had never heard such English as 
that used by Gamble. We then commenced to 


make signs that the people might understand we 
were hungry and it was not long before we were 
invited into the rear of the store and were given a 
fine meal. We also gave the people to understand 
that we would like to wash and clean up a little, 
so, best of all, we were shown to a place where we 
could wash. After our meal and clean-up we 
went back into the store and there we purchased an 
enormous amount of chocolate for the rest of the 
boys. When we came to pay for what we had 
received, we each handed the lady a gold coin. 
She could hardly believe her own eyes that sol- 
diers such as we should have so much money in 
our possession. 


From incidents such as this, the Canadians 
earned the name in Europe of "millionaire 
soldiers." After we had been in France a short 
time we realized that the news of our wealth had 
travelled abroad, as we were always charged about 
double the amount that a British or French soldier 
would be charged. The French soldier at that 
time only received as pay the small amount of five 
cents per day, so when the French people heard 


that the Canadians received more than five francs 
per day they determined to profit by it and, to a 
certain extent, they did. It was a common thing 
for a group of Canadians to be approached by a 
few British soldiers and told that they were to 
blame for the high prices that they were charged, 
because, as they said, we gave the French people 
the impression that every man who wore a khaki 
uniform had more money than he needed. Shortly 
afterwards we started back to the docks, but by 
this time the word had gone around the town that 
the Canadians had arrived and we were continu- 
ally stopped by people and congratulated for 
coming over the ocean to help the Allies. Every- 
one we met (especially the girls) demanded a 
souvenir. They were most insistent in their 
demands. However, we had no souvenirs to give, 
so we just handed out our cartridges to them. 
We had started out from the boat with two hun- 
dred and fifty rounds of ammunition, but by the 
time we got back we had not a single round 
between us. When we arrived at the docks we 
found the regiment already lined-up, ready to 
leave, but in the confusion we managed to take 
our places in the line and found that we had not 
been missed. 



Just before marching away we were each issued 
a goatskin coat to be worn in the trenches and a 
large pair of leather mittens. These mittens were 
fastened together with a cord to hang them around 
our necks. Then we were given more ammuni- 
tion (the cartridges that Gamble and myself had 
given away were never missed), which we carried 
over our shoulders in bandoliers. How we all 
began to kick then ! " Do they think we are all a 
lot of pack mules? Haven't we got enough to 
carry as it is?" Such remarks could be heard 
everywhere. On leaving England our equipment 
had weighed more than eighty pounds. With the 
extra things, it now weighed nearly ninety. 

One of the greatest hardships with which I had 
to contend while on service was the carrying of 
my equipment. As I have said, I am not a big 
fellow, yet each man has to carry the same load, 
whether he be big or little, so that in the next few 
months I cursed the fate many times that made it 
necessary for a soldier to carry so much equip- 
ment while on service. The active service equip- 
ment of the British soldier consists of the 
following: Rifle, bayonet, two hundred and fifty 


rounds of ammunition, entrenching-tool, great- 
coat, blanket, water-proof sheet, helmet, gas- 
mask, water-bottle, haversack (containing toilet 
requisites and spare rations), extra clothing and 
boots and a few other minor things too numerous 
to mention. 


As we marched through the streets of St. 
Nazaire on our way to the railroad depot we were 
cheered and applauded in a vociferous manner by 
the people who were crowding to see and welcome 
us. We had thrown our goatskin coats over our 
shoulders and looked quaint with the white fur 
showing over the khaki. Therefore, in reply to 
the cheering of the people we answered with a 
series of noises resembling goats, such as " baa," 
" baa!" This seemed to amuse the French people 
a great deal and they thought that our morale was 
wonderful since we could be so cheerful and 
march away to the Front in such great spirits. 

At the railroad depot we boarded the " French 
Pullmans." We noticed that the inscription 
written in chalk on each car was " forty men or 
six horses," and we wondered how the dickens 
forty men could travel in a car of such small 


dimensions. We were not left in doubt for long. 
Instead of putting forty of us in each car they 
put sixty. The excuse was, that as there were so 
many of us they were short of cars and we would 
have to be crowded a little. A little! It was 
slightly more than a little. How we ever got in I 
don't know, and when we were all in it was 
impossible for anyone to move without disturbing 
about a dozen others, and if one of us wanted to 
sit or lie down, he had to get most of the other 
inmates of the car to move around to give him 

At night time we would sit and lie on top of 
each other in our attempts to snatch a little sleep. 
We travelled in this manner for three and a half 
days, right from St. Nazaire, in the south of 
France, to Hazebrouck, in the north. During the 
day-time it was not so bad, as we were able to 
climb out on top of the cars and travel " a la 
observation car." Three times a day we were 
issued the eternal bully beef and hard-tack. By 
this time we had begun to hate the stuff, but as all 
had healthy appetites, very little was wasted. 
Whenever the train stopped, however, there was 
a general rush to purchase any " eats " that were 
obtainable from the station restaurants or the 


vendors who were always near with their little 
carts. It was amusing to see the boys trying 
to make themselves understood by the French 
people, with gestures and motions of the hands. 
I am certain that most of the French people at 
that time thought the Canadians were just a little 
crazy. Anyhow, it seemed that way from the 
expressions on their faces whenever any of our 
boys approached them, and the few among us who 
could speak French were kept very busy inter- 
preting, explaining things and straightening out 
any little difficulties which would arise between us 
and the French people. The boys liked to display 
their various purchases and brag of the bargains 
they had made. I think that the prize purchase 
of the entire trip was a large loaf of bread, about 
three feet long, which one of the boys secured 
from a passing baker's wagon. That loaf " sure 
did " cause lots of fun, but none of us hesitated a 
minute when it came to eating a share. 


One gruesome incident that left a lasting 
impression on most of us and made us realize 
more than anything else had previously done that 
we were engaged in the business of war and were 


not on a glorious picnic after all, occurred while 
on the journey. We had stopped for a short time 
at a station in one of the bigger cities, where we 
noticed a freight train drawn up on a side track 
with two British Tommies standing near on 
guard. A few of us went over to talk to these 
men and in the course of conversation we asked 
what they were doing and where they had come 
from. " Oh, we've just come from the Front," 
one of them said. At once our curiosity was 
aroused and we asked where they were going. 
" Aw, just down to the base," was the answer, 
" What have you got on the train ?" one of the 
boys then asked. " Well, look for yourselves," 
the Tommy answered. We looked in one of the 
cars of the train and saw a number of dirty, 
muddy, blood-stained kits and equipments. " See 
those kits ?" one of the soldiers said ; " they be- 
longed to the boys of our regiment; we are the 
only ones left who came out of the Battle of the 
Aisne, so they have sent us down to the base with 
these kits to have them cleaned and fixed up." 

That statement seemed to make our blood run 
cold. Only two men left from the entire regiment 
after the battle! We looked at our own equip- 
ment, all new and clean. We did not say a word, 



yet we were all asking the question in our minds 
how long it would be before our own kits and 
equipment would be sent down to the base in this 
same manner. From that time on we knew that 
we were engaged in something far more serious 
than a glorious picnic, and that something was 


Three days after leaving St. Nazaire we arrived 
at a place called Meteren, a small village in the 
northern part of France and about ten miles 
behind the firing line. We left the train at mid- 
night, again in the pouring rain, cramped from 
the long journey and as miserable a group of 
soldiers as one could imagine. The men were all 
kicking and grumbling profusely at the weather 
and conditions in general. Then began the march 
to our billets. A few of the men began to smoke 
and talk in loud voices, but all that was stopped 
soon by the captain who came to us and said, 
" No smoking here, men, and no talking above a 
whisper you are now in the enemy's country." 
We could hear the big guns booming a few miles 
away, but it seemed to us at that time that they 
were very close. I do not believe that any of us 


would have been a bit surprised if a German regi- 
ment had suddenly appeared and attacked us. 
Our nerves were jumpy and all on edge. It was 
our first real " close up " experience of the war 
and it certainly was not a very pleasant one. 
Afterwards, our fears at that time seemed to be 
ridiculous, but just then they were real enough. 

Eventually, after marching for about three 
hours through the rain and mud, we reached our 
billets. We were utterly worn out tired, 
exhausted and miserable. Those first billets were 
wonderful (?) affairs! The battalion had been 
divided up into groups and a group of men was 
detailed to each farmhouse and placed in charge of 
an officer. In the darkness the companies had 
become separated, so each one of us just joined the 
passing group and went along to the nearest farm- 
house. There were about two hundred men in 
the group to which I attached myself, and after 
searching around for about a half an hour for 
some kind of shelter, we were told to occupy a 
near by barn. To get into this barn we had to 
climb a ladder about twenty feet long and drop 
through an opening. Up the ladder we went and 
then through the opening from which we jumped 
into space. We landed in straw and hay. It was 


pitch dark and we were falling over each other 
continually. Still it was some kind of shelter and 
we were thankful. The barn that we occupied was 
a dilapidated old structure, with great gaps in the 
wall through which the rain came and the wind 
whistled. We were too worn out to care for that 
or to mind in the least, and a few minutes later 
most of us were asleep. 


Early next morning we were roused out to 
answer the roll call. Imagine our dismay, when 
we found that the officer in charge of our billet 
was one of the worst-hated officers in the whole 
battalion. He was a young lieutenant who had 
become known among us by the name of " Sissy " 
by reason of his immaculate ways and his effemin- 
ate manner. In all matters of discipline he was 
very strict and exacting, and he led the men in his 
own platoon a regular " dog's life." " Sissy " 
lined us up outside the billet and after ascertaining 
that everyone was present, said, " Now, men, you 
are on active service ; discipline will be very strict 
from this time on. Anyone who disobeys an 
order is liable to be shot. In half an hour I am 
going to call you all on parade again and I want 


every man to have all the mud and dirt cleaned 
off his uniform and equipment, and I also want 
you all to have your buttons shined. Dismiss." 
After we were dismissed we just stared at each 
other for a few minutes unable to say a word; 
then the realization of the meaning of the orders 
which we had just received seemed to dawn upon 
us. " Damn that Sissy !" " Who ever heard of 
having buttons shined when on service?" " That 
man must be crazy." " Wants all the mud and 
dirt cleaned off in half an hour, eh?" "What 
does he think we are? I'd like to see him do it." 
Such exclamations could be heard on all sides. 
We hardly knew what to do. " Sissy " had given 
us just half an hour to clean our uniforms and to 
get our buttons shined, yet it would take us hours 
to do this. He had said that if we disobeyed an 
order we were liable to be shot. Oh, Gee ! How 
were we to shine our buttons ? That seemed to be 
the eternal question, as we had left all our button 
shining equipment behind in England. Well, we 
did the best we could and at the end of the half 
hour we were all called on parade again. " Sissy " 
had just commenced his inspection when, to our 
great relief, the captain arrived. We all knew 
that the captain would take charge at once and 


were pleased, as we were certain that he had no 
foolish notions about brass buttons being shined 
while on active service, having himself served as 
a private in the South Af riqan War. The captain 
did take charge and the inspection of our buttons 
was never made, luckily for us, as none of us had 
shined them. Whether " Sissy " was ever told of 
the mistake that he had made or not I do not know, 
but I do know that while we were on service we 
were never again ordered to have bright buttons. 
At that time our transport and supply columns 
and Army Service Corps were far from efficient 
or well-organized, with the result that we were 
often left for long intervals without food and 
supplies. During our first week in France we did 
not receive any supplies whatsoever from the 
Quartermaster's Department and would have gone 
hungry had not one of our officers proved himself 
a good fellow by purchasing various supplies for 
us from the French people. 


We were kept marching and drilling and were 
given various inspections each day, but from six 
in the evening until about nine we were allowed 
to go to the village. I don't think I shall ever 


forget that village of Meteren. It was there that 
I first saw some of the results of the Hun cam- 
paign of frightfulness and began to realize the 
true meaning of German " Kultur." A few 
weeks before we arrived, the famous Coldstream 
Guards had succeeded in driving the invading 
Germans out. Small graveyards, with their 
significant crosses of wood, bearing upon them 
the names of gallant soldiers of the Guards who 
had given their all in helping to drive out the 
Hun, were all about the place. The people of 
that village simply worshipped the "Coldstreams" 
and they would tell us stories of their heroism 
with tears streaming down their faces. Those 
people also told us other stories, many of which 
would seem absolutely unbelievable to the people 
at home: stories of acts the Germans had per- 
formed, which we did not at first believe, but they 
showed us living proof of what they said. One 
incident and story I remember particularly well. 
At the corner of one of the streets of the village 
stood a small house. Occasionally, in passing, we 
noticed a man working about the outside of the 
house. He impressed me as being simple-minded 
or insane, as he acted in such a queer manner 
and had such a vacant stare in his eyes. One 


day a chum and myself were passing the house 
when the lady there invited us in to have a cup of 
coffee. She was very hospitable and did all she 
could to cheer us up a little. We were invited to 
call again and next day we did so. Now the lady 
could talk a little broken English and my friend 
understood some French, so we could hold a kind 
of conversation. The subject of the German in- 
vasion came up and when we asked the lady what 
had happened there at that time she was quite 
overcome and broke down completely. After 
a while she controlled herself and told us a story 
of bestial brutality which is quite unfit for print. 
The demented man in the garden, it appeared, 
was her husband who had been driven to that 
state by cruelties and abominations practised on 
her, while he, nearby, was forced to remain an 
impotent witness. Confirmation of Bryce's report 
was here in abundance. 


The regiment had been billeted in and around 
the village for about a week when orders came 
for us to move to billets nearer the firing line. 
Next morning we started out on the most trying 
march I have ever experienced, from Merris to 


Armentieres. Mention that route march to any 
survivor of the original First Canadian Brigade 
even now, and it has the same effect as the show- 
ing of a red rag to a bull. The First Brigade 
formed up in Merris (the adjoining village) and 
started out with each man carrying full equip- 
ment (over eighty pounds). The distance we 
had to go was about twenty-three kilometres, and 
it was over those awful cobblestone roads of 
Northern France. We, by the way, were wear- 
ing the British army boots which had been 
issued to us just before leaving England. These 
boots are made of very hard leather. The soles 
are about half-an-inch thick and studded with 
heavy nails, while on the heel there is a big 
clamp like a horseshoe. These same boots are 
splendid for hard service and trench warfare, but 
are absolute torture if they are marched in for 
any distance. During training we had worn the 
much lighter Canadian shoe, so this was a new 
and very hard experience for us. 

For the first five or six miles we got along 
splendidly. We sang songs, joked with one 
another and passed the time of day with the 
French people who passed. Then one or another 
began to drop out. We had not the slightest 


idea as to our destination or how far we had to 
go, and as each new village was sighted we felt 
that it would surely be the billeting-place. 
But no! We swung along into the villages and 
out again until we thought it would never end. 
After having gone about twelve miles, a number 
of the boys began to be bothered by foot trouble 
and were forced to drop out. My feet were hold- 
ing out in great shape, but I was beginning to 
stagger under the heavy kit. The shoulder- 
straps of my equipment seemed to be burning 
right into my body and I was just ready to drop 
out too when a big corporal, named Matt Foster, 
who was marching alongside of me, noticed this 
and with an encouraging smile said : " Buck up, 
Gibby, stick it out now that you have gone so 
far." " Sure!" I answered in a weak voice and 
gave him a sickly look. " Here, give me that 

pack," he exclaimed, and with that he pulled 

off my equipment and slung it over his own 
shoulders. Was I grateful to him ? Well, words 
can't express my feelings at that moment, but it 
seemed to me a low down trick to let another 
fellow carry a double load while I carried none. 
Afterwards my equipment was passed around 
among the bigger fellows who were marching 


near and I got a kind of rest for at least three 
miles. At the end of that time I felt much better 
and managed to carry my equipment to the end of 
the journey. Several times as we marched 
through villages the womenfolk would come 
along with large jugs of beer, coffee or water 
and hand us a drink as we marched. We appre- 
ciated this very much, as we had become hot on 
the march and most of us had drunk the contents 
of our water-bottles within an hour of starting, 
thinking that we had to go only a short distance. 

At last we came in sight of Armentieres and 
we felt sure that at last we had reached the end 
of our journey. This time we were right. As we 
marched into the town, our company (C) was 
told off to an old school and informed that it 
would be billeted there. I think that only about 
two-thirds of the brigade marched into the city 
as a unit. The remainder straggled in during the 
rest of the afternoon and night in small groups. 
Most of them had been picked up and given a 
lift by transports and ambulances going in the 
same direction. 

That march had been a terrible experience, but 
with the usual good spirits of soldiers, we soon 
forgot all about it. We entered our billet, threw 


off our equipment, kicked it around the floor, 
poured out a few blessings on the Army in 
general and began to wonder where we could find 
something to eat. 


Appetite is one great thing that this war has 
developed. Soldiers' appetites, no matter what 
the conditions, whether on the march, in billets, 
in the trenches, fighting in a big " scrap," or 
under a terrific fire, are always in evidence, and 
soldiers are always looking forward to and won- 
dering where they can obtain " eats." We may 
have been fussy in civilian life, we may have 
wanted our food just so, and we may have turned 
up our noses at anything we did not fancy, but 
on service it did not matter what we were able 
to procure, whether we liked it or not, it was all 
right as long as it was " eats." 


We had been billeted in Armehtieres for just 
two days when our turn came to go into the 
trenches for the first time. We were told to be 
ready that night as we were to start just after 
dusk. Our company was to have the honour of 


being the first one of the battalion to go into 
the line. 

That afternoon I sat down and wrote farewell 
letters to all my relatives and friends and placed 
them in my pocket with a note attached to the 
effect that they were to be mailed in case I was 
killed. At that time it seemed impossible to me 
that I could go into and come out of the trenches 
alive. (I realize now what foolish notions I then 
had. ) When I came out of the trenches the next 
night, I tore up the letters as I felt that I was, 
perhaps, not going to get killed after all. 

At dusk we were lined up in the square of the 
town and we started off. We marched to the 
outskirts and were there met by a guide one of 
the men from the battalion about to be relieved, 
who was sent to direct the relieving battalion to 
the right section of trench to be occupied. On 
and on we marched until we came within range 
of the German star shells or flares. Then we 
were formed into single file and marched forward 
in that manner, each man a distance of three feet 
from the man ahead. We then struck out across 
the fields in the direction of the trenches. We 
were naturally very excited, but I do not think 
any of us was as nervous as we had expected to 


be. The reason for this was that just before 
starting out one of our officers had said, " Well, 
men, don't be afraid; you will be far from the 
enemy; we are going to put you into the reserve 

Reserve trenches, Gee! We had not known 
that such things existed. (We were right, for in 
those days there were practically no reserve 
trenches). Just the same, the mere fact that we 
had been told that we were going into reserve 
trenches instead of the firing line seemed to give 
us a new lease on life. 

At last we reached the trenches. How we 
managed it, I do not seem to remember. I have 
hazy recollections of ploughing my way through 
fields of slimy mud, wading through small ditches, 
dropping to the ground or into water-filled shell 
holes to take cover from German flares, and of 
being yanked out of the mud on several occasions 
by Henry Wardell, one of my good chums. At 
last I was in the line that was the main thing. 

We were placed for instructional purposes in 
a sector of trench with a number of British 
Tommies, who were veterans of months of trench 
warfare. We were only to be in the trenches the 
first time for twenty-four hours and had been 


told to learn all that we possibly could from the 
Tommies in that time. After what the officer had 
told us on starting about going into reserve 
trenches, we expected it would be comparatively 
safe and quiet, but on the contrary we found that 
shells passed overhead pretty frequently and 
bullets seemed to be whizzing past the parapet all 
the time. Therefore, my first question to the 
Tommy with whom I had picked up an acquaint- 
ance was, " Say ! What line of reserve trenches 
is this?" I could not see the expression on his 
face, as it was quite dark, but the tone of his 
voice carried with it withering scorn when he 
answered, " This is not a reserve trench ; this is 
the Firing Line." 

" F-F-Firing Line," I managed to gasp. 
" Er-Er-How far are the Germans away?" 
" Aw, just a couple of 'undred yards over there," 
he replied, and indicated somewhere out in 

" B-B-But they said we were going to be put 
in reserve," I told him. " Kiddin' yer, I guess, 
son," he said. " Why, we ain't got no reserve 
trenches round 'ere !" 

The reason dawned on me then why we had 
been told we were going into reserve. It was so 


that we would not have that dread feeling of 
stage fright about which some of the veterans 
had told us. " Raw recruits," they had said, 
"generally feel just a little nervous when told that 
they are going into the line for the first time." 

Nervous! Well, I don't wonder. I have not 
the slightest doubt but that we should have felt 
nervous had we known the true state of affairs. 
Still, I seemed to think, " Here I am ; I am not 
killed yet; I guess the Canadians can show these 
Tommies that they are not nervous even though 
they are raw recruits." Were we nervous? 
Well, I guess most of us were, but we would not 
have let them see it for anything. 


We then began to learn what is meant by 
" trench warfare," and we found that there were 
a thousand and one minor details to be learnt and 
many entirely new duties to perform. It was in 
sharing our first stay in the trenches with him 
that we really- got to know " Tommy," the 
British soldier. In my opinion there is no other 
fighting man in the world who surpasses him. 
Tommy does not go into action waving flags and 


with bands playing. No, he goes into the hardest 
scrap or to certain death quietly and with a 
determination to do or die. If he dies, he does it 
without fuss and nobody ever hears of what he 
has accomplished. The fact of the matter is, 
that the British soldier will accomplish wonders 
in the field and will not advertise. 

Tommy never knows when he is beaten. With 
that bulldog courage of his, he will hang on to a 
battered down sector of trench in face of certain 
death, and, with the butt of his eternal cigarette 
in his mouth, will calmly load and fire his rifle as 
he prepares for the end. He never gives in. 
But, apart from his courage and his "never say 
die " spirit, Tommy is the finest man anyone 
could wish to have alongside one on service. It 
is said that he is good-natured and generous, but 
that hardly explains it. Why, Tommy would give 
you his last portion of rations or water if he 
thought you needed it, or half of his last cigarette. 
He will go out into No-man's-land and risk his 
life yes, and give up his life to save a comrade 
or even an enemy. " God bless you, Tommy !" 
You certainly have taught the Canadian boys a 
wonderful lesson and our hats are off to you all 

the time. 




Our first night in the trenches was spent in a 
very quiet sector, and not many exciting incidents 
occurred. We learnt how to man the parapet, to 
repulse an enemy attack, how to fill sandbags and 
repair broken parapets, to fix the breakages in the 
barbed wire entanglements, build dug-outs, bring 
in the rations, go out to, and hold a listening post 
position, and the thousand and one other duties 
which are connected with life in the trenches. 

As the night wore on I was relieved from my 
" sentry duty " and told to get into a dug-out and 
rest. The dug-out I found to be a small hole, 
dug into the side of the trench, about three feet 
long and two feet deep and four feet wide. I 
crawled in and after squirming around for awhile 
I began to wonder how the dickens I was ever 
going to sleep in that damp, dirty little space. I 
managed to get to sleep at last, however, only to 
be rudely awakened by someone shouting at the 

entrance, "Who the is in there?" 

"Gibbons," I answered. "Who the 'ell is 
Gibbons ?" the same voice continued. " Aw ! 
Canadians !" I replied. " Well, move over. There 


are three more fellows to get in with you." Great 
Scott! And I had been wondering how I alone 
was going to sleep in that space. The three other 
fellows crawled in, but I am certain that none of 
us slept very much. 


One very amusing incident occurred that night 
which almost caused trouble between the 
Tommies and ourselves the next day. We in the 
Canadian Army were armed with the Ross rifle, 
or, as the boys called it, the " Ross Pea-shooter." 
To say that the Ross rifle is of absolutely no use 
at all for active service is to make a very mild 
statement. The British soldiers, however, were 
armed with the famous Lee-Enfield rifles and 
were envied by us on this account. I have seen 
many of our boys steal Lee-Enfield rifles from 
the British soldiers and replace them with the 
Ross. Whenever this was discovered by the 
officers, the Canadians would be compelled to give 
up the Lee-Enfield rifle and again use a Ross. 

I was not surprised, therefore, when a short time 
later one of the boys, the chum named Wardell, 
came to me and said : " Say, Gibbons, they have 
got Lee-Enfields here and the Germans are not 


far away ; we can use them ; come on out and see 
how the British rifles work." I crawled out of 
the dug-out and, together with Wardell, fired a 
few rounds across No-man's-land with a Lee- 
Enfield rifle. The night was cold and wet and 
very soon I returned to the shelter of the dug-out. 
Wardell, however, went all along the trench and 
tried out, by firing, every British rifle that he 
could find. The British Tommies did not like 
this in the least, as the sector we were holding 
had been very quiet until the time of our arrival, 
and little firing had been carried on at night. All 
along the trench we could hear the Tommies 
asking, " Who the dickens is getting the wind 
up?" (" Getting the wind up " is the expression 
used at the Front to signify that the troops are 
nervous or excited, indicating to the enemy that 
raw troops or recruits are in the trenches.) 
The answer that they usually received was to the 
effect that it was just one or another of the " mad 
Canadians." The excitement, however, was 
simply due to our friend Wardell, firing off every 
rifle in the trench. This continued throughout 
the night, so that after a time the Tommies took 
no further notice and just attributed it to our 


It was next morning at " Stand to " that the 
fun started. (" Stand to " is the time between 
dawn and daylight, when every man in the 
trenches stands on the firing-step with his rifle 
and bayonet ready in case the enemy attacks.) 
All along the trench we could hear the British 
Tommies cursing, and such exclamations as the 
following could be heard : " Who the devil has 
been firing my rifle?" "Who has been using 
mine ?" " What mad Canadian made mine dirty ?" 
(It is an unwritten law in the trenches that you 
use only your own rifle, and should you lose or 
break your own, you are supposed to take one 
that belonged to a casualty.) Somebody men- 
tioned that Wardell had been seen firing Lee- 
Enfield rifles. Soon up and down the trench we 
could hear, "Where is that Wardell?" "Who 

has seen that Wardell?" etc. When the 

Tommies found Wardell at last we thought they 
would eat him alive, but instead they took it very 
good-naturedly and just made him clean all the 
rifles that he had used. It took him several hours, 
and many were the laughs we had at Wardell's 
expense afterwards. The favourite sally was to 
ask him if he had been cleaning rifles lately. 



On our first visit to the trenches we were in 
the front line for twenty-four hours only. That 
night we were relieved and marched back to 
billets behind the lines in the town of Armentieres. 
To many of us it seemed wonderful to think that 
we had actually been in the trenches, just a short 
distance from the Germans; that we had even 
fought the enemy and yet were back again behind 
the lines, alive. Alive? Yes, that was the most 
wonderful thing of all. We spent twenty-four 
hours behind the lines and then went back into 
the trenches again for another spell. 


Life continued in this way week after week and 
month after month, during that first awful winter 
of the war. In the trenches a few days, then 
behind the lines again, then back into the trenches. 
Of course we were moved around the country 
sometimes from one sector to another; from 
France into Flanders, then back again into 
France. To say that conditions were bad hardly 
describes the situation. Rain and mud all the 


time, and everywhere! We lost a great number 
of our men during that first winter through the 
bad weather conditions. Men contracted rheu- 
matism or got frozen feet and had to be sent 
back behind the lines to the hospitals. Very few 
of them ever returned to their original units, as 
they were no longer fit for service in the front 

We thus found ourselves taking part in one of 
the most trying forms of warfare. The dreariness 
and monotony of manning long lines of trenches 
during the winter time began to tell upon us. We 
had practically no knowledge of trench warfare 
and we acquired what little knowledge we had at 
considerable cost. The monotony of it all ! Hour 
after hour and day after day spent in a trench 
standing in two to three feet of water and mud. 
I often wonder now how we managed to stand it 
at all. 

Often while in the trenches boys would risk 
their lives and perform wonderful acts of heroism 
just, as they said, " to cause some excitement and 
to break the everlasting monotony." 

I remember one incident of this kind. It was 
while we were in the front line trenches at Fleur- 
baix. The Germans at the time were about two 


hundred yards away from our position. One 
morning the air became quite misty ; in fact, the 
mist was so heavy that we could not see more 
than a few yards beyond our trenches. One of 
our young officers was seen to go over the parapet 
and start across No-man's-land in the direction 
of the German trenches. He came back about ten 
minutes afterwards but did not report what had 
occurred. Half an hour later the mist lifted and 
the air became clear again. We reached for our 
periscopes and looked across No-man's-land to see 
if there were any movement in the German 
trenches. Then we noticed, fastened to the barbed 
wire just a few yards from the enemy trenches, a 
small Union Jack bravely fluttering in the breeze. 
At first we wondered how it had got there, but 
soon recalled the officer who had gone across 
No-man's-land under cover of the mist. He it 
was who had fastened it there. That flag 
remained on the German barbed wire all that day ; 
the Germans dared not get out of their trenches 
to remove it for we would have shot them. When 
the young officer was being congratulated on his 
exploit, he merely remarked that it was just to 
break the monotony and cause some excitement. 
It most certainly did. 


While in the trenches sometimes days would 
pass without us even seeing a German and on 
some days hardly a shot would be fired by either 
side. This mainly happened, however, when we 
were opposed to Saxon regiments. When we were 
confronted by Prussians or Bavarians there was 
plenty of shooting and enough excitement for 
everybody. A regiment holding the line near us 
was one day holding a position opposite the 
Saxons when a sign bearing the following inscrip- 
tion, printed in English, was raised in the German 
trench : " We are Saxons ; you are Anglo-Saxons ; 
save your ammunition for the Prussians they 
relieve us to-night." That proved to us, even in 
those early days, that there was a good deal of ill- 
feeling in the ranks of the German army. 


The trench warfare that we were called upon to 
maintain was not the trench warfare of later days. 
In those early awful months, we, and the Allied 
troops in general, were entirely unprepared for 
war. There are very few of the people at home 
who understand, or will ever realize, the condi- 
tions under which the boys in the Allied armies 


were called upon to fight during the early period 
of the war. We had nothing, literally nothing, 
and we were righting the finest and best prepared 
war-machine the world had ever seen. For us, it 
was merely flesh against steel, men against guns. 

Many times since my return I have lain awake 
at night and asked myself the question: "How 
did we manage to hold the lines in those early 
days? Why did not the Germans just drive us 
back and sweep everything before them?" Per- 
sonally, I don't know, but I firmly believe that had 
the Germans only realized the true state of affairs 
behind the Allied lines, the fewness of the men 
who were opposed to them, and the conditions 
under which those men were fighting, they would 
have driven us back to the coast and ended the 
war in their favour. Thank God! (and I say it 
reverently) they never realized the true state of 

It is said that we were fighting in trenches. The 
lines we occupied in those days were not even 
worthy of the name. They were merely holes in 
the ground positions some few feet deep that 
had been dug under fire from the enemy's rifles 
and machine guns by men lying on the ground 
using bayonets and finger-nails. We would be 


ordered to a certain position, would advance 
through a hellish fire and then throw ourselves 
flat upon the ground and dig for dear life, throw- 
ing the earth up in front of us for protection. We 
frequently had no parapets except the bodies of 
enemies and our own comrades piled in front of 
us. There was little or no barbed wire in front 
of our trenches in those early days, and dug-outs 
were few and far between. With practically no 
drainage system in the front line we were continu- 
ally forced to fight in two or three feet of water 
and mud. Behind us there were no reserve 
trenches, no supports, and no communication 
trenches. We had to cross the open country to 
reach our various sectors in the front line and 
many a man became a casualty before reaching 
the trenches. Worst feature of all during the 
first few months was the fact that there was just 
the one line of men. One line of worn-out fight- 
ing men, hanging on grimly to battered down 
positions, keeping the German hordes at bay. 

We had been told that at first we were to occupy 
reserve trenches. There were no reserve trenches 
in those days. We discovered later there were 
not sufficient men at the Front at the time who 
could be spared to hold more than the one first 


line. One line ! How did we manage to hang on ? 
Again I say, / don't know. 


Behind the lines our transport and supply 
columns, our A.S.C. and Quartermaster's Depart- 
ment were neither organized nor efficient, and on 
many occasions those in the front line were 
forced to fight without food or supplies. 

Our rifles were 'bad and the ammunition was 
poor. I have seen men in the front line curse 
their rifles with tears of vexation and rage stream- 
ing down their faces. I have seen men in action 
forced to hammer the bolt of their rifles with 
a bayonet because they had jammed. An ad- 
vancing enemy and a jammed rifle! Try to 
imagine what it was like. Many of our poor boys 
lost their lives because of the inferior arms we 
carried in those days. We needed a great many 
things, a great many things, but our greatest need 
was for arms, for artillery and an adequate supply 
of shells. Our records show that during the first 
few months of the war the Germans were able to 
throw over thirty shells to our one. Thirty to 
one, think of it! Why, when we were holding 
what was called a " quiet sector," the German 


shell-fire pounded our lines to pieces and inflicted 
heavy casualties upon us, wiping out of existence 
platoons and companies while our guns were 
unable to. reply. 

The following happened on our sector many 
times. We would be in the front line. In the 
trenches with us would be an artillery observation 
officer placed in the line to watch the effect of our 
fire upon the German positions and the effect of 
their fire upon ours, he being connected by 'phone 
wires to our guns in the rear. Suddenly the 
enemy guns would open upon us with a terrific 
bombardment. Shells would burst all along the 
trench and as the few minutes passed the numbers 
of our company and battalion would grow less. 
Then, in desperation, our officers would go to the 
artilleryman and beg him to send word back to 
our guns for support. The observation officer 
would 'phone back to the guns, but in nine cases 
out of ten the answer came : " Sorry, we can't 
fire; we are out of shells!" "Out of shells!" 
Yes, they usually were. The munition industry 
had not been organized at home. When we were 
fortunate enough to have guns in our rear they 
were too often left without an adequate supply of 


Is it any wonder that we lost so many men in 
those days? Unprepared for war! Yes, we 
were, but, thank Heaven, all that was changed as 
time went by. Yet people still talk of the great 
achievements of the German Army in 1914 and 
1915; of the rapid way in which they advanced; 
of how they drove the Allies back and swept 
through Belgium and France. No doubt the 
Germans did accomplish a great deal in those 
days, but to myself and to every man who fought 
through the first few months of the war, the 
miracle of it all is and always will be, how the 
Allied lines were able to hold at all. 


While in the trenches we had a number of 
varied experiences in connection with the bombing 
that was carried on by both our troops and the 
Germans. At that time the most popular bomb 
was the famous " jam tin." This bomb we manu- 
factured ourselves from old jam tins or cigarette 
boxes which we filled with souvenirs (nails and 
pieces of iron and steel), placing an explosive in 
the centre. The whole was then packed tight 
with a piece of rag or paper, leaving a fuse 


exposed. This fuse was timed, by its length, to 
explode in either three or five seconds. If the 
fuse were too long there was the danger of the 
bomb being returned from the German trench 
before it had exploded; if too short there 
remained the danger of a premature explosion in 
our own trench. 

When the bomb was prepared, the man who 
was to do the throwing would stand in a traverse 
of the trench, raise his arm ready, while another 
man would light the fuse. Then away she went, 
sailing over towards Fritzie's trench. It was 
interesting to watch the anxious expression on 
the bomber's face while the fuse was being lighted. 
He had to count one, two, three, and so on to 
gauge the distance to the German trench. The 
man who lit the fuse spent some anxious moments, 
too, but he seldom stayed long after the fuse was 

" All ready !" The signal would be given. 

"Light her, you d n fool, hurry!" from the 

bomber. " D n these matches," from the 
lighter. Then all together we would yell, " let 'er 
go," and we would duck for safety. One of the 
boys of the First Canadian Division won the Dis- 
tinguished Conduct Medal for catching a German 


bomb and throwing it back into the German 
trenches before it had exploded. He was lucky, 
but nevertheless it was a remarkably brave thing 
to do and he thoroughly earned the decoration. 

Another form of bomb was the " Hair Brush " 
a deadly affair, usually more dangerous to our- 
selves than to the enemy and more trouble than 
it was worth. There were also " Rifle grenades " 
bombs that were sent over to the German 
trenches from a rifle. Later, we got the " Mills 
bomb " which was manufactured in the factories 
of England. This bomb gave the best satisfaction 
of all and became very popular with the boys. 
Bombing schools were established behind the 
lines, where we were taught to make and to throw 
bombs in the proper manner. Bombing squads 
and companies were organized and the members 
became known as the " Suicide Club," since bomb- 
ing was regarded as dangerous work. In my 
opinion, however, it is not any more dangerous 
than many other occupations of the front line. 

Some of the boys considered that going out into 
No-man's-land to hold a listening post position 
was the most dangerous; others that it was more 
hazardous to be sent out to repair breaks in the 
barbed wire, while many said that being ordered 


" Over the Top " into a bayonet charge was worst 
of all. It is all dangerous work out there and it 
is surprising what little effect danger has upon 
the men generally. 


After having been at the Front for a short while 
you become absolutely callous to danger and feel 
that, after all, if you are going to get it, you will 
get it. It is simply not the least bit of good worry- 
ing about it. Each of the different units of the 
Allied armies has its own philosophy on this sub- 
ject. The Canadian says, " Oh, well, every bullet 
that is going to get you has your name and number 
marked right on it." I think that the best phil- 
osophy of all, however, is that of the French poilu. 
He says, " Well, there is either a war, or there is 
not a war ; if there is not a war, why there is no 
need to worry. If there is a war, then you are 
either mobilized or not mobilized; if not mobilized 
there is no need to worry. If you are mobilized, 
well, you are sent to the Front or not sent to the 
Front; if you are not sent to the Front, there is 
no need to worry. If you are sent to the Front, 
then you are either in a safe position or in an 
exposed position; if you are in a safe position, 


there is no need to worry. If you are in an 
exposed position, then you are either wounded or 
not wounded; if not wounded there is no need to 
worry. If you are wounded, then you either die 
or you recover; if you recover, there is no need to 
worry. If you die You Can't Worry." 


That is the spirit that animates the boys of the 
Allied armies at the Front. That wonderful, 
never-say-die, carry-on, smiling spirit. The 
enemy has not crushed it; the enemy never will. 
I only wish that everyone back home, who has a 
relative at the Front, could go " Over There," if 
only for a short while, and see the boys. See 
them behind the lines, in their billets, living under 
the worst conditions, dirty, filthy ; sometimes with 
short rations. Yet they are happy; they can 
smile, organize concerts and sports, and then 
enjoy concerts and sports far more than ever 
they did at home, because at the Front only a cer- 
tain limited time is their own. An enemy aero- 
plane passes overhead; bombs are dropped; the 
boys run for cover; some become casualties; yet 
a few minutes later the sports are resumed and 
again the boys smile. 


See them on their way to the trenches, ploughing 
through water and mud mile after mile, carrying 
heavy loads. Many of them are going to meet 
their death. On, on they march; ambulances and 
wagons pass them; they stop every hour for ten 
minutes' rest. Still they keep on. They are going 
" Up the line with the -best o' luck." Some of the 
boys are killed or wounded on the way, yet on 
they go in never ending streams. See the boys 
then, tired out, weary, foot-sore, dirty, wet 
through to the skin, yet are they unhappy? Oh, 
no ! Still they can smile and go " Up the line with 
the best o' luck." 

See them in the trenches. Are there great 
hardships there? Yes, there are hardships at the 
Front that the people at home will never realize 
or understand. Life in a front line trench is just 
plain Hell. Yet, see the boys there sitting on a 
muddy fire-step with their feet in a few inches of 
water, or in a dirty, damp, dug-out on sentry duty, 
etc. Still they are in the best of spirits, still cheer- 
ful, still able to smile. Even in the front line, 
facing death under a heavy bombardment, the 
boys can joke and smile. 

To illustrate this a good story is told. Four 
men were hanging on to a battered-down traverse 


of a trench and beating off an enemy attack. Over 
on their left, round another traverse, one man was 
fighting out the position alone with a machine gun. 
Owing to the bend in the trench the four men 
could not see the one man who was fighting alone, 
but this conversation went on. One of the four 
shouted, " Oh, Bill, where are yer?" " I'm 'ere 
an' I'm orright," Bill answered. Ten minutes 
later the same voice yelled again, " Say, Bill ! are 
yer still all right?" "Yes, I'm fine," Bill 
answered. Ten minutes later, " Oh, Bill ! Did 
they get yer yet?" "Nah! they can't get me." 
Half an hour later : " Oh, Bill ! are you sure you 
are all right?" Bill did not seem to like all this 
attention and shouted back, " Yes, I'm still all 
right, but why the devil are you so interested in 
me ?" " Interested in you !" the answer came ; 

"We don't give a d n about you, but we've 

drawn lots and got up a pool to see who is going 
to be the first one hit and I've drawn you." 

But if you want to see the boys at their best see 
them go " Over the Top " and attack the enemy 
trenches. Yes, you are just a wee bit nervous 
while waiting for 1 the signal to " go over." You 
know that over the parapet there are snipers and 
machine gunners waiting to " get you." You 


know that you will have to go through that hellish 
shell fire known as the barrage. You realize that 
you may not come back, but you do not think of 
that. You are " going over " to do something ; 
you must get the other fellow before he gets 
you. As the signal is given over you go with a 
smile on your face, a cheer on your lips, with the 
officers ahead yelling " come on," not " go on," 
and before you realize it, you are in the enemy 
trenches, fighting, cursing, stabbing, pushing, yell- 
ing. It lasts for a few minutes, perhaps an hour, 
but at last you realize that you have won out ; the 
reaction comes; you look at each other and you 

On the way across No-man's-land some have 
been hit, become casualties. 

See those boys, suffering agony from terrible 
wounds, their bodies covered with blood, perhaps 
with a limb shattered. Go to them, talk to them, 
and what happens? They will ask you for a 
cigarette. Light it, and then in spite of the pain 
and the suffering, they will smile. Why do they 
smile? How can they smile? Oh, it is all so 
wonderful that I can hardly explain it. After all 
there is a certain fascination in being on active 
service in such a war as this. It is a glorious 


privilege to be " Out There " doing something. 
It is wonderful to be " among the boys " " the 
real men." 


Remember that the boys at the Front are seeing 
the thousand and one things of which the people 
at home are merely reading. They are seeing 
sights that we saw, seeing the results of the Ger- 
man invasion of Northern France and Belgium, 
the results of the atrocities that were committed 
by the Germans. Seeing, as we saw, little kiddies 
with limbs that had been severed by German 
bayonets and sabres, seeing the poor women-folk 
and the girls in the terrible condition in which 
they were left by the Huns. Yes, those stories 
are quite true. Would to Heaven that they were 
not! I saw many things with my own eyes out 
there, which still seem to be absolutely unbelieve- 
able to the people at home. 

Sometimes, while marching on the way to the 
trenches, we would pass through some of those 
battered villages and towns, places which, previ- 
ous to the war, had been beautiful, but were now 
desolate wrecks because the Huns had been there. 
We would see those poor little French and Belgian 


kiddies ; see the poor girls. Then the boys would 
look at each other and say, " My God ! see that ! 
What if those same things were happening back in 
our country?" Then we would just grit our teeth, 
clench our fists, and march on in silence. We 
felt glad that we were there. In spite of the hard 
conditions, in spite of death, the wounds, the 
misery, the utter horror of it all, we were glad 
that we were able to be " Out There " able to 
meet the men who performed those atrocious acts, 
able to fight them and help to avenge France and 
Belgium. But more than that, we were glad to be 
" Out There " to prevent those same things from 
happening in our own fair Canada. There are 
hardships at the Front, but there are great com- 
pensations also. 


We were not in the trenches all the time, how- 
ever. We would go into the line for a certain 
period, usually from four to twelve days. What- 
ever time we spent in the trenches, we spent an 
equal amount behind the lines. Behind the lines 
we managed to have a fairly good time, and tried, 
as far as possible, to forget that we were at war 
by playing baseball, football, cards and organizing 


It was during a period of " rest " behind the 
lines that I had my first taste of " field punish- 
ment," or, as Tommy calls it, " crucifixion." 
When you are at the Front and serving a term of 
field punishment, life seems to be hardly worth 
living. For two hours a day you are handcuffed 
to a tree or lashed to a gunwheel. For another 
two hours you do " pack drill," which is marching 
up and down carrying a weight of ninety pounds 
on your back. During the remainder of the day 
(or night) you are detailed to do all the dirty 
work of the company. If, during the time that 
you are serving your term of punishment the 
regiment moves into the trenches, you have to do 
all the dangerous work, such as listening post, 
fixing the barbed wire, bringing in the rations, 
going out in No-man's-land on patrol, and so on. 
Therefore, if you are serving a term of punish- 
ment in the trenches, you have the finest chance in 
the world to get killed. 


We were billeted about seven miles from the 
town of Armentieres and had been behind the 
lines in these billets for three days when the 
authorities became very generous and had a " pay 


day." We each received the magnificent sum of 
fifteen francs (three dollars), and at once decided 
to go into the town of Armentieres and see some 
of the high life and spend our wealth. Incidentally, 
we hoped to be able to procure a decent meal. 
Passes to Armentieres, however, were not issued, 
so we issued passes to ourselves by the simple 
method of taking " French leave." We were paid 
off at noon. At two o'clock the company was 
called on parade and out of the original two hun- 
dred and fifty, there were only three present. The 
rest (I among them) were in the city. 

Orders were at once sent to Armentieres, 
informing the Military Police there to arrest all 
Canadians found in the place. I had gone along 
with my chum, Gamble, and naturally was looking 
for something to eat. On walking down one of 
the streets we noticed a group of our boys stand- 
ing together and decided to ask them if they could 
direct us to a restaurant. Our company sergeant- 
major was among the group, so Gamble walked 
up to him and said, " Say, Major, where can we 
get some eats?" At once a man stepped up to us 
and said : " Canadians, eh ? Fall in ! You are 
under arrest." He was a military policeman, so 
we had to join the group and stay there till more 


of our boys were rounded up. Shortly afterwards 
another military policeman (how we all hate 
them!) rode up on a horse to escort us to the 
prison in the town. There were about thirty of us 
in the group and we were marched two deep with 
the policeman at the head, on his horse. Gamble 
and I were the last two in the line, and after we 
had marched about two blocks, Gamble turned to 
me and said, " Say, Gibby, let's beat it ; when we 
come to the next corner just make a dash and 
foller me." I agreed to do this and we marched 
on ready to make the break. On reaching the 
corner, Gamble ran into a side street and I fol- 
lowed, but just as we turned the corner, he slipped 
and his rifle clattered on the hard cobble stones, 
making an awful noise. The military policeman 
heard this and came after us as hard as he could, 
Overtaking us, he drew his revolver and ex- 
claimed, "Break an escort, would you? Well, 
you can be shot for doing that while on active ser- 
vice. Now fall in again ; we will deal with you two 
later." Needless to say we " fell in," and together 
with the others were placed in jail in the famous 
old Town Hall of Armentieres. 

That night we were sent back to our company 
to face, as we thought, a court-martial. We had 


visions of facing a firing squad and I know we 
felt that death in that manner would not be too 

When we reached our billets we found our 
captain waiting for us. He was a fine man. He 
had served as a trooper during the South African 
War, and never allowed us to forget this fact. 
He lined us up and then began to address us, 
something like this: "Well, they got you, did 
they? There are only about thirty of you, 

though; where the are the rest? Oh, well, 

they may get in without being caught; if they do, 
good luck to them! You fellows will get it, 
though. This has passed out of my hands and 
you will all face the colonel to-morrow, when you 
can explain why you were absent from Reserve 
Billets. Dismiss!" 

Reserve Billets! Great Scott! We had not 
known that. Being in reserve billets means that 
you are the first ones to be called upon in case of a 
break in the line. What if the Germans had 
attacked while we had been in Armentieres ? Our 
" French leave " amounted practically to desertion 
in face of the enemy. We certainly did spend a 
sleepless night. Next morning we faced the 
colonel to answer the charges of " Being absent, 


etc., on such a date from Reserve Billets at 

while on Active Service." We were very lucky. 
The colonel must have had a good breakfast that 
morning, he was so lenient. For punishment, all 
the N.C.O's were reduced to the ranks, and we 
mere privates were each sentenced to " seven 
days first field punishment." Seven days ! Why, 
we could have cheered. We had expected to be 
shot, at least. 

I managed to serve that seven days punishment, 
but, not two weeks later, I got another five days 
of the same punishment. My second " crime " 
was not a serious offence, merely lounging outside 
the guard house when I should have been inside 
on duty, but on account of my previous record, or 
as it is called, " Crime Sheet," showing that I had 
served seven days' punishment, the colonel de- 
cided that I was a bad character and gave me 
another five days. He was not feeling so good, I 
imagine, the second time that I was brought 
.before him. After that, I decided that it was 
much better to behave, so I did not again " have 
the pleasure " of serving any more " field punish- 




In March, 1915, the First Division (ours) had 
the distinction of taking part in the great Battle 
of Neuve Chapelle, the first advance of the 
British Army in the war after trench warfare had 
been established. The division did not play a 
very important part in the battle, however, as the 
positions we were detailed to hold were on the 
flanks. We were called upon to beat off the 
German counter-attacks on the left, while the 
British Tommies were making their advance on 
the right. 

The attack had been planned for weeks, by the 
men higher up. We were informed that the main 
object of the attack was to find out if it were 
possible to break the German lines or not, and to 
capture the Aubers Ridge, which commanded the 
city of Lille. Once the ridge was taken, it was 
thought that the city of Lille would soon fall into 



our hands. Up till that time (March loth, 1915) 
the German lines had not been broken, and a great 
deal of speculation was rife among us as to the 
ultimate outcome of the battle. 

The plan of the battle was roughly this. The 
First Army was to make the main attack, with 
the Fourth Army Corps on the left flank and the 
famous Indian Corps on the right. While these 
units were attacking the village of Neuve 
Chapelle, the troops of the First Army Corps 
were to launch a minor attack at Givenchy. The 
Third Army Corps were also to attack from the 
south of Armentieres. These smaller attacks on 
the flanks were made for the purpose of keeping 
the enemy engaged and to prevent him from 
bringing up reinforcements. 

It was the great opportunity for which we had 
all waited for months. We were going to attack 
at last. For weeks and months we had faced 
those German trenches and many times had won- 
dered why we were never ordered to go " Over 
the Top " and begin to end the war. For months 
we had hung on to battered down positions, beat- 
ing off the massed attacks of the Germans. We 
had suffered heavy casualties in these attacks. We 
had been short of machine guns, but the deadly 

IN IT 79 

manner in which we had learnt to use our rifles 
almost convinced the Germans that every man in 
our army was armed with a machine gun. 

Now, however, the waiting was to end. We, 
not they, were to be the ones to attack. Fritz was 
to receive a little of his own medicine. Were we 
pleased? Why, when the word was passed 
around that our division was to be among the 
attacking troops the prospect almost sent us wild 
with joy. We were going to do something at last ! 

However, it was not to be. The British 
Tommies and the Indian troops did all the attack- 
ing and we merely hung on to the flanks. The 
Canadian guns were there, though. Our artillery 
played a noble part in the great bombardment that 
preceded the sending over of the first wave of 
attacking infantry. That preliminary bombardment 
seemed to us at the time the greatest thing in the 
world. More guns had been concentrated on that 
one front than had been on any front since the out- 
break of the war. It was stated that more shells 
were fired in that one bombardment than had been 
used during the entire South African War. It 
seemed as though nothing could live through it, 
but we had not reckoned on the guile of our 
enemies, who lay, practically safe, in their 



concrete dug-outs forty or fifty feet under the 
ground. Later, at Ypres, the bombardment at 
Neuve Chapelle seemed almost nothing, and 
boys who fought through those two battles and 
were later on the Somme, say that even Ypres was 
a mere bagatelle compared with the bombardment 
at the Somme. 

At last the din of the gun-fire died down, the 
barrage lifted, and we knew that the British 
troops had begun their advance. They rushed 
across No-man's-land in a magnificent charge and 
bore down upon the German trenches. The 
Germans, to a certain extent, had been demoral- 
ized and dazed by the terrific bombardment, so it 
was merely a matter of a few minutes before the 
men in their front line were overcome and the 
first line in British hands. The Huns were abso- 
lutely terrified when they saw our famous Indian 
troops attacking them. The Gurkhas and Sikhs 
showed them little mercy, however, and made 
short work of them when they swarmed from 
their trenches screaming " Kamerad." On and 
on the battle raged. The troops who had so suc- 
cessfully taken the German first line were not yet 
satisfied, and, instead of waiting for reinforcing 

IN IT 81 

troops or for supports, or even for the barrage to 
lift, they swept on again to the German second 
and third lines. 

This impetuous fighting cost us many lives and 
we suffered heavy casualties. They advanced too 
far, 'became cut off from the main body, and were 
either killed or captured. 

It was wonderful, however, to see the way in 
which the Indian troops fought in that battle. 
They swept across the open in a furious charge 
and it seemed as if nothing could stop them. 
Evidently nothing did. What happened in the 
German trenches when they got there I don't 
know, but after the battle I saw many of the 
Indians with very broad grins on their faces, 
escorting German prisoners to the rear. Most of 
them had brought back trophies of the fight. They 
would hold these grim, gruesome objects in the 
air, saying, with a smile of delight, " Souvenir.'' 

The battle on the whole was not the great 
success that had been hoped. Altogether, we only 
advanced about a mile on a front of four miles. 
We failed to capture the Aubers Ridge. We had 
grossly underestimated the strength of the enemy 
and our bombardment had done little or no 


damage to the German second or third lines. 
Therefore, after taking the enemy first line, our 
troops met with stubborn resistance from the 
Germans and whole battalions were wiped out by 
the merciless fire of the German machine gunners. 
After having taken the German first line, the 
British troops found that, instead of having 
broken the German line completely as they 
thought, they had merely driven back the 
advanced outposts and the enemy second and 
third lines loomed up stronger than ever. Still 
they kept on attack after attack, wave after 
wave. Whole companies were " hung up " on the 
German barbed wire within a few yards of the 
great objective and were subsequently wiped out. 
The tragedy of it all was that the supports and 
reinforcements, in many cases, did not arrive in 
time. Had they done so, perhaps the enemy line 
would have been completely broken and the war 
map of the Western Front changed completely. 
The Germans were absolutely demoralized and 
bewildered by the suddenness and dash of the 
attack, and had the reinforcements arrived, and 
had there been no delay in other parts of the line, 
it is probable that the enemy would have been 
completely routed. 

IN IT 83 


The casualties suffered by the British were 
frightfully heavy and the question was asked 
repeatedly : " Was it worth the price we paid ?" 
Yes it was, for, as I have said, until that time the 
German lines had never been broken and the 
enemy defence system had not been pierced. At 
Neuve Chapelle we did not attain our great object, 
but we did break the German line and proved that, 
once we had got sufficient men and enough guns on 
the Western Front, the German line could again 
be broken more completely and the enemy be 
driven right back. The enemy was not invincible 
as had been thought during the first few weeks of 
the war. 

When night came the attack was exhausted and 
the Germans began to bring up reinforcements 
and consolidate their battered positions. It was 
therefore decided that the British should dig 
themselves in and hang on. A line of trenches 
was formed below the ridge that dominates Lille 
and there the British Tommies held positions for 
many weary weeks afterwards. 

Over on the left flank we had been engaged in 
some pretty hot work while beating off the enemy 


counter-attacks, but the Germans did not get to 
within a hundred yards of our trench, and our 
casualties were consequently light. 


A few days afterwards we were relieved and 
went back behind the lines again to billets for a 
"rest." Personally, I believe that the word 
" rest " is a misnomer as used at the Front. 
Behind the lines you do not rest. In fact you 
have far more work to do and are kept much more 
busy than you ever are -when in the trenches. 
Most of us, when out there, would have preferred 
to be in the trenches (provided the weather was 
good) rather than behind the lines resting. 

Life behind the lines is one continual round of 
reviews, inspections, parades, drills, route marches 
and fatigues. After you have drilled or marched 
all day long, and are utterly worn out, perhaps at 
night you are given a pick and a shovel and 
marched forward to dig reserve trenches behind 
the lines. You dig till day begins to break, then 
march miles back to your billets and all that day 
you drill again or are inspected. Drat those 
inspections. They inspect your feet, your hair, 
your uniform, your body, your rifle, bayonet and 

IN IT 85 

ammunition, your kit, your boots, your emergency 
bandages and rations. In fact they inspect every- 
thing and at the most inopportune moments. Just 
after you have lent half your belongings to your 
pal, along comes an officer who finds that half your 
equipment is missing. It is supplied, whether you 
want it or not, and charged up to your account. 

In this respect, however, our company was 
very fortunate as we had a captain who was a 
" regular fellow." He would pass among the 
ranks during a kit inspection and this would be 
his usual line of talk : " Hm Private Blank, you 
have lost your bayonet, eh ?" and " You, Private 

, you have no water bottle. You, Jones, 

where is your haversack? Lost 'em, eh? Well, 
now, listen to me. I was a trooper in South 
Africa (he never let us forget that). I always 
had enough to make two kits. Get me? To- 
morrow I am going to have you all on parade 
again, and I want every man to have a complete 
kit. There are lots of kits in France. But remem- 
ber not from your own battalion. That's all. 
Dismiss !" We " got him " all right and I can 
assure you that next day we all had complete kits. 
We acquired them. (Soldiers have ways of 
acquiring such things.) 



At about eight o'clock in the evening on March 
3ist a party of men was called for, to go up the 
line behind the position at St. Eloi to dig a num- 
ber of reserve trenches in preparation for the big 
attack which was to be made on that sector in the 
course of the next few days. Of course, I had to 
be one of the unlucky group picked out. 

St. Eloi was about eighteen miles from the 
place in which we were billeted, and, for a change, 
we were taken along in ammunition wagons 
instead of being marched, which was more usual. 
We were " armed " with a pick and shovel. On 
the way we were all very cheerful and in the best 
of spirits, and, as the wagons clattered through 
some sleepy little village or other, we would either 
yell at the top of our voices or sing songs. Our 
favourite song at that time was "Are we down- 
hearted? No! No! No!" Accent was always 
put on the " No !" Before morning, however, as 
will be shown later, we were the most down- 
hearted group of soldiers in France. We reached 
the trenches at last and commenced to dig. How 
Tommy hates that kind of work! A common 
remark at that time was " We have marched all 

IN IT 87 

over this blinkin' country, and what we have not 
marched over we have dug up." 

Our digging party lasted from eleven at night 
till daybreak next morning, but we did not do 
much digging, as the German snipers and machine 
gunners had evidently discovered our movements 
and they kept up a continual fire all through the 
night. Therefore we spent most of the time in 
ducking and " hugging the ground " for safety. 
Just before dawn we were sent back behind the 
lines to the village where we were to be picked 
up by the wagons. A number of men had been hit 
during the night and these were taken away in 
ambulances. We considered them lucky. On 
arriving at the village we found no wagons await- 
ing us. Still we thought they would soon arrive 
and it was decided to wait. One hour passed, 
then two, but no wagons. We then began to think 
of that eighteen miles back to our billets. " What 
if we have to march?" someone suggested. "Walk 

be d d!" we all said; "we would rather stay 

here." Another hour passed. By this time we 
had all fallen asleep on the road or in a nearby 
field. I was rudely awakened by a kick and one 

of the boys said, " Well, the old wagons are 

not coming: we have to march back." We 


started. Every hour we were given ten minutes' 
rest, and we just dropped in the muddy roads and 
fell fast asleep. How we cursed those wagon- 
drivers ! " Where the devil are they ? Why have 
they not picked us up?" Then someone remem- 
bered the date. " Oh, boys," he yelled, " this is 

the first of April. Those d d drivers think 

this is a fine joke; I guess we are a lot of blinkin' 
April fools!" 


A few days later the division was moved across 
the border from France into Belgium. We were 
informed that we would soon be in a hot part of 
the line as we were to occupy a section of trenches 
outside the city of Ypres. On the march we 
passed a number of troops, seasoned veterans, 
who had just come out of the trenches which we 
were to occupy. We waved our hands and 
shouted to them, but they seemed too down- 
hearted to reply. Motor ambulances passed us 
carrying their grim loads of wounded men. Then 
along the road came men swathed in bandages, 
limping badly from their wounds. All had the 
same story to tell of the horrors of those trenches 
outside Ypres ; of badly constructed positions with 
no dug-outs; and of a continual bombardment 

IN IT 89 

from the German guns. They told us of the men 
who had been wounded and forced to lie out in 
No-man's-land without any attention, many of 
them to die. It all seemed terrible to us then. 
Little did we realize that our own fate was to be 
much worse within the next few days. 

Upon reaching the village of Vlamertinghe we 
were detailed to billets (barns) and for the next 
few days enjoyed a period of rest ( ?) behind the 
lines. We organized baseball and football teams, 
and arranged to have a regular field day. The 
date set for the big sports programme was the 
fateful April 22nd, 1915, one of the greatest days 
in Canada's history. It was on that day, that, for 
the first time, the Germans used their infamous 
poison gas. On the same day opened the terrible 
Second Battle of Ypres. 

It was at Ypres that I " got mine." In that 
battle I was wounded in the head and in the leg, 
and also fell into the hands of the Germans, thus 
becoming a prisoner of war. But of that later. 

It would be impossible for me to go into all the 
details or to describe the magnificent part that was 
played in that battle by all the various units of the 
Canadian Division. Furthermore, I feel that it is 
quite unnecessary for me to do so as the whole 


world rang with the story ; and the way the Cana- 
dians saved the situation has become a matter of 


Some little idea of the way in which our boys 
fought can be gathered from the words of our 
general (General Alderson) when he addressed 
the few survivors (there were but few) of the 
division, a few days after the battle. He said " I 
tell you truly that my heart is so full that I hardly 
know how to speak to you. It is full with two 
feelings the first being sorrow for the loss of 
those comrades of ours who have gone; and the 
second, pride in what the First Canadian Division 
has done. 

" As regards our comrades who have lost their 
lives (let us speak of them with our caps off) 
my faith in the Almighty is such that I am per- 
fectly sure that when men die, as they have died, 
doing their duty and fighting for their country, 
for the Empire and to save the situation for others 
in fact they have died for their friends no 
matter what their past lives have been, no 
matter what they have done that they ought not 
to have done, I am perfectly sure that the 
Almighty takes them and looks after them at 

IN IT 91 

once. Lads, we cannot leave them better than like 

" Now I feel that we may, without any false 
pride, think a little of what the Division has done 
during the past few days. I would first of all tell 
you that I have never been so proud of anything 
in my life as I am of my armlet with 'Canada' 
on it. I thank you, and congratulate you from the 
bottom of my heart, for the part each one of you 
has taken in giving me this feeling of pride. 

" I think it is possible that all of you do not 
quite realize that if we had retired on the evening 
of April 22nd, when our Allies fell back before 
the gas and left our left flank in the air, the whole 
of the 27th and 28th Divisions would probably 
have been cut off. Certainly they would not have 
got away a gun or a vehicle of any sort, and prob- 
ably not more than half of the infantry would 
have escaped. 

" This is what our Commander-in-Chief meant 
when he telegraphed as he did, that 'The Cana- 
dians saved the situation.' My lads, if ever men 
had a right to be proud in this world, you have. 

" I know my military history pretty well, and I 
cannot think of an instance, especially when the 
cleverness and determination of the enemy is 


taken into account, in which troops were placed in 
such a difficult position. Nor can I think of an 
instance in which so much depended on the stand- 
ing fast of one division. 

" You will remember that the last time I spoke 
to you, just before you went into the trenches at 
Sailley, now over two months ago, I told you 
about my old regiment, the Royal West Kents 
having gained a reputation for never budging 
from their trenches, no matter how they were 
attacked. I said that I was quite sure that in a 
short time, the Army out here would be saying 
the same about you. 

" I little thought none of us thought how 
soon those words would come true. But now, 
to-day, not only the Army out here, but all 
Canada, all Britain, and all the whole Empire are 
saying that you, too, stand fast. 

" There is one more word that I would say to 
you before I stop. You have made a reputation 
second to none in this war; but, remember, no 
man can live on his reputation. He must keep on 
adding to it. And I feel just as sure that you 
will do so, as sure as I did two months ago when 
I told you that you would make a reputation when 
the time came. 

IN IT 93 

" I am now going to shake hands with your 
officers, and as I do so, I want you to feel that I 
am shaking hands with each of you, as I would 
actually do if time permitted." 


The battle opened at five o'clock on the after- 
noon of April 22nd, 1915. The ground over 
which it was fought was the famous Ypres 
salient. There, the trenches ran in the shape of 
a gigantic horseshoe, some five and a half miles 
long, directly around the city of Ypres. The 
Germans were holding the outside flanks of the 
salient, we the inside, therefore they were able to 
pour a terrific enfilading fire upon us from three 

For two days previous to the gas-attack the 
Germans had kept up a continuous bombardment 
on the city of Ypres and the surrounding villages. 
Numbers of the civilian population were killed 
by this shell fire, yet the people hesitated to leave 
their homes to seek shelter farther behind the 
lines. They stayed in their homes till the last and 
were either killed or absolutely forced to leave. 

About six hours before the gas was sent over, 
the bombardment increased in its intensity and 


Ypres and the surrounding district became an 
inferno of bursting shells. Ypres was trans- 
formed in a few hours from a busy, cheerful war 
city into a home of desolation, and remained so 

Holding the left flank of the salient at the time 
were the French native troops, Turcos and 
Algerians, men from the north of Africa, who 
were serving in the French Army. On the right 
flank of the salient was the famous Canadian 
Highland Brigade, our own wonderful Kilties. 
The French troops, on the left, were the first to 
bear the brunt of the gas attack. The Germans 
sent the gas across No-man's-land in clouds 
clouds some ten to twenty feet high and of a 
greenish yellow colour chlorine!" 

It was far heavier than air, therefore it clung 
to the ground and entered the French trenches. 
Remember, the men there were natives, who had 
never before heard of poison gas. The gas 
choked them, it blinded them, it left them gasp- 
ing for breath. Panic struck them, and those 
among them not overcome by the fumes, dropped 
everything and ran. 

From our billets just behind the firing line we 
saw those French natives running. They came 



tearing along the roads, throwing away every- 
thing they possessed their rifles and equipment 
fleeing in a mad, frenzied retreat. Their faces 
worked spasmodically, as though they were in 
terrible agony. They tore open the collars of 
their tunics, gasped for air, and screamed as they 
ran that the Germans were coming ; the Germans 
had broken through. " Allemands ! Save your- 
selves; retreat." They were all that were left of 
the men who had been engulfed in the gas. 

What a sight it was! Enough to unman the 
stoutest heart. Intermingled with the retiring 
troops came many civilians, people who had lived 
near to the firing line and had also been driven 
out by the bombardment and the gas. It was a 
pitiful sight to see those poor people. The men 
were carrying any little household goods they had 
saved from their burning homes, while the women 
carried the little children or helped along the old 
men. Even as they ran, they were still under 
fire from the German guns. Shells were burst- 
ing overhead and tearing up the roads, killing and 
wounding many of these poor fugitives. 

When we marched into action that evening, we 
passed the bodies of hundreds of these poor 
civilians, victims of the German shell-fire ; victims 



of German kultur. People still wonder why we 
fought so well in that battle, but any troops 
would have fought as well as we did had they 
seen those same sights upon going into action. 

The Germans had broken through on the left 
flank, but on the right flank was the Canadian 
Highland Brigade. They also were gassed, but 
did not retire. Instead, they extended their lines 
directly across the left flank, flung themselves 
into the breach made by the retiring native troops, 
launched attack after attack upon the German 
trenches, drove the enemy back, recaptured most 
of the ground lost, and then held on till the rest 
of the division could get to their support. 


At seven o'clock that evening we were ordered 
into the battle to support the Highland Brigade. 
Then began our march from the billets to the 
trenches into the greatest battle of the war to 
that time. Little did we realize then that, before 
another day had passed, more than half of us 
would be dead and more than two-thirds 
casualties. We marched on in silence. As we 
crossed the Yser Canal we came under the fire of 
the German guns, but suffered no casualties. 

IN IT 97 

Later, when marching up the Ypres-Menin road, 
we passed a British battery that had been pound- 
ing the German positions for hours. Just as we 
came alongside, the German guns " found " the 
British battery and opened with a murderous fire 
of shrapnel. The shrapnel burst right over us 
and, as we were marching in fours, it inflicted 
heavy casualties. 

One shell made a direct hit upon our machine- 
gun section, killing the officer and six men and 
wounding about thirty others. At once we were 
ordered into skirmishing formation, that is, to 
spread out, so that the shell fire could not do so 
much damage. We threw ourselves flat upon the 
ground and put our packs over our heads for 
protection from the flying shrapnel. 

Shortly after we marched on again and at last 
found ourselves behind the Highlanders' position, 
just outside the village of St. Julien. (St. Julien 
is a village some four miles north-east of Ypres, 
and it was around that district that all the heavy 
fighting occurred.) Arrived there, we were 
ordered to dig ourselves in, form a line of reserve 
trenches in case our lines were again broken that 
night, and stay in support of the Highlanders. 
How we dug, with bayonets, fingers and 

entrenching tools ! Bullets were flying everywhere, 
so the sooner we were dug in the sooner were we 
safe. While training we had been taught how to 
do this, and had been told repeatedly that we 
would have to be able to dig ourselves in and be 
under cover in ten minutes. At St. Julien I do 
not believe it took us anything like so long as that. 

We were not called upon to attack that night. 
That was the night, however, in which the Tenth 
and Sixteenth Battalions made their famous 
charge through Langemarck Woods and recap- 
tured the guns which had been lost earlier in the 
day through the retirement of the French natives. 

The charge made by these two battalions was 
simply marvellous and will live forever in Cana- 
dian history. The advance was made at mid- 
night, under the heaviest of machine-gun and 
rifle fire. Less than one-third of the men who 
started reached the German trenches, yet these 
swept on and captured the position and guns at 
the point of the bayonet. Then, without even 
pausing to reform their lines, they swept through 
Langemarck Woods. The Germans tried to 
retire, then threw up their hands with the usual 
cry of " Kamerad," but the Highlanders made 
short work of them. It was an hour or more of 

IN IT 99 

deadly bayonet work. They had recaptured the 
guns and the woods, but found that there were 
not sufficient men left to continue the attack. 
They attempted to bring back the guns, but, find- 
ing it impossible, they destroyed them. They 
then consolidated the position and continued to 
hang on. 


Our great opportunity came the next morning. 
Just as day was dawning we heard that there 
was another break in the line, this time a little 
to the west of St. Julien. Two companies of the 
battalion were ordered to make an attack to re- 
capture the position, and " C " and " D " com- 
panies were the' ones chosen. I was a member 
of " C " company 

When we were ordered into that attack we felt 
that it was to certain death and very few expected 
to come back. During the battle we earned the 
name " Sacrifice Companies," as we were sent to 
attack the most advanced part of the salient and 
were told to hang on and hold back the Germans 
as long as possible. 

From those two companies about four hun- 
dred and fifty men not one officer returned, and 

when the battalion was lined up a few days after 
the battle, it was found that only two of the 
original four hundred and fifty were left. The 
rest were either wounded or captured or had paid 
the supreme sacrifice. 

Personally, I shall never forget that attack. 
Over on our left flank, the Second Battalion had 
advanced. Under cover of the darkness they had 
taken the enemy completely by surprise, had 
taken his trenches and were now holding them. 
Then, on the right flank, we started to advance. 
Our trenches were separated from the Germans 
by eight hundred yards, and we were to cover the 
distance in short rushes, running ahead about 
twenty yards and then dropping to the ground 
for cover, opening fire at the same time upon the 
Germans. Then on again till we almost reached 
their trenches. " One last rush, use the bayonet 
and drive them out," was the order. 

We started our advance according to instruc- 
tions, but had only gone a short distance when 
our men began to drop.. Before we had gone a 
hundred yards more than one-half of our number 
were hit and we had lost most of our officers. 

Our captain was splendid, and his courage and 
bravery set a wonderful example to the men. 

IN IT 101 

He was here, there and everywhere, dashing 
through the murderous shell fire and through a 
perfect rain of rifle and machine-gun bullets. 
Snapping orders to right and left, he rushed on, 
yelling, " Come on, men." All he carried was his 
cane ; I don't think he drew his revolver. It was 
sheer slaughter to go on ; at every yard more men 
fell, but the captain was still going, and we felt, 
as one of the boys expressed it at the time, " My 
God ! if he can go on, so can we." 

We went on. We had still a distance of some 
two hundred yards to go, when all at once the 
life and spirit faded out of our line. It seemed 
absolutely impossible to advance any farther in 
face of such a fire. We had started into the 
attack in one line, every man three yards from 
his neighbour, but by this time there was a distance 
of about fifteen yards between those who were 
left. In another moment more we would have 
broken; our objective would not have been gained, 
and the Second Battalion on the left would have 
been outflanked and cut off. But the boys of the 
Second Battalion grasped the situation. They 
seemed to realize that our line was wavering, and 
they acted at the right moment. Shells were 
bursting everywhere, rifle and machine-gun 


I ! 

, ' 

bullets playing right over their trench, but, re- 
gardless of the danger, several of them jumped 
on to the parapet, waved their caps to us and 
yelled, " Come on, Canadians. Come on !" 

That one sentence put all the life and spirit 
there was in the world into our line. At once we 
rallied, gave a terrific cheer and swept on into 
the German trench. Then followed a few 
minutes of sharp bayonet fighting and the attack 
was over. We had won; we had gained our 
objective, for the present at least, and the Second 
Battalion position was saved. 

Less than one hundred and fifty of the four 
hundred and fifty who had started out reached 
the German trenches. Most of our officers had 
been killed or wounded in the charge, yet we had 
" got there." We had passed through a living 
hell of fire to gain what we had gone after. But 
we had got it that German trench. 

Had the Germans launched a counter-attack at 
that moment, however, I believe we would have 
been driven back once more, for the reaction after 
the charge was so great that we lay in the bottom 
of the trench for a few minutes unable to move. 
After a little, one of the few surviving officers 
turned to a group of us and said, "Well, it's 

IN IT 103 

pretty hot around here; a lot of our boys have 
' Gone West/ eh ? I have a piece of chocolate 
here and I will give it to the next man who is 
hit." The words had hardly left his lips when 
one of the boys nearby uttered a cry and fell back 
with a bullet through his shoulder. He turned to 
the officer and though tears streamed down his 
face from the agony of his wound, he smiled 
weakly and exclaimed, " That's me ; give me the 

This all happened around daybreak. Through- 
out that day, the night following, and also the 
next day, we were busily engaged in beating off 
the German counter-attacks, taking part in minor 
charges and generally holding the line. For the 
first three days of that battle there was practically 
open warfare. Backward and forward we went, 
meeting attack with counter-attack. The Ger- 
mans would sweep upon us in massed formation 
and we would be ordered into No-man's-land to 
meet them there and fight it out with the bayonet. 
So it went on. In the words of the soldier, it 
was three days of bayonet work. 

How we managed to hold those lines I hardly 
know. According to all the rules of warfare we 
were licked. The Germans should literally have 


walked through our lines to Calais and the 
Channel ports. Outnumbered ten to one (there 
were one hundred and twenty thousand German 
infantry opposed to twelve thousand Canadians), 
fighting an enemy fully prepared, we were left 
without artillery support. Our guns had all been 
put out of action in the opening bombardment. 

The Germans had poured a terrific fire upon 
our trenches from the guns of their marine 
artillery (some of which I saw after I was cap- 
tured). Experts say that the enemy sent over 
thirty shells a minute, night and day, during those 
three days, while our guns were unable to reply. 

Added to this we faced the horror of poison 
gas. We had no gas masks and our only pro- 
tection was handkerchiefs and pieces of our uni- 
forms which we dipped into the muddy water of 
shell holes and placed in our mouths. 

It was said that we saved the situation. By 
fighting in such a determined manner we put up a 
gigantic bluff and convinced the Germans that 
behind us there were innumerable reserves and 
an unlimited number of guns, whereas for three 
days there was practically nothing. If the Ger- 
mans could not break the Allied lines then, never 
will they be able to do so in future. 

IN IT 105 

Perhaps the best explanation of our success 
was that given by an officer of the British Staff 
when he said, " The reason the Canadians were 
able to win at Ypres -was because they were new 
troops, raw recruits. They had not learned 
enough of modern warfare to know how to retire, 
so, instead of retiring, they just stayed there and 

" Stayed there and won." No doubt we did, 
but we certainly paid the price. The division 
was cut to pieces ; many of our infantry regiments 
were practically wiped out. 


About two hours after our first charge we were 
ordered into another struggle. It was decided 
that the survivors of our company should launch 
an attack on a farm-house position, which lay 
about a hundred yards to our right across 
No-man's-land. This farm-house was a machine- 
gun position, and our commander knew that it 
would be a splendid position for us to hold, could 
we capture it. Just before starting the attack we 
were told that only a few of the enemy were 
defending the place, and that it would be 


comparatively easy to overcome them. Fifty men 
were chosen for the venture, I among them, and 
placed in charge of the young officer whom we 
had nicknamed " Sissy." He was one of the few 
officers who had survived the first charge. He 
had fought like a lion, and by dozens of different 
acts of bravery in the trenches had earned the 
admiration of every one in the battalion. 

We crawled from our trench " Sissy " lead- 
ing and began to advance across No-man's-land 
toward the farm-house. Again our advance was 
to be made in short rushes of from ten to twenty 
yards, with pauses between each rush to drop to 
the ground and open fire. I happened to be the 
next man to "Sissy" when the Germans opened up 
with a murderous machine-gun fire from the win- 
dows of the farm-house. "Sissy" at once jumped 
up and turning round to the rest of us yelled, 
" Come ort, you men, come on !" He had no 
sooner done so than he fell back shot through the 
head and was instantly killed. He fell across my 
body and, as he dropped, he threw his arm around 
my neck and I could hear his wrist watch ticking 
in my ear. 

In far less time than it takes to tell we were 
almost annihilated. Out of the fifty who. started 

IN IT 107 

in the attack, only five were left. To go on was 
useless, so we lay in the open and kept quite still, 
pretending to be dead. We were forced to lie 
there for more than an hour until the machine- 
gun fire died down. All that time, "Sissy" lay 
across my body and his watch kept on ticking. 
It was most gruesome and the suspense of it all 
was terrible. Later we managed to crawl back 
into our trench, and reported what had happened. 
Only five survivors out of fifty sufficiently told 
the tale, and it was decided that to take the farm- 
house position was out of the question. 

When darkness came we were still hanging on, 
although our numbers had been greatly reduced 
and we were getting weak from lack of food. 
We had been fighting for more than twenty-four 
hours without anything to eat or drink. During 
the whole three days of the battle we received no 
rations whatsoever and had simply to fight with- 
out when the " iron rations " were consumed. 


At midnight I was sent back with a fatigue 
party to gather up the spare ammunition and kits 
from the men who had become casualties in the 


first charge. It was most gruesome work, and I was 
glad that I had a chum along with me. This was 
Tom Ridout, taken prisoner the next day. I re- 
member saying to Tom, "Gee ! I don't mind having 
to search our own fellows, but these French 
natives are awful." Lying all over the field were 
numbers of the Turcos who had suffered in the gas 
attack. Their bodies were distended and their 
eyes staring, and one could see from the manner 
in which they were lying that theirs had been a 
terrible death. 

We had been searching for about an hour when 
I heard a groan a short distance away and went 
over to investigate. I found that it came from a 
boy named Wardell, one of my best chums. He 
had been shot through the leg in the first charge 
and then, while lying helpless on the field, a 
German sniper had shot him in the back. 
" Why," I gasped, " how is it that you are here, 
Wardell? The stretcher-bearers should have 
picked you up long ago." I shall never forget 
his reply, it was so typical of him. " Aw, never 

mind me, did you drive out those Huns?" 

he asked. " Oh, yes," I replied, and then I knelt 
down beside him and tried to bandage up his 
wounds, meanwhile telling him of the attack and 

IN IT 109 

the manner in which we had taken the German 

He was in terrible agony from his wounds and 
I realized then that there was very little hope of 
his recovery. He wanted to know where the 
stretcher-bearers were, and I assured him that 
they would soon arrive and that he would be 
taken to a hospital and eventually sent to Eng- 
land. To cheer him up I went on to describe 
some of the good times he would have when he 

reached Blighty. " Blighty be d d," he said, 

" I don't want to go there ; I want to stay here 
and have it out with Fritz with the bayonet/' It 
was a wonderful spirit that he showed. There 
he was helpless, terribly wounded, in awful 
agony yet his only thought was to get back into 
the fighting. 

Time was passing, and I had to get back into 
the trenches, so, with a parting cheery word, I left 
him. When I reached the trenches, I reported 
that Wardell was lying out there, wounded and 
in need of the stretcher-bearers. I was informed 
that all the stretcher-bearers had been killed and 
that it would be impossible to get him away. 
Poor Wardell died later in a dressing station 
behind the German lines. 



I was then detailed to form one of a party who 
were to dig a new line of trenches, and it was 
while doing this that I was wounded in the head. 
It was due entirely to my own carelessness. 
Many of our boys owe wounds or death to this 
same cause. There were about forty in the party, 
but we had just five picks and shovels among us 
with which to do the work. This meant that 
only five men at a time could dig their own 
section of trench. They then had to pass the 
picks and shovels on to the next five men. We 
commenced to dig, all the time being subjected 
to the fire of the Germans, while continuously 
star-shells were sent up. 

A star-shell is fired from a pistol and when it 
reaches a height of about twenty feet in the air 
it bursts like a rocket into a bright flame, lighting 
up an area of about fifty feet. As soon as a 
star-shell is sent up, you drop to the ground and 
take cover, for if a sniper happens to see you by 
the light of the star-shell, he will at once open 
fire. No matter where you are, therefore, you 
drop ; into a muddy shell hole with a few feet of 
water if necessary, for it is better to get a little 
wet than to become a casualty. 

IN IT in 

We had been digging for some time when the 
Germans began to send up star-shells. Digging 
operations ceased at once and all took cover. We 
were very anxious to get the trench dug, however, 
as we wanted some kind of protection. A shovel 
came along to me and I commenced to dig. No 
sooner had I started than up went another star- 
shell. This sort of thing continued for about a 
half-an-hour. As soon as I commenced to dig, 
star-shells were sent up and I had to take cover 
again. I did not mind in the least, but the man 
on my left did. He was anxious to get the shovel 
so that he could dig his part of the trench and 
secure protection. Shortly afterwards he made 
remarks to the effect that I was afraid of German 
star-shells, or I would continue digging. 
" Afraid, am I? Well, I'll show you," I replied. 
" Wait till the next one comes. I won't duck ; 
you see." It was a foolish thing to say and a 
much more foolish one to do. When the next 
star-shell went up, I just continued digging. I 
must have been seen by a German sniper, for the 
next thing that I remember was feeling a crash 
upon my head and I fell back in the trench. A 
bullet had struck me on the side of the head, 
causing just a slight wound. I was lucky. 


Another half inch and this would never have been 

Just before I lost consciousness I heard the 
man on my left say, "Gibbons got it." (That 
is the remark we had all used when a man was 
hit.) The thought then flashed across my mind 
that they were a cold-blooded lot; they did not 
seem to care whether I had got it or not. I had 
seen several other fellows killed and wounded, and 
had passed just the same remark, but when I got 
it myself, I thought that the whole regiment 
should weep. The boys tell me that it was two 
hours before I regained consciousness, but to me 
it seemed but a few minutes. The wound I had 
received was not serious, so I was able to con- 
tinue fighting, to "Carry On," as we say, through- 
out that night and the next day. 


When day broke on that next fateful morning 
(April 24th) we discovered that we were left in 
an isolated position right at the point of the 
salient, and that the enemy had worked round 
on both our flanks, cutting us off on three sides. 
Our numbers had been reduced to less than one 

IN IT 113 

hundred. Realizing that we were in a hopeless 
position, with ammunition almost exhausted and 
without hopes of getting more, we determined to 
sell our lives dearly. 

Our major (Mr. Kirkpatrick) received word 
to " Hang on," to which he replied, " Hanging 
on nicely, thank you." He told us that we must 
hold the line at all costs and that reinforcements 
were coming. How that one sentence inspired 
us ! We fought with superhuman energy, expect- 
ing those reinforcements. During the short lulls 
in the fighting we would look back anxiously 
over the St. Julien field, look for those reinforce- 
ments, hope for them, yes, pray for them. Had 
they reached us, we should have been saved. But 
it was not to be. The reinforcements never 
arrived, and we were left cut off. 

After literally blowing to pieces the battalions 
on our left and right flanks, the Germans 
advanced again and formed a line of trenches 
directly in our rear, leaving us surrounded on all 
sides. It was then seen that the position was 
hopeless. Seven times the Germans charged us, 
and seven times we managed to drive them back. 
For three hours we fought out this position, 
fighting back to back, but at the end of that time 


every round of ammunition was gone ; there was 
not a single round among us. The Germans soon 
saw that our firing had ceased and swept down 
upon us. We few survivors fell into their hands 
and became prisoners of war. We had lost 
our trench; we had lost the position, but 
we had achieved our object. We had played 
our part as the Sacrifice Companies. We had 
held up the German advance long enough to 
enable the Allies in our rear to form new lines, to 
consolidate their battered positions and to save 
the situation. 



Shortly before the enemy made their last attack 
upon our trenches I was shot again, this time in 
the right thigh. The bullet was an explosive 
one and completely shattered my limb, leaving me 
lying helpless on the field. Many people deny 
the truth of the assertion that the Germans used 
explosive bullets. The statement, however, is 
quite true. I have seen numbers of our own boys 
wounded by them, and also numbers of other Allied 
prisoners in German hospitals who were suffering 
terrible wounds from explosive bullets. Further- 
more, I have at the present moment in my own 
leg, embedded in the bone, seven pieces of an 
explosive bullet. 

The first thing that I recall after being 
wounded the second time, was hearing a whistle, 
a shout, a few commands in German, and finding 
a German soldier standing over me with an 



upraised rifle and bayonet. I thought my last 
moment had come, but, strange though it may 
appear, I did not seem to care. I had seen so 
many other fellows killed that I often wondered 
why I still lived. After I was wounded the 
second time I felt quite sure that I would die 
anyway, and to me that upraised bayonet only 
meant that the end would come a little sooner. 
The bayonet was about to descend (I am firmly 
convinced that the German was about to plunge 
it into my body) when I screamed and closed my 

When I opened them again, a German officer 
was bending over me. He must have stopped the 
soldier as he was in the act of killing me. This 
officer spoke very good English and began to 
question me. Some of his questions were " How 
far is it to Ypres? How far to Calais? What 
number of troops have you behind the lines?" 
To all these questions I did not reply, but merely 
shook my head to signify that I did not know. 
He then bent closer to me and exclaimed, 
"Englander, huh?" "No," I replied, "I am a 

" Canada, eh," he said, " Canadian swine," and 
he kicked me. He then asked my age. 


" Nineteen," I replied. " Why, you are only a 
boy," he said. " This is a man's war ; you should 
not be here." With that he left me. His manner 
had seemed rough at the time, but I am sure he 
had some kindly feelings, for on several occasions 
afterwards he prevented the soldiers from mal- 
treating me. 

Shortly afterwards I was dragged about forty 
yards behind the German trenches and left lying 
there helpless in the open field for four days. 
The greater part of the time I was only semi- 
conscious on account of the wounds I had 
received and from the effects of the gas, so I did 
not realize how the time passed. 

The official documents I brought back from 
Germany show, however, that I was wounded on 
April 24th, picked up and admitted to the first 
German field dressing station at Langemarck on 
the morning of April 28th. 

Those were, perhaps, the worst four days of 
my life. I never expected to live through them. 
During the whole time I was still under fire, for 
the fighting was going on all around the place 
where I was lying. The second night that I lay 
there British reinforcements arrived to aid the 
worn-out Canadian troops and launched another 


attack upon the position behind which I lay help- 
less and impotent. I heard our men fighting hand 
to hand with the Germans and hoped and prayed 
that they would break through and drive back the 
Huns. Had they done so, I should have fallen 
into the hands of our own troops and been carried 
back behind our own lines. It was not to be. 
Our men failed to break through and I remained 
in the hands of the Germans. 

In some respects I was very fortunate. I had 
been captured by the 236th Regiment of Saxon 
Infantry. Had it been a Prussian regiment I 
am convinced that my life would not have been 
spared. Even as it was, the Germans had my life 
in their hands and made me realize the fact, for 
the whole of the time I was lying upon that field 
they played with me as a cat plays with a mouse. 
A German soldier would come up to me, curse 
me, kick me a few times, and then pretend to run 
his bayonet through my body. They took away 
everything I possessed, even to my boots, puttons 
and shoulder straps. I had a small gold ring on 
one of my fingers. I had worn the ring for 
several years and it could not be removed. 
Several Germans tried to take it off, but failed. 
One of them attempted to cut off the finger to get 


the ring, but was prevented from doing so by 
others standing near. 


While lying there I saw a great deal of the 
German organization and efficiency about which 
I had heard so much. Their Army Medical 
Corps system was wonderful. No sooner was a 
man wounded than a stretcher-bearer rushed up 
to him, even under fire, bandaged up his wounds 
and placed a tag on one of the buttons of his 
uniform. Then along would come other stretcher- 
bearers, examine the tag, and if the man were 
badly wounded he would be the first one carried 
away. Their trench digging system was also re- 
markable. I saw one company dig a trench and 
prepare a strong position in less than half an hour. 
To have dug the same kind of trench would have 
taken us several hours, after which, perhaps, it 
would not have been as well dug as theirs. 

The manner in which the Germans were fed 
also made a lasting impression on me. Each man 
seemed to carry sufficient rations for several days. 
Good rations, too, in those early days, much better 
than we received. At night their cook-wagons 
came right on to the fields behind the trenches 


and the men in the front line were served with hot 
soup and coffee. Remember, all this was early 
in 1915. At that time, we had hardly begun to 
take war seriously; the Germans were prepared 
in every way. 


How I managed to live through those four 
days I don't know. Why I was not put to death 
by the Germans I can never understand. A great 
number of our boys who fell into the hands of 
the Germans in that battle were bayoneted. I 
saw, with my own eyes, two of our wounded 
boys done to death by the Germans. The enemy 
was very bitter towards us then. It was in this 
same battle that two Canadian sergeants were 
crucified by the Germans. And, as I have pre- 
viously stated, during the whole time I was lying 
wounded I was subjected to kicks, blows and 
curses from nearly every German soldier who 

Eventually I was picked up by the German 
stretcher-bearers. Their own men were carried 
away first, and it was only when the fighting had 
died down that they began to take away any of 
the wounded prisoners. I was carried to a 


dressing station in the village of Langemarck. 
(Langemarck had, by this time, fallen into the 
hands of the Germans.) Arrived there, I was not 
taken inside, but placed upon a stretcher which 
lay upon the ground outside and told that I would 
be picked up by an ambulance. This was April 
28th. By this time the British artillery had come 
up and was pouring a terrific fire of high 
explosive shells and shrapnel into the German 
trenches and the towns and villages behind the 
German lines. Langemarck was subjected to an 
intense bombardment, and could our gunners only 
have seen the damage they were doing and the 
terror they struck into the German hearts, no 
doubt they would have rejoiced. 

Shells were bursting all around the dressing 
station where I lay and I saw some houses 
nearby blown to pieces. There were several other 
wounded prisoners all lying helpless on stretchers, 
but the Germans made no attempt to put us in a 
place of shelter or safety. 

I noticed a man passing among the wounded, 
serving drinks and food. As he came nearer to me I 
was surprised to see that he was wearing a khaki 
uniform. I spoke! to him and found that he was 
a Canadian soldier, also a prisoner. " Look at 


the effect of those shells," he said. " They are 
ours. Well, our boys are sure giving these Huns 
hell now, eh?" "Hell is right," I replied; "I 
hope they keep it up." 

Just then a motor ambulance drew up and after 
a few preliminaries I was placed inside. This 
ambulance was much bigger than any I had seen 
used in the Allied armies and was constructed to 
carry at least a dozen wounded men. There were 
eight stretchers and seats for the slightly wounded 
men who were able to take care of themselves. 
There were several wounded Germans inside the 
ambulance when I was put in, but as it was dark 
and I was covered with a blanket, they could not 
see my uniform nor learn that I was a British 
prisoner. Had they done so, I imagine that my 
journey would not have been a very pleasant one. 

When at last I arrived at the hospital, I was 
lifted from the ambulance and placed upon the 
ground. The blanket was taken off me. Imme- 
diately the Germans standing near saw my British 

I think I must have been the first British soldier 
that many of them had seen, and as my shoulder 
straps had been cut off, I bore no insignia to show 
that I was a member of the Canadian Army. 


Several German soldiers gathered round me as I 
lay on the ground and began to curse me roundly 
in German. Of course, I could not understand 
what they were saying, but I gathered that they 
were not passing any loving remarks. Suddenly 
they all bent forward, shook their fists in my face 
and in perfect unison shouted, " Gott Strafe 
England." I knew perfectly what that meant. 
From their facility it seemed as if the Germans 
must practise this exclamation as our boys at 
home practise their college yells. 

" Gott Strafe England." Many times in the 
months to come I was to hear that same remark 
addressed to myself and other British prisoners. 
As we passed along the streets of Germany we 
saw signs upon the walls bearing that same 
inscription. The women-folk would also stand 
and scream it at us and show the little German 
children, kiddies not old enough to understand, 
how to hold up their fists to the British prisoners 
and shout " Gott strafe England." We prisoners 
heard it so often that it became a joke among us. 
We said that the reason the Germans called upon 
God so frequently to punish England, was because 
they realized that they themselves were quite 
unable to punish England. 


It seems that the Germans connect the name of 
God with everything German. The Kaiser con- 
tinually speaks of " Me und Gott" On the belts 
worn by the German soldiers is the inscription 
" Gott mit uns " (God with us), amj on the Ger- 
man helmet is inscribed, " Mit Gott und dem 
Vaterland" (With God and the Fatherland). 
" With God !" Was ever a nation proved by 
atrocious acts to be so far removed from God ! 


The hospital to which I was sent was in the 
Flemish village of Handzaeme, situated about 
fifteen miles from Ypres. I was not taken into 
the hospital, however. After a preliminary exam- 
ination by one of the doctors I was removed to an 
adjoining stable and thrown down on a bundle of 
straw. Lying all around me were other poor 
wounded prisoners, mostly Frenchmen and 
Belgians. While there we received very little 
attention from the Germans. It was pitiful to 
hear the poor fellows, lying there helpless and in 
terrible pain, groaning and screaming both night 
and day. When one or other of the German 
soldiers condescended to give us a little attention, 
he usually accompanied everything he did with 


curses and blows. Several of the unfortunate 
prisoners died in that stable simply from lack of 
proper attention. 

I was left there without the slightest medical 
attention for a period of twelve days. Therefore, 
it was sixteen days from the time I was wounded 
before I received medical treatment for my 
wounds. It would be hard to imagine the con- 
dition that I was in. For three days I had been 
fighting in mud and rain, had lain upon the battle 
field for four days and was covered from head to 
foot with mud, blood and filth. 

In that condition I was left lying on the dirty 
straw in the stable. Not even my filthy uniform 
had been removed. One leg of my trousers had 
been torn away and a rough field-dressing tied 
around the wound, but I feel sure that this dress- 
ing slipped off, and my wound (a terrible gash on 
the front and back of my thigh) was left exposed. 
I was unable to see if this were so as I was quite 
helpless. I could not even raise my head without 
my shattered thigh-bone causing me excruciating 
pain. The wound in my head never received the 
slightest medical attention. I was fortunate in 
that it healed up of itself. The agony and pain 

that I suffered during those twelve days can never 


be described, and had the Germans not continually 
given me morphine I don't believe that I should 
have lived through them. I wanted to die; I 
prayed for death to come to me and to come 
quickly. But if I lived, I felt that I would demand 
three things of life to be without pain, to be able 
to sleep, and to have sufficient food to eat, and 
with those three, be entirely satisfied. 

At the end of those sixteen days of agony, I 
was carried into the hospital to have an operation 
performed upon my wounded limb. They took 
me to the operating room and I was laid on the 
floor upon a stretcher, to await my turn at the 
operating table. I waited for more than an hour, 
and during that time I saw some awful operations 
performed. The doctor seemed to have no human 
feelings at all and treated the wounded German 
soldiers just as roughly as the wounded prisoners. 
I saw that doctor amputate the leg of a wounded 
man. He then came over to where I was lying, 
showed me the leg and placed it on the ground, 
not two feet away from me and in plain view. 
This sight terrified me and made me realize that 


I could hope for little mercy or kindly treatment 
from him. 

At last I was lifted upon the operating table and 
my filthy clothes were removed. The doctor and 
several orderlies stood over me and preparations 
were made for an operation. However, before the 
ether was administered, the doctor began to talk to 
me. He spoke perfect English, as most of the 
German officers do. This man, as I found 
out afterwards, had practised as a doctor in 
London, England, previous to the war. " Where 
were you wounded?" he asked. "At Ypres,",I 
replied. " Ha, at Ypern. So?" and he smiled. 
" Well, well, you Canadians fought in your own 
graves, is it not so ?" I did not answer. " But 
why did you leave your own country to come 
here to Europe and fight us?" he went on. 
" Because we are patriots and love the Mother 
Country, England," I answered. 

At this he got quite angry and almost shouted, 
" Love England ! Why do you love that nation of 
grocery clerks ? Bah !" Again I did not answer. 
Then he seemed to work himself into a great rage, 
and waving his arms around and gesticulating in 
a frantic manner, he began to act as though he 
were making a public address. I believe that what 


he said was more for the benefit of the nearby 
soldiers and orderlies, than myself. Why did 
England enter the war ? She was jealous of Ger- 
many's commercial power. England pays hired 
assassins to fight for her. You men came from 
Canada, not to fight for your Motherland, but to 
fight for the gold that England pays you. Mur- 
derers, assassins! But wait, Germany will be 
victorious; England and France will be crushed. 
When the war is finished Germany will be " Ueber 

After this, the soldiers crowded closer to me, 
shaking their fists in my face, cursing me and 
England and Canada for several minutes. It was 
not a very pleasant experience to -say the least. A 
few minutes later the anaesthetic was applied and 
I began to fade away into unconsciousness. My 
last thoughts before passing away were : " I 
wonder if they will kill me? Will they cut off 
my leg? What will they do?" Then all became 
blank, and the operation was performed. 


I came to a few hours afterwards and fou-nd 
myself lying in a bed in one of the wards of the 
hospital. What the German doctor did to my leg 


Note the Crippled Right Leg. 


when he operated upon me I do not know. It was 
found, however, upon my return to England and 
subsequent examination with the aid of X-rays, 
that the broken bone of my thigh had been com- 
pletely overlapped, thus causing my one leg to be 
five and a half inches shorter than the other. My 
foot and ankle had also been wrenched and 
twisted by the German doctors, so that the foot 
was turned completely round. When I looked 
down I saw the bottom of my foot instead of the 
top. Furthermore, several nerves in the upper 
part of my leg had been severed and I had lost the 
use of the limb entirely. Doctors in England and 
in Canada contend that it was a deliberate attempt 
on the part of the Germans to cripple me per- 
manently. They also say that had I been attended 
by our own doctors at first, I should have been fit 
for active service again within a few months from 
the time I was wounded. As a result of the Ger- 
man treatment I returned home crippled for life. 
It is wholly due to the skill of Canadian surgeons 
that I am able to walk at all. So much for German 


The hospital at Handzaeme, prior to the war, 
had been a Belgian convent. In one part of the 


building a number of the Belgian nuns were still 
living. After my operation I was put in a room 
in which a number of wounded German soldiers 
and Allied prisoners lay. The Germans were 
placed on one side of the room, the Allied pris- 
oners on the other. 

Each evening three of the Belgian nuns came 
into the room to visit us. They went to the 
Germans first, and as they spoke Flemish, which 
is similar to German, they held a conversation 
with them. We saw the nuns go to each man and, 
after talking to him for a short while, kneel 
down by his bedside and pray for him. So they 
passed on, from bed to bed, talking and praying 
for each man as they went. Then they reached 
the side where we lay. They came to us and 
talked to us in Flemish. We understood no 
Flemish and they understood no English, but they 
knelt down by our bed-sides and prayed for us in 
their own language. All the time that they did 
so, they turned around to see if they were being 
watched. When they found that they were not 
being watched, they quietly placed an apple, an 
orange, a piece of chocolate or some such small 
comfort underneath our bed-clothes. In doing 
this, I feel sure they took their lives in their 





hands, for it was only a short time afterwards 
that Miss Edith Cavell, the British nurse, was 
shot by the Germans for doing practically the 
same thing. " Aiding British prisoners of war!" 
Yet those women took the risk, just to help us. 
That, I think, is a splendid illustration of the 
wonderful spirit that has been shown by the 
women of Belgium. 


I happened to be a prisoner in this hospital on 
May 7th, 1915, the day the Lusitania was sunk. 
I thus got the German version of the atrocious 
deed and came to understand their point of view 
in the matter. 

The Germans struck a medal in commemoration 
of the sinking, and I have one of those medals in 
my possession. The medal is perhaps the best 
proof we have that the sinking of the vessel was 
deliberately planned, for it bears the inscription, 
" The Giant Steamship, Lusitania, sunk by a 
German submarine, May 5th, 1915." The medals 
were dated May 5th, and issued on that date, so 
that they dated and issued the medals two days 
before the ship was actually sunk. How I gained 


possession of this medal I have never as yet 
informed even my dearest friends. 

The manner in which we heard of the sinking 
of the Lusitania was dramatic in its intensity. 
One day we noticed great excitement among the 
Germans. Outside the hospitals we could hear 
bells ringing continually, and the Germans cheer- 
ing as if celebrating some great event. Small 
groups of soldiers would congregate in the hos- 
pital and talk together in a very excited manner. 
We surmised that the Germans had won a great 
victory. As previously stated, the doctor in charge 
of the hospital spoke very good English. Occa- 
sionally he came into the prisoners' ward and told 
us a little of the war news, but always from the 
German viewpoint. On the evening of May /th 
he came in and one of the British prisoners asked 
him what all the excitement was about. The fol- 
lowing are the very words used by that doctor in 
reply I have always remembered them. He said : 
" Do you know the Lusitania ?" " Why, yes," I 
replied. " It is one of our big ships." " Yes," he 
said, and with an excited gesture. Then pointing 
to the ground he continued, " We Germans have 
downed her." Then raising his right hand and 
pointing it toward the heavens, he said in a very 


proud manner, " Germany is the greatest nation in 
the world; thank God I am a German." With 
that he left us to think over what he had said. 

We were greatly excited, and turning to the 
rest of the boys, I said, " Did you hear that? The 
Germans have sunk the Lusitania; perhaps there 
were some Americans on board. That will surely 
bring America into the war on our side. Why, it 
will soon end now and we shall be sent back to 
our own country." 

Shortly afterwards the doctor came back into 
the room, and I asked him if the vessel had been 
sunk on its way to or from America. " Coming 
from America," he said. " Were there any 
Americans on board ?" I asked. " Yes, no doubt 
there were quite a number," was his reply. " Did 
you save any of them?" I questioned. In no 
uncertain tone he said, " A submarine could not 
save any." I then ventured to suggest that this 
would cause America to declare war upon Ger- 
many. " America," he sneered ; " America will 
protest ; but that is all that America ever does." 

It is quite easy to see from the foregoing the 
attitude the Germans had towards the United 
States. Yes, but that was in 1915. No doubt their 
opinion of America has changed considerably 


by this time. I only hope that same doctor is 
alive to-day, for I think that he and all other Ger- 
mans will now have realized, to their sorrow, that 
America can and America has done far more than 


During the whole time I remained in this hos- 
pital I did not see any German nurses. Those in 
charge of the hospital were members of the " Field 
Hospital Corps," composed of fighting men who 
had been detailed to hospital duty. One of these 
told me that the reason soldiers were in charge 
was because the hospital was near the firing line. 
In case the German lines were broken, they could 
immediately take up arms and take part in the 
fighting. Many of these men were very bitter 
towards us. They never missed an opportunity 
of cursing us, beating us and making our lives as 
unpleasant as possible. 

While in hospital I suffered continuously the 
most terrible pain from my shattered limb and from 
my twisted foot. I remember little of what hap- 
pened the greater part of the time, as the orderlies 
and doctors administered morphine to me in very 
liberal quantities. Had it not been for this, I feel 
sure I would not have been able to endure. My 


broken limb was not placed in a splint or an 
extension, but was simply bandaged roughly and 
left without a new dressing for a week or ten 
days at a time. How the wound in the thigh ever 
healed up is beyond my comprehension, as some- 
times, when the bandages were removed, it 
appeared to be but a mass of putrid, raw, 
gangrened flesh. 


After I had been in the hospital at Handzaeme 
for a few weeks it became apparent that the Ger- 
mans feared an Allied drive in the Ypres sector, 
for they began to move all wounded, both pris- 
oners and Germans, to hospitals farther behind 
their lines. It thus happened that I was sent to 
another hospital, situated this time in a town 
called Thourout, which is about twelve miles from 
Ostend in Belgium. The treatment I received in 
this second hospital was much worse than in the 
former, and many times I wished I was back in 
Handzaeme, bad as it had been. 

It was at this hospital in Thourout that I came 
under the care of German nurses for the first and, 
I am very thankful to say, the last time. It can 
hardly be conceived by right-minded people that 
women could be as cruel to wounded men as those 


nurses were to us. When on duty in the ward in 
which the prisoners were kept, they would hardly 
give us any attention at all, and that little very 
reluctantly. These women poured curses in a far 
worse manner than the men upon us and the 
Allies, but more especially upon their hated 
enemy England. 

The worst aspects of our experiences happened 
when we were carried into the operating theatre 
to have our wounds dressed. Here, two nurses 
would usually be on duty. Those days became a 
nightmare to me and I looked forward to them 
with dread. I would be carried in and laid upon 
the operating table. One of the nurses would 
come to me and, shaking her fist in my face, would 
exclaim: "Schwein Englander!" to the other 
occupants of the room, to inform them that 
here was one of the accursed English one of the 
men who had fought against them, and had been 
killing beloved Germans to gain English gold. 
. She would then proceed to remove the bandages 
from my leg, all the time calling down curses upon 
me and England. She would wrench off the 
bandages in the roughest manner, causing me 
terrible pain. If I winced with the pain, she 
would laugh and sneer and turn to the others and 


say that the brave Englander could not bear 
even a little pain. When it came to removing the 
piece of bandage directly over the wound, which 
usually adhered firmly to my leg, she would be 
especially rough. While tearing off this piece of 
bandage she would laugh, as if torturing a helpless 
prisoner were the best joke of all. 

We all breathed a prayer of thankfulness when, 
two weeks later, the medical unit in charge, which 
happened to be one of the regular Medical Corps 
units of the German Army, was ordered to the 
Russian Front. This meant that the nurses who 
had treated us with such cruelty would also have 
to go. 

The hospital was then taken over by one of the 
units of the Field Hospital Corps, similar to the unit 
which had been in charge of the hospital at Hand- 
zaeme. From this time on, until I was being sent 
back on the train from Germany to Holland, I 
did not see or receive any more attention from 
German nurses. Judging from the little experi- 
ence I had of them, I am not the least bit sorry. 


Great changes were made in the method of 
conducting the hospital from the time the Field 


Hospital Corps came in and took charge. Some 
of these changes, however, were for the worse and 
meant that we received more cruel treatment. For 
example, the new doctor was a young man, who 
held a very high rank in the German Army. He 
was, perhaps, the most fiendishly cruel human 
being I have ever had the misfortune to meet. 
He, like many of the German officers, spoke 
excellent English. 

In one room in the hospital lay seVen wounded 
prisoners. Each one of us had been badly 
wounded in one or both limbs. Every second or 
third morning the doctor would come into the 
room, supposedly to examine our wounds. We 
lay in a row along one side of the ward. The 
doctor would go to the first man, take hold of his 
wounded limb and deliberately twist the foot or 
the knee and wrench the limb in the most terrible 
manner, causing the unfortunate prisoner to 
writhe and scream in his agony. 

At that, the doctor would smile and pass on to 
the next man and torture him in a similar manner. 
Then on to the next and the next, right along the 
row, twisting and puHing our limbs, striking our 
wounds, torturing each one as he went. It is 
hard to imagine the condition that we were in 


after he had finished with us. We would be all 
screaming and moaning from the pain he had 
caused. I was the fifth in the row, so I always 
knew when my turn came and what to expect. 
On leaving, the doctor would turn as he reached 
the door, sneer and say, " Yes, yes, my friends ; 
that will make you realize that you are at war!" 

The suspense under which we lived between 
this doctor's visits was almost unbearable, and 
the dread of having him come into the room 
began to tell upon our minds. It was on his 
third visit that I had a narrow escape from losing 
my life. 

The doctor was in the room torturing us in his 
usual manner. He had just finished with three 
of the boys and I knew it would be but a few 
minutes before my turn came. After what 
appeared to my fevered imagination to be hours 
of waiting he at last arrived at the foot of my 
bed. Taking a firm hold of my foot, he began to 
twist the limb. I bore it as long as ever I could 
but the agony became too great and I burst out, 
" You devil, why don't you torture your own men 
as you torture us? You are a typical German; 
you torture and maltreat those who are helpless 
and unable to hit back." 


The words had hardly left my lips when I 
realized the terrible mistake I had made and the 
danger that I had, without doubt, placed myself 
in. I began to feel afraid, terribly afraid, and 
burst out crying. The doctor did not utter a 
word, but just dropped my foot on to the bed. 
turned and left the room. An orderly standing- 
near came to me and said, " So, you Schwein 
Englander, you speak to an officer in that manner. 
Well, you will be shot." 

Personally, I fully expected to be shot or killed 
in some other manner for what I had done. 
Nevertheless I tried to console myself by think- 
ing that even death would be preferable to living 
in that hospital in the hands of the Germans, con- 
tinually tortured and ill-treated. Strange to say, 
nothing more came of the incident and the doctor 
did not even mention it when next he came into 
the room a few days later. The next day, though, 
one of the German orderlies informed me that I 
had only just escaped being shot. 


A number of the orderlies in the hospital, 
members of the Field Hospital Corps, had been 
students previous to the war and seemed to be 


well educated men. I had frequent talks with a 
number of them on the subject of the war and 
the ultimate outcome of the struggle. (These 
men also spoke English.) It was surprising to 
see the confidence they possessed at that time. 
All were absolutely convinced that the war would 
end very soon and that Germany would be com- 
pletely victorious. The propaganda that had been 
spread by the German Government undoubtedly 
had its effect also, for these orderlies told us that 
the Allies were being beaten to their knees, and 
driven out of France and Belgium. They also 
stated that the Allied soldiers were throwing 
down their arms and crying for mercy every- 
where to the conquering Germans. These men 
were absolutely firm in their belief; every story 
to them was quite true; they never missed an 
opportunity of impressing upon us the invincibility 
of Germany. 

It was surprising also to learn the great con- 
fidence they had in their submarines and 
Zeppelins. We were told that the Allied navies 
had been driven from the seas by the German 
navy; that every transport attempting to cross 
the ocean had been sunk by German submarines. 
They also informed us that England was being 



starved into submission by the German blockade 
and that most of the important cities of Great 
Britain had been destroyed completely by bombs 
dropped from Zeppelins. To add weight to these 
statements they showed us several pictures in the 
German illustrated papers. These pictures showed 
such cities as London, Birmingham, Manchester, 
Newcastle, Edinburgh, and Glasgow in flames, 
with buildings completely destroyed, supposedly 
by German bombs. 

Hearing this kind of news continually morn- 
ing, noon and night we came almost to believe 
these reports. When I at last returned to Eng- 
land, it was quite a time before I was convinced 
that after all the Allies could and would win the 
war. Arrived in London and Birmingham, I 
expected to find those cities destroyed as I had 
seen them pictured in the German newspapers. 

Imagine my surprise and relief when I found 
that little or no damage had been done by the 
Zeppelins. I found out that Birmingham, New- 
castle, Edinburgh and Glasgow had never even 
had a German Zeppelin or airship pass overhead, 
and, most certainly, no bombs had ever been 
dropped there. Yet the Germans believed all that 
lying propaganda and their papers printed those 


fictitious pictures. Is it, then, any wonder that 
the German people and soldiers were convinced 
that the end of the war was near and that victory 
would crown the German cause ? 


We seven wounded prisoners were an unhappy 
group. The two unfortunate French soldiers 
could not talk any English, and as we knew little 
or no French we could not hold much conversa- 
tion with them and found out very little of their 
previous history. 

One of the poor fellows had lost a leg and an 
arm and the other had a badly shattered leg which 
was set in such a manner that it was no less than 
ten inches short. He had obviously been a splen- 
did specimen of manhood previous to the war, 
but now he was crippled for life by the inhuman 
treatment of the Huns. We never even learned 
his name, but just called him Napoleon. He 
seemed to like the name, however, and evidently 
was proud that we had chosen such a name for 
him. Occasionally he managed to hobble around 
on crutches, but it was pitiful to see him, with 
one leg dangling useless at his side because of 
the barbarity of the Huns. 



We five Canadians, however, became fast 
chums. There were Private French from 
Quebec, Private Holyoak from Toronto, Annaud 
from Victoria, Robertson from Calgary, and 
myself. Annaud and Holyoak had received ter- 
rible wounds at Ypres, from which they sub- 
sequently died. French recovered from his 
wounds, but was left with both his legs perman- 
ently stiff. Robertson lost his leg from the thigh. 
He was very bitter toward the German doctors, 
as he had been wounded in the ankle and con- 
sidered that they could have amputated his leg 
below the knee instead of at the hip. He was 
no doubt right in his contention, as I know per- 
sonally at least a dozen men who were prisoners 
who tell the same story exactly. 

Being helpless as we were, there was practically 
nothing that we could do to pass away the time 
except talk. In the weeks that I spent at 
Thourout hospital I learned the life history of 
each of the other four and they learned mine. 
We would have given anything for a book ; given 
anything to see something printed in our own 
language. To have been allowed to read would 
have been indeed a Godsend to us. 


One of the German orderlies did not seem to 
be as bitter towards us as the rest and so, one day, 
I asked him if it would be possible to get us a 
book or something to read. He said that he did 
not think so as the Government had gathered in 
all English literature and everything else that was 
printed in English. They had absolutely for- 
bidden the circulation of anything printed in the 
hated language. A few days afterwards, though, 
this orderly brought me a copy of " Faust " in 
English, but printed in the form of poetry. The 
story was not the least bit interesting in that 
form, but we absolutely devoured it. One of us 
would read it, then pass it along to the next 
man ; he would read it and again pass it on. So 
it went from one to another of us. I believe I 
read the book through at least a dozen times. 


On four different occasions German Army 
chaplains came to the hospital to visit us. We 
wished many times that they would stay away, as 
the orderlies and soldiers seemed far more bitter 
towards us after these visitations. The first 
chaplain to visit us came to me and began to ask 


me questions about the war and also about 
Canada. Then he asked the eternal question that 
was put by practically every German with whom 
I came into contact, " But why did you come to 
fight? Why did Canada send her troops over 
the ocean to fight in a war that was none of her 
concern?" I tried to explain, going into the same 
details that I had done at least a hundred times 
before, " that Canadians were patriots ; our 
Motherland needed help; she was in danger; we 
heard the call, and so came to her aid." He was 
just the same as the others, he could not under- 
stand it. " But you volunteered," he went on ; 
" you were not forced to come into this war. 
Even your own Government does not force you 
to become soldiers. Perhaps you come for adven- 
ture ?" I did not answer, so he asked, " What 
money do you receive from the English Govern- 
ment as pay for fighting?" " Nothing," I an- 
swered ; " we receive our pay as soldiers from 
Canada." "How much?" he queried. "One 
dollar and ten cents a day," I said. He thought 
this over for a few minutes and then almost 
screamed at me, " Four marks a day?" I nodded. 
" Murderers," he hissed, and then called for the 
orderlies and soldiers to come near. 


What he said to these men I could not know, 
but he went on addressing them in a frantic 
manner, continually pointing at the other four 
Canadians and myself. He was in a terrible rage 
and was fast working the others into the same 
pitch of excitement. Every few minutes he 
would point to me and I would hear the exclama- 
tion, " Vier Mark ein Tag " (four marks a day). 
He was no doubt telling the same story as the 
doctor, namely, that the Canadians were nothing 
more nor less than a group of cold-blooded 
adventurous murderers, who were hired by Eng- 
land to come to Europe and kill the German 
people. This was the attitude that all the Ger- 
mans seemed to take towards us and I heard this 
same accusation many, many times while a 

Shortly after this chaplain went away we 
were not sorry to see him go and we at once 
noticed the changed manner in the orderlies and 
soldiers. His words had the desired effect. The 
three following chaplains who visited us acted in 
very much the same manner. No doubt they 
called themselves men of God and thought they 
were doing good in the world. They were men 
of god the German god of lust, barbarity, and 


ruthlessness. 1 cannot imagine a chaplain of the 
Allied armies acting towards German prisoners 
as these German chaplains acted towards us. 


Every few days a number of high German 
officers would come to the hospital and naturally 
they had to be shown the helpless wounded 
prisoners. When these officers passed our beds 
we had to raise our hands to our heads as a 
salute. It was absolutely ridiculous for men lying 
in bed, as we were, to be expected to salute, still 
we had to do it ; woe betide us if we refused. 
The strange part of it all was that these officers 
seemed pleased to receive our salutes and they 
would gravely salute in return. Their parting 
shot to us usually was, " England ist Kaput " 
(England is done for). 


Thourout must have been a base for one of the 
German armies, for we continually heard troops 
marching outside the hospital. Sometimes they 
were led by military bands, as we heard some 
really splendid and inspiring music as they went 


by. Frequently regiments would pass singing. 
The German soldiers do sing well, and I was told 
by a German officer that the singing was part of 
a German soldier's training. The songs we heard 
were usually " Die Wacht am Rhein " or 
" Deutchland, Deutchland ueber Alles." 


Near to the hospital there was undoubtedly a 
base for the Zeppelins also, for oftentimes in the 
evening we could hear the whirr of giant motors, 
and one of the orderlies would tell us that more 
Zeppelins had started on their way to bomb the 
towns of England. One night the whirr of the 
motors was far louder than usual, and we also 
heard a great deal of cheering from soldiers out- 
side the hospital. One of the orderlies came run- 
ning in to the room greatly excited. "Zeppelins," 
he yelled. " Fifteen of them on their way to 
bomb Dunkirk." I think that the Allied airmen 
knew that Thourout was a Zeppelin base, for they 
seemed to raid the town almost every day, drop- 
ping a great many bombs. Many of these bombs 
fell quite close to the hospitals, and sometimes we 
wondered if we were going to be killed by a bomb 
dropped by one of our own airmen. Luckily 


none of the bombs struck the hospital. Our men 
had not learned the German art of bombing 
hospitals and the Red Cross. 


I had been in Thourout hospital for several 
weeks when it was discovered that I was at last 
fit to travel to one of the prison camps in Ger- 
many. To this day I remember the horrors of 
that terrible journey from Thourout to Giessen 
prison camp; the memory of it will be with me 
always, I am afraid. One afternoon I was 
placed upon a stretcher and carried to a railroad 
depot. There I was put alongside several other 
wounded prisoners all helpless and on stretchers 
who also were to travel to the prison camp in 
Germany. We were placed on one of the plat- 
forms and had to wait till late that night for the 
train to arrive. We were all lifted on board and 
the journey started. 

There were altogether about two hundred 
wounded prisoners on the train most of them 
quite helpless all bound for the same destina- 
tion. The train was an old, broken-down affair 
and the accommodation was atrocious. There 
were small compartments which would ordinarily 


have been for six passengers, but we were seri- 
ously overcrowded when ten men were put into 
each compartment. We, who were unable to 
walk or take care of ourselves, were laid on 
bundles of straw on the floor. I travelled in this 
manner for a day and a half until we reached 
Aix-la-Chapelle. My companions were French 
soldier prisoners, and as we did not understand 
each other's language not very much conversation 
was held in which I took part. 

While passing through Belgium the journey 
was not so awfully bad. Occasionally, when we 
stopped at a station for any length of time, the 
civilian people would give us food and on two 
occasions we received coffee. 

Arrived at Aix-la-Chapelle, which was the first 
town in Germany at which we stopped, we were 
taken from the train and herded together in the 
railroad station. The insults the German civilians 
and soldiers showered upon us there are beyond 
description. These people would come near and 
laugh and sneer at our pitiful conditions. Some 
would throw stones at us, while others would 
spit in the faces of those who lay helpless upon 
the stretchers. Here we again heard more of the 
now well-known phrase, " Gott strafe England," 


as practically every one of the Germans upon see- 
ing a British uniform would utter this curse. 

We were kept in that depot for several hours 
and then placed on board another train to con- 
tinue our journey. We were now passing 
through Germany. Had we not known this, it 
would soon have been impressed upon us by the 
manner in which the people acted at every town 
where the train stopped. As I was travelling on 
straw thrown on the bottom of the train I could 
not see very much, but I could hear the boos and 
curses of the people as they passed near the train. 
The journey from Aix-la-Chapelle to Giessen 
took about twenty-six hours. During all that 
time the only food we received was about four 
ounces of black bread, so we were in a pitiful 
state when we at last arrived at our destination. 
We crossed the famous River Rhine at Cologne. 

I had often wished to see the Rhine, and many 
times after joining the Army I had visions of 
myself crossing with my regiment at the head of 
the victorious Allied Army. Little did I think 
that I would cross the Rhine as a prisoner in the 
arms of a bulky German guard. This man was a 
typical German, proud of his country and of that 
famous river. As we were crossing he lifted me 


up to enable me to look out of the window of the 
train and see for myself what the Rhine was like. 
To me the river itself was beautiful, but the 
thoughts the scene sent rushing through my mind 
as I considered my pitiful plight were almost 


It was around midnight when the train at last 
pulled into the depot at Giessen. Motor am- 
bulances were waiting to convey the stretcher 
cases to the prison camp and I was put in one 
and whisked away. Eventually we arrived at the 
camp and I was carried to one of the huts 
assigned as a hospital, put on a rough bed and 
left to myself. Had it not been that I saw so 
many of the boys who were in a much worse con- 
dition than myself, I believe I should have broken 
down completely. 

" A prisoner of war." " A prisoner of war." 
That phrase kept passing through my mind every 
minute. The sound of people's feet as they 
walked along seemed to beat time to it and drive 
it home into my brain. " A prisoner of war." 
Yes, here I was in a prison camp in Germany. 
My position as a prisoner had not weighed upon 


me until I arrived at Giessen, but from the 
moment I entered the camp, the mortification of 
it all overcame me. 

About an hour afterwards the new arrivals 
were given a bowl of the most ghastly mixture 
imaginable, which the Germans called soup. It 
was simply horrible, but as most of us were 
famished we were grateful even for that and ate 
eagerly. I slept very little that night, for several 
reasons. Firstly, because my wounds were caus- 
ing me so much pain by reason of the hard 
travelling I had done. The journey to Giessen 
had taken nearly three days and the continual 
jolting of the train had caused my bandages to 
work loose. They had almost fallen off, leaving 
the wounds exposed. Secondly, because I was 
so worried about the ultimate outcome of it all ; 
and, lastly, because the men all around me were 
crying out in their agony. 


Next morning I was put through a regular 
" Third Degree " by two of the German non- 
commissioned officers regarding my military 
career. I had to tell, when and where I had 
enlisted, and zvhyl My regiment, division, and 


army corps. When, where and how, I was 
wounded and captured, and through what hands 
I had passed since becoming a Guest of the Kaiser 
(a prisoner of war). 

This cross-questioning, we learned, took place 
every time a new batch of prisoners came to the 
camp. Before the German non-coms, came 
around to us, prisoners who had been in the camp 
for some time warned us of what was coming 
and told us not to give the Germans any military 
information and to say as little as possible. 
Needless to remark I opine we all acted upon this 
advice. I, myself, told the Germans the most 
wonderful story of my career, all of it false. 
For example, according to my story, I belonged 
to a regiment that, up to that time, had not left 
Canada. To a division that had been sent to 
India, and worst of all, but to me best of all, I 
told them that I enlisted because I was forced to 
do so. The Germans, of course, kept all these 
records, but from the varied stories they were 
told, I do not imagine they gained any informa- 
tion of much military value. 

Later that day I was carried into another hut 
and told that I was in Company 6, and in Hospital 
M.G.K., Giessen. 


Many weary weeks I spent in this same hut; 
it was a hospital in name only. The medical 
attention we received was deliberately negligent; 
in fact, many of the poor boys received hardly 
any attention at all, but were left for days, even 
weeks, in the most awful condition, with badly 
bandaged, dirty, festering wounds. Left lying 
there helpless ; many of them to die as a result of 
this inhuman neglect. There were no nurses or 
orderlies to attend to our needs. A few of the 
French prisoners had been detailed for hospital 
duty, but they had so much work to do that it 
was out of the question for them to give us proper 

The hut was built to accommodate about fifty 
beds, and these were so close that we could touch 
the man on either side. Our beds were rough 
wooden structures upon which a bundle of straw 
had been thrown and the covering was old rags 
that had been sewn together, probably by other 
prisoners. Imagine trying to sleep or rest in an 
easy position, with an open wound, upon a bundle 
of straw. Many of the unfortunate prisoners in 
that hut had terrible wounds in their backs, yet 
they had to lie upon the straw also. This straw 
would work itself between the bandages and cause 


great irritation, sometimes get into the wound, 
causing excruciating pain. 

About twice a week the doctor came to visit us 
and see whose wounds needed dressing. All our 
wounds needed dressing, but he would pick out 
only five or six, attend to their bandages and then 
go away, so that sometimes our wounds would 
not receive a new dressing or clean bandaging for 
ten or twelve days on end. On this account many 
of the prisoners ultimately lost their limbs, for the 
wounds would fester from the dirty bandages, 
gangrene would set in and the limtj have to be 

Upon being picked out by the doctor for a new 
dressing, we would be carried to one end of the 
hut, a screen placed around, and then the doctor 
would proceed in no gentle manner to tear off 
the old bandages and put on clean or half-clean 
ones. All the dirty bandages were saved and 
washed and the bed patients would be given the 
task of straightening them out and rolling them 
again ready for use. The shortage of cotton 
fabric was apparent, as the Germans frequently 
used a paper composition for bandaging. 

I had been a prisoner for several months before 
I was able to get up and hobble around on 



crutches. I call them crutches, as they served the 
purpose, but they were just rough pieces of board 
which had been cut to reach from my shoulders to 
the ground. Some of the crutches in Giessen 
Camp were grotesque in appearance. Our captors 
did not supply the wounded with crutches, so we 
used anything we could secure which would give 
support. Pieces of wood, planking, or board were 
utilized, and I have even seen men supporting 
themselves upon lengths of steel or iron rods with 
a piece of rag tied on the end to make it more 
comfortable under the arms. 


After I was able to get around I found that 
the time passed more quickly, as I could go into 
the court-yard and speak to some of the other 
British prisoners. (Most of the men of my hut 
were Belgians, French and Russians, and I could 
not hold much conversation with them.) I thus 
saw a little more of the camp and got some idea 
of the place in which I was confined. 

It was said at that time that Giessen was one 
of the best prison camps in Germany, and that 
prisoners there received far better treatment than 
any other. This perhaps may have been true, but 


if Giessen was one of the best camps, then it is 
beyond my power to imagine what the others 
were like. 

Giessen was also, we understood, one of the 
biggest of the German prison camps. The camp 
consisted of about a thousand huts, each hut hav- 
ing accommodation for forty or fifty prisoners. 
At the time I was there there were in the camp 
as prisoners representatives of practically all the 
nations who were fighting against the Germans. 
The men of different nationalities, however, were 
not kept in separate huts, as one would expect, 
but in each unit were placed a few Belgians, a 
few French, a few Russians, some native troops, 
and a number of British prisoners. Their object 
in doing this was to prevent the prisoners from 
fraternizing too much and getting together to 
form cliques or organized mobs. 

Alongside of the camp a number of high plat- 
forms had been built, which commanded a view 
of the entire place, and upon these platforms 
machine guns and small field pieces were mounted. 
Behind these guns German soldiers were con- 
tinually on guard. The guns were trained upon 
the camp, so it would have been an easy matter 
to suppress any mutiny which might break out 


among the prisoners by the simple expedient of 
turning the guns upon them and wiping them out 
of existence. 

The huts were divided into allotments by 
barbed wire fences, and beside these fences 
German guards carrying loaded rifles with fixed 
bayonets continually paced on duty. We were 
not allowed even to speak to the prisoners on the 
other side of the barbed wire fence. When we 
attempted to do so, we were threatened with the 
bayonet by one of the guards. 

Most of these men who acted as guards and 
sentries in the camp were old fellows, members 
of the Landsturm, the class in the German Army 
chosen for home duty; usually men over fifty- 
five years of age. They did not interfere with 
or trouble us very much, and as long as the 
prisoners behaved they did not seem to mind what 
happened. The officers and non-commissioned 
officers, however, were especially bitter toward us 
and they never missed an opportunity of ill- 
treating or abusing us in some manner. Every 
time they passed a British prisoner they would 
curse him soundly in German and utter terrible 
imprecations and curses against England. 


A strange feature of the whole situation was 
that the Germans never liked us to appear cheerful 
in any way. As most people know, Tommy 
generally manages to be cheerful even when 
enduring the worst of hardships or living under 
the most appalling conditions imaginable. He 
can always give and take a joke ; and can always 
smile. Even in the prison camps of Germany 
Tommy could smile, trying for the time to forget 
his troubles. 

Occasionally, a number of us would congregate 
in the court yard and hold a regular pow-wow, 
telling stories, etc. After a few minutes, perhaps, 
one of the boys would hum a song that we had 
sung in happier times. Before long all would join 
in and -have a regular sing-song and forget that 
we were prisoners. Our singing never lasted very 
long, though, for as soon as we were heard by 
one of the German officers or non-coms., over he 
would rush to the group, when we would receive 
a sound cursing, perhaps a few blows, and be 
driven back to our huts, there to remain for the 
rest of the day as punishment for our attempt at 
cheerfulness. This attitude in our captors made 
life almost unbearable, and it seemed to us pretty 


rough that we were not allowed to forget our 
troubles for even a few minutes. 

There were several incidents, however, that 
raised many a laugh among us at the expense of 
some of the old guards. Many of these men did 
not understand one word of English. In the 
morning when they came on duty they would 
pass through the hut, nod to some of us and 
exclaim in an almost friendly manner, " Guten 
Morgen, Kamerad " (good morning, comrade). 
Our boys, I among them, would gravely acknowl- 
edge the nod and, with an innocent expression 
on our faces, would answer in English, " Go to 

the d 1, old top !" " To h 1 with you," and 

such expressions. The sentry would pass on, 
thinking we had said " Good morning " or had 
passed some remark about the weather. Lucky 
for us that none who understood English came 
through the hut at this time. 

The Germans did not provide us with any 
clothing whatsoever, and we were always dressed 
in rags. The only clothing we had was the 
ragged uniforms in which we had come from the 
battle-field or clothing that some were fortunate 
enough to receive in parcels from home, or from 
some patriotic society or another. 


I have seen men in Giessen Camp fighting and 
quarrelling among themselves to decide who was 
to receive the clothing left by some poor unfor- 
tunate prisoner who had died in the camp. Had 
it not been for the parcels of clothing that were 
sent to the camp by the " Red Cross Society " it 
is hard to imagine what would have happened. 
On all our clothes the Germans painted broad 
yellow stripes so that should any escape we would 
be recognized by the public as prisoners of war. 

During the whole time I spent in Giessen Camp 
I was practically unable to walk; I could only 
hobble around slowly on the crutches. On this 
account I was perhaps fortunate, as I was never 
placed in any of the working parties and sent out 
to work. 


The men who were in any way fit, however, 
were forced to take part in all kinds of labours. 
Some were forced to work in the mines, salt and 
coal mines generally. Working in these mines 
for any length of time had a terrible effect on 
the prisoners, for many returned to the camp 
absolute physical and mental wrecks. Maniacal 
laughter would rise from the ones who had 
broken down and lost their reason under the 


strain. Other prisoners were sent to the Eastern 
or Western Fronts to dig reserve trenches for the 
German Army. What eventually happened to 
these men we do not know, as none of them ever 
returned to the camp. 

The worst feature of all, however, was that 
most of the men who appeared in any way fit 
were forced to work in the munition factories. 
Just imagine what that meant to them! They 
were forced to make shells for our enemies, shells 
that might kill our own men. Of course, our 
boys always fought against doing this and many 
of them suffered terrible tortures and punish- 
ments before at last consenting to make them. It 
was usually useless to rebel, as the Germans had 
so many methods of breaking the wills of the 
prisoners and making them do as they desired. 

Just before leaving Giessen Camp to come 
home a group of our boys came to me and gave 
me this message for the people " back home," 
" For God's sake tell the people at home that the 
Germans are forcing us to make ammunition." 


The methods the Germans used in punishing 
the prisoners and forcing them to work at 


munitions and in the mines were cruel in the 
extreme. There were so many rules and regula- 
tions in the camp that it was impossible not to 
break one or another some time. For the minor 
offences, such as insolence to a guard or not obey- 
ing an order with alacrity, or failing to obey the 
order in the desired manner, there were such 
punishments as solitary confinement in a darkened 
room for several days, being forced at the 
point of a bayonet to stand perfectly still at 
" Attention," or being deprived of food for a 
certain period. The punishments for the more 
serious offences, such as trying to escape, striking 
one of the guards, or refusing to work, were 
much more severe. For failing to obey the 
numerous rules and orders some one was sure to 
be getting it hot all the time. 

When it was found that a prisoner refused to 
work for the Germans ^and the majority refused 
at first the man would be taken out and a heavy 
sack of bricks tied upon his back. He would then 
be forced to march up and down a steep hill at 
the point of a bayonet. If he stumbled or became 
exhausted, he would be prodded with the point of 
a bayonet and forced to continue until he con- 
sented to do the work which had been assigned to 


him, or until he fainted under the strain. Upon 
recovery from the faint the same treatment would 
be continued until the man in sheer desperation 
consented to work. 

While in Giessen I heard that several prisoners 
had been shot for attempting to escape and for 
committing other offences against their captors. 

One of the worst forms of punishment was to 
force the unfortunate prisoners to stand for a 
certain time in front of hot fires till their faces 
and bodies became scorched with the intense heat. 
I saw several of the men who had undergone this 
form of punishment and their faces and bodies 
were in a pitiable condition from the burns that 
they had received. 


The food we received was as bad as it possibly 
could have been. During the whole time I was in 
Giessen the only food that was served to us was 
black bread and soup. No proper conception of 
how bad it really was can be gained from a mere 
description. We got the same fare continually. 
On some mornings we would be fortunate, how- 
ever, and receive a cup of the now famous acorn 
coffee. Later, a piece of black bread would be 


thrown to us. At noon we received a bowl of 
the most horrible concoction which the Germans 
called soup. From what it was made I do not 
know. Sometimes there would be a small piece 
of meat in the bowl horse flesh, we felt sure. 
The soup was vile and evil-smelling and as it was 
very unpalatable as well very few of us ate it. At 
night we would receive another piece of black 
bread. The manner in which this bread was given 
to us was typically German. At a certain hour we 
would take our allotted places in the huts and a 
German soldier would walk through carrying 
upon his arm a basket containing portions of the 
bread. As he walked past he would throw each 
of us a piece of bread just as food is thrown to 
wild animals. Living on this we were always 
hungry. In the hut hospital in which I spent most 
of the time, the food was just as bad. No allow- 
ance at all was made for the unfortunate fellows 
who were in poor health, or so sick as to be unable 
to eat the prison fare. They had to eat it or starve. 
Some of the British and Canadian prisoners 
were fortunate in receiving parcels of food from 
their relatives at home and from various societies 
in England and Canada. The Red Cross and 
societies formed to aid British prisoners were very 


active. One of the branches of the Red Cross in 
Switzerland occasionally sent a quantity of white 
bread into the camp. This was at once swallowed 
up and if one were fortunate enough to secure 
even a small piece he felt lucky. We usually gave 
some of this bread to the men who were sick. It 
seemed queer to us that the Germans allowed the 
prisoners to receive parcels, but strange though 
it sounds, most of the parcels that were sent to 
British prisoners actually reached the men for 
whom they were intended. 

If I were to write for ever upon this subject, it 
would be impossible for me to make people realize 
what those parcels meant to the prisoners. How 
the boys looked forward to them! How they 
appreciated them and blessed the kindness that 
prompted people to send them. 

Of course, we did not all receive parcels. I 
received none, but that is easily accounted for. 
I had been reported as " Missing " and nobody 
knew where I was or even if I were alive. The 
boys who were fortunate enough to receive par- 
cels always shared them as far ^s possible with 
the rest of us. The spirit of sacrifice and utter 
unselfishness which exists among soldiers was 
never better illustrated than in that prison camp. 


When I say that those parcels of food were prac- 
tically all that kept us from starvation, some little 
idea of our need for food can be gathered. 


The hatred that the Germans had for every- 
thing British was at its height at this time and we 
Canadians and British suffered accordingly. The 
camp officers and non-coms, seemed to have but 
one set purpose to treat the hated "Englanders" 
as badly as they could and make their existence 
almost unbearable. Of course, the prisoners of 
other nationalities did not receive good treatment, 
but the venom with which the British were treated 
was marked. The German officers did not deny 
this; in fact, many of them took the trouble to 
explain to us why we received worse treatment 
than the rest. I have heard German officers say 
words to the following effect when addressing a 
group of British prisoners : " You swine Eng- 
landers, you are not as the Russians, the Belgians 
or the French. They were forced to come to fight 
against us. You came of your own free will; 
you volunteered. Now, you can suffer the con- 
sequences." Well, we certainly did suffer the 
consequences. The prisoners of other nationalities 


were allowed to hold concerts and entertainments 
and gather together in groups, but never the 

The worst feature of being a prisoner of war 
in Germany is the suspense under which you are 
forced to live. The monotony of it all! The 
feeling of never knowing what minute may be 
one's last ! Living in the hands of enemies, sur- 
rounded by men who hated us, who would think 
nothing of ending our lives, and hearing nothing 
of what was going on in the outside world ( for in 
a German prison camp it seems as though one 
were living in a place apart from the rest of the 
earth) began to tell upon our minds. I saw num- 
bers of men whose hair had turned white, who 
became absolute physical and mental wrecks as a 
result of their stay in captivity. 

The monotony of it all and the strain of the 
hard work told on the prisoners and they became 
moody and queer. It was a common sight in the 
camp to see a group sitting around not saying a 
word or uttering a sound just sitting there, 
brooding silently. This condition was more 
noticeable among the men who accepted this fate 
as inevitable and saw no hope. Many of them 
became mentally unhinged by reason of getting 


into such a low, depressed frame of mind. And 
no wonder. The life was enough to unhinge 
the soundest brain. 


I happened to be a prisoner in Giessen at the 
time that Sir Roger Casement, the Irish traitor, 
tried to raise a regiment among the Irish pris- 
oners in Germany to fight against the Allies. Of 
the propaganda that Casement spread throughout 
Germany and of the traitorous work that he 
accomplished in Ireland, I know but little; but I 
do know of the reception his agents received in 
Giessen. Casement did not visit Giessen in person, 
but he sent several of his agents to the camp to 
spread propaganda among us and to offer the 
Irish prisoners certain inducements to fight for 

These agents told us that a regiment had been 
formed in Germany, composed of Irishmen who 
wished to throw off the yoke of English tyranny 
and fight in the ranks of Germany. 

The regiment had been named the " Irish 
Legion." (We at once changed the name to the 
" Kaiser's Own," and by that name it was after- 
wards known among the prisoners.) Volunteers 


were called for from among the Irish prisoners 
to join the regiment. They were told that each 
man who joined would wear a distinctive green 
uniform (I guess the Germans thought that green 
would appeal to the Irish), and after a certain 
period would be sent to the Eastern Front. It 
was pointed out that the regiment would not be 
called upon to serve on the Western Front where 
there would be danger of capture by other British 
or Irish regiments, but would serve only against 
the Russians. When the war was over with 
Germany victorious the survivors of the regi- 
ment were each to receive one thousand dollars 
and free transportation to the United States of 
America. (Very pleasant plans the Germans had 
formed for the people of America. ) With all these 
inducements offered and, best of all, with a chance 
to get away from the prison camp, it is a wonder- 
ful tribute to the loyalty of the Irish, to be able to 
say that from the hundreds of Irish prisoners in 
Giessen Camp, only seventeen volunteered to join 
the "Kaiser's Own." 

About a week afterwards these seventeen men 
were called out, but in the meantime the other 
Irish prisoners had heard all about it, so it was 
not surprising that the seventeen were unfit for 


service in the " Kaiser's Own," or for that matter 
in anybody else's own. The other Irishmen in 
the camp had seen to that. 


If we were on good behaviour, and not serving 
any punishment, we were allowed to send and to 
receive mail. Each prisoner was permitted to 
send two letters and four postcards each month. 
The letters had to be very short and no informa- 
tion, whatsoever, could be given regarding con- 
ditions either in camp or in Germany. All the 
mail was strictly censored and if a prisoner wrote 
anything derogatory to the Germans, the letter 
or card was destroyed. If, however, t we wrote 
that we were being treated well, and that condi- 
tions were favourable, there was every probability 
of our mail being forwarded. Moreover, we did 
not wish to worry our relatives and friends at 
home, by recounting tales of our sufferings. For 
these two reasons, we invariably wrote news which 
would please the Germans and appear cheerful to 
the home folks. 

Most of the mail that was sent into the camp 
reached the men for whom it was intended, but 
only after it had passed a strict examination by 



the censor. Frequently whole pages of letters 
would be cut out, or blotted over to make reading 
impossible. Still for these scant shreds of news 
we were able to get through the mail we were 
deeply grateful. As the boys shared their parcels 
so they shared their mail. A letter from the 
home town would be read by dozens of the boys, 
each one trying to imagine the letter had been 
written to himself. 




Time passed slowly but surely and the weary 
months dragged along somehow. I had been a 
prisoner of war for several months when a 
rumour reached the camp that there was to 
be an exchange of incapacitated British prisoners. 
The Britishers immediately became greatly 
excited and began to wonder who would be 
picked out and sent home. At first we did not 
really believe the news. Perhaps many of us 
were afraid to as we did not wish to raise false 
hopes only to have them rudely dashed to the 
ground later. An anxious week passed, at the 
end of which time, however, the rumour had 
become an established fact. We knew then that 
some lucky ones were really to go back to Eng- 
land. It was humorous, it was exciting, it was 
pitiful to see the way some of the poor boys acted. 
Men who were just slightly wounded in the legs 


at once became hopeless cripples quite unable to 
walk. Men wounded in the arm at once developed 
an arm that was paralyzed for life. Men acted 
deaf, and half blind and anything they could con- 
trive, all in the hope that they would be picked 
out as incapacitated, placed on the exchange list 
and sent to that Mecca of a soldier's dreams 

My leg was badly crippled at the time. The 
limb was five inches short and my foot com- 
pletely paralyzed, so I thought that I, at least, 
stood a good chance of being exchanged. A few 
days before the first men were called out for 
examination I happened to be talking to one of 
the German guards. He was a very old man, a 
member of the Landsturm. From previous talks 
I had with him I gathered that he was well 
educated, as he spoke English easily. He and I 
almost became friends if that were possible with 
a German and often talked of the war and its 
possible outcome. " How long would it all last?" 
had been our eternal topic. He used to pass me as 
I stood on my crutches ; sometimes he would stop, 
pat me on the head and say, " Mein kleiner 
Englander, it is too bad that you are crippled so, 
you are so young. Only twenty years old and 


Kaput. Why did you not stay at home instead 
of coming over to fight?" 

This day, however, we did not talk of the war. 
I wanted to know all about the coming exchange 
of prisoners ; who would be picked out ? how many 
would be chosen? when the exchange would be 
made ? how ? and where ? I must have asked him 
dozens of questions in a few seconds, one question 
after another and never waiting for a reply. 

I firmly believe that it is to him I owe my free- 
dom, for it was he who gave me the idea which 
led eventually to my exchange. He told me that 
even though a man were disabled, crippled and 
unable again to enter the fighting his repatriation 
was not sure. If a prisoner showed any sign of 
possessing intelligence so that the German officers 
thought he would be of service to his own country 
after exchange, as a clerk or instructor, or be 
used by his own country in any military capacity, 
or that he could even carry back any information 
whatsoever, then he would not be exchanged. I 
felt dismayed and thought that my chances of 
being placed on the exchange list were very slim. 

Then the great idea came. I would pretend that 
I was insane ; I would convince the Germans that I 
would not be of the slightest service either to my 


own country or to them. I was very fortunate, 
as I had a great many things in my favour which 
helped me out in playing the part. At the time I 
looked very young, but the youthfulness of my 
appearance was added to greatly by reason of the 
very long hair that I had. During the whole time 
I was a prisoner my hair had not been cut. In 
addition to this had I not been wounded in the 
head? This fact I believed would help me out. 
It certainly did. 

Together with a number of other wounded 
prisoners, I was called out one morning for exam- 
ination and had to face a group of German 
officers and doctors. First, my wounds were 
examined. No doubt they soon saw that I was 
disabled as I was not detained long by the doctors. 
Then I was passed on to the officers and put 
through a regular " Third Degree " of question- 
ing. They asked me about Canada, America, 
England, France; about our Armies; about the 
movements of our troops, the doings of my regi- 
ment, and a number of other questions impossible 
to recall. At every question I just shook my head 
and gave them to understand that I did not know. 
During the whole time I was being examined I 
wore a vacant look in my eyes and stared in 


bewildered fashion at the doctors and officers, 
thus giving them the impression that I knew 
nothing and that I would never again know any- 
thing. For two weeks I was examined and 
questioned every morning by a different group of 
doctors and officers, but I always played the same 
part that of a feeble-minded young boy, who 
was practically insane. How I managed it I do 
not know. 

When I returned to England I had the great 
honour of speaking to the King. He asked me 
how I managed to play the part. Upon my return 
to Canada, I was visited by our Governor-General, 
then the Duke of Connaught, who also asked me 
the same thing. Everyone wants to know, yet I 
hardly know myself. It was a hard part to play, 
the hardest task I have ever had in my life, but 
it was worth it. It meant my freedom. 

Sometimes, when I was being examined, I 
almost broke down and felt that it would be 
impossible to continue and that I would never 
convince the Germans of my derangement. At 
those moments I would think of home, of my 
country, of my own people, of what my freedom 
would mean, of how wonderful it would be to 
leave the prison camp. To leave it and its horrors 


behind me for ever ! When I thought of these 
things, I took courage. I would grit my teeth and 
determine to see the thing through ; I would play 
the part to the end, or die in the attempt. Death 
itself, I thought, would be preferable to staying in 
the prison camp after being so near to freedom. 
If I were called upon to do the same thing 
to-day living under present circumstances I 
know that it would be absolutely impossible. 
There and at that time it was different. I was 
playing for big stakes liberty. I had been living 
for months in Hell under the worst conditions, 
and I saw one big chance to get away from it all. 


I must have been successful, for at the end of 
the two weeks I was placed upon the exchange 
list and told that I was to be sent back to England. 
I could hardly restrain myself on hearing this. I 
feared to believe it in case something at the last 
moment would prevent me from getting away. 
It all seemed so wonderful that mere words fail 
to describe my feelings. I was indeed fortunate, 
as only a handful of us had been chosen from 
among the hundreds of incapacitated prisoners in 
the camp. 


When it became definitely established that a 
few of us were to go home we were the most 
envied ones in the camp. I firmly believe that a 
number of the other poor prisoners would gladly 
have sacrificed a limb if the losing of it would 
have secured their freedom. I heard many of the 
boys make statements to that effect. I saw other 
boys go up to men who were blinded and also on 
the exchange list, take them by the hand and con- 
gratulate them on having lost their eyesight. For 
being blinded, they were going home. 


A few days afterwards we started on our way 
home. What a different journey it was from the 
previous one that we had taken through Germany. 
In spite of the fact that we were all badly crippled 
and wounded, we were in the very best of spirits. 
All were cheerful and happy at the prospect of 
being once again with our own people. At each 
of the different places at which we stopped during 
the homeward journey, we were again subjected 
to the abuse and curses of the German civilians. 
But we did not mind in the least. When they 
cursed us or threw stones at the train, we just 
laughed yes, laughed. What did we care for 


their abuse? It would soon be over now ; we were 
going Home, Home, Home. The very wheels of 
the train, the noise of the engine, seemed to din 
that sacred word into our ears. On the way we 
crossed the Rhine again. This second time, I 
thought, " Will I ever cross this river again, and, 
if so, under what conditions?" I am still 

Eventually, we came once again to Aix-la- 
Chapelle. There we were placed in a large con- 
centration camp and found ourselves among 
hundreds of other British prisoners. These were 
men, also disabled and on the exchange list, who 
had been gathered from all the other prison camps 
of Germany. Altogether, there were about nine 
hundred of us, and we began to sing, to celebrate 
the fact that we would all soon be free. 

Then came the hardest blow of all. We were 
informed that we were all to be re-examined, as 
from the nine hundred only three hundred were 
to be exchanged. The rest were to go back to the 
prison camps. It was pitiful to see how we 
received the news. Here we were, within sight of 
freedom, yet some of us would not reach it. We 
were all re-examined. When it came to my 
turn, I had to sustain the same part that I had 


played at Giessen, as my records and medical 
history were in the hands of this new group of 

To make a long story short I was again fortun- 
ate enough to " get away with it " and was once 
more placed on the exchange list with the lucky 
three hundred. But imagine the feelings of those 
poor unfortunate fellows who were rejected, and 
told they must again go back to the living Hell of 
the prison camp ! It was pitiful to see them. They 
broke down and sobbed like children when they 
realized their fate. Many of them had travelled 
for days, from remote parts of Germany, thinking 
they were going home. At the last hour they 
were turned down and all their wonderful hopes 
dashed to earth. They went back sorrowing to 
the camps, many of them to stay more weary 

Just before we left Aix-la-Chapelle I noticed a 
young German sergeant passing by me and hap- 
pened to glance at his shoulder strap. It bore the 
number 236. I grabbed the arm of one of the 
boys nearby, and exclaimed, " There goes one of 
the men belonging to the regiment that captured 


me." The German evidently heard me, for he 
turned back and pointing to his shoulder strap, 
said, "You know the number, eh?" "Yes," I 
answered, " it was your regiment that fought 
against ours at Ypres." " So," he said, " well, I 
was at Ypres; perhaps I saw you." With that he 
passed on. 

" Perhaps he saw me," I thought ; " perhaps 
he is the one that shot me !" 


Later that night the lucky three hundred were 
sent across the border into Holland, and in that 
country were exchanged by the American Am- 
bassador for three hundred Germans who had 
been sent back from England. Of these three 
hundred, twenty-two were Canadians, two native 
Indian soldiers, and the remainder British 

We never saw the Germans who had been sent 
back from England in exchange for us, but I 
cannot say we were sorry. Most of us had seen 
enough Germans to serve us for some time to 

No sooner had we crossed the frontier into 
Holland than a number of British and American 


newspapermen boarded the train and wanted to 
know all about the conditions in Germany. No 
doubt they got much more material and heard 
more stories than they could ever print. A repre- 
sentative of the British Government then took 
charge of us. He was continually questioned as 
to whether or not we were really free at last. One 
or another of the boys would go up to him and 
ask, "Mister, are we really out of Germany 
now?" or "Can the Germans get us back?" 
" Are we surely going to England ?" and so on. 
He must have got tired of answering all these 
questions, for he stood up at last and, holding up 
his hand for silence, said, " Boys, you are free 
now; you are on your way home at last. The 

d d Huns can never get you back. Your 

people at home are waiting for you ; they expect 
you. The war will soon be over; the Allies are 
winning. Do not forget that Germany will have 
to suffer for everything she has done, especially 
for the manner in which she has treated you." 
With that he sat down. How we cheered ! " Free 
at last !" Out of the power of the Huns ! Going 
home at last! It seemed almost too good to be 
true. A little later we were given a good meal 
with sandwiches of white bread the first that 


many of us had seen for months and English 
newspapers. What a different tale they told from 
the stories we had heard in Germany. At last I 
began to realize the true meaning and power of 


We only spent one day in Holland before being 
sent to England, but what a wonderful day it was ! 
The Dutch people were kindness itself and 
showered us with gifts of good things. At 
Flushing we embarked on a Dutch vessel and 
soon found ourselves within sight of the shores 
of England. As we sailed up the Thames, the 
other vessels on the river hundreds of them 
gave us a royal welcome by blowing their sirens. 
The glad welcome was taken up by the factories 
on shore, which blew their whistles unceasingly. 
A great crowd had gathered to welcome us as we 
left the boat at Tilbury Docks, London. 

We must have appeared a pitiful group of men 
as we walked, were carried, or led down the gang 
plank. All in rags and tatters, wearing parts of 
any old uniform or clothing we had picked up in 
the prison camps, and as dirty and disreputable a 
group of men as one could imagine. First a man 


without an arm would descend; then one with a 
leg missing. Another would be carried down on 
a stretcher ; another led along as he was blind. A 
wreck of a man who had been gassed stumbled 
down, followed by an orderly carrying a man who 
had lost both legs. So the pitiful procession 
went on. 

The crowd had gathered to cheer us, but they 
could not. Women sobbed aloud ; men blew their 
noses with great vigour. I do not think there was 
a dry eye in that whole great crowd. If the people 
could not cheer, we could and did. We cheered 
till we became hoarse. We were smashed up a 
little, but what did we care. We were Home! 
Happy, and in the best of spirits. The war was 
over for many of us; we would see no more 
fighting. We were Home. 

From Tilbury we were sent to the 3rd London 
General Hospital at Wandsworth and there I 
remained for five weeks. During my stay I had 
the privilege of speaking to His Majesty King 
George, when he visited the hospital. As I was 
from Canada, the King seemed to show an 
especial interest in me, and as he shook my hand 
he said, " I am proud to meet you, my boy;' I am 
always proud to meet a Canadian." 



While convalescing in England, before return- 
ing to Canada, two months in all, I was in four 
Zeppelin raids. During three of the raids I was 
in London, and during the fourth in the Canadian 
Camp at Shorncliffe. Zeppelin raids are not 
pleasant, to say the least. When a bomb was 
dropped within a few hundred yards of where I 
was standing at Shorncliffe, I was not so confident 
that after all, the Germans had finished with me. 
When I heard that I was to return to Canada I 
felt sure that I should be in a submarine disaster. 
It seemed that I had experienced everything else 
that the Germans could offer in the way of excite- 
ment. They must have taken pity on me at last, 
for I escaped the submarines and returned to my 
home town, Toronto, in safety. 

Can I ever forget my return? Never! There 
were about fifty of us on board the train all 
returning from the war as it pulled into the 
depot. When it stopped, I put my head out of the 
window and heard someone shout, " There he is." 
Yes, there I was, but not for long. I was literally 
lifted from the train and surrounded immediately 
by admiring relatives and friends. Of what 
happened during the next hour I have but hazy 


recollections. I remember being " Welcomed 
Back," being kissed, and having my arm almost 
shaken off. 


Thus I came back from the war. Later, I was 
placed in a hospital in Toronto and then began a 
series of the most wonderful operations that have 
ever been performed in Canada. It was necessary 
to have my thigh and ankle re-broken, and again 
set, this time in the proper manner. Then several 
operations had to be performed to re-join a num- 
ber of nerves that had been deliberately severed 
by the Germans. This had all to be done not 
because of the wounds that I had received but to 
repair the diabolical work of the German surgeons, 
who had deliberately attempted to cripple me for 
life. The result of the operations performed by 
the Canadian doctors is simply marvellous. When 
I left Germany I was told that I would never be 
able to walk again. I had never dared to hope 
that I should ever walk again. I was lucky in 
that I came home alive. Now, however, I can 
walk almost as well as I did before becoming " A 
Guest of the Kaiser," and am not any worse 
physically than I was before enlisting. The skill 
of our doctors has fooled the Germans. 


. IX 

In my work, I am doing my best to fool them 
also. They thought when they sent me home 
that I could not be of any further use to the 
Allied cause ; that I could never again retaliate. 

My dearest wish now would be to return to 
Germany, visit the doctors who pronounced me 
practically insane and unfit for any further ser- 
vice, and say to them, " Well, my dear Huns, you 
thought that you had crippled me when you oper- 
ated upon my wounded leg. Just look at it now. 
When you sent me home, you said that I would 
be of no further use. It is true that I was not 
able to fight against you in the field, but I can still 
' hit back.' Perhaps the twelve hundred men that 
I recruited helped to drive your hordes back, and 
the seven million dollars' worth of Liberty Bonds 
that I sold, bought some of the bullets and shells 
that confirmed your defeat. Perhaps, also, the 
propaganda that I have spread, and am still 
spreading, throughout Canada and the United 
States, will help to defeat the insidious propa- 
ganda of your treacherous agents. Why, my dear 
Huns, you are always making mistakes. You 
said that America would not fight. Did she? 
Ask your soldiers, they know. You have said so 


many things and made so many mistakes that you 
must pay the price. I can still retaliate, yes, and 
will continue to do so until you have paid the 
price, for now, thank God, the victory is ours." 

As I conclude my story I learn that the war is 
ended at last. The victory for which we struggled 
through four long years has now crowned our 
efforts. In the darkest hours, through the 
darkest days, through the darkest years, the 
soldiers and the people of the Allied countries 
never lost hope, never lost confidence, but grimly 
struggled on through terrible suffering, supreme 
in their faith in a just and righteous God. The 
dark days are past; the sun shines once more 
through the clouds ; for the strife, the killing, the 
horror and the suffering of war end, and peace 
returns to earth once more. 

We and I speak for those who were privi- 
leged to serve " Over There " learned a great 
many lessons from the war, learned them often- 
times in a bitter manner and in a hard school, for 
" Active Service " is a hard school. The one that 
stands out above all others is the lesson of 


Sacrifice! Modern war calls for sacrifice. 
Think of the sacrifice that the boys made when 
they left home and loved ones to fight for the 
great cause. Think of the sacrifice made by the 
ones who stayed at home and waited the 
mothers, wives, sisters, sweethearts, yes, and the 
fathers and brothers also. For we could not all 
go to the Front. We could not all go "over 
there " and play the part of a fighting man. Some 
were forced to stay at home. Yes, some who 
would have given all, just to be able to go. Over 
there we realized that we understood. 

Sometimes we felt sorry for those who were 
forced to stay behind. When we sailed away and 
saw the shores of Canada fading away in the 
distance, we felt that we were the lucky ones ; we 
were the privileged ones, for were we not going 
to Europe to take part in the great adventure? 
Yes, we felt sorry for you at your desks, behind 
the counters, on the farms, everywhere, except 
with us. 

Even at the Front we were sorry for you people 
at home. You were pitying us, sending us words 
of sympathy, telling of the hard conditions that 
we were so bravely enduring. Yet at the Front, 
in spite of the hardships, the horror and the 


killing, we were learning and seeing the finer side 
of human nature. We w^ - e learning the meaning 
of sacrifice. Out there, facing death continually, 
men share everything. They give away their last 
rations, their last drop of water, their last cigar- 
ette, even give up their lives for their comrades. 
At the Front gone were the selfish interests that 
weighed men down in time of peace. 

A new era is coming. We have been through 
the fire ; we have been through Hell and most of 
us have come out the better for it. 

Yet the soldiers alone did not win the war. 
The soldiers only won the battles. The nations 
won the war. The people at home were called 
upon to help, called upon to back up the boys at 
the Front, and right nobly they responded. 

Since my return I have been asked many times 
if I were sorry that I went to the Front. Sorry? 
No ! no ! a thousand times no ! Like thousands of 
others I had some trying experiences over there 
and I came back slightly smashed up, but in spite 
of it all I still feel, as I did in 1914, that I am the 
most privileged person in the world, simply 
because I was allowed to go. 

The experiences I have had, the lessons I 
learned while on active service are priceless to me. 


I have learned to know and to love real men; I 
have learned of the great brotherhood of man; 
and I learned the great lesson of sacrifice. 

I can now enjoy that feeling of quiet satisfac- 
tion which comes of knowing that when the call 
came I went. But after all I feel that I only did 
my duty. What soldier could ask for more? 

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