Sunday, March 3, 2013

27 October 1915 Somewhere in Belgium

Dear People in Toronto,

I have an hour or two this evening that I will be able to devote to writing letters etc. I wrote home on Sunday but it was not much of a letter and it was so cold in our hut that I could not sit still and besides I had no table to write on so I just had to stop and went for a walk to a village further up the road that had received its quota of shells and was in a rather dilapidated condition.

On Sunday night it started to rain and been keeping it up ever since on and off, except yesterday which was a fine day till late at night. It is very muddy and everything gets damp but if it is possible to become accustomed to wet weather, we may as well do so , for we have not much good weather ahead of us till the spring , except occasional days of no rain.

I expect we will soon be issued with the famous sheepskin coats of the 1st Division, and also waterproof cloaks with new boots soon. We haven’t had any new boots since the 24th of May when we got our big overseas ammunition boots. That was the day we moved our camp from Sandling to Otterpool and everyone who wore the stiff beggars had sore feet.

I have been receiving all your letters, so I got Maude’s last Thursday and Mae’s on the Sat. preceding. Orville’s came quite a while ago but I have not heard from Bill for quite a long time. I guess he has been pretty busy with his books and getting his affairs all wound up before enlisting. What has he joined? He will no doubt be writing me all about it soon however I don’t think I would enlist in the Medical Corps if I were he. I wish I could get a transfer but I guess it is too late now. The Artillery is the best Corps. to join I think or the cyclists are good too. The infantry get all the dirty work and the most hard work. It has the most fighting to do. But in this war the infantry just finish up what the guns start and then the ambulance steps in and has to carry most of them back – those who have that much luck.

In that engagement Mae referred to being reported in church as being won by the British and French was on while we had charge of the dressing station in Belgium, and was a considerable distance south of us. We could hear the bombardment for 2 or 3 days and when the guns ceased their incessant roar, there was hardly anything left to oppose our infantry. Not until they had penetrated a long distance into the German lines and as you will have seen by the casualty lists, they apparently met with some opposition back there.

The 28th (Northwest) Battalion has been most heavily hit of any 2nd Division so far. They have had the name of being the hoodoo ? Batt. of the 2nd Div. all along and have certainly lived (or died) up to it since coming over here. They had 490 some killed in a section of trench that was blown up by a mine. The other units have been comparatively lucky.

Orville was asking in one of his letters if the report he had from Geo. Christensen about the discontent among the Canadian munitions workers (was true). As far as I can make out from the papers here they are not being used as well or getting as much pay as they were led to believe they would receive. I saw a case of one of them taking his case into court, but judgement was not given. It appeared from the report in the report in the paper that the future action of a lot of the Can. munitions workers depended on the result of that case.

That was a pretty rotten trick of Dennis’. How are you making out with him now? Is business affected in Toronto this fall? Eggs here are 60 f (?) a doz. or 2 1/2 f (?) each. they have been that price all summer and do not seem to vary at all.

There was an inspection by Kings Albert of Belgium and George V accompanied by French Field Marshal (Foch?) and hosts of staff officers of all tanks today at a small village about 3 miles from here. Of course it would not be very practicable to have all the troops of the 2nd Div. out at one time so just 10 (?) men from each 50 (?). We sent 4 men and a staff Sargeant from our unit.

We had a trip last night to a dead city. I will not be able to give you a complete description of our trip but it was an experience I will not forget very soon. We had been sending parties up for 2 or 3 nights back for the purpose of getting bricks and fire wood. etc. and I was lucky enough to get going up last night.

The moon was just rising as we entered the ruins. All the way along the road the fields on either sides were full of big shell holes a sort of prelude to the sort of thing we were to see later on. Every building of any size that we encountered showed some signs of being shelled at some time or other. As our waggons got near the entrance of the place, we were held up by a guard for a moment and then we passed on through into the most terrible evidence of what has been going on here since last fall.

Wherever we went through the whole city (he is talking about Ypres/Leper), there was not a house left that had not been ruined so much that it was just a heap of bricks. Some have 2 or 3 walls standing but a roof is a rare thing to see. I had seen a lot of photographs and picture cards of the ruins. They all looked pretty bad but I was of the opinion that they were taken from some of the worst parts of the city. These kind of pictures can be photographed in any part of the city. The big square in the centre of the city is strewn with bricks and debris from the surrounding buildings and the road itself is torn up in several places by the big shells falling there and bursting. The famous ‘cloth hall’ which I suppose you know of and where it is, has been wrecked completely and a Jack Johnston hole big enough to bury a couple of big motor cars is right outside the main entrance. The big convent college, several large hotels, cathedrals and a great big railway station have all been shelled time after time and even yet they occasionally drop a “coal box” down just to let us know they have a few to spare, I guess. We have a few batteries concealed there and probably they are the targets.

I had to stop last night as my candle was getting low and I had to put my blankets down yet. This is now Thursday afternoon and I want to get this finished before the mail leaves. I only have a minute or two to start in too.

There was a German aeroplane brought down near here on Tuesday. I saw the whole fight from the time it came into view, till the bally thing lighted near our trenches. It was attacked by an Allied machine and headed back toward the trenches again but when the Br. machine came close the anti-air guns were afraid of hitting it so they ceased fire but in a few minutes the Taube started back again and as they make better time than the Biplanes, he was getting away from our airman so he turned back and let our guns at him again. And didn’t they make him dodge. He began to descend in a very short time and was not long in coming down.

Well I got some more letters today. One from Orville and Rose, mother and Ettie. I am sorry Orville that Dennis is giving you such a hard rub.He won’t last long probably, if he gets a line of bum stuff. Doesn’t he ever get any trouble about the change of the wrapper on the butter etc.?

It is dandy snap of yourself and the youngsters. They sure are healthy looking and I can see a big difference in their size. have the other one too. You were asking about games etc. We don’t get much chance to play ball of any kind and now the rainy weather started we don’t get a chance to do anything in the sport(s) line. There is no window in our huts and only 2 small candles allowed a day so when it is wet and cold we have to keep all the places closed and burn candles. They cost a penny each to buy them and we can’t afford that very often on 1 franc a day. However I think we are going to get a lantern now but the difficulty is getting oil.

There comes the mail man so will have to ring off. Write often.

1 comment:

  1. Mary McIntyre commented:

    "I said I was surprised some of his observations weren't blacked out by censors, and how one letter covered so many issues: munitions affair, boots, rain gear, demolished Ypres, shortage of oil, the cost of eggs in France, the numbers of dead, who had the easier job after signing up ... amazing."