Monday, March 25, 2013

30 November 1915 Somewhere in Belgium

Dear Mother,

Received your letter of 7th inst. on Sat. and was glad to get it. It was a little late but it won’t be so long to wait for the next one. The parcels came along ok. I got 2 in 1 mail (the ones in the tin boxes) and they sure were a treat. Thank you ever so much. The doughnuts were pretty well dried out but the other things were in fine shape and certainly were good. The boxes were not damaged the least bit and there was absolutely nothing wasted. I used the cloths that the boxes were bound up with to clean my dixie (Slang for British Army camp kettle) and the tin boxes we hammered them out flat and nailed them over holes in the wall. The fudge and beech nuts were ok. Several fellows who had not been out to Canada very long did not know what they were and had never even heard of them before. Most of the old country fellows in our unit had always lived in cities in Eng. and so of course stuck to the large places when they emigrated to Canada. It is surprising just the peculiar ideas some of them have of the country in Canada.

I hope Geo. is coming along alright. It would be great if his eyes would get better now. There have been a few eye cases come in to us occasionally and they always cause the patients more suffering than any other wound. I remember at Dranoutre one fellow had a small piece of steel in his eye-ball, and we could not do anything for him. The poor fellow just wriggled around all night with the pain of it the whole night.

Since I wrote last we have been getting more sick than anything else. On Sun. night we had only one slight flesh wound and none at all last night. One slight (ly) wounded case in 2 nights and 13 killed is a good deal different proportion to what we have been used to. The 21st (21st Battalion) have lost 12 men killed and 1 other Batt. got only 1 in the same period. They were nearly all sniped too, as the artillery has been pretty inactive just around here this last few days.

There have been from 10 –16 cases of trench feet and colds coming in this last few nights and the sick ward of our dressing station was pretty crowded. No very serious cases came in, mostly colds and trench feet.

Don’t bother sending very many clothes because we are not very likely to need much more than what we are issued with in the line of scarfs etc. It appeared on orders that there was a shortage of sox in the division and asking that all the dirty sox be taken to the bath when we go. Some fellows have been getting clean sox from the bath and not handing in the dirty ones so the supply was running out. We have been issued with woolen gloves the other day, the same as we got last winter in Toronto.

You hit it on the head when you guessed that we would like the war to end. There are no soldiers over here but wish that peace would be declared to-morrow. Of course not peace on any terms. What I mean is that they are tired of the war. I wish the Kaiser could be stuck in a trench half-full of water and made to do duty there for a 6 day shift, same as a Private, and then when he is just about dead with cold and wet clothes making him so stiff that he can hardly crawl when it comes time to change battalions, and just as he is getting out of range, for a sniper to put a bullet through some place that is not vital for instance his thigh or shoulder and (if) he could be granted the pleasure of lying in the mud for about 12 hours before being dressed and treated. If he had to go through all that – and it is not an uncommon occurrence for it to happen – I think the rotter would want to sign pretty nearly anything they stuck before him.

I guess there will be skating at home by the time this reaches there. There have been some real cold nights here during the last week or 10 days but it has been comparatively dry till last night when it started to rain. It cleared up this morning again but us very muddy now. There is so little news to tell that I’ll have to ring off now and send this as it is nearly mail time. It is always collected at noon. I am not in bed this morning because I had a good sleep last night because there was no work to do in our surgery, but those in the sick ward were very busy.

I guess that you will be sending these letters on for I do not write to the others very regularly and I guess they look for them from home. Well I had better ring off now and shave before dinner. Hoping everyone is real well at home, I am

Your loving son,


  1. Letters like this are invaluable to researchers as well as to anyone who wants to know about the daily activities of the volunteers. Of course, censorship - self imposed as well as military, so as not to upset those at home - limits accounts of what they truly experienced, but we can certainly get a sense of the hardships and horrors, especially in this rant against the Kaiser.
    When I was researching to write my WW1 novels, I read a terrific book about the 5th Field Ambulance, filled with such helpful memories and anecdotes.
    Gabriele Wills

    1. Yes Gabriele I always think of writers of historical fiction like you whenever I post these letters. Harold does reveal quite a lot of detail and his feelings about his life in the war. Some later letters are blacked out but these don't seem to be overly censored. I have a book on the 5th Ambulance called Stretcher Bearers...At the Double! Is that the one you read? Thank you for commenting.

  2. Yes it is, Ruth. It provided lots of details about daily life and attitudes, etc., which were so helpful. For instance, the comment that when they went on leave in Paris, the Canadians, who were better paid than the Brits, were able to take rooms with baths at the hotels, which surprised the French. Those tidbits are like gold nuggets to writers trying put characters into those situations.