Friday, April 19, 2013

30 December 1915 Somewhere in France

Harold writes his last letter of 1915 to his mother in Teeswater.

Dear mother,

Well, I am back at the Château again and busy from the time I get up till I go to bed - in fact I have a 24 hour duty shift to commence at seven tonight, and I am just trying to get a line or two written this afternoon.

I got my discharge from the hospital on Tuesday after being transferred to our new divisional rest (station) ( D.R.S.). I was among the first batch of patients to go there. It was a pretty draughty place when I was there - only two days - and I was not a bit sorry to get back to my section again even if it is to be a general "flunky" at the Château.

I will not get very much time to write while I am here and it seems an age since I have written any letters. I have a big bunch to get done too, for the people who have sent things to me at Christmas all have to have an acknowledgment sent and there are quite a few of them.

Parcels have been very slow in coming and I have only gotten two that I had any notification of so far. The one from Mrs. Rumble which arrived on Christmas day and the one from the Teeswater Patriotic Society which arrived today. Everything in both of the parcels was okay and the sweater is just dandy and fits like a glove.

I have not tried on the shirt Mrs. Reid sent but it came at a very opportune moment. I'm crummy and I've had to burn an undershirt and it was the last clean one I had, as I lost another while I was in the hospital. I had taken it to a woman in the village before I took sick to be washed and she moved away before I got better.

I'll try and write each of the ladies a card anyway and thank them for their part in the parcel. Oh yes, I got Gert's while I was sick too, and have not written to her yet. Ettie's and Bathurst Church's came during the first week. Mrs. Rumble's apples have not arrived; they were reported to have been sent about November 1. The chicken has not arrived either but surely none of the rest will be long now.

I suppose you will be getting ready for New Year's celebrations. Was Bill home for Christmas? I guess you would always have a big crowd during Christmas and New Year's. I got Maud's papers and also the Teeswater News are coming along OK and the last I got was December 9th. Where did you get the idea that I got those clogs while scouting for wounded in Ypres? When I was up there I was scouting for firewood etc. We used to have to depend on that place for our firewood to supply our cookhouse and huts; also that was where we got the stones for the huts. That was how I got access to the houses hunting for stones and pipes etc. I got those boots in another village though, made on the premises.

I guess you will be wondering what kind of a time I had at Christmas. Well, I was sick all day and things were not very bright. But we had a fairly decent day all the same. A Christmas stocking was given each patient in the morning from The Toronto Patriotic League and then we got a turkey dinner with a Victrola concert in the afternoon. Mrs. Rumble's parcel came Christmas night and was transferred to D.R.S. on Sunday morning and came over here on Tuesday morning. On the car I came over here on last Tuesday, Charlie Scott a member of "B" section came along and was on his way to Canada. He is going on with three others to finish their courses in medicine and come out with commission in R.A.M.C. when they get their degrees M.B. (M.D. ?). The others are Bill Scott, Walter Barnes and Harold Irvine who was in London with me. I told Charles Scott, who is son of Rev. Dr. Scott of Toronto, to phone Orville when he gets there. I had no chance to see any of the other fellows before they left.

I didn't get time to finish this last night so we will try and get it away on the mail tonight. I am off the latrines (?) job and I'm holding down the desk today. I hope I'll get a chance to catch up with my correspondence here. I think I'll stop trying to write to very many and confine myself to about two or three letters a week. A whizbang will have to do any others that want to hear from me.

I just got out of the hospital in Bailleul (?) in time, as the village was shelled on Wednesday and over 100 shells were dropped around the village. One fell about 50 yards from the front of the hospital. There were 18 casualties but only three killed, 2 soldiers and a civilian. None of our boys were hurt. P.P.C.S.I. were just marching through at the time and had to lie in the ditches for a couple of hours.

Things are pretty quiet here now however after the big cannonade (?) we had the Sunday and Monday preceding Christmas. It was north of our lines and none of our brigade was hurt except that the gas the Germans sent over, drifted over part of the line. We were coughing away back at the hospital and were getting pretty husky throats before it cleared away. It was not bad enough back where we were for us to put on our helmets, but up at the front line they had to use theirs and they say they worked like a charm. When the Germans started to charge behind their gas, they didn't get a hundred men over their parapet. The artillery had the range perfectly and just blew them back - and up - so quickly that it was the only attempt they made to come over. Our guns kept at them though and from all accounts will take some few work parties to make their trenches habitable again.

Be sure and write soon and tell me all about your Christmas etc.

Your loving son,


  1. I'm always amazed by the juxtaposition of the homey domestic details smack up against the death and trauma. I guess that's youth, and the necessity to compartmentalize during war.

  2. Also shows how the horrors of war become normalized, a day to day occurance. Thanks for commenting Mary!