Monday 3 Jan 1916, Bramshott, UK
I just received Pater’s letter of
the 12th December telling me of your operation. That is the worst of
being so far away. Imagine you ill for a whole month and me knowing nothing of
it. Jove, Mater I am sorry to think of what you must have suffered. But I am so
thankful that things are going all right. [over] From Pater’s second letter it
would seem that you were well enough to have at least a bit of fun at
Christmas. I only hope the fun wasn’t too strong for you.
Just after I started
this letter I got a chance to get a pass so I took it. I left here about 9 a.m.
on the 6th, and went up to London. I telegraphed to Aunt Minnie to
see if it would be all right to come down there. It was, so I caught the 6.10
p.m. [over] train from Paddington for Stroud. But in the meantime I had a few
hours to kill so I got a seat at Drury Lane, and saw my first pantomime. It was
very fine. The story was ‘Puss in Boots’. The fairy tale ran all through the
play of course, and they kept quite strictly to the story. But really the main
thing was the intervals, which were devoted to ballets and funny scenes. The
scenery and costumes were [over] wonderful. The principal character, The
Duchess, was played by a man who was very funny. Altogether, I enjoyed it.
I got to
Stroud at about 9 p.m. Ettie was off duty during my stay and it made things
I took some
pictures there that I shall send you if they are any good. They were
exceedingly nice to me and I was glad to get there.
There is very little to write about, as things very much as usual. We had a Canadian mail today, but nothing came for me. Perhaps to-night there will be some.
Scanned letters located here.
Note 1: 1st Battalion, The Canadian Mounted Rifles, CEF
Note 2: 27th (City of Winnepeg) Battalion, CEF
9 Apr 1916: Car was transfered to the 5th Bn The Canadian Mounted Rifles (5CMR) and embarked for France that same day.
10 Apr 1916: Landed France, moved to the Canadian Base Depot at Le Havre; taken on strength 5CMR.
Scanned letters located here.
our turn we have just done. [over] Friday evening, we left the support dug
outs, and marched up the communication trenches to the front line. Now,
trenches are generally of this shape generally [see Fig. 1] generally, but not
always, as circumstances demand, then when they are blown up with shells they
are remade as well as possible. Communications trenches are somewhat this shape
[see Fig. 2] [over]
made about four feet below ground, the sides are “revetted” with corrugated
iron, netting, canvas or sandbags, and timbers, the floors are slatted walks
about 18 inches wide, called “bath mats.” The sides are built up with sandbags
making generally about 6 feet high altogether. It was a dark night and we went
in single file up a combination of communication and fire trenches, some
destroyed, some unfinished, some low, some high. I was through a wood. Imagine
Parsons [over] bush with the trees broken, and all pitted with shot.
Weds 14 June 1916, Belgium (
Jan. 3rd 1915 
|Pages 4 & 1|
|Pages 2 & 3|
|Pages 8 & 5|
Thursday I spent a quiet day. Ettie and I went for a long walk. Then Uncle Alfie and I had a game of billiards up at the Thrupp. They have a fine big table. [over]
In the evening and indeed each evening, before going to bed Uncle Alfie and I sat up and talked shop. He is a member of the V.T.C. as they call themselves, (Veterans Training Corps) but called by Punch, “The Methusaliers.” I have been teaching him the drill. We used matches etc and had regular drills. [Note 1]
Friday Ettie and I took a long walk up the hills to an old stone town called Minchinhampton. It was very pretty and quaint. [over]
I think I told you about last time taking a motor trip up to Gloucester and Cheltenham so I have seen quite a lot of the country.
Friday and Saturday nights we went to moving picture shows. Saturday with both Aunt M. and Uncle A. after which we went to Dr. Hardy’s, people whom Phil met when he was here and became quite friendly with. Friday evening we went to call on a Mrs. Fisher. They call her Cousin Kate. I [over] think she was a Partridge, but you will probably know more about her than I. She was very nice to me anyway. We played bridge and had tea there.
Saturday morning Uncle A. and I went out shooting rabbits. We took ferrets with us and a couple of men to help, and we got fourteen in a few hours.
Sunday morning Ettie, Uncle A. and I went with Harold Chambers in his Ford away up through Chalford and up the valley. We covered about 25 miles. It was [over] a very pretty trip. I left there at two o’clock on Sunday and got back to camp about 2 a.m.
|Pages 10 & 11|
I don’t think I told you about my Christmas. Though as a matter of fact it wasn’t much to tell about. For a few days before, I was receiving letters and parcels and this really constituted [over] my Christmas. I got a parcel from Mrs Bluethner, one from Bluethner’s girl and another from a friend of hers in London [Ontario]. A girl I didn’t know very well but who was very nice about sending it. Then I got your parcel and a box of cigars yesterday from Mrs Luke of Tillsonburg. The apples haven’t come yet. I got the first copy of the Conservator [Note ] to-day dated Dec. 9th. Though the Mail and Empire comes regularly. [over]
Christmas Eve I was on canteen duty. I was in charge of the order at the men’s canteen, and the men celebrated most joyously. Then on Christmas day, I was on guard at the main detention barracks.
I had about forty prisoners and ten guards. It wasn’t much fun, as, being Christmas, the men were in anything but good humor. During Christmas evening some of them broke a window [over] and ten escaped.
The fault lay in a defective building and in the posting of the guards. I had posted mine by precedent so I was all right. The person who first posted them made the mistake. Of course there was a big fuss made about it, and I was up before beaks and things, but I was found to be nowhere to blame whatever, and the case against me was dismissed. However the investigations lasted till New Years Day and my week was spoilt. [over]
Well Mater I do hope you will be all right again soon.
I want Pater to use the money from my assignment to help things along after the operation. They are rather expensive luxuries aren’t they, but I won’t need it.
Best love to all
You loving son Car.
Note 1: Local Home Guard civil defence organisation.
Note 2: The Conservator was the newspaper from Brampton, Ontario.
Thurs 27 Jan 1916, Bramshott, UK
(602248 notice new no.)
Jan 27th 1916
FEB 12 1916
I believe there is a mail going out tonight, so I shall try to get a letter in.
Tuesday night we had the anniversary of our battalion organization. It was celebrated by a concert and a banquet.
The concert was in the men’s mess room, and we crammed nearly two thousand in. The artists came from
, and put up a fairly good concert. London
But the banquet was the funny part of it. We had invited Sergeants from other battalions to come, and the [over] Sergeants mess room was well filled.
The tables were set with actual table cloths and the ordinary cutlery, and at each place was a bottle of beer. Before eating, we toasted “The King and the Empire.”
The menu was quite grand, and really well cooked.
Soup (Tomato, I think)
Fish (Bloaters fried in crumbs)
Roast Chicken (very nice)
Celery and cheese
Fruit and nuts
Some of the toasts were quite funny. The subjects were very normal, but oratory was not the strong point of the speakers and very covertly I smiled much.
Then we had songs, recitations etc, which were very amusing.
I played the accompaniments to one fellow’s song. I had been practicing it a bit, and the fellow really had a good voice. The others had little time and less voice, and sang to a very much ad lib[over] accompaniment by the drum Sergeant. Had we had time there are quite a number of the Sergeants who have pretty fair voices. But these naturally wouldn’t sing without music, so the others as usual were braver.
There was lots of beer taken, but the fellows were very orderly, even so. We broke up at sharp twelve. I am company orderly sergeant this week.
I got a letter from Phil a few days ago. Just a little late for Christmas. Also a couple of letters from Norm. He is working in
Well I must close now, I hope Mater is getting along well.
Love to all,
Your loving son
P.S. Feeling fine
Scanned letters located here.
Thurs 3 Feb 1916, Bramshott, UK
Feb 3rd 1916
Tues 8 Feb 1916, Bramshott, UK
say, and a great summer resort. There are dozens of tremendous private hotels
within a short radius. You would wonder where the people come from to occupy
them. They are set here and there in among the trees, and scattered all around
through the district. Also there are many very fine [over] estates around. I am
looking forward to seeing this place in summer.
I wrote you a card last post saying I expected to have some good news for you. This hasn’t materialized yet, but I shall explain. A week or so ago we had orders to prepare for a move to Shorncliffe. This later developed into three companies. So there was a quandary as to who would go. The junior officers who were to go, were detailed, the men to go were detailed, but we N.C.O.’s were asked to volunteer. Now we have already volunteered and [over] as each detached company went from
we put in our names and volunteered again. This time we Sergeants thought it
time they detailed us to go. This they wouldn’t do, so we let things stand pat.
Our Colonel had a peculiar notion in his head, evidently wishing to keep us, as
he couldn’t go himself.
As a consequence, here we are with all the senior officers and N.C.O.’s, and almost no men. The rest went to Shorncliffe, where there were all split up into the 12th and 23rd reserve battalions. I hear that we are receiving sufficient reinforcements from
Canada to bring
us up [over] to strength. But in the meantime we are bereft of a battalion and
the band, the stretcher-bearers, and signallers are doing the fatigues.
From now on, almost anything may happen to us. We may be transferred to another battalion as instructors, or anything like that. Now there are a few battalions here who we know are short of N.C.O.’s and their reputation is rather unsavoury. The 41st for instance, the French Canadians. So Honey and I looked around a bit, and Capt. Caldwell, our junior Captain, (Major Kay is away on a course) would most heartily recommend us for a commission, as also would the Colonel if we [over] could find a battalion that needed us. All we needed was some friend or acquaintance who would find a vacancy for us in a battalion, speak to his Colonel. Then our officers would put in their recommendation. They say our training is quite sufficient.
I spoke to Kift, you may remember my speaking of him in Tillsonburg, he was the accountant there in the Standard. I nearly got in with him originally. He has a commission as pay-master of the 37th who are quartered next to us. Through him and the Tillsonburg negotiations I am pretty well known to Colonel Bick. Kift promised to see the Colonel, and I [over] expected by this time to have news of it for you, but up to now nothing has materialized. I shall let you know as soon as anything happens. Bluethner has decided to stick to his present course.
Did I tell you that Mr. Nevill is now Capt Nevill, paymaster of the 126th Battalion of Haldimand.
Today we started a physical drill course for we N.C.O.’s who are left. It will last probably about a week.
Sunday afternoon Bluethner and I went to Hindhead to call on Capt. and Mrs Anderson, otherwise known as Molly. She seems to be pretty [over] happy. Helen is coming here before long, and I would like to see her, poor girl. But she spent her honeymoon here and naturally she doesn’t want to come back too soon.
Again, I got a letter from Mr. Harrison of Tillsonburg, (the Manager). He used to be in the Capital and Counties Bank at Haselmere, about three miles from here, and had a Friday sub-branch at Grayshott about two miles from here. He told me that Betty has been very sick with pleurisy, hope the poor kiddie gets on all right. Also they have a son, born about October.
I received a box of apples today, which [over] I suppose were yours. They came from
and were in fairly good condition. Thank you very much for them. Apples of all
things are welcome here. I feel ever so much better when I get fruit. The
apples sold here are vile.
When we first arrived here there was a great dearth of eating accommodation around here. It is the custom of Canadian soldiers, myself being no exception, to go out and get a good meal away from camp. The British soldiers are paid very little and spend correspondingly little, so the people were taken by storm when we came. Now however at almost every village there is a ‘Soldiers Club’ or something of that kind. A Town hall or a parish hall is transformed into a club eating and games. (next envelope) [over] At Haselmere there are two. One, St Christopher’s Hall is the parish hall where they serve nice eatables, quite cheap, and have games and magazines, and a piano. This is run by the women of the village. There are some of them quite nice. Quite often I go there of an evening and have a meal, and then sit at the piano and start a sing song. A couple of times I have gathered a bunch of fellows who were really musical, and we managed quite a nice sextette. They have lots of music there and I enjoy it very much. Generally after that, unless it is Sunday, I go over to the moving picture [over] show across the road, where they have big crowds, and pretty good pictures.
|This is probably the photo |
taken in Haselmere.
I am sending you some pictures with this letter, which will go nicely with the collection also I got my picture taken at Haselmere which I am having sent direct. I saw the pictures that had been done there, and I believe they are artists. They charge fairly high prices but the work is excellent.
The Conservator comes along regularly and the Mail. I am very glad to get them. I pass the Conservator along to Molly. Sometime I wish you would correct my number with both [over] papers. Both are wrong. When we came here it was 402248, but we found that another battalion had the same numbers so it is now 602248.
This letter is getting rather bulky, and I may have to divide it in two envelopes I am glad that things are going all right with Mater. I hope they go on.
I got a letter from Phil, and from Walter [possibly my great-grandfather Walter Clarence Young] I haven’t answered them yet, but will soon.
Well I must close now. I think best love to all.
Your loving son
Weds 29 Mar 1916, Bramshott, UK
March 29th 1916
I have some news for you this letter all right. You won’t be able to keep track of all my addresses.
There was a call for a draft, and as there seemed like a long delay here before we got over as N.C.O.’s we volunteered to revert to privates and go. Out application was accepted, and nine of us are going together as privates. Mart and I are able to keep together I am glad to say. We have had two kit inspections today, and having all unnecessary truck behind, we are ready to move off at a moment’s notice. Even now, expecting to go tomorrow, things may be changed. Last night we expected to go to the 1st C.M.R.,[Note 1] in fact we had definite orders to that effect, but now we go to the 27th Batt. [Note 2] Hence, our address will be Pte C.E.Y. (602248) 27th Battalion C.E.F. France.
I shall write as soon as I can.
Your loving son
Note 2: 27th (City of Winnepeg) Battalion, CEF
Sat 8 Apr 1916, Bramshott, UK
April 8th 1916
This letter must cancel my letter of a week ago. I did rather a foolish thing at the time. As far as I knew, those were all correct to date. I made the mistake of posting my letter off before I actually got off. We got as far as the parade ground on the way to the station, and Mart. [Martin Bluethner] and I were put on the waiting list. So we missed the draft. However we are on another draft to the 5th C.M.R. We expect to leave tomorrow morning. This time we shall not post our letters till we actually get off. There were nine of us reduced ourselves [voluntarily reduced to Private] for the purpose, and [next] two of us were left. My address will be just 602248 Pte. C.E.Y. 5th C.M.R., France.
I received your letters today. Tell Sam Wilson that his parcel never came.
I saw Edith at Hythe on Tuesday, and intended to see her again, but as soon as we are warned for a draft we are confined to Barracks, so I haven’t been able to go down again. She is staying at the house of a cousin of her husband’s, the brigade major of our brigade, the 11th. She seems very comfortable. Her husband is at Bordon Camp, near Bramshott, and she hadn’t seen him since she came.
I think I weigh about 165 now, though I am not sure. I certainly [next] am heavier than I was. They took excellent care of us at the hospital and I had no ill effects whatever from my measles. I spent my five days with Aunt Minnie and had a very nice time. We actually had some sleigh riding on the hills behind the house.
You asked me about Marion taking a course of nursing as was at first thought. It seems she has abandoned the idea as she is back at school. I sent her one of my photos, so you may give one each to Hester and Mammie. I thought they were very good. The photographer at Haselmere certainly does some excellent work.
I am sending you some more pictures and am enclosing some snaps. [over]
Well, things are beginning now, and we ought to see some very interesting things. I haven’t much fear about getting through all right. However if I can keep my face in the right direction I don’t mind. Don’t worry too much about me. I won’t try any foolish stunts. I don’t hanker after the V.C. and I shall keep my head down, and try mainly for a whole skin.
By the way. Do you remember my speaking of a fellow at my boarding house in Barrie, John Walker, a Scotchman. He is my platoon officer here, though he isn’t going with us. [over]
Funny isn’t it, how you meet people. Another officer in the 17th [Bn CEF] was my junior at Cayuga. Heaslip.
I don’t think I mentioned at the time, that I remembered Hal’s birthday March 8th, but I did.
I got a card from Phil the other day.
Well Pater, I must close.
Fond love to Mater, Mammie, Ken, Kocken and yourself, and the others when you write, though I shall write them too if I can.
Your loving son
9 Apr 1916: Car was transfered to the 5th Bn The Canadian Mounted Rifles (5CMR) and embarked for France that same day.
10 Apr 1916: Landed France, moved to the Canadian Base Depot at Le Havre; taken on strength 5CMR.
Fri 14 Apr 1916, France (Field Postcard)
Sun 23 April 1916, France (Postmark)
Weather very wet here but camp pretty fair. Feel very fine, and expect to go up before long. This is the base depôt at Le Havre. Training here rather interesting. Lots of love.
Thurs 27 April 1916, France (Postmark)
We are leaving today for the front line, the address will be the same. Haven’t had any mail for a long time, but expect it will be waiting for me.
All O.K. Will write later.
Mon 1 May 1916, Ypres, Belgium
1st May 1916
1st May 1916
My Dear Mater;
Well we have come “up the line, with the best of luck” as they say when you leave the base depôt. It is quite literal too, I think. First we have great weather as nice as one could wish. We left [censored] with it and kept it all the way. We had a beautiful trip up for most of the way. That part that was by day was grand. The [over] country is very fine, and all was new and interesting. Generally the fellows make the trip in box cars, but we were lucky enough to have coaches. We were told we had a long march ahead of us to get here, but when we got off the train we were met by the transport which carried all our kit, even our rifles. Then we only had about two miles to go. We were put into very comfortable tents for the first two nights with good grub and nice grass near us where we spent our day. These are the [over] billets in which our battalion spends its rest out of the trenches.
We are quite within sound of the guns, and we hear them all day and night. Especially it is interesting at night, as the flashes and flares show very bright. We were just in time to catch the battalion coming out for its rest, so we have all that time here before we go up. However we may [over] go up to the trenches with a working party, perhaps tonight though as yet we have not been warned for it. It is 4.30 p.m. and I am in the Y.M.C.A. but we have just come back from a town near by, about three miles away, where we went with our company to have a bath.
Needless to remark, the baths are scarce up the line, and the fellows need one pretty badly when they come out. There we get a good hot bath and a change of underwear. We were only today posted to our [over] companies, and we seem to be with a very nice bunch. Mostly from
I think. We are in small huts, with
lots of room in them. Halifax
Most of the battalions especially the “mere” infantry carry full packs when they go up the line, but we carry almost nothing. We leave our packs here and get them again when we come out.
Sunday, I did my first guard as a private. [over] It is much easier than as an N.C.O. Then I used to remain up all night and keep an eye on the guard all the time, but as it is I do two hours on and four off. Then I sleep, and keep pretty fresh. You would hardly know ne now. I have my hair all cut short, and I expect it looks very funny. It is almost necessary, though, as it is less to keep clean and free from visitors.
Bluethner is in the same section as I, and the others in the same platoon. I say the others, but I don’t think I told you who [over] they are. One is a red-headed namesake of mine, Alec Young who hails from
is bow legged, freckled, thin and his ears stick out straight, also he
stutters, but he is a very good fellow withal. Then there is Fred Sargeant,
tall and straight; about 6’2”, and Arthur Dean shorter and rather fair. Young
was a Corporal in ‘A’ Coy 34th, Sargeant a L/C [Lance Corporal] in
our Coy orderly room, and Dean a Corporal in ‘C’ Coy. Australia
We are all privates now, and get along pretty well together. We have quite an interesting time watching the aeroplanes. The air is never free from their hum, and nearly all the time either one of theirs or of ours is being shelled in full view from here. It is quite - - It is quite marvellous the unconcern of the people here. Quite close to the guns, and even shelled sometimes, they carry on their farming and making [over] money out of the soldiers as if nothing was happening. Then the birds sing, the mills turn lazily, the blossoms are out and spring is rife. Altogether it makes you wonder.
As I write it might be a terrific thunder storm raging a few miles away with occasionally some more distinct crashes. Somebody is getting a warm time. However all [over] the fellows, even those who have been up are quite happy, and we will do our trick again soon and then get another rest.
Do not worry about me Mater and Pater, I shall be all O.K. and I shall write again soon.
The best of love to all, your loving son
I got a couple of your letters, the last one with Hester’s and Walter’s letters enclosed. Thank you very much. Also thank Mammie for her card, I shall write her too. I also got letters from Bessie + Norm.
Note: According to the unit's War Diary, on 1 May 1916, 5 CMR was located at rest in 'Camp A'. This camp was probably located approximately 6 miles west of Ypres, between Vlamertinghe and Poperinghe and north of Brandhoek.
Sun 14 May 1916, Ypres, Belgium
May 14th 1916
29th 15 days
I have just come out of church in the cinema hut. We have all our church parades even with rifles and gas helmets.
We are in the reserve billets just now, and go up into the front line tomorrow night. However, things seem very quiet along our front just now, and I don’t [over] expect we will have a very warm time. These billets are low huts like the lofts of a barn without sides, the roof coming down to the ground. We sleep on the floor, with about sixteen in a hut. We have an overcoat, blanket and oil sheet. We put the sheet on the floor, and then I put my feet into the arms of my coat, button it up, put a belt around my waist and then put my blanket over all [over] with my pack for a pillow. I sleep pretty comfortably. It gets pretty cold in the mornings.
However, very seldom lately I get any sleep in the night. We have working parties nearly every night. We carry bandolier, rifle and gas helmet, and go up the line in London buses. Our fatigues as privates on the side of the line, are all right though. It is all clean work. We generally work [over] with pick and shovel, or carry sandbags or something like that. We have about four or five miles to walk on the way up and again back. Then we have to wait a bit for the buses on the way back. Then it gets a bit cold. We generally get back by daylight. The sun rises early here. It gets light about 3.30. We then sleep all morning.
The shells around us, over us and in the distance are [over] really nothing more now than very interesting. I haven’t had any nearer than about fifty yards. There’s not the slightest use of worrying though. Your chances of getting hit are very slim. No need to worry about me. It is a fine life, and I like it. Of course the trenches will be something new again.
This letter won’t be censored, I expect. I don’t suppose there is the slightest harm in telling [over] you we are in the Ypres salient. I have seen Ypres and it is certainly marvellous, and a bit awe inspiring.
Dinner call has just blown, and I shall postpone finishing this till after. We use our mess tins, and line up at the cookhouse which is a shack with the field kitchens in it. The meals are very good much better than we have had for a long time. We eat them in our huts. [over] Well, I have finished my dinner. The best we have had for a long time. Beefsteak, mashed potatoes, gravy, bread and tea. It certainly tastes good.
Last night I was in a minstrel show. I sang in a trio with two fellows in our platoon. Just around the corner from us is a big moving picture show. The 49th band permanently is [over] the orchestra. Then they have a nice piano, with a fellow playing it who plays extremely well. We just sang a couple of very old songs, “Tenting to-night” [Note 1] and a popular chorus. We were all black face, and we did pretty well. There was captain as interlocutor, and a major, a lieutenant and a mixture for the chorus. They have excellent [over] pictures there every night. It always strikes me as rather remarkable to have places like this actually at times where there is plenty of shell fire. Why there are batteries a long way back from this. This war certainly upsets all precedents.
I received your parcel with three pairs of socks a day or [over] two ago, and thank you very much. Yesterday I received a big parcel of cheroots from Phil, which have been on the way for several months. In fact, Phil told me he expected them to arrive in time for Christmas.
I have met a great many fellows here that I have known. Most of them 34th fellows who came over in [over] drafts. At the last camp I was in, I was watching a ball game when I saw Cecil Peaker, Marvel’s cousin, playing [Note 2]. He is a lieutenant in the 1st C.M.R. John Walker from Barrie is in our battalion also.
|An early American literary |
magazine that ran 1903 to 1931
One thing I would like occasionally if you could send them to me is magazines. The Popular, or Windsor [over] or something like that. I believe they are sent easily enough, and reading matter of any kind is very scarce.
You asked me a while ago about Marion training as a nurse. She expected to, but I think she has abandoned the idea. I wish you could meet the Nevill’s, they are certainly nice. Needless to remark, Marion is not the least nice. [over]
Well, when we get back after this, we shall have some great tales to tell. It’s certainly an ill wind that blows nobody any good. One of the best things is the way Bluethner and I are able to stick together. We are in the same section [usually a body of 8 men] under a Lance corporal from Nova Scotia. His name is Merriam. He was an accountant in [over] the Royal Bank [of Canada] in one of the small braches there. Most of the fellows here are young. A much younger lot than we had in the other battalion. The 5th comes from Halifax, but there are other drafts in them.
I am going over now to look up Stanley Higgs who is in the 15th [Note 3] near here. He was drafted there from the 37th.
Well Mater and Pater, I must close now.
Best love to all, your loving son.
Pte. C.E. Young
Note 1: 'Tenting Tonight', a popular song dating from the American Civil War; listen to it here.
Note 2: Cecil Howard Peaker, was born in Brockville, Ontario 21 November 1893 and was a Civil Servant until attested into the 8th Bn Canadian Mounted Rifles at Ottawa, 4 January 1915. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission website indicates that Lt Peaker of the 4th CMR (N.B. Uncle Car may have mistaken the 1st for the 4th Bn) died on 2 June 1916 and is commemorated at the Ypres Menin Gate memorial (no known grave). He was the son of Mrs. Rose Peaker, of 411 Riverdale Avenue, Ottawa, and the late W. J. Peaker.
Note 3: Stanley Stocker Higgs was born in Nassau, British West Indies on 9 January 1895 and was a bank clerk until attested into the 37th Bn CEF (raised in Halton County, Ontario, broken up for drafts in England) at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario on 26 May 1915. He was subsequently commissioned as a Lieutenant in the 15th Bn CEF (originally raised from the 48th Highlanders of Canada, Toronto). He survived the war and is believed to have passed away in 1985, aged 89.
Weds 24 May 1916, Ypres, Belgium
24th of May 1916
Dear Mater + Pater;
“The 24th of May is the Queen’s birthday, if you don’t give us a holiday we’ll all run away.” Well we have it, strange to say, and “fireworks” galore.
Last night about ten o’clock we were relieved in the trenches, and we marched out to our billets where we spend eight days. I am lying on my “floor space”, I was going to say bunk. Taking a well earned rest. [over]
Our first four days up were in supports where we did very little during the day, mostly just sleep. At night we were out on working parties. Jove, there is so much to tell, I could write volumes, but I shall try just to give you an idea of what we did. At present I am feeling fine, no nerves shattered, no shell shock and very much of a whole skin. In fact very happy. Which in no small measure is due to your parcel with the socks, cakes + coffee which with your letter with Mater’s + Pats [over] + some papers came last night. Nothing seems so welcome as letters and eatables. The parcel was fine. I am going to make a few suggestions for next parcel, which, however will not limit you at all. Any kinds of cakes, coffee, (such as you did send) cocoa or tea, gum, chocolate, candy, especially homemade, the peanuts were fine, in fact anything to eat, whether solid or delicacy.
In the Y.M.C.A. here we [over] can buy biscuits, beans, canned fruit, chocolate, tea, (made) + tobacco. When we go up we take a supply with us, but these don’t last long. And parcels are delivered in the trenches, and don’t they taste good then. I never appreciated good eats so much as now. Up there we draw as rations, ham, cooked meat, bread, butter, jam or marmalade and tea, which we make there. They are not too plentiful, and we get a bit hungry sometimes.
From the surface you can’t see anything but mounds of earth and shell holes, but the whole is a perfect maze of trenches, any one could get lost in them. We were going to the point of the salient, just where a year ago our fellows had their big
The German lines were [over] almost all around us, and their flares lit up the place nearly continuously. From every side were machine guns, rifles and bombs, going. At first it seemed that every one was trained on us, but we soon got accustomed to it. Imagine this long column of men, nearly in silence stumbling along in single file carrying our equipment and rifles of course.
Suddenly there would be a crack-crack crack, about forty or fifty shots, in ten seconds [over] almost at our ear. We who were new, ducked like lightening, but only because we didn’t know the different sound of our own gun or a gun trained at us. It stopped, and we went on. Soon there would be a little more different series of cracks, and a wheeow – wheeow wheeow near us. This time everyone ducked. Right this time.
But when Fritzie turns his gun on you, you nearly always get this warning, so we now don’t mind it any more than someone throwing snow balls. It is marvellous how many thousand shots are wasted we don’t mind bullets a bit. It is only strays we don’t like, or maybe a little buck from Fritz. In this way we finally come to the trenches. Imagine a slight rise in the bush, just a mass of sandbags [over] piles of earth, mud, water, wires, trees, tin, unsavoury smells, and general seeming chaos, which gradually resolved itself into trenches, remade and rebuilt after numerous shellings. We swapped instructions with the fellows in our ***, loaded our rifles, fixed bayonets, and stood to. Shortly I was detailed for [a] carrying party, so I [over] took off my equipment, and taking just a few cartridges, my rifle and gas bag, I returned up the communications for rations.
Fritz made it a bit hot for us, but no one was hit. We got our rations in sandbags and returned. I got back about one a.m. I put on my stuff again, and we sat on the firing step to take turns at sentry. My turn came about 1:30 o’clock, and it was a bit queer to stand up with your head over the parapet. You seemed to think that [over] Fritz could easily see you, especially when his flares went up. He was about 50 yards away, and as we have canvas coverings on our shell helmets, we were just like the parapet. I took things a bit gingerly at first, but I soon got accustomed to it. There were tall trees in rows on either side of us, and a bunch just in front of us, and very indistinctly we could [over] see his parapet in the distance. Between us, in to “no man’s land” was low undergrowth and some old trenches. The barbed wire was hidden by the growth. The flares are like a magnified Roman candle burning blue-white for about 15 seconds. They show up everything. We use them too.
One thing that takes getting accustomed to is his explosive bullets. I suppose they are just dum dums [Note 1]. The snipers use them, and when they hit a tree or parapet they [over] go off with a sharp crack. Fritzie is no sport.
About two thirty it broke day, and we stood down, but were ready. During daylight sentry is kept with a periscope. About four we had breakfast and turned in for a snooze. At eleven thirty I was called and put in a working party, filling sandbags to make a dug out. Eight o’clock, dusk was stand to again and [over] we sat on the step and smoked, and did alternate sentry. By the way, smokes, especially cigarettes are nearly our one means of passing time. The issue cigarettes are poor, and those you sent are fine. Also we very much need reading matter, I wish you would send some magazines.
To continue, we stood down at the usual time and had breakfast, and I went into my dug out to snooze. It only had a tin roof, and there was a sandbag on top. One of Fritz’s snipers had a spike on me, and he tore that bag into little pieces with [over] dum dums. Of course I was quite safe as I had the parapet behind me, but he spoilt my sleep.
In the evening I did another working party, sentry the rest of the night, and all was as usual till about noon. Fritz then threw over a few shells. He regretted it. I was on duty with a periscope and our gunners began. We threw over about thirty to his one. We tore his front line to bits. Some of the 43rd [Note 2] fellows told [over] me afterwards that they could see the Germans running like rats for the rear. I hardly blame them. Fritz came back of course and things were lively for a bit, but he did very little damage. *** we have him beaten by miles for artillery or anything he tries now, and he knows it. It was my first bombardment, but I didn’t mind a bit. The night was quiet as anything on our front. We seemed to have given him more than enough.
Tuesday again was quiet and Tuesday night we were relieved. We had a long march of about ten miles. We got to camp about two a.m. and then after breakfast [over] we went to sleep. It was great to get our clothes partly off, and into a blanket, on a smooth floor without the lumps of the equipment.
Your sending the underwear was an especially happy thought. Though it hasn’t arrived yet, I shall appreciate it when it comes. This thick stuff rather harbours things. The socks just fit and I think the loose knit will be best.
The 5th C.M.R. comes from
but it is made up [over] of many drafts, and is also a combination of other
C.M.R. regiments too. Halifax
Well Mater I must close now.
On the address simply this will do,
602248 Pte C.E.Young
5th C.M.R. (C.E.F.)
No need to put Army P.O. London. Don’t forget 5th C.M.R. There is a brigade you know. 1,2, 4, + 5. [Note 3]
I must have missed one of your letters, as I didn’t know she was sick. I certainly am glad she is better. Give her my love of course.
Is my money still coming regularly? [over] It ought to, I haven’t changed my assignment. You haven’t mentioned it lately.
Who is Mae, in your office? You haven’t told me. Is it Mae Elliot?
Well, don’t worry about me, I shall be O.K.
Best of love,
Your loving son
Note 1: Informally known as a Dum-dum or dumdum, this is a bullet designed to expand on impact, increasing the point of impact in diameter to limit penetration and/or produce a larger wound. The Hague Convention of 1899 bans the use of dumdum bullets as several nations (including Germany) claimed the wounds inflicted were excessive and inhumane. I do not believe any combatant state used dumdum bullets during the war, but bullets may have been locally manufactured by troops.
Note 2: 43rd Bn (Cameron Highlanders of Canada) CEF.
Note 3: The 8th Infantry Brigade, 3rd Cdn Division consisted of the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th Bns Canadian Mounted Rifles.
Thanks for your letter I received yesterday. Car sent a card as soon as he got to France but nothing since. I hope you have heard news by this time. We have seen very little of Edith. She left almost immediately to join Alec. And is now at Hindhead *** from his camp. I think she finds it very quiet after Folkestone, which is full of Canadians. She thought she and Alec could be able to come to *** but that depends on his leave.
We had a great surprise in Harry’s appointment as Commodore at Hong Kong it is a very good berth and a pleasant place to live in. They don’t give you long to prepare - almost a *** – not much ** a big **. Loreen goes with him and they have decided via Canada and sail in the “Grampian” June 23 it is the pleasantest and certainly safest, besides hoping to see some of you. They are due early in August and I just time for a day or two stop in Ottawa. I have written to tell Charlie he is often there and I expect will try to see them. I don’t know how it will be for you.
*** I wish you could manage it. *** came here from Scotland and had been coming and going busy with shopping. It will be a very different life from England they don’t take much notice of the war all that way off, and have gay times, which means plenty of clothes. I am glad Fanny is so much better, what relief for you both. My best love to her and to you from all.
How disappointing you won’t see Phil yet but I suppose he is doing well in Burma. I will get *** to write *** *** they go through Toronto if by day may be *** see her then.
Note: A letter from Car's Aunt Minnie to Car's father, Clarence. I have found transcribing this letter a bit tricky. If you can help, please do!
Sat 3 Jun 1916, Ypres, Belgium
France June 3rd 1916
[20 / 17 days]
My Dear Pater;
You will, I expect be a bit anxious about me after the news comes about the big action here. However though I was in the thick of it and I have ceased to wonder how I came through, yet Mart [Martin Bluethner] and I came through almost without a scratch.
During the thick of it we carried a chum of ours back to the dressing station, and we remained there for the night. We were very tired and stiff, so we were glad they wouldn’t let us [over] return. But at least we are safe, I think, and well.
It was a wonderful not to say a dreadful experience, and you can imagine I am a pretty thankful boy. I shall try to send this out with the ambulance in case we don’t go out ourselves to-night, though we expect to. We have done our trick I think, and we deserve a rest.
Best love to all
Your loving son
Just a line to let you know I am well and all goes merrily. With the officers’ permission I sent you yesterday a cutting from the *** Chronicle showing our part in the latest scrap. We certainly had a warm time, but Mark and I are quite safe, also Alec. Young who was with us. The other fellow we have been with Fred Sargeant was not there, he has a staff job owing to Varicose veins.
We lost one very fine fellow out of our section, Lt Ralph Borden. We were very sorry [next page] to lose him.
We are still back in the big barn. The weather is very wet and the mud very bad. However it would be worse up the line.
I am afraid poor John Walker is gone. He was wounded, and is reported missing, so I am afraid he is gone. He was only lately married in
so he had told me. I don’t know about Stanley Higgs. I haven’t seen any fellows from his battalion. England
There is a meagre chance that I might be able to get a pass to
in about a month or so. England
I surely hope so. It will make a nice change. I received your last letter enclosing Hesters + (Phils) letters and a parcel and both *** sent to the 27th Battalion with socks, cake + paper. It was fine. The cake was still good, *** the parcel was a bit a bit crumpled. I think it would be a *** ***
They sometimes get a wee bit crumpled. Would it be too much to ask to send me a new autostrop razor. I lost my equipment in the battle.
Note: These 2 letter were written subsequent to the Battle of Mount Sorrel in which Car's unit, 5 CMR, was engaged in as part of 8 Brigade, 3rd Canadian Division. Located in the SE of the Ypres sector, his unit suffered nearly 50% casualties in this action; 63 of all ranks were killed in action and included the Commanding Officer, Lt Col G H Baker MP. The General Officer Commanding 3rd Canadian Division, Maj Gen M S Mercer CB, was also killed in action on 3 June. Further information on this battle may be found at the Canadian War Museum site, here: Mount Sorrel 1916.
|Grave of Lt Col Baker|
Poperinghe New Military Cemetery
Sat 24 June 1916,
JULY 12 1916
24th June 1916.
My Dear Pater;
I received your letter of June 14th with Mater’s and Phil’s enclosed. The mails seem to be a bit upset again as letters are not coming a bit regularly. I am writing this in a big Y.M.C.A. tent set up on the grounds of our billet, which is very handy for us. Obviously then we are still in the billets and I don’t know when we go up again. As it is [over] we are quite comfortable here and not worrying.
Well, our stripes are wandering back again. This morning the Captain told us he was going to give us two for the present [promoted Corporal] and the third later [promoted Sergeant] when things got a bit settled by the wounded fellows coming back again. I am quite happy as a private, but it is a bit of satisfaction to know that you are appreciated a bit. The Captain’s name by the way, is Pines. I think he comes from N.S. but I don’t quite [over] know. At any rate he is an extremely decent chap, and all like him very well.
I have got several parcels lately. I got one of some cigarettes from Mrs. Higgs, whose son you may remember, Stan, was camping with us in
. She is in Barrie . Ettie
sent me a couple of books and some scotch shortbread. The books were “The Four
Feathers” by A Emerson, the story of which you once told me when we were on a
[over] drive, I think to Glen Williams. The other was “The Invisible Sanctuary”
by G. A. Birmingham. Both were very fine, and we liked them extremely. England
I am looking forward to your parcels with the eats and magazines. The fags are also very welcome. The underwear I don’t think I told you fits just right and is just what I want. I like the coffee very much too. The paper on your boxes doesn’t tear at all but the boxes crush a bit. Tin or wood would stand better, I think.
That Bramshott clipping was very clever, and true to life. Talk about [over] cuckoos though. They abound here, especially up at the trenches. Especially when the firing is heavy the birds sing all night too. Poor beggars, I suppose they can’t get to sleep. I am fully expecting a new race of birds to evolve from this fact. I fully expect lack of sleep might be as responsible for turning feathers grey as it does on occasions for hair. Hence new variety of grey birds. [over]
I was fairly close to Lieut. McDonald [Note 1] whose clipping you sent me. I say close, but perhaps thirty yards. Quite safe as a matter of fact as we are in trenches.
Our regiment now is no longer a N.S. or
unit, we have absorbed so many reinforcing drafts during our stay here that we
merely. I don’t know whether I shall get a chance to see Nick Crawford. The
“Pats” [Note 2] are not near us now
and being in a different brigade are seldom billeted near us. [over] However, I
shall try. Canada
Poor John Walker [Note 3] seems to be gone. He told me he came here, mainly to avenge another fellow who was killed with the “Pats” early in the war. This was Frank Lawrence [Note 4] he used to be at the boarding house in Barrie when I was there. I knew him quite well. I told you he had been married only shortly before this, I think.
In the “Y” here at present they have a [over] gramophone going playing some very nice violin music. The Y.M.C.A. here is doing wonders. Too much praise cannot be given them. They have their officers or chaplains in the trenches with us, and their huts and tents away up under fire. In one place they have a bar (dry of course) in a dug out, in the support line. When we came out of it last time and arrived there they gave us hot porridge, cocoa chocolate, beans, cigarettes etc. And we were certainly in a condition to need it. Then when we got back to our rest camp they opened up the hut at 2.30 a.m. and helped us out again. I wish you would mention some [over] of this to one of the papers, I mean about the “Y”. The deserve all that is coming to them.
I wish you would change my address at the Mail and Empire, and Conservator. It is still going to Bramshott, and I only get about a quarter of them and very irregularly. I think you could safely address them 602248 “Cpl” C. E. Young. D. Coy “5th Batt.
Mounted Rifles.” Can. . For
your own letters you had better wait till I let you know whether I get the
[over] rank or not, something might intervene. But it would save changing to
give it to them that way. France
The weather here is pretty wet just now, and consequently pretty muddy. You must have had great times with the old “Etto – By – Cokee” up. I haven’t your letter with me so I may have missed something. I shall put it in next time, however.
In the meantime I shall close. Love to all.
Your loving son
The music is somewhat distracting.
Note 1: Walker, J G
Date of Death: 13 June 1916
Regiment: 13th Bn CEF
Cemetery: Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery
Note 2: 'The Pats' are the Princess Patricias Canadian Light Infantry
Note 3: Macdonald, N M
Date of Death:19 May 1916
Regiment: 5th Battalion Canadian Mounted Rifles
Cemetery: Poperinghe New Military Cemetery
Additional Information: Son of Lt. Col. R. T. Macdonald (C.A.M.C.) and Annie Elizabeth Macdonald, of Sutton, P.O. Quebec. Educated at Trinity College School, Port Hope, and a Graduate of McGill College, Montreal, as BSc.
Note 4: Lawrence, Frank Deane
Service No: 51296
Date of Death: 4 May 1915
Regiment: Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (Eastern Ontario Regiment)
Memorial: Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial
Additional Information: Son of the late Mr. and Mrs. Peter Lawrence, of "Thornbrake,"
Rd., Edinburgh, Scotland. Served in the South
African Constabulary in the South African Campaign. Educated at . Edinburgh Academy, Scotland
Scanned letters located here.
Tues 25 July 1916,
I sent you a card the other day but they are rather unsatisfactory aren’t they. It is pretty hard to write, though mostly because you can’t write anything about what you are doing. All I can say is I have been to the trenches again and am out again all right. I am not feeling quite O.K. I haven’t been bit or anything, but just a bit rundown I think. I shall be all right probably in a few days. I wonder how I gave the impression at the battle of perhaps being hurt. Of course we were pretty badly shaken up, but I wasn’t [over] hit at all.
You have asked me a number of questions in your letters that I am afraid I haven’t answered altogether. My letters get mislaid in the moving etc. Tell Bessie [?] I got her letter and enjoyed it immensely. It was extremely nice of her to write. I shall answer it and maybe shall send another. I also got her fudge in your parcel and it was great. I also got a letter and a pair of socks from Marvel both equally appreciated. Your cake was fine. I have received parcels VI, VII & VIII. Everything [over] in them is great. The papers used for packing get here quicker than by mail and I enjoy them. The parcels are in much better condition than before. Even the cake which was only in a cardboard box was not broken at all. Just when I arrived back from the trenches I got your two boxes VII & VIII and your last letter written when Pater was in
Detroit and two letters from Marion.
In the trenches I got your parcel of magazines “The American”, “Romance” etc. and the “Saturday Nights.” Jove but they were nice to get! I don’t quite know if I acknowledged a couple of parcels of magazines I got back at [over] the farm. My “Mails” don’t come very regularly as they are still going via the 34th at Bramshott, the local papers the same. The boracic acid [Note 2] has come in well for several things for myself and others. The oranges were fine one was a little bit soft, but it was a great idea to put them in the wax.
Jove, Mater, I have just this minute got parcel VI (it must have been V got before) with the toilet outfit etc. I had hardly expected it so soon, and it was certainly a welcome [over] surprise. Everything was pretty badly needed. I rather hated to ask for the razor as they are pretty expensive but it is certainly fine to have it. The brush rather brings back Christmas memories. Didn’t I give Pater one like that a couple of years ago. You should have seen me when I came out of the trenches. I had nearly a weeks growth on. Bluethner also got a new set and then I used his. He lost his others when I lost mine.
Funny that I was just speaking about oranges. These, in VI had gone bad somehow. They must have been longer on the road. My very close friends of the domestic zoo [Note 3] don’t seem to do anything but thrive on Keanting’s. They certainly are determined little beggars. [over] However I don’t mind them very much now. The lifebuoy is almost a necessity, and the Palmolive will be a luxury. I also got a parcel from Ettie tonight with a small cake and a couple of books. She is extremely good to me. These are “The Card” by Arnold Bennett, and The 39 Steps by John Buchan.
I am orderly corporal this week and haven’t too much to do.
Well Mater, I must close for now. Best love to all.
Your loving son
P.S. You asked me about communion. I get one about every month, Mater.
Note 1: Despite addressed from France, the battalion was located in Ypres, Belgium.
Note 2: Boric acid, used to kill lice.
Note 3: ‘Domestic zoo’ – lice.
Scanned letters located here.
Weds 9 Aug 1916,
This is the first chance I have had to write you for a while. I have been quite busy. When we came out of the line last time we did a long march back to our farm. En route we stopped off for a night. The day had been pretty hot, and the march long, and when we stopped I found your parcel No. IX waiting for me. I was out of reading matter so the papers were extremely acceptable. Then I was out of smokes so the cigarettes were great. We had some pretty good water, so we first made some lemonade with the lemons and sugar. It was fine, and quite homey. [over]
In fact the whole parcel was good to get. I also got the magazines. It was the night previous, I think. I am writing this in a big tent of the soldiers’ institute, a church affair. We have left our farm, after we marched in this morning, though it was pretty hot and we were tired, I found a fine tennis court, two, in fact, - clay – and I had a couple of sets. I shall have some more presently. The Institute supplies gear, even to shoes. Fancy this, almost – in fact, it is at times under shell fire. By the way, this is the same place where they have the big moving picture show and the band.
I received your letter in which you enclosed those of Mrs Wigley and Phil.
I am without Bluethner this trip and I miss him. He has blood poison or something like that in his knee and [over] gone to the hospital. Nothing very serious, I expect, though painful. However, it will be a good rest. I had a touch of it in my hands, and my knee but though I was very miserable for a while, I am all right again now. The food is a lot lacking in greens, and change, and the ground is pretty rank, so one has to be just at bit careful.
The weather is very hot and dry, but we generally have a bit of breeze, so we don’t mind it much. I have a fifth badge [5 CMR badge] that I shall try to send you. It is quite pretty. Last time up we lost our Captain of whom I told you before, Capt. Pineo. [over] I never knew a man more universally respected and liked by everyone than he. Even those newly over here were the same. Everyone, not only in the Company but the battalion, liked him and his loss is very much felt. He came from somewhere in Nova Scotia [Note 1].
We played a bit of baseball back at the farm, but they worked us most of the time. We lost a couple of games this trip.
Well I shall close now, best love to all,
Your loving son
I am very sorry to have left you so long without a letter, but this letter was written before I went in and I hadn’t a chance to get it censored. I since received your letter of July 30th enclosing Uncle Charlies, Phils and Phil’s letters. We are out for a few days for a little rest, and we are living in some new dugouts, that are quite nice. Small [over] but being new, clean.
I got a parcel from Ettie yesterday with a cake and a book. “Almayer’s Folly” by Jos. Conrad. It is not as good as the others.
The other day I ran across young Dowling who used to be in the Dominion. He is a lieutenant in the 4th CMR. I only saw him for a minute, but I shall look him up again. I also passed “Ralph Connor” of novelist fame [Note 2]. [over]
I must close this now to catch the mail. I am feeling pretty tired, but fairly well. Sleep is what I need, and I can get it here.
Best love to all
Your loving son
|Henry Hoyt Pineo, 1914|
Note 1: Captain Henry Hoyt Pineo was born on 9 Sep 1891, in Waterville, Kings County, Nova Scotia. He was the only son of William Welsford Pineo and Laura Hoyt Pineo and brother to Maude, Kathleen, and Muriel Pineo. Henry graduated B.A. from Acadia University in 1912 and LL.B. from Dalhousie University in 1914. He was admitted to the Nova Scotia Bar in 1914. He was attested into the 6th Regiment Canadian Mounted Rifles CEF on 13 Apr 1915 in Amherst, Nova Scotia; he gave his profession as Barrister at Law and declared 7 years of previous service in the Canadian Militia with the 14th Kings Canadian Hussars. By 1916, he had transferred from 6 CMR. On 21 July, as Officer Commanding, D Company, 5 CMR, he was one of 5 men killed in action by German trench mortars whilst in the Ypres salient. He is buried in Poperinghe New Military Cemetery, Belgium.
Note 2: Rev. Dr. Charles William Gordon, or Ralph Connor, was a Presbyterian minister and popular Canadian novelist of the period. He served as Chaplain to the 43rd (Cameron Highlanders) Battalion CEF then subsequently as senior chaplain in 9th Brigade, 3rd Canadian Division (5 CMR served in 8th Bde, 3rd Cdn Division).
Scanned letters located here.
Mon 4 Sept 1916,
France 4th Sept. 16
I haven’t much news to give you, but I shall write anyway. I am on a course just at present, or rather just finishing. It has been for about for four days, and a very nice course. Our hours are easy and the meals are better. I haven’t been at our billets lately, but I hear there are a couple of parcels there for m. I go back today, and I shall tell you how [over] the parcel goes.
I met Art Wilson [Note 1] on the street the other day and I was very glad to see him. He is a Sergeant in the C.F.A. [Canadian Field Artillery] I am continually meeting fellows from the 34th [Bn, CEF] or others that I know. I met two fellows in the P.P.C.L.I. [Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry] from home. Harold Heasley, [Note 2] a brother of Herb’s, who used to be in the choir, and Roy Bartlett [Note 3], whose father keeps the shoe store.
The course is taken by N.C.O.s. and men from each battalion in the brigade, and we have some great [over] stories to swap.
I hear that the Canadian papers are publishing stories about the Canadians’ whereabouts. I suppose you have seen them. They aren’t all there yet, but we expect to go before long (merely rumour this.). [Note 4]
I think I told you that Mark had been sick, but he is all right again and back at work. Sundays are peculiar out here. When we are back we have service, but up the line we seldom know [over] the day of the week or month. Last Sunday we had service in a field, and then communion in the barn. We have a straw covered floor at one end of the thatched barn. At one end is a table with a white cloth and generally quite a nice silver service set. (I mean p***n and cup). The other sounds poor doesn’t it? Then all the fellows kneel in the straw, generally with equipment and rifles. Sometimes the Chaplain is a churchman, and sometimes he isn’t. They seem to switch around a lot.
Today we are not getting to church. [over]
I got back to billets and found the two parcels – X & XI, the book and magazines, also your last letter, August 13th with Mater’s and Hester’s. The same day I got some more cheroots from Phil. The parcels are fine.
I was pretty badly in need of a clean pair of socks. I appreciate all the work you do on them, Mater, and they are just right for size, and are so comfortable. [over] I think I have received all you have sent. I wear them for a couple of washes, then I turn them in and they are washed and issued to other fellows. But there is nothing like your socks, they are so soft and comfortable.
I am nearly finished with the book I like it very much. Bluethner has read it too, and liked it. The cake arrived in fine condition, and everyone pronounced it extra good. We had the lobster for tea last night. [over] In fact every single thing was fine. I don’t know that there is anything special I want. You think of nearly everything. The parcels help life along immensely.
I intended to tell you before, that “no news is good news” from me. I can’t make a regular day to write as our movements don’t conform any certain day. No matter how slightly I might be wounded you would be notified by telegraph. And by the way, I [over] told Marion the same thing, so if such should come along, I wish you would just drop her a line, till I can write myself. She might worry a bit too. Not that I am counting on anything of course.
Stewart Jarvis is lucky, isn’t he? I wish I could do the same thing. Perhaps I may.
Your loving son,
I heard from Marion the other day that she had passed her senior matriculation. Pretty good isn’t it? This will finish her schooling I expect. Mr. Nevill is up at Camp Borden [Note 5] and Harold is working on a farm.
I her from Ettie quite often, and she sends me some parcels.
Do you remember Hilliard who used to be teller in Cayuga when I went there. You can see his picture in my album. I have heard from him a couple [over] of times. He came over with the first contingent, and is wounded in England.
I think I told you about Ethel Jennings being engaged to an officer in the 60th Batt. I saw in a Canadian paper that he was killed.
Well I must close now. Best wishes to all.
Your loving son
Note 1: Given the proximity of Regimental Numbers with Car, this is likely to be Arthur Wilson, Regimental number: 602246, born 12 June 1888 in Lincolnshire, UK. A telephone fitter from 21 Church St, Stratford, Ontario, he enlisted on 23 Jan 1915 and listed previous service with the Middlesex Regiment (British Army). Reference: RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 10434 – 34.
Note 2: The Heasley of best fit for this reference may be Gunner Harold R Heasley, Regimental number: 2085433, born 1 Aug 1895. He joined the artillery, gave his occupation as draughtsman and the address of his next of kin in Montreal, Quebec. Reference: RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 4215 - 25
Note 3: This is probably Roy Douglas Bartlett, Regimental number: 487433, born 23 Jan 1893 and gave his occupation as student. He was attested on 15 Dec 1915 in Toronto into the 5th Overseas Universities Company. He gave his address as Brampton, Ontario and likely knew Car from school. Reference: RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 484 – 23.
Note 4: This letter is likely to have been written as the Canadian Corps moved from Belgium to France in preparation for the fighting in the Somme. Presumably, Car is referencing rumours that the Canadians are joining the battle (on going since 1 July 1916).
Note 5: Camp Borden is an Army garrison north of Toronto.
Thurs 21 Sept 1916,
My Dear Pater;Just a line to let you know that all goes well and I am O.K. We are moving around a great deal lately and we don’t get much time to write. I have sent you quite a few cards lately, though they are rather measley aren’t.
Bluethner and I are still together and came through the last action [over] together. I received your last letter and parcel XIII for both of which many thanks.
More later,Best love to all,
Your loving son
Weds 18 Oct 1916,
France 18th Oct 16
My Dear Pater;
I don’t feel much like writing a letter tonight for some reason or other, but I shall try anyway. We are out of the trenches for a while, and we hope that we get a bit easier bit of the country to hold next trip. However our destination is as usual a mystery. Just now we are billeted in a town. The men are in the barn and I am with the Sergeants, as the Company clerk. It keeps me pretty busy a good deal of the time, and we have a table here for the writing.
The idea of being in the house implies more than it really carries. I sleep on the brick floor, and about the only advantage we have is the table [over] and the stove. This only goes in the day time and we do a bit of the cooking on it.
These French towns are very peculiar places, and nearly all alike. The farmers don’t seem to have any houses in the country at all, but they live in the towns, and consequently the streets of the towns are lined with barns. These are made of wood, and plastered with mud. The broadside of the barn is on the street, and has a big door to the street. Inside is the courtyard with the stables at the sides, and the house as the fourth side. In the centre of the courtyard invariably reposes the manure heap. In fact the famers have a bright outlook on life. There are streets and streets of these barns. The stores are few and very poor, and [over] the towns are peopled entirely by old men and women, mostly old, too.
I have a great time with the French. I can get on better here than in some places, but they go so fast sometimes that I get a bit behind. However, for all practical purposes, it goes. I can act as interpreter for the house.
I have received parcels XIV & XV and thank you very much for them. XV had Mabel’s parcel of candy, and her letter. Please thank her for it, and say I shall write her myself before long. The candy was great.
Yesterday I got a parcel of magazines [Note 1] and found in one Mammie’s note for that as a birthday present. I am writing her this mail. I also received your other parcel with the [over] Popular and Windsor. I like those two magazines always.
Well Mater I must close now, I have very little news.
Best love to all.
Your loving son
Note 1: The Popular Magazine was an American journal published from 1903 to 1931 and was one of the forerunners of the general adventure pulps that would reach their height of popularity in the 1920s and 30s. The Windsor Magazine was a British monthly illustrated publication published from 1895 to 1939 and described itself as "An Illustrated Monthly for Men and Women."
Thurs 2 Nov 1916,
It is quite a while since I wrote you; though I have sent plenty of post cards.
At present we are in the trenches, but out of the big push. We are in what is locally termed an Old Man’s Home. A very quiet part of the line. It is of course, welcome in the extreme. After we left the Somme, we did a series of long marches. They were heavy, but the weather and the roads were both good so we didn’t mid much. [over]
Finally, we arrived at a village where we put in six days rest, and then came up here. At present, I am in a deep dug out, that is quite home like. My job as Company clerk keeps me here and keeps me busy. This dug out is quite far back from the front line, and we live like kings. With me there is our Company Serg. Major, his batman, and a runner. The batman does the cooking on a brazier. Our meals are somewhat irregular owing to duties, but [over] good when they come.
Last night, for instance we had lobster stew. We had got canned lobster from a canteen, and with tinned milk and butter it made a fine stew. This with some of your coffee and cake made a fine tea. By the way, whenever you need weight for the parcels, canned goods are always welcome, such as lobster or any delicacies like that.
Your parcel no XVIII came in last night. The cake was in fine condition, and tastes great. We are going to [over] have afternoon tea (I mean coffee) today, and use some. The socks are getting very necessary now. The mud is very bad, and it is hard to keep dry. In this trench we have rubber boots but they belong here and we may not have them next trench.
You would be amazed at the miles and miles of trenches here, literally miles. Our dug out is quite large. The entrance is in the side of the trench, about four feet square, and then there are about 12 steps [over] coming down. The shaft is sloped about like this \ and is well timbered. At the bottom there are two rooms, one where I am, with two bunks, a bench, and some shelves, and a small desk, for furniture. We have a lantern and candles for light. The room is about 12 x 6 x 5. The other room is about twice as long but has only one bunk. We do the cooking there.
Our main trouble is rats. They are very large fine rats of beautiful grey and almost black colour and as tame and almost as large as cats. Of course, we get pretty well accustomed to them, but they could be done without. One good thing though is that there seem only few of the other and smaller animals here (crawly ones I mean). That is a big item.
This letter was delayed in writing over night, and since beginning I have received your letter of Oct. 15th. I am glad every one seems well.
How did Rig Sproule happen to get home, was he disabled [?] [over]
Martin [Bluethner] is OK and wishes to be remembered to you.
I hope your cold is better, this is rather cold-time, isn’t it?
We have a young fellow in the signallers from near Snelgrove [Note 1]. His name is Harry Severson. I discovered him by censoring mail, which is my job, and seeing his letters go to Snelgrove and Brampton. I am passing the local papers on to him. He went to High School there, but a few years later than I.
Another fellow I have [over] seen several times is Clayt. Laird. Old Jimmy’s eldest son. He used to play lacrosse and hockey. He is in the 3rd Pioneers. [Note 2] Another was Harold Holmes, son of W.H. Holmes the blacksmith. He is driving a motor transport.
I didn’t see Amy’s brother, as we moved shortly after I got your letter, but I shall look him up when I can. Squak Deacon got a nice Blighty, as the saying is, a nice clean bullet wound in the leg. Dowling was also wounded, though I don’t know any particulars. [over] I am going to try and pull a few wires to get a commission. I think I have done my share of rough work and I have had quite a lot of experience. Of course it will be pretty difficult to do, as they give them mostly to fellows who have been here a year. However there is no harm trying.
Do you think our friend Dick Blain [Note 3] could start anything from your end of the line? I would like to get one in England for a while, but then that is the hard part of it. They don’t mind as much [over] granting them out here, but they have to let one out of the country. Besides, there are so many trying. Still better, I would like one in Canada. I have had all kinds of courses, so I could take up nearly kind of work.
Don’t think I am merely trying to get out of this, as I am quite willing to stay and finish up, but when I see some of the fellows who have commissions it makes me a bit sore, and if I could combine that and a rest, it would be very fine. [over]
I think I must close now. Best love to all.
Your loving son
Note 1: Snelgrove was a village near to Brampton, Ontario; it has now been subsumed into the urban area of the city.
Note 2: This refers to Clayton Laird, Regimental No.140626, born 5 Nov 1890 in Brampton. He worked as a clerk before being attested into the CEF in 1915 and was discharged 1919. He served initially with the 3rd Canadian Pioneer Battalion, then subsequently with the 75th Battalion CEF. He died at Sunnybrook Hospital, Toronto on 6 Mar 62.
|The Hon. Richard Blain|
Note 3: Richard Blain (1857-1926) was the Conservative Member of Parliament for the County of Peel (Ontario) from 1900 to 1917 and then served in the Canadian Senate from 1917 until his death.
Sun 12 November 1916,
My Dear Mater;
I have just got your and Pater’s letter of Oct 23rd. I am sorry that you have been worrying about my being out in the cold, Mater. If conditions continue as they are at present, I will not be out at all.
Being company clerk I stay at the bottom of a deep dugout most of the time, and really have a fine time. I stay here with the sergeant major, his batman and a runner. We cook our own meals after our own fashion, and manage to pass the time very well. In fact, in this part of the line, everybody has deep, safe dugouts to sleep in, when they are not working at the trench which continually falls in in places. But pshaw [Note 1], Mater this is a fine place. Quiet and [over] comfortable. The only thing which bothers me is the hour. I have to write reports at all hours of the day and night. But even so I get lots of sleep, lots to eat, and altogether, everything goes well.
I don’t know whether I told you or not, but the underwear is fine and very welcome, and the socks and gloves are both welcome. I won’t need your band for the tummy. They catch the animals too easily.
We will be issued with leather coats in a few days and they are waterproof and warm. Added to this, we have long rubber boots which keep our feet dry. I think the whole winter will probably be spent somewhere in this district, and if so, we will spend a very easy and comfortable one.
It seems funny to hear [over] of women in the offices. I know Katie McKechnie, of course, and she was always clever at school.
Just by the way, here, tell Pater that auto strop razor strops can be bought separately a fellow here has just received one in a parcel, put up separate.
Now, Mater, I have thought out a few suggestions for parcels that have become possible through our changed conditions. Such things as sauces, such as mushroom, or some walnut pickles always will be most useful and welcome.
In the trenches we have our mess with just four, and in billets we have a mess with about ten. I go with the sergeants there. The soda alcohol will be welcome.
It will seem funny without the McFaddens and the Boulters. The Boulters have been going for so long, that I wonder if they will really go after all. [over]
I haven’t received any cheroots from Phil lately, but I expect they will come along soon like the idea of Will cigarettes.
I wonder if you could get me another pipe. I lost the last one you sent, at the Somme.
We are in the 5th Brigade and the 3rd Division. I don’t quite know about the commanders. I think the Brigadier is Hemsley, and division is Lipsett, but I don’t know for sure. Our present company commander is J.S.E. Todd. He comes from Brownsburg P.Q. He is no relation to the Todds we know. Then at present we have Lieut. J.H. Jones a B.B.N.A. [Bank of British North America] man from Dawson City., A. W. Thorne from Moncton N.B. and Felix Bolte a U. of T. student from Toronto. Our regular C.O. is J.R. Barnes of N.S. He is away sick at the present, but may be back before long. I think Capt. Todd is only temporary [Note 2]. We have had so many changes in Officers that we hardly know who we [over] really have. The Coy Serg Major is W.J. Holmes. He is a South African man and won a Military Medal at the Somme. He is a very decent chap, quiet and easy to get along with.
I hardly expect a pass before the New Year sometime. They are slow in getting around to my turn.
I suppose you got an echo of the excitement of the U.S. election. We heard by wire th[at] Hughes got in, but we haven’t got the paper yet. We get the English papers here, even in the trenches about a day or two late.
The Mail & Empire hasn’t changed my address yet, so I get it about a month old, and very irregularly.
The trigger mittens will be nice, and I may find a time when they will be specially useful. As it is, I haven’t used my rifle, fired it that is, since I left the Somme. The others you sent have come in very useful. Especially they were [over] good on the march up here, when it was cold. The weather lately has been wet, but not cold.
I don’t think I shall need a sweater. We have one issued and while it is not very thick, it will be enough with the leather coat, and overcoat.
I made a great scoop the other day. One of the fellows picked up a fine pair of Army Binoculars (Prismatic) on the Somme, and got tired of carrying them. I bought them for five francs. They will be a bit useful here, and if I get a chance on pass, I shall send them home. Coupled with my duties as Company Clerk, I am an observer, and in charge of the runners. A great many messages are sent by runners as telephones etc. are so easily tapped.
I am very glad you liked the miniature. I got it done when I was in England and forgot about it when I left. I[t] was then still unfinished. The people [over] in Haselmere were very nice about forwarding it. I rather felt as if I had done a foolish thing in getting it done, as it is not quite customary for young hopefuls to do such things. However, if you like it, I am very glad I got it.
I can’t quite figure out just where I shall be for Christmas, in the trenches or out. It won’t make much difference though. It will be simply a quiet time, either place. I shall try to get some souvenir or something to send you. But needless to say, however much I would like to get you something, you may have to take the wire for the dud.
At any rate, Mater don’t worry. I am in a more comfortable place here than I ever was since I came over and I would say almost safe.
Any time now you want to picture me, think of me a down in a twenty foot dugout, or else in a nice comfortable barn or old house, with the windows stopped up, and a nice fire going. [over] Jove, this is an epistle I am writing, this trip, isn’t it?
It is about eleven o’clock p.m. and I am going to have supper and then make a trip to the front line for observations, and then go to bed. I am writing by candle light, our only light over here. By the way, candles as weight are always good. We are issued with some, and buy some, but the supply always is below the demand. Just a few, from time to time. Also a pencil every now and then, and as you have been doing, a piece of soap about once a month, and some shaving cream once in two or through months. That sounds for ahead, doesn’t it? According to Lloyd George though, I suppose we may expect it. Here’s hoping he doesn’t know.
For supper tonight we will have canned sausage, fried potatoes, toast and tea. There is a canteen in the trenches and we can buy some stuff. We have breakfast about 10 am with generally bacon, potatoes, toast and tea, then [over] lunch about 1 p.m. and supper at about midnight. That is in the trenches, of course. I have been doing a good deal of the cooking lately, and we have a great time disguising our bully beef, for instance. I mash it, fry it, boil it and mix it with onions, beans, potatoes, or anything we can get. Sometimes I made a soup out of it. I kept a stock pot for a while.
I made some lobster stew the other day, in fact we have it quite often. Once can of lobster and a tin and a half of milk with water, butter and pepper & salt boiled a little, make[s] enough for four. We can get Quaker Oats here, and we make it whenever we have enough milk. Tonight we had grapenuts. A couple of days ago I fried some porridge that was cold, and made a sauce of sugar syrup flavoured with a little peach jam, and colored with a little cocoa. It was quite a success.
So, you see, if you can get any [over] semi prepared dishes we can make them up easily. Generally we can get a brazier and lots of coke and charcoal.
Marion is going back to school at Cayuga this year to try her second part. I suppose it is just as well to go through with it. Something to do anyway.
I would like to be where I could hear some music. I miss that a great deal. I wonder if could get me a small hymns and prayer book that I could carry around with me. I haven’t had a church service for a couple of months, I think. This is the time of year we ought to be practicing carols and Christmas anthems. Have Pater play some on the piano, I’ll listen.
Well Mater, I wish this whole business would finish up, don’t you? But cheer up, it can’t be for so very much longer.
Isn’t Mammie wonderful the way she gets to church etc. [over]
I am afraid the letter I wrote here was pretty hurried, but I shall write again before long.
Well Mater & Pater, I had better close now. Very best love to all.
Your loving son
Note 1: An expression of contempt or impatience. ‘‘Poison? Pshaw! The very idea!’’
Note 2: Personalities mentioned:
|Maj Gen Louis James Lipsett|
Major General Louis James Lipsett CB, CMG (14 June 1874 – 14 October 1918), was a senior officer in the British Army and Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War. He commanded the 3rd Canadian Division during some of the bitterest battles of the war, taking over in 1915 after his predecessor was killed. He himself was killed in action less than a month before the end of the war during a reconnaissance mission observing German positions along the River Selle (Courtesy Wikipedia).
The Canadian Corps by 1916 consisted of 4 front line divisions plus supporting arms and services. Each division consisted of 3 brigades of 4 infantry battalions. The 3rd Canadian Division was formed in France in December 1915 and served on the Western Front until the end of hostilities. The first General Officer Commanding was Major-General Malcolm Mercer who was killed in action at the Battle of Mount Sorrel on 3 June 1916 (see Uncle Car’s entry for that period).
Although Car states he was in the 5th Brigade, in fact 5 CMR was in the 8th Brigade with 1, 2 and 4 CMR.
|Lt Felix Olivier Bolte|
Lt Felix Olivier Bolte (22 April 1894 – 2 September 1918) was appointed to the 35th Bn CEF in May 1915. He subsequently joined 5CMR at the front in June 1916. He was injured with shell shock at the Somme in September 1916 and returned to England. After recovery, he eventually returned to France in March 1918 and joined the 3rd Bn CEF. He was killed in action on 2 September 1918 during the attack on the Drocourt-Queant line, near Cagnicourt and is buried at the nearby Dominion Cemetery.
Arthur Wellington Thorne of Havelock, Kings County, New Brunswick was born on 11 July 1872 and was attested into the 115th Battalion (New Brunswick), CEF on 6 March 1916. The battalion embarked for Britain on 23 July 1916 and subsequently provided reinforcements for the Canadian Corps in the field. He gave his occupation as lumberman and survived the war. He died 28 February 1958, in Havelock, NB.
Major John Todd (the son of David Todd of Lachute, Quebec) was born in Quebec City on 1 July 1890 as was attested into the CEF on 1 June 1915. He listed is trade as machinist and previously served in the 17th Hussars of the Canadian Militia, and was a member of the 1910 Canadian Coronation Contingent.
The Canadian Coronation Contingent was a guard of honour, composed of members of the Canadian Army and Royal Canadian Mounted Police, assembled distinctly for participation in the coronation ceremonies of King George V in London.
Major Todd is awarded the Military Cross on July 23, 1917. Major Todd is mentioned several times in the 5th CMR War Diary, including this excerpt from June 1917:
Vimy Defences, June 5th, 1917
“The advanced machine gun post withdrew to a selected point. The enemy were driven off by our bombing squads and Lewis Gun crews on either side of the railroad track. Our men attempted to follow the enemy up but were unable to owing to our artillery barrage coming down in front of the enemy line. Heavy casualties were caused to the enemy. Great credit is due to Major J. S. Todd O.C. of "D" Coy. on which company frontage the action took place, for his capable handling of his Company under trying conditions. Lieut. Holmes of the same company greatly distinguished himself in the attack (See recommendations for honours & awards marked).”
The War Diary entry for August 21st, 1917 includes a note that Major Todd was accidentally shot in the foot through no fault of his own. He survived the war and was mentioned as being present at the last Mess Dinner of the 5CMR at the Windsor Hotel, Montreal on the 4th April 1919.
George Roland Barnes was born on 23 April 1895 in Hampton, New Brunswick. He signed his Attestation Paper as a Lieutenant on 9 April 1915, with the 6th Canadian Mounted Rifles at Amherst, Nova Scotia, at the age of 19, 2 weeks shy of his twentieth birthday, naming his next-of-kin as his mother, T.W. Barnes of Hampton. He stated that he had previous service with the 8th Princess Louise's New Brunswick Hussars as a Lieutenant, that he was not married and that his trade was that of (Forestry) Student. The 6th Canadian Mounted Rifle Battalion was organized on March 15, 1915 in Amherst, the unit sailing for England on 18 July. Barnes entered the French theatre on 24 October 1915, followed by a transfer 9 weeks later, to 5CMR on January 2, 1916. Lieutenant George Roland Barnes was awarded the Military Cross in August 1916. His citation, dated July 22, 1916, reads as follows:
For conspicuous gallantry when reconnoitring the enemy's movements after their advance, and for his prompt action in repelling their attack. He showed great, coolness during 38 hours of continuous action.
For his actions that day, he was recommended for promotion to Temporary Captain and assumed the rank of Acting Major while in command. He was admitted to No. 14 General Hospital at Boulogne on 2 October 1916, with "P.U.O. severe" (Pyrexia of Unknown Origin = fever), which was later diagnosed officially as ‘Trench Fever’. After being released from medical care at the end of the month, he returned to his unit in the field. Two weeks after his return to 5CMR, while in battle at Neuvelle Ste. Vaast (near Arras) on 14 November, Barnes suffered a gunshot wound to the anterior portion of his right upper forearm, shattering his ulna and radius. He was initially treated at No. 42 Casualty Clearing Station but was subsequently evacuated and admitted to Duchess of Westminster's (No.1 Red Cross) Hospital at Le Touquet. While in hospital at Le Touquet, he was awarded the Bar to the Military Cross. His citation, dated November 25, 1916, reads as follows:
For conspicuous gallantry in action. He led his company with great courage and initiative, gaining his objective. Later, he consolidated and maintained his position for thirty-six hours until relieved. He has on many previous occasions done very fine work.
He was subsequently evacuated to England, his stay in hospital lasting four and a half months, before receiving his discharge in April 1917. He was transferred to Kitchener Hospital in Brighton, but was returned to Canada for further treatment in June. He had a long recuperation from the injury but was declared ‘Fit for General Service as an Officer’ at No. 7 District Depot in Saint John, New Brunswick, on 25 October 1918. Nevertheless, he was subsequently admitted to the Dominion Orthopaedic Hospital in Toronto in 1919, where he received special orthopaedic treatment. He was discharged from service on 10 January 1920. He eventually returned to New Brunswick and died at Saint John on 6 July 1979, at the age of 84.
Walter John Holmes was born on 31 March 1880 in Bushey, Hertfordshire, England. He initially enlisted on 14 February 1915 in Sussex, N.B. and was attested into the 6th Canadian Mounted Rifles, CEF on 31 March 1915 at Amherst, Nova Scotia. He gave his occupation as farmer and his next of kin was listed as John Holmes, 52 Totteridge Ave, High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, England.
He sailed for England in July 1915, was briefly hospitalised in England for gonorrhoea in September 1915, arrived in France on 24 October 1915, and was taken on strength of 5 CMR on 3 January 1916.
He stated he had 5 years’ service in South Africa on his Attestation Form. Records indicate he served as a Private in A Division, the South African Constabulary and was slightly wounded in action on 13 Dec 1901 at Roodewal, western Transvaal.
He sailed for England in July 1915, was briefly hospitalised in England for gonorrhoea in September 1915, arrived in France on 24 October 1915, and was taken on strength of 5 CMR on 3 January 1916.
He was promoted Company Sergeant Major (Warrant Officer Class 2) in the field on 20 September 1916 (on the death of CSM McGarry) and was subsequently gazetted Lieutenant on 8 May 1917. He was awarded the Military Medal on 17 Nov 1916 (Gazetted 6 January 1917). His citation from an entry in the battalion War Diary, 3 Nov 1916, reads:
He won the Military Cross on 22 August 1917, also for bravery in the field. His citation reads:
#111240 Sgt. J. HOLMES
“During engagement 1st & 2nd October 1916 made a reconnaissance during which he located an enemy bombing patrol working round the left flank of the position we had captured. He collected a party of men and led them in a bayonet charge across the open causing heavy casualties to enemy patrol, a second party of the enemy was dealt with by him in a similar manner, his prompt action helped to inspire then men at a critical moment.”
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty on numerous occasions. He made daring personal reconnaissances of the enemy wire bringing back valuable information. Afterward, when in charge of an advanced bombing post which had run short of bombs he sent back his two men for a further supply and attacked the enemy single-handed driving them back and holding his post until reinforcements arrived. His work has always been characterised by alertness and initiative.
He was wounded in action with a gunshot wound to the head at Lens on 24 August 1917 and was evacuated back to England later that month. He was in the 1st Eastern General Hospital at Cambridge and convalesced in England for the latter part of 1918. His medical records also note shell shock. On his recovery, on 19 Feb 1918 he was posted to the Depot of the Quebec Regiment in Bramshott, attached to the Canadian Musketry Camp, Mytchett Ranges.
His Assigned Pay records gives his date of marriage as 28 November 1917 and changes his pay from his father to his wife, Sarah Jane Holmes (of Brook House, Bishop Moncton, North Yorkshire) on 1 January 1918. He sailed for Canada on 31 July 1919 and was demobilised from service on 9 Aug 1919. In addition to the MC and MM, he was subsequently awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal. On discharge, he gave his address as c/o Mrs A Gunn, 112 Grange St, Saint John, N.B. although a subsequent address appears for Upper Jemseg, Queens County, N.B.
Fri 1 December 1916,
Dear Mater and all the family,
This must be the sum and substance of my Christmas to you this year, with hopes for better luck next.
Please put into each stocking, a large bunch of love done up in tissue paper, tied with ribbon and stuck with Christmas stickers.
I shall be thinking of you all, Mamie – Pater, Kocken, Hester, Walter, Frances, Harold, Kiddie, Ken, and not even forgetting Amy.
I shall follow you all through the day as I know you will spend [over] it.
I so hope that Hester is all right again, by the way, and able to come over.
Don’t worry about me being uncomfortable at all. Outside of the fact that I shall be away from home, I expect I shall be very comfortable and I shall spend the day with you quite easily. I told you in the last letter how I expected to be situated then, and it is as near to a home as I have seen out here yet. I am lucky, also, for unless something turns up which is quite unlikely, I can spend as much time as I wish in my dugout. So much [over] for being eddicated [?]. Some of the fellows though are not quite so lucky. They have to spend the nights out on listening posts where it gets extremely cold. Though as a matter of fact, with the exception of a few, they are all new fellows, and as I have had my turn at all that, it is pretty well coming to me.
I got my first Christmas parcel yesterday. A handkerchief from the Young Ladies Bible Class.
I have two parcels to acknowledge from you Mater. [Parcels] XIX & XX. They were both very fine. The toilet things came in just right, I was [over] out of them. And the socks and mitts. I gave Martin [Note 1] a pair of half gloves and of long ones. I am keeping the others. I fully expect we will get much colder weather very shortly. This part of France is colder than Belgium. There is quite a bit of mud, even now, and the socks come in all the time. In [Parcel] XX all the eatables were very nice and the honey was a great treat.
A couple of nights ago I invited Martin down for dinner. He was in the front line, and my dugout is rear supports.
I grilled steak over coke in the brazier. Then I sliced potatoes, put them in a frying pan [over] put milk and butter, pepper & salt & a little water on them. Then I covered it up with a deep plate (smothered it) and so put it on the fire for about half an hour. The result was fine. The Murphys were boiled, steamed, creamed & fried. Actually a marvellous process.
Then I did likewise to some sliced onions, but fried them afterward. Into the onions I put the steak, covered it and smuvvered it again. Result, Beefsteak smothered in onions, and creamed potatoes. Next we had toast, and coffee. To finish we had more toast, with honey, & your cakes.
Not a bad meal for soldiers in the field [over]. This we topped off with a little native wine and some of the Wills cigarettes.
This was about midnight. I have lots of fun with the meals. Somewhere near meal time, Paddy comes to me and says “What’s for dinner Youngy?” I say “What’s the material” and then he enumerates what has come in the rations and what has been bought at the canteen. Though lately the canteen is rather a negative factor. So I rack my brains for a sufficient disguise for each article. He is rather new to cooking, and if it is anything intricate I cook it myself. Of course – having so much experience myself –etc. etc. – But I will [over] say in self defence that I haven’t spoilt anything yet. We don’t often have exactly the same thing twice, for all that our rations are about the same all the time.
I generally manage to disguise ‘em.
Last night Bluethner [Note 1] was in, and we gave him some crab stew, with toast, tea (your tea) and raspberry jam.
I am enclosing a badge of the battalion. I have been a long time getting it. I have replaced the one I had, and this one has been through the 3rd battle of Ypres and several battles at the Somme, to say nothing of travels all over France and Belgium [over] and in trenches galore. I shall send more, later for the others.
Well Mater, I am pretty busy so I shall close. I shall write again, soon, but as this is the one that ought to arrive about Christmas I shall wish you all a Merry Christmas.
And I want it to be a Merry one, no reason at all why not, and I shall be Merry with you.
Loads of love to all
Your loving son
Note 1: Car’s friend Martin Bluethner.
Note 2: 5CMR with 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade was deployed in the Arras region of France during this period.