Winterbottom, Sydney Amyas

Letter
Date:
April 23, 1917
To:
Mom and Dad
From:
Sid
VIMY RIDGE
April 23, 1917

Dearest Mom and Dad:

Well, I suppose you have guessed by now, I went over the top on the first day of the big push. Our battalion were very lucky as regards to casualties, only 16 killed. Of, course there were quite a few others wounded.

Well, I will try to describe this push. On the evening of the eighth of April, we moved into the jumping off trenches. Once there we dug cubby holes in the sides of the trench and sat down to make ourselves as comfortable. As there had been raids by our troops all along the front for the last couple of weeks, Fritz was not expecting anything. We therefore got no shell fire in that trench. Everyone was as cheerful as a picnic although it was pretty cold and raw waiting. About one o'clock we were able to move into the cellar of a smashed chateau nearby so therefore were more sheltered.

Pretty soon our artillery opened up the barrage. By the holy moses it was a wonderful sight. Thousand of guns of every size were roaring at once. The air hit you in the face as if someone was thumping it with a towel. Four tanks suddenly crawled up out of somewhere and started out in Heinies direction.They looked rather funny. All you can tell about them is they look just as they do in the many pictures you have seen of them. These tanks however were not able to keep up very much for the indescribable mud.

About Five in the morning, the first division of Canadians went over the top. They didn’t charge as the length to our objective was two and a half miles. They simply walked until they were near the point and then charged.

We went over about eight o'clock. You should have seen how Fritz's trenches were smashed by our gunfire. Have you ever seen the old ocean torn about with a gale. Well that is just what has trenches looked like. We kept going always behind our barrage of shrapnel. All we had to do was follow up the barrage. It did the work. Well Adrian was platoon stretcher bearer and did very good work. Towards the end we had to dash across a space and capture some of his field guns That is where Adrian got wounded the wound went from under his right eye and came out in the region of his left ear. The wonderful part of it was that his sight and hearing were absolutely unharmed. He lay out most of the night and was packed in by four German prisoners who were made to act as stretcher bearers. He was very numbed with the exposure and half conscious. At the dressing station he was given some soup and a very large shot of rum. Shortly afterwards he came around and was quite cheerful.."Here you guys" he said to some stretcher bearers nearby by "Come and rub my feet, don't stand there doing nothing."

I suppose he is in Blighty now.

In the same engagement, little Jackson of Kamloops was wounded, I believe, in the neck but I understand he will pull through. Our gun section went over the whole course without a single casualty. A whizz-bang ! almost got me. I felt all through it that I was jake because I knew you all at home and the relatives had prayed for my safety. Therefore I knew I was fine and dandy.

I received your nice parcel of louse proof underwear, cigs, and gum,. thanks ever so much for them. If I return home don't expect to see the lad who left you as I have changed. A little older looking I guess. I also enjoy a good cigar and drink of beer once in a while. But otherwise I'm the same. Oh yes, I chew tobacco when in the line. You have got to do something when you can't smoke or you would go bughouse.

Good Uncle Barney sent me another delicious parcel of high class sweets from Lloyds , London. Also, Miss Fooks sent along her regular parcel of good eats .Please send me a louse proof suit every fortnight as I was awfully lousy the other day. I caught about forty of the little devils.

All I can ask you all at home is not to worry as a Battalion does not go over the top every day. And don't worry if you don't get my letters regularly. Just remember that during this push one can't write regularly and the mail can't come regularly. I have often gone ten days without hearing from home.

I hope to back home toward September to have that deer hunt. Therefore, Dad, don't go and die before I return for the love of pete or I'll never forgive you. Also tell Keith to wait until I come home before he enlists as I can tell him a few charms about soldiering that might make him alter his ambitions.

With fondest love, Lovingly, Sid
Original Scans