[This letter from Allan Hager to his unidentified sister was originally published in The New Liskeard Speaker and Temiskaming News-Letter on November 12, 1915. It was preceded by the following headline:
Letter from Gnr. A.E. Hager
Mr. Hager was formerly a resident of McCool, but late of Winnipeg. He writes an interesting letter from England to his sister here.]
You'll excuse me if this letter is a wee bit short to-night. I only have a few minutes to spare and I am very tired. I have had a very trying time these last two weeks. They have made a musketry instructor out of me. I don't know how long the job is going to last, but I hope it won't be long. It is no joke to get up in front of a bunch of men, and lecture them for six hours every day, and then take them to the ranges and have the responsibility of them shooting at the targets and watching to see that they don't shoot themselves. You would think there was not much to learn about handling a rifle but just a bunch of green men and put them at target shooting without any training and you would find a great many dead men before the day was out.
Harold Johnson and I were up to Canterbury Saturday afternoon. We were shown through the Canterbury Cathedral, but as it was getting dark we were not able to get a good look at everything. Canterbury is a pretty place, and the people were very nice too. We met a couple of nice girls up there and have a standing invitation to go back any time. It was nearly [missing] o'clock before we got away from Canterbury. We were both mounted on bicycles and on the road I met with an accident which if it had crippled me as badly as it did the bicycle, I wouldn't have been much more use for this world. We were coming down a hill, and as we were in a hurry we let our bicycles ramble along without any brakes on. My light went out and as it was very dark I could only see about 6 or 8 feet ahead. Well, the first thing I saw after my light went out was a stone wall. I steered away from it alright, and the next thing in front of me was a hawthorn hedge. I gave my wheel a quick turn and the next thing I knew I was sitting in the middle of the road, my wheel was upside down on top of the hedge, buckled up in all kinds of shapes. My hat was found about one hundred and fifty feet the other side of the hedge. It took Harold and me about half an hour to straighten the bicycle out. I escaped with a few scratches on my face.
I am sending you all the snap shots I have and all I will get from now on. I wish you would take care of them for me until I come home because each picture has a story to tell and I would hate to lose them as I prize them very much. It is hard to take care of them here.
We had a heavy loss last night, somewhere about seventeen men killed and about thirty wounded, out of our brigade. A German Zeppelin went over our lines. I just missed being one of the unfortunates by the skin of my teeth. All our guard was blown to atoms. It was my turn to be on guard, but as I was down at the ranges coaching for the 7th Brigade, I missed my turn. I saw the whole thing five minutes after it happened. It was all too terrible to mention. The men were shattered to a thousand pieces. It is just a taste of what it will be soon. You people over in Canada have not the slightest idea of how bad the war really is. Even here in England a person never knows when he is going to be killed. I have barely escaped two or three times now. I don't think I had better tell you any more this time.
The Canadians are making a great name for themselves over here. We all swore last night when we saw so many of our comrades killed that the Germans would get no quarter from the 5th Artillery Brigade. I will send you some souvenirs sometime soon.
Your brother Allan.