28 January 1945
Dear Miss Fulton,
I am very grateful for your letter and deeply saddened that the tragic events of that day, Sept. 1st, should have brought such a deep sorrow to you. I would give so much if I could only lighten that sorrow for you a little. It was such a grief to me and has continued to prey on my mind with ever recurring horror that Tpr. Crawford and Tpr. Rutherford should have lost their lives at the same time as I was so severely wounded that I could not raise a hand to do a thing or even to move or be moved the few feet to where they were, just around the corner of a tank from where I lay.
There were eight of us in that little party. Two had been posted out as sentries to watch for snipers. There rest of us gathered together the bodies of the boys who had been killed the previous afternoon and had prepared them for burial. As you may imagine, Crawford was my right-hand man. He helped me at every turn and I thought more than once how glad I was that he was with me in such a situation. He was such a steady and dependable chap and so very loveable. Well, we were done with that part of our task but there still remained a number of bodies of German soldiers to be buried. I took a stretcher and along with three of the boys when a short distance to pick one of them up.
Crawford and his co-driver Rutherford were just in front of the tank as we came back up the hill carrying this German soldier on the stretcher. We were parallel with the tank and about half way along its side when the shell landed. I did no hear it coming. The first think I know I had been struck in the abdomen and had fallen on my face. I could see my right hand on the ground with finger and thumb gone. I could not move. I cannot tell you very clearly what happened. I know I heard another shell coming and shouted to the boys to keep down but it and a third one fell further away from us.
Things kept going black on me and I was sure I would be gone in a few minutes - but presently, I felt I might have a chance to live. I called out to the other boys to find out what had happened to them. One of the boys who had been some distance away on sentry duty came to me and said Crawford had been killed instantly and that Rutherford was just dying. The three boys who were helping me carry the stretcher had all flesh wounds.
It was so terrible to be helpless and losing consciousness every few moments and coming back to the nightmare of it all. I got one of the boys to give morphine to Rutherford & the others & someone gave me some then or it may have been later, I dont know. But poor Rutherford was gone too. The rest is pretty much of a haze. Someone appeared from somewhere and began to do something for me. Eventually I was carried away & got by slow stages back to a dressing station where I had an initial operation about 10 o'clock that night - almost 12 hours after I was wounded. Another & more serious operation was carried out 12 days later and in all I was in the balance between life & death for almost a month. Since then health has come back slowly.
I cannot begin to tell you how it all comes over me - not that I am sorry for myself - it is not that. I am one of the most fortunate men alive. But to think I was there so close to them & could do absolutely nothing - that I had to be carried away with my task unfinished and those dear brave boys who went with me I had to leave behind. I shall never forget it and my feeling for your sorrow is as deep as the unforgettable horror that is burned into my soul. And for Crawford's mother & people too! I have tried to write them once or twice but have given up in a sorry despair. It is of course only this past month or 6 weeks that I could write - but perhaps you will understand and I will, now that I have told it all to you, be able I think to write her. Of all the boys I knew and loved so well none had a higher place in my regard than your dearly beloved. I can see him yet in a dozen different ways & a dozen different times so strong and full of good sense and humour. How can mankind ever atone the loss of him or the many like him who war has claimed. I try so hard to hold on to a faith that in God limitless wisdom and grace his life was fulfilled to the uttermost. Only in that is the hope and pride and something that bids one carry on. My dear Miss Fulton - if I could only see you - words are such poor things. But the way you are carrying on in your quiet patient faithfulness puts me to shame. God bless you & keep you strong.
Please write again & ask me any questions you like - nothing would seem too trivial & I would feel better if I felt I were of some help.
P.S. I recall the name of your cousin Tpr. Jardine but cannot just place him at the moment. I have no happiness in my decoration - These things are too easily in other people's sufferings & sorrows - but I thank you for your congratulations. WWB