A. DAVIDSON'S VIVID LETTER FROM TRENCH
Drummer Arthur Davidson, serving with the Canadian Contingent of the British Expeditionary forces in France, writes as follows to Ronald Norris, of Nanaimo:
"I believe I told you in my last letter that our billets were about four miles from the firing line and to reach the trenches we had to march that distance, the last two miles being under fire. When we arrived at a ruined (by shell fire) village we had to stop smoking and the remainder of the march was passed practically in silence, only broken by the shuffling of our men over the hard cobble stones and the words of the men of different regiments passing us after fatigue in the firing line How goes it," and "Good night, mates, and good luck." We usually spend 48 hours in the trenches and you know I am a total abstainer but I never welcomed anything before as the rum we were served out with every night. The trenches were, by the way, not of the same variety that we were wont to dig on dear old Vancouver Island, but are of the breastwork type, built by stacking sand bags in front and rear with an entrance at the back and near one end. Leading from the trenches are dug-outs, which the men make as comfortable as possible as possible under the circumstances. These dug-outs the men resort to in case of shrapnel fire or wet weather, leaving of course one man on sentry-go to look out for surprise attacks, although the Germans don't seem anxious to test our holding powers. Our trenches at the point we were defending were at one side of a field and the enemy at the other side, a distance of about one hundred and fifty yards from ours, although at places they were only thirty yards from each other.
The short distance was to their advantage as they were in the habit of throwing trench bombs which made a lot of noise and if effective did a lot of damage but they were very seldom within our range and so gave us little more than an occasional scare.
The cross fire we were subject to made the work very warm for our ration, fatigue and relief parties which had to reach our trenches. To make matters worse the enemy sent up brilliant flares which lit up the country for miles and easily showed up our men.
After the first night or so one got used to the bullets flying around, some perilous near, but we who have been there several times still laugh at the new fellow who buries his nose in the mud or flops into a big "Jack Johnson" hole full of water every time a flare goes up, because we ourselves did it at first.
On my third night in the trenches I was asked to go out and accompany guide with messages o headquarters, the idea being in case one man got hurt the other could take on the message and guide the stretcher bearer to the wounded man. However we took several messages to the headquarters and back and then the guides set out with three or four other fellows to get water. Believe me a guide was needed too.
Everywhere and all around were trenches, barbed wire entanglements, ditches, and big "Jack Johnson" holes and I often wondered how the found the way as the only time they could move was at night and in the dark.
To get back to the water. We were to find the water cart and fill the water bottles. We had eight bottles each and set off with the guide. After about half an hour's walk and no water cart in sight we decided to walk to a town not far away and chance getting it there, but somehow or other the guide lost his way and at last admitted that he didn't know where he was. By this time it was early morning and we were all afraid it would be daylight before we could get what we wanted. After what seemed to be about an hour's walking we met a sentry who directed us to a place where we could get water, and later arrived back in the trenches just before daylight broke. A lucky thing it was we got the water because the men were pretty thirsty before night and their relief came. We have had a pretty busy time and have been sent down country for a week's rest, which is very acceptable and nobody regrets it.