Letter from the Firing Line
The following extracts from letters from Capt. R.S. Robinson, who is now in France, have been kindly handed us by Mrs. Robinson at our request.
Extract from letter dated France, Feb. 14th
This is my first letter to come under the rules of the Censor, and I cannot enlarge. Of course we are anxious to be in the firing line and hope to give a good account of ourselves. I cannot give you our address but you will known how to address mail for me. I wish you were in England where almost every woman has a brother husband or son at the front. It is not a case of misery liking company, but the feeling of sharing in one common lot accepted as a duty and all are cheerful and brave.
Extract from letter dated France, Feb. 17th
We are in the fighting area but the Div'l Mounted Troops will not likely be put in the trenches and although we can hear the guns at the firing line yet this letter will have reached you before we have had the opportunity to make good. I shall be unable to write of our movements as it is against orders. The weather is not cold but wet, and similar to that of England. My company occupies two farms. The men sleep in the barns. Straw is plentiful and rations are sufficient, consisting of biscuits cornbeef, tea, evaporated vegetable, cheese and bacon. Bread milk, coffee, and butter can be purchased from the farm people.
The Germans occupied this place their officers using the same rooms as we now occupy. The English drove them out in such a hurry that the enemy had not time to commandeer the farm stock. The women folk were alone and at the mercy of the Germans who helped themselves to everything and paid for nothing. This farm is well stocked with cattle, pigs, horses and chickens, and we buy what we require. The officers are very comfortable but sleep on the floor.
There is a large room with a stove in it which we use for a mess room. We have an officers' mess kit consisting of pans, knives, spoons etc, and our servants act as cooks. We want for nothing, and have had more in the line of clothing, socks, etc., than we could wish for. Remember me to all.
Extract from letter dated France, March 1st
While I am writing, the windows in this building bang from the vibration of the guns. I hope you are not alarmed about me, but trust that you will feel about as I do, for my safety, and that, is I don't think at all about it and am feeling fine in health and spirits. The fighting in our vicinity is nearly all done by Artillery so far. Every one is in trenches or under cover of building, near the firing line. The trenches are from 60 to 500 yards apart and one has to keep his head from above the sandbags. Our guns have a great superiority over the Germans here.
Our, the Cyclists' work is scouting and we, with the Div'l M't'd Troops are the advance guard for the whole Canadian Division. The squadron of M't'a Troops consist of 165 men, 6 officers, under Col. Jameson and as you know, we number 200 with eight officers. As there is no advance at present, the Cyclists do patrolling on roads in rear of trenches, are in readiness to support in case of attack and occasionally assist in the trenches, though we are not supposed to do infantry work in trenches, for which we are not sorry.
We have been in the firing line for more than a week and have just lost one man. He was on my Headquarter Staff, a signaler named Petties. Poor fellow, he was shot through the stomach and it is rumored that he has since succumbed at a hospital.
The men are all in good spirits and it is generally felt, that in the Western Area the Germans have shot their bolt.
Please do not worry for I have no fear of losing my life. I shall be glad to go home again for your sake but for myself, I am given up for my Country and I give willingly, for every man is a gift if he has the true soldier spirit and his heart is right, and therefore he cannot be downhearted. I would have cabled you that I was O.K. but feared to frighten you with a sealed cable. Remember that no news is good news at this stage of our position.
Extract from letter dated March 12
The weather has been damp and chilly but to-day it is quite warm and it is a delightful change. The trenches are very muddy and hard on clothes and we are well pleased that we have little trench work to do. The mud is so depressing. Just picture a long winding and angling trench about 4 to 5 feet deep cut across a cleared clay farm, like Mr. Slade's, and a row of bags filled with earth piled about four high on the front of the trench. In the pile, space allowances are made for placing rifles. Officers and men are continually passing along, thus necessitating a rub against the muddy walls. These trenches are drained as well as possible and bundles of fagots and boards are placed along the bottom to make sort of dry footing. But one cannot keep dry feet, and one is cold, always cold in the trenches, especially one's feet. Bullets from snipers play over the trenches and occasionally a machine gun sputters out a belt or so along the trench. No one is allowed from under cover but the open spaces I spoke of permit of danger and a regiment will lose on an average of two to four men each day in this way.
All are supposed to keep a watch on the ground in front. At night only about one quarter of the men are standing in the trenches, the remainder are sleeping in turn in small dugouts that hold about four or five men and are located all along the trench line and dug out of the rear wall. These are usually covered with corrugated iron and then earth and have straw on the ground. There is just room to sit or lie down and one has to go in on hands and knees. It is cold of course, and dark also, unless one has candles. Enough charcoal to burn for about 1 ½ hours in a tin bucket filled with holes fro draft, is the only heat, so that the three days spent in the trenches, which is the usual time of each relief is not pleasant and the Cavalry and Cyclists are very glad that it is not much in our line.
The other day part of our Co'y was shelled out of the billets and another platoon had 50 German shells, all drop within 100 yards of their billets, but as yet we have had but one man killed and that by rifle fire. The shrapnel is the most dangerous, but only when troops are exposed.