Pte. Agar in Belgium
The following letter is from Pte. J.M. Agar, brother of Wm. Agar, Thornloe, and who himself is well known here, owning a farm in Hilliard township, and having lived here some time although living in Toronto at the time he enlisted. Mr. Agar's letter is dated July 31st.
Dear Brother and Sister:
Received your letter a few days ago. It was delivered to me in the trenches in Belgium. I am in a billet at present, a few miles in the rear of the firing line, after my first experience of a week in the trenches. Our Company was fortunate in being sent to a quiet part of the lines. We came out at the end of the week with only two casualties and neither of them seriously wounded. I believe we are in reserve now for several weeks before going to the firing line again.
We were a few weeks in camp near Boulogne, France, before being sent to the front. We had about five miles, I should judge, of a march after we left the train. It rained the last hour or so of the march, and by the time we got to our positions in the trenches we were pretty well stuck up with mud, to say nothing of being wet. I think it was about midnight when we landed at our posts. As we drew near the trenches we could hear the rifle fire and see the star shells being sent up to light up what is called, "No man's land" or the ground between the two lines of trenches. The next morning we had a kit inspection, then church parade and a very interesting service. I have heard Ralph Connor preach; he is chaplain with the 43rd Batt., and I also heard his brother. He comes from a Montreal Church. This morning it was still another Gordon who preached to us. There was also a Dr. Pringle present this morning. I heard him speak one night at the Y.M.C.A. at Shorncliffe. He went to the Klondike in the early days, and has been all over Western Canada. We meet up with a lot of prominent men.
It was quite an experience in the trenches. We soon became so accustomed to bullets going over our heads and hitting our parapets, that we paid no attention whatever to them. We didn't have any fighting at all, just a little exchange of shots. If anyone forgot and let his head be seen above the parapet, it would draw the German fire. It was usually very quiet all day. At night and in the morning was when the most of the firing seemed to be done. It was a sight to see the aeroplanes being shelled. It was seldom that one got hit. Three shells were dropped near our trench by the Germans last day we were in.
It was amusing to go along the trench when the fellows were eating. According to our Major, there was always someone having a meal. He said one day when he came along, he didn't know whether it was a continual meal in the trenches or if a different fellow had different hours for eating. I was out for a walk every day to the rear of the lines. I was on the ration party twice, and the other days went for water and did a little foraging for extras, such as eggs, bread, canned fruit, etc. We could buy things at different houses. The Belgiums seemed to have picked up enough English to get along with.
Belgium is a very pretty and fertile country. The fall wheat and oats are being cut, and the crops are splendid. The fields are all small, at least there is not more than from one to perhaps four acres of one kind of grain in a plot. There are not many fences. I should think the wheat would average 50 bushels to the acre, and the oats 100. They grow a lot of beets, potatoes and beans. What drew my attention from the first was the valuable trees along the road sides everywhere, elm, oak, and poplar. There is also willow, which is kept cut back to a stump and the shoots used for basket making.
We are sleeping in huts while resting. I found the floor very hard for two nights, so last night I went into a wheat field a few rods from the hut and made a splendid bed in a wheat stack. It was long enough for me to crawl into, and I put a sheaf down to lie on, after loosening the band. We do not have any blankets now, a water proof sheet to lie on, and our great coats for cover. I am warned out for a digging party to-night so I will not have a chance to sleep in the same place as I intended to do. I guess I had better stop and have a little sleep this afternoon.
Pte. J.M. Agar,
3rd Batt. B. Co.
1st Div. 1st Brigade, B.E.F.