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Date: June 9th 1916
Donald McMillan
James G. McMillan


But Uses "Sausages" for Instilling Fear

Apt Description of Scenes at the Front

Jas. G. McMillan, formerly inspector of mines in New Ontario, and who enlisted with No 1 Tunnelling Co., in December, writes the following interesting letter to his father, Mr. Donald McMillan, Dunwich.

France March 15, 1916.


We have been on the British front since March 2nd, being for the first week attached to mining companies of the Royal Engineers, and then put in place of one on a position at the front. Mail addressed as before will reach me alright, but it should be now sent to the Army Postoffice, France, instead of to London. I believe we are officially known as the First Canadian Tunnelling Co., R.E. One section of our company is still on the Canadian front, but will join us shortly. I am down at headquarters now, but will be going back to-morrow. We are four days up and four days here. We have certainly the better of the Huns in artillery on this front, although they give us a good many shells, too. It is surprising how little damage is done by all the shelling that goes on. One will rapidly get used to it, like one does to handling explosives, I am sure. Of course the damage done buildings is extensive, and there is a limited danger zone, but it is surprising how seldom they get anyone with shells. Rifle grenades which are shot up into the air from rifles and fall into or near the trenches are fully as dangerous. Another of their devices for instilling fear into the hearts of Britons is a sausage. These sausages are immense cans of high explosives that are thrown wobbling over the front lines, and after lying for a few seconds burst with terrific noise. They say it is quite possible to dodge them even if they light close by. We have similar devices known as footballs, which are thrown from trench mortars, for wrecking things on their side. A person is comparatively safe from rifle or machine gun fire behind the parapets, which are built up to the height of a man. This sort of fire is kept up mostly at night against working parties along the front and is brought to bear almost continuously upon the communication trenches.

The ordinary routine throughout the day is to keep up the sniping and artillery fire, then as the light begins to fail the infantry on both sides start to let each other know they are there, and keep up rather heavy firing for about an hour. It is at this time that the machine guns start for the night. They are too easily located to keep up their fire during the day. The last shells of the day are usually sent over at this time. All night long flares are sent up for the purpose of locating parties at work on the parapets or on the wire entanglements.

Judging by the great number of flares he sends up Fritz is rather a nervous individual. It is rarely necessary for us to light up the front as he does it nearly always for us. Of course it is only necessary to show even the smallest light to bring machine gun or rifle fire upon you. A noise will often start it as well.

The shell fire is carried on more on the chance of catching relief parties. Our dug-out is at the head of a communication trench, where it joins the support trenches. This vicinity is quite frequently shelled a couple of times in the afternoon, always about the even hour. The closest shot, however, so far was one of our own shells which fells 200 yards or more short of the German lines. It exploded ten yards away but did not burst the case. The case might just as well not have gone through the door of the dug-out.

Casualties here are not very numerous, except when an attack is made. In the last four days I knew of a sergeant being shot by one of our machine guns, another was shot in the back by a bullet that came right through the parapet, and four were injured by the discharge of a rifle grenade.

For myself I am in the best of health, and hope you all are the same.