April 8th, 1917
Easter morning and I must send you a few lines. Am going on guard this afternoon so have the morning off. We mount guard at 4 o'clock for twenty four hours, the same as in Charlottetown. This will be the first time I have done a twenty four hour guard since we left Horsham, for all last summer we were too busy to do guard, and it was only when we moved up and our work became lighter that they started putting a telephonist on each day and now that things are livening up, I expect that it will soon be cut out again. Well, you would not guess who was up to see me last night so I will tell you, - Joe Clark. One of
the boys brought him up to the dugout, and, for a moment, not expecting to see him, I hardly recognized him. However he is the same old Joe, looks the same, talks the same, and acts the same. Perhaps I wasn't glad to see him. Tried to look him up when we were back at headquarters but he was on the line and I couldn't find him. He is trying to get a transfer into Stanley's battery and I think his chances are pretty good. I took him down last night to see about it. I hope he gets it for we are in the same group as 2 Heavies and will always be near, so we'll often have a chance to see him.
Received your letter of March 12 last night, also a pair of socks and some tobacco from Clemmie. Yes I got your letter telling of Allan McLeod's death. Saw Don for a few minutes the other night. They were just packing up to go off the line into supports the night I was down, so only had a few minutes. He is fine and in the best of spirits. The Princess Pats are certainly a fine body of men.
Well we have shifted our place of abode again. The infantry took over our cellar and we had to move down into the bank. There is one dugout for the telephonists and one for each gunner crew. The telephonist dugout wouldn't hold the whole lot and we four counted on holding our cellar, though, when it was taken, we had to go into vacancies in a gun crew's dugout in our own subsections. I am in No.2 sub, also Kelly with whom I am bunking and Les Smith together with the officer for the sub, Joe Barton, a Moncton chap and a part of the gun crew, all good fellows to be with. I am sleeping in the top bunk next the door, the best bunk of the whole outfit. The dugout with the added protection of
the bank is very safe, one of the best I have been in, and, being near the cookhouse and office is also very convenient. Was sorry that Les and I could not stick together but being in different subsections we had to go in different dugouts. However we will probably have an opportunity to off getting together again soon.
Many, many thanks for the World Wide which you speak of sending. Yes I shall be very glad to get it regularly for it is the kind of paper that will stand reading even if a little old. The Witness comes OK and I certainly appreciate it. Would not miss it for a good deal.
You ask about sending underwear. No I don't need any. We get a clean change at the baths every little while now and so are pretty well supplied. And in about three weeks now we will not need any underwear at all, - in fact I very seldom wear any now except when going out for the day. A can of milk once in awhile, however, would be acceptable. Until a few days ago we used to be able to get all the milk we wanted but they have cut out selling it in the YMCA canteens. Sometimes when one is lucky one can get French milk from the civilian population back in the villages though you might go back twenty times and not get it. We can get all kinds of Quaker oats, cocoa and that sort of thing
but miss the milk. If you see my old French book laying around anywhere I would like you to send it also. It is a brown cover book, - Fraser and Squares French Grammar. Don't think there is anything else that I need.
An interesting commentary on rum rations, temperance and the caliber of the men at the front. I was reading an editorial in the Witness lately, which you have probably seen also and which was written by someone very poorly informed on his subject, namely, the rum rations for soldiers. They said that the conservative ideas of the British authorities caused them to issue a rum ration which every soldier was forced to take, thus leading them on to intemperate habits. True there is a rum issue but to insinuate that anyone was forced or even asked to take it against his will gives a gross injustice not only to the authorities but also to every soldier concerned. Canada has given of the best and truest of its manhood to this struggle and instead of them. returning, as this article seems to imply, dissipated
reprobates, they will come back, nobler, broader and truer men than before they left. To this of course there are a few exceptions. I will speak for our own battery. Personally liquor has never crossed and never shall cross my lips and I can say the same for a very large proportion of the Army in general and of our battery in particular. There is a certain proportion that have taken an issue or two for a cold but would never think of taking it at any other time. I am a temperance man but I am not a crank and I have seen enough to realize the other man's position and to sympathize with him. Drink in civil life I condemn absolutely; drink while troops are in training I also condemn, though our rum ration in the field I do not condemn. It is hard for one to understand the need for such thing if one has not been in it and does not understand the conditions. But when one takes the infantry man in the front line waiting to go over the top, standing cold and wet with the mud halfway to his knees, and knowing exactly that at the end of a few minutes he will be called upon to face the most fiendish and effective instruments of destruction that modern science has been able to invent, from the fifteen inch shell to the Mills bomb, from liquid fire to gas, one cannot help thinking that a shot of rum which for the meantime makes them feel warm even if in reality they are not any warmer and which for a time makes them forget in part the horrors they have to face, is a good thing for them ; and out
of those who take the rum I don't think one in fifty will, as the article said, become intemperate citizens because of it.
Easter Monday evening. Did not get this finished last evening so must finish of now. Have just finished my guard. Well in the United States is into it at last. [April 6]. It took them a long time to make up their mind but I suppose better late then never.
Well there have been big things happening since I started this letter and the morning of Easter Monday will long been remembered by the Canadians. But you will have read about it long before you receive this letter, - of the preliminary bombardment and how they successfully carried the ridge in front. It was a strange celebration of the date, - the opening of the big offensive, yet one gets used to strange things in this war.
Well Mother I don't think I have much more news tonight. I am going to send Clemmie a few lines so will close for this time. Love to all and a very large share for yourself from your loving soldier son, Harold