June 1st, 1917
Dear Home Folks:
A year in France. Just twelve months ago today, between 8 and 9 in the morning we set foot on the dock, happy, light-hearted and carefree, for at last we were nearing the goal of our ambition, the goal for which we had given up the peaceful pleasures of civilian life, and spent long, tedious, monotonous months in training, in order to fit ourselves thoroughly for the work that was ahead of us. Yes, we were in France but we were not yet in the firing lines. Our guns and stores were still to be taken off the boat and got ready for the line. This took us about four days, and then we started, happier than ever, for this step was to take us at least within the sound of the guns. Our next stop was about twelve miles behind the line, where the continuous roll as of distant thunder proclaimed in unmistakable voice the realities of war. We spent the night in huts, and the next day about noon, moved up to our position. This was June 7th. At that time the guns vented their spite chiefly on the trenches and for the most part did not pay much attention to villages as far behind the lines as we were (two miles) and in consequence, the houses not having been badly damaged, we considered ourselves perfectly safe in billets, with the cellars to go to in case of an emergency. In the meantime, however, we were preparing better places in the battery position, and from morning to night, when not on duty on lines or on the guns, as the case might be, we kept digging, digging, from daylight to dark, making
deep dugouts for ourselves. On the 16th, we fired our first shot, and from that time on we were kept pretty busy, especially during the last days of June when the bombardment of [?] started, and every day increasing in intensity, finally reached its climax on July first, that memorable day on which we took part in our first real strafe. As you know [?] was something of a blind to cover the real attack on our right. Consequently, more artillery was needed on the right to support further advances and we pulled out of our position on the fourth and started for [?] where after two nights on the road we arrived at noon on the sixth. Here we had a good position out on what was originally No Man's Land. Here also we have our first casualties for on the 12th for Walter Lantz was killed and a couple of chaps wounded by a stray shell which burst on the road a few yards away from
them. We stayed in [?] until the 26 of August and on the whole were pretty lucky. Our next move was to [?] where we only stayed about two weeks but where we unfortunately lost our Sergeant Major Jack McKay who was as white a man as you could meet. This loss was a severe one but although we mourned our Sergeant Major slain we also realized that he stood on "valor's page" as a splendid example of our young Canadian manhood and exerted ourselves the more to follow his splendid example. From [?] to [?] for three weeks and thence to [?] where we stayed on till December 3rd, when we pulled out and moved up to this front where we have had a quiet winter and a more or less lively spring.
I would like to give you a more or less detailed account of what has happened during the last twelve months but I'm afraid to censor would find it his duty to object [all too true] so that will have to remain until "Apres la guerre", a phrase which is very common over here. One thing I can say and that is; the time has passed a very quickly and instead of a year it seems as though it were only a few months since we came out. The reason for this is evident, for our time has been so full, so much more has happened than in a year or of ordinary life, that time has never had the chance to drag on our hands. And as one looks back overall and sees stretching out before his memory the grand panorama of events and the experiences through which he has passed he begins to realize what it all means to
him and his heart throbs with joy and gratitude to the Divine Controller of the universe that he has been able to have his little share in it all, for it has been an experience worth two years of college life, and a training which will be invaluable in after years.
And having looked backwards over the year gone by one's thoughts naturally turn to the incoming year and what it will bring forth. But in the penetration of the future, one cannot go very far. The questions naturally arise, when will it all be over and where will we be this time next year? In answer to these we can, at best, all only form only conjectures, more or less accurate. We can only carry on faithfully with our work and leave the results to God.
I was down to see Mr. Cross yesterday and was with him all afternoon. He certainly looks fine and is doing splendid work among the fellows of the field artillery to which he is attached. He is the right man for the job, for he is right at home among a bunch of fellows. He is only about three miles from here and unless we move I expect to see him frequently.
Well it is supper time so I must close. All the boys are well. Haven't had any Canadian mail for about 10 days and we are expecting some along tomorrow. With love to all and hoping that before June first, 1918, we may be reunited again on good old PEI.
Your loving son and brother, Harold