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Date: November 2nd 1916
Alexander Mowat - (father)
Grant Mowat

West Sandling Camp
Kent, England.
November 2/16.

Dear Father,

Though this will arrive very late – many congratulations on your birthday. It had almost slipped my mind.

I have given about all the news to Mother and Betty, so will have little to give to you this time.

Regarding the war situation. We hear much less than you do in Canada, and what we do hear is very late. Items that Mother mentions in her letters, usually appear in the papers only a day or two before her letter arrives. And many do not appear at all.

What they intend to do on the Somme is a question. But evidently they will have to push their gains a few miles further for them to be of any use.

Officers back from the front report that in their sections of the front the British have made elaborate preparations for spending the winter – deep trenches with parapets 15 feet through, dugouts built of reinforced concrete 40 or 50 feet below ground and each capable of holding 200 or more men. In the wet sections the Canadian steam shovels have dug immense ditches up as near as possible, and ditches have been dug to drain the trenches into them.

On the other hand, the Germans are sitting in their trenches doing nothing, and ask nothing better than to be left alone.

The British artillery is overwhelming and what they do when the Germans start anything is a shame. For example – the order is to keep up a repeat fire for 20 minutes after the last German gun has ceased fire. The British are genuinely afraid that one of these cold nights the Germans will quietly drop back a few miles to their second system of trenches – and sort of leave the allies up in the air. I believe that this is the explanation of the tremendous number of trench raids that have been carried out all along the front – namely to see what troops are holding that line, and not to give the Germans any start.

It would be hard lines for the Germans to drop back to a carefully prepared position, whilst the allies would have to start again to dig in in the wet and cold, and with all shelter within miles carefully destroyed. The only trick is to catch them moving, and keep them moving.

Before this letter reaches you the Canadians will have started in to the Somme for the second time. It means almost unbelievable casualties, but there is no use sparing the Canadians.

[H?] Stewart is in the 21st and says that the 93rd men there are among the very best they have.

There are practically no 93rd men left in England, except the medically unfits. It was too bad to see our Battalion broken up, but as we soon saw, the top half of it was rotten, so it had to go. And they certainly put the Battalion through the mill. We went to the 6th Training Brigade and there they made things almost impossible. The word that our last draft sent back was to tell the Brigadier that if he ever came to France they would shoot him on sight.

And then we came down here. Practically all our N.C.O.’s were reduced to the ranks, which no doubt caused hardship. Leader, who was one of my Platoon sergeants, a piano tuner by trade, and a wonderful musician, was turned down on account of his eyes. So now he dont drill, but is in charge of a hut, scrubbing the floor, washing dishes, etc. etc., with the rank of private. Giles and Knowles, two of our best sergeants, Abraham who was a Sergeant major and did all [Burnham’s?] work, and Thomas who was a Lieutenant with us but came across as Transport sergeant, are all privates now, and engaged on fatigue work only. Not one of them has been given any chance to do anything better. There’ll never be another big war, for the simple reason that the men will never enlist again, or let their sons enlist.

Well, I must close now.

Your loving son,
Grant Mowat.

P.S. Don’t spread any of the information above.

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