January - 15th 1916
77681. L/Sgt J McNeill
4 Platoon. 1 Coy.
15th Batt. C.E.F
My darling Wife -
Just a line to let you know that I am all right. I have just come out of the trenches & am in Billets for a few days, we had fairly good weather this last trip, but the Germans tried to annoy us most of the time, they put quite a lot of shells over on us, heavy/high explosives they were, but I am glad to say that we had very few casualties, although they blew part of our trench down & put a few dugouts out of business, one shell fell into the signallers dug out & did not explode, there were two men there at the time & they got quite a scare, we were all glad to get out last night, as being under shell fire for any length of time gets on ones nerves and as we were only about 100 yards from the enemy it was not very pleasant when our nerves were so jumpy. We may make another trip into the trenches or we may not, we dont know for certain yet, before we go for a three weeks rest, this is the rest we should have had some time ago, only the CMR.s spoiled it, they are certainly a nice bunch, you ought to hear what the boys out here have to say about them, their name is a byword all over this district, after all the training they had in Canada & England, they had to be sent back some miles from here for further training, they made an awful hash of things in the trenches & made an awful lot of extra work for us, in the doing of which we lost a number of men, so did other battalions, we felt pretty sore about it as we were to have gone for our rest just a few days after, instead we had to put in an extra turn in the trenches, however, if nothing happens now, we should get away very soon, this will be the first rest we have had since we came out of the Festubert mixup, so you may guess we need it pretty bad. I would like to tell you all about that great battle, but it would take a month to write it all down, it will be something to talk about when I get home as I can never forget the sights I saw there, they are a night mare to me yet. When this rest is over the whole division is going out, so that altogether we will have about two months rest out of the trenches. You can have no idea how glad I will be to get away from the sound of the guns & from the awful uncertainty of the firing line, sometimes it is all right in the front trenches, they have gone as long as a week without firing a shot at us, at other times they have shelled us & poured machine gun fire into us & bombed us for days at a time without letting up & although our casualties are not very heavy, still it is very trying on the nerves, I know mine are not in as good shape as they were, in fact, taking it all through, I am not near as good a man as I was when I came out here first, although I have no illness & I look as healthy & ruddy as ever, I can feel the strain in my system, lots of men are being sent back with nervous breakdown, but somehow when I see a man getting scared & breaking up, it seems to brace me up & in the end I come out as strong as the best of them; I would hate to break up now that I am in line for promotion, for although the responsibilities are heavier, I have a much better time than I had as a corporal. I have not heard anything more about the trench mortar business yet & I hope I will not till after we get back from our rest, I would hate to have that interfered with. I am expecting to get word about my leave any day now, it is pretty near time I got it now, dont you think so, dear, I had pretty near given up hope of getting it at all, but the other day all our names were sent into the orderly room, there will be so many drawn each week, so no matter when I get my draw it cant be many weeks now, I will have nine clear days in Scotland so that altogether I will be away from here twelve days allowing three days for travelling, I dont know when I looked forward to a holiday as much as I have this one, there was a time when I could think of nothing else, but now I dont worry so much, I guess it will be better going now than it would have been earlier as the weather will probably be better, some of the boys who have been over tell me that they had a great time, they say the people over there dont know what to make of them & that everything that is possible is done to make them comfortable & happy, the worst of it is coming away again, it is hard to have to come back to this hell hole after the pleasures of civilization.
I have not received a letter from you now for some time, but I am expecting one every day, I got the Popular all right though, & I havent got a parcel since the one that had the books in it, I havent read them all yet as things were too lively in the trenches this time for either reading or writing; nor have I received the parcel from Mrs Edwards, I am afraid her parcel was like Mrs Taylors, just something to talk about, it would be much better for people like them not to talk of sending anything if they cant keep their word, then no one would be disappointed, although to tell the truth I did not expect anything from her. I see the Vernon City council have appointed a committee to look after Soldiers who return & I think it is about time they did, other cities look after their returning soldiers & there is no reason why Vernon should’nt. Somehow, dear heart, I have very little to say just now, you know it is awfully hard to get any news out here, we seldom see a paper now & when we do, it is usually old, There is some talk of taking us to Egypt or Serbia, but I think it is only a rumour, I dont think they would take us away from here, although, I think I would rather like the change, I dont think it could be any worse than it is here, in fact not as bad. Our Battalion has been greatly honoured by having no less than four D.CMs (distinguished conduct medals) presented, one of the recipients was stretcher bearer Styles, he is the young man that knew Annie Shaddick in Victoria & told me where she lived that time; we are all very proud of him because he is an awful nice chap, I saw him win his D.CM & at that time, it was at Festubert, we all thought he would get the V.C: & I still think that he deserved it; he went out in broad daylight into no mans land between the trenches under a very heavy fire & brought in several wounded men till he was so tired that he fainted from exhaustion, he was covered with their blood, had had no rest for over two days & nights nor any food, he wanted to go out again & cried when they would not let him, he nearly went crazy about it, he is certainly a hero if ever there was one.
Now dear love, I must close, as I cant think of anything more to say just now, I wish I was home again so that I could chop up all that wood for you, it is too much for you, dear, & I am always wearying for you & the children, how I would love to see your dear faces again, it would make a new man of me, I hope this old war wont last very long now, I think it must soon be over as I cant really see how it can last; as soon as it is over they wont keep us here long, & then heigh-ho for home & love. Oh, dear sweetheart how I long to see you again, to give you a great big love & to get a big love from you, there is one thing I do know, dear, & that is that you & I are going to be awfully fond of each other & dear I am going to be awfully good to you when I get home. Kiss my little darlings for me, dear, & with all my love & lots of kisses to you, my darling wife. I remain as ever
Your loving husband