1st Canadian Trench Mortar Battery
1st Canadian Division
17th March 1916
My own darling wife -
This has surely been a lucky day for me, seeing that it is St Patricks day. in the first place I have received two letters from you, the first for three weeks & in the second place I have to inform you that this morning I was further promoted to the rank of Sergeant Major; no doubt this may appeal to you as rather swift promotion, but as I told you in one of my previous letters, that promotion in this country is given only for meritorious service, it is very slow in most cases, in my case it has been swift, I am proud to say & I am sure you will be proud too, dear, that I have won all my promotion in action. A Sergeant Majors job is one of the plums that all N.CO.s work for & I am not blowing my own horn, when I say that I have won the highest office that a non-commisioned officer can win, solely through my own integrity & ability. Men who left Vernon with me & considered themselves as good as I was, are still in the ranks & are wondering when their chance will come, it will never come, because they dont know how to handle men & when it comes to going into action, they have not the goods to deliver, it has been my good fortune to come out of action several times now, with honour & I cannot help but feel proud of it, I have been recommended for the D.C.M. medal, but I am afraid I wont get it now, as this promotion is supposed to be better, and it is better in one way, I am now attached to headquarters & I do not have to go into the trenches any more, I am sure you will be glad to hear that, in fact, I have got what they call out here, a bomb proof job. I am away back from the firing line, & have got full charge of a battery of Trench Mortars, & all I have got to do now, is to see that everything is all right with the different batteries & look smart & keep my buttons clean, I have got a servant to look after me & altogether I am the candy boy. of course, Dear, I have lots of responsibility, but I dont mind that, I think I can handle it all. I guess you will think now that I am beginning to brag, dear heart, I dont brag, I am just telling you plain facts, I am not a man to throw flowers over myself, but for my own character & conscience & for the love I bear for you, my darling wife & our dear children, I cannot help but say, that if I had not been honest & sober, I could never have reached the position I do to day. I am proud for my sons sake, although I dont want him to be a soldier, still, I want him to grow up as much like daddy, as possible, I want him to be manly, sober, and industrious, I want him to be brave, & if I can win any further distinction in this war, I want him to feel that it is his also, I have had my faults, I have them still, but I want my son to steer clear of all the quagmires that I plunged into & to come out a good clean minded boy. I grow sentimental, but what of it, this is not a sentimental war, all is hate & bloodshed out here, & I think I may be forgiven for growing sentimental once in a while, when I think of my loved ones at home, at any rate, dear heart, I am glad to say that you may rest at ease, I am no longer in very much danger, I do not have to go near the trenches & I can assure you that I am going to take extra good care of myself, for when this war is over, I will have a good pension, & I dont think you & I will ever have to worry any more as to where the next meal will come from. From now on you can address my letters 77681 Sgt Major J McNeill.
1st Canadian Trench Mortar Batteries
1st Canadian Division.
To day I have received four letters, two from you & one from Etta & one from Kate, they had not much news for me, Etta is going to send you the pepper along with the photos, that is about all she had to say, except that her lodger was going to get married very soon. Kate seems to be in trouble, she has only had a field post card from George since he went back from leave & the doctor has given up hopes of saving her baby, it has got meningitis of the brain & takes fits, so I am afraid it is only a question of time with it, what worries Kate most of all, is not hearing from George, she is afraid that something has happened to him, I hope not, although I know that his regiment has been heavily engaged lately, however, let us hope for the best, he may not have a chance to write, if he is kept very busy; Ettas husband is still in Londonderry & is liable to be there for the duration of the war, as his feet are still troubling him, also his teeth, if he takes my advice he will stay there as long as he can, he may be able to work his ticket & get out of it for good.
I see by your letter of the 10th Feby. that you have been having some terrible cold weather, it is too bad that Eileen had her feet frozen, I am afraid she will be bothered with chilblains all her life, the Chinaman made a mistake in trying to thaw her feet out with warm water & towels, they should have been thawed out with cold water or snow, it would have been much more painful, but the after results would have been better, it is funny how George can stand the cold so much better than Eileen, although he looks kind of delicate, he seems to be able to stand much more roughing about than she does, she seems to be all for warm & comfort, while George does’nt seem to care what happens.
I am much annoyed, dear, about what you say of Mrs Edwards saying things about you, I am sorry I wrote her such a nice letter in acknowledgment of her parcel, I wish she had not sent it, if you see her anyway soon, you can tell her my opinion of her, & that is, that she is a filthy minded beast. all she is good for is getting Babies, & getting other people into trouble, take my advice, & forget her, gang your ain gait, & you will be much happier without her, dont take any heed of what she says, she cant do you any harm, it is only jealousy that is troubling her, what with the mortgage on her house & other things she is liable to have a very bad fall one of these days & as for what she says about me, I dont worry, I dont have to steal anyway, to make ends meet, & that is a great deal more than she & hers can say; so I say again, dear, dont worry - be calm & remember that your old hubby is coming home again & he will see things straightened out for you, no one will cast any insults at you when I am around, you can make sure of that. I see by your letter of the 25th Feby that McEwan is tying up my parcels for you now, so I presume that Lord Boyd has left, I guess he wont be much loss, I am glad that you had that talk with Vallance, I think he will keep his wood all right & give me a good job when I come back, I think I have proved worthy of it, dont you, dear I still think, that with all his bluster, he had a soft place in his heart for me, the only thing I was sore about was his not acknowledging my letter & postcards I sent him, perhaps he was too busy, I was busy too, & if I thought it worth while to remember old friends, they might have remembered me too, this three cheers & a yell & flags flying is all right for the hour, but I like the quiet unostentious friendship that says nothing, but gives you a grip of the hand & looks you square in the eye & says, God Bless you, & means it, I would rather have one sincere hand grip than a multitude of cheers. I have not got any of the parcels you sent me lately, all the mail is behind time & I am afraid I will by very lucky to get any at all, I am looking forward to getting that cake & I will be very much disappointed if I dont get it. I am sorry to hear that your cold still hangs on to you, dear, I think a good oldfashioned warm cuddle would do it a world of good, dont you, I have a nasty cough too, that troubles me at night, but now that I have got good comfortable quarters to sleep in, I am hoping to shake it off, at any rate, it wont be for the want of trying.
Referring back to what you say about Mrs Edwards & Mrs Todd & Mrs Wilson, take my advice, dear, & drop the whole bunch, you dont have to take any insults from them, & even if you would be lonely, you would be much better without such company, you know, I never thought an awful lot about Janet, she was too noisy for me, & Mrs Todd I did not know, as for Mrs Wilson, I guess she has got to be something like her husband & he was not much good as I knew him. I remember Mr Conn very well, he used to deal in the Hardware & I always liked him, but I did not know that he was a brother-in-law to Bob Carswell, whom I knew well, he & I were great tillicums once, Mr Conn was in partnership with a chap called Shultz when I left home, they had a patent for making a kind of marble, & were trying to sell it to some syndicate, I wonder if it ever came to anything, I suppose not, I guess it was like that water-meter we used to hear so much about, a kind of white Elephant, no good to anyone.
I see by your letter that the CMRs are still on home service, well, they might as well be where they are, for I dont think they would be any use here; we dont need them.
Now, dear heart, I am going to close, my servant, or as well call him out here, my batman, has got my bed made down & it is time to turn in. I have’nt any more news to tell anyway, I am only sorry that you are not with me to see how comfortably I am fixed, It would be fine if you were here with me, there is just room for two in this bed, & I’ll bet you & I could be nice & snug in it, at any rate, we would make a good try, would’nt we, dear, Write soon dear heart & send me some papers, give George & Eileen a great big love from their old daddy & lots of kisses & with all the love in my heart to you my own dear sweetheart, I remain as ever
Your loving husband.
P.S. I have made arrangements to increase my assignment to you to $25.00 instead of 1750. it may be a month or two before you get it, I dont know, but you ought to get it soon. I wonder if the Fund will allow you any more on account of my promotion, they might if you get after them, you can tell them that I am now a second class Warrant Officer & Battery Sergt Major, it might impress them, eh dear; did you get my photos & did you like them?