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Date: March 21st 1916

Mar. 21st, 1916 

Dear Mother; 

I got your letters of Jan. 26th and Feb. 3rd when I came back to the Regt. As I told you in my last letter I have been at a School of Instruction where I learned a little I didn’t know before and a great deal that I did. 

A draft from the Fourth University Coy. came in the night before last. I have Dietz and Lavell and Bassett in my section. Clayt. Butchart and Gerrie are in another platoon but we are going to try to get them. 

We have moved as you will see by the papers and are up near where the Regt. made its name. I expect it will be a little warmer than the old line but we are getting lazy anyway. 

Leave has started again so I should be over pretty soon. 

While I was away the other fellows who took the O.T.C. were up at Orderly Room and told that they would be offered commissions in the Canadian Army. I haven’t been up yet. I hear Davy Teviotdale and Francis Dickens have commissions in the Highland Battalion and that McKiney is a Brig.-General. They’ll be a great bunch of Highlanders. I wonder what the old regular Jocks would say about them and whether they’ll use them for the front lines of attack, as they use the Jocks now. 

I got Jim’s letter all right but may not be able to answer it today. I will send one to Father and the girls soon. 

We had very cold weather for awhile with lots of snow and then it suddenly changed to spring and got dry and warm. Today it is colder and raining. 

April 1st 

We are back from the line again and I will try to finish my letter. The weather is fine and warm now but we had rotten weather in the trenches. It was cold and rained or snowed most of the time but that would have been all right if the trenches were good. They were wet and the parapets in poor condition and there weren’t enough dugouts to go round. The result was we had to do part of our sleeping sitting on a narrow ledge in the rain. Perhaps you wouldn’t believe you could sleep like that but you can if you are tired enough. 

You will know by this time that Art Dietz and Bassett are dead. They were sitting in one of my bays and a small shell hit right beside them. Dietz was instantly killed and Bassett died a few hours later. They had only been about a week in France. Somehow a thing like that happening now just makes you sick for a minute, because a man hit with a shell doesn’t look like a man who has died in his bed, but you don’t seem to realize his death as you would at home. They couldn’t use a stretcher to take Bassett to the advanced dressing station so two men carried him on their shoulders. It was impossible to get Dietz’ body out so he is buried behind the parados with a little cross over him. 

L/C Bramley-Moore was shot in the head by a sniper but is still living. His shrapnel helmet was no protection against the bullet. 

I would like to tell you about a place which I have been through but I can’t just now. 

I think the end of the war is more in sight now than ever before. On certain parts of the line here they are ahead of us – due to their own good positions – and our artillery is weaker than theirs, but everywhere else we have them with the big stuff, and our trench to trench artillery (bombs, mortars etc.) is gradually getting ahead of theirs. 

I suppose Jim will be in England shortly, if they haven’t already left. I would like to see him when I am on leave. I would like to see England decently but there is no chance of that. 

It would be worthwhile to be home for the spring and to get out into the bush. One day up in the trenches the guns were raising hell on our line. We were just on the edge of a wood and the ground in it had been turned up as though by an enormous plough. There was not a single tree that had not been hit in several places and most of them were cut down. But during all the thunder of the guns a little bird sat on one of these stumps and sang as though the war were a thousand miles away. 

Ralph Connor is out with the _______ from Winnipeg so somebody tells me. If I get a chance I will try to see him. 

I will have to close now but I will try to write soon. 

I got a small parcel yesterday with Will Nichol’s name on the inside. I will likely see him tonight and will give it to him. 

Your loving son

P.S. Please thank Mrs. Walker and Mrs. Davidson for the parcels you say they sent me. So many things have gone wrong and then I am very careless, as you know.