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Date: March 10th 1917
William & Georgina Mercer
Richard Mercer

[transcription and footnotes have been provided by the collection donor]

Sussex, England
Mch 10, 1917

Dear Father & Mother: -

Yours to hand this morning dated Feby 7.

I wrote you the other day telling you all about moving here[54].

I had a letter from Mrs. Irvine[55] to-day & she is sending me a parcel very soon. I sent her my photo a few days ago at her request. She says she never sa[w] such a striking likeness to Mother. I take it as a great compliment. The mail must get lost sometimes because the letter I got to-day was the first from you for about ten days.[56]

Tom and Walter didn't train for Officers very long. Tom is here with me[57] & Walter is still at Seaford and not likely to go to France at all[58]. So John Smith[59] has bought a car. He will be cutting a dash now won't he? It is certainly about time we were getting a car. How many $15 have you received from the Government?[60] Well I must go and have supper.

With Love

[53] Crowborough is a camp separate from Camp Seaford and is located about 20 miles north east of Camp Seaford. At this time it is not known what type of training was undertaken at Crowborough in 1917. Both Pte. Richard Mercer and Pte. Tom Tracy went overseas as "Machine Gunners" so the Crowborough camp may have served as an advanced camp for training machine gunners. However, some machine gun training was also recorded at Camp Seaford and final training also occurred at Canmiers, France prior to being assigned to combat units. More research is required on this.
[54] Pte. Mercer and Pte. Tracy have been transferred from the 19th Reserve Battalion to the Machine Gun Corps about the time of the transfer to Crowborough. This has resulted in a separation from their best friend Pte Walter Wylie from Theodore. It appears this separation of "The Three Inseparatbles" is the result of a temporary medical problem for Pte. Wylie.
[55] Mrs. Irvine is the mother of Lance-Cpl. Stanley Irvine now of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. He would receive the Distinguished Service Medal for bravery while serving as a machine gunner with "A' Company of the 65th Battalion at Passchendaele in 1917. An unidentified newspaper clipping provided the background information. Pte. Mercer will meet him by accident when both are recent arrivals to the Passchendaele region.
[56] This comment provides some insight into the frequency of letters from Georgina Mercer. If a ten day interim is worthy of a major comment, one could safely assume two letters per week might have been sent. As a young man, Pte. Mercer probably did not write near as often. A letter every 7 to 10 days from him might have been normal. Only a small percentage of his letters home survive, whereas, only one letter from his mother survives. Letters required a average of about 30 days to travel from Theodore, across the Atlantic to England, from England to base in France and finally to the forward units. It also appears that several letters have been lost. Some letters and parcels to the Battery are also stolen or stolen.
[57] As Pte. Mercer and Pte. Tom Tracy were selected for the Machine Gun Corps, it is likely the transfer to Crowborough in Sussex was an extensive of their specific training as "machine gunners". The other explanation might include special training for dispatch riders. Research is still required on this topic.
[58] Pte. Wylie is first diagnosed with a hernia at Camp Hughes in Canada on 8 June 1916 and is discharged from hospital on 12 June 1916 with no operation. This initial condition may have initially prevented him from going over to France as referenced in the above letter. Subsequently Pte. Wylie develops the mumps on 23 March 1917 and later a condition called "hammer toe" which is a malformation of the toes of the foot from improper footwear and excessive walking or marching. The condition can sometimes be treated successfully. In Pte. Wylie's situation this proves to be the case. With a shortage of infantry, he is transferred to the 46th Battalion (South Saskatchewan) but is now separated from Pte. Mercer and Pte. Tracy who have now become part of the 1st Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade.
[59] John Smith came to Theodore, Canada from Warwichshire, England in 1906, married Rose Marie Lestrange (Leicester) in 1908 and operated a general goods store in Theodore for over 25 years. He appears to have had a significant influence on the business affairs in the Theodore. Georgina Mercer would have been unusual in that she would have been one of a very small number of business women in the district.
[60] Pte. Mercer has probably arranged for a portion of his salary to be sent home to his parents. This was typical for many soldiers.