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Date: January 3rd 1918
William & Georgina Mercer
Richard Mercer

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

France Jan 3/18[176]

Dear Father & Mother:-

Received two letters from you to-day dated Nov 30 and Dec 3rd. It gave me quite a shock when I read them. I can't understand why you didn't hear from me before then. I wrote you just as soon as I got down to a hospital but of course it would take a month to get over there. There is no use worrying so much as all that. You know well enough that they would have wired you if anything serious had happened. You don't seem to understand that I was rather lucky to get out of the line when I did. It was nothing hardly at all[177]. I was only buried by a shell and received a few scratches in the head[178]. Why I walked five miles out to a dressing station[179] after I was buried. I didn't really feel bad enough to go to a hospital and I wanted just to go back to billets but the Officer wouldn't let me. I have been writing you regularly all the time and told you all that I have been doing. I have received $10- and parcel with sweets in but not the one with gloves. Really Mother I know it is wrong of me but I had to laugh when I read your letter where you said you hoped they would send me to Canada for you to look after me[180]. You must think I have gone mad or something.

I will write you again in a few days. Trusting you are both quite well and not worrying.

Your Loving Son
911016 R.W. Mercer

[176] The Borden Battery war diary notes the weather as cold and they continue to make improvements on the their new camp at Verdrel, France.
[177] The Canadian Corps was brought in for the final stage of the Battle of Passchendaele. The battle had been raging since July 1917 and would cost the Allies over 250,000 casualties. Pte. Richard Mercer was wounded for the first time at the start of Canadian "Third Phase" of the battle. Phase Three gained 1,000 yards, cost 2,238 casualties including 734 dead.
[178] It was very common for soldiers to understate the true military situation to save their parents worry. Also, the officer censors would also delete any letters that were overly defeatist. Georgina Mercer's letters could reasonably be assumed to be near panic with worry at this time. She and her husband would have known of the recent death of Pte. Tom Tracy and the extremely high casualties from the Battle of Passchendaele would be well known throughout Canada at this time.
[179] On 6 November 1917 the War Diary of the Borden Battery near POPERINGHE stated the following:
"Dull with rain. At zero hour 6 a.m. all Guns opened fire for 70 minutes on Targets allotted on MG Organization Order #12 ceasing at 7:10 a.m. We were subject to an intense Enemy bombardment during the firing of the barrage. All Guns were Stripped and cleaned and laid on S.O.S. Target at 10 a.m.. Guns opened fire on S.O.S. Target in Accordance with message G.36 from Group Commander. Fire ceased at 11a.m.. The Enemy got a direct hit on one Gun position burying one man, 3 OR's were evacuated slightly wounded." Pte. Mercer is the man referenced in the war diary as being buried by the direct artillery shell hit. A shrapnel fragment embedded itself into his silver cigarette case which was carried in his tunic pocket over his heart, thereby saving his life.
[180] Unfortunately the letter from Georgina Mercer to her son suggesting he talk to someone in the Army to have him sent home no longer exists. Most letters from home to the soldiers at the Front were required to be destroyed after they had been read.