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Date: June 19th 1918
Georgina Mercer
Bess Halsalls

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

The Bruinswick
Thursday June 19th  [1918]

My dear Georgie

Your last letter was forwarded to me here. I am at Buxton for treatment. My rheumatism has been rather bad & I am not feeling much better yet although I have been here 4 weeks[234]. I go back on Saturday & Dr. & Nurses tell me I shall not feel the benefit until I have been home a fortnight or so. They told me you enclosed money for some thing for Dick[235]. When he was wounded the last time he told me his cigarett case saved his life as a piece of shrapnel went right through his papers, books & everything & smashed up the case which was in his left tunic pocket so I at once sent another one & he got that alright[236]. At the same time we sent him a consignment of ciggs & a razor strop by the wholesale tobacconist & as far as we know yet he has not received them yet - also a lb. of special tobacco, he wanted some special which he has not received but however they may turn up yet. I cannot tell you how sorry I am for all you mothers out of England ... for a few weeks your dear boy has been at the base[237] & out of danger & of course you never know; or you could have a few days of peace knowing he was safe. I have not seen any letters of his lately but Hilda said Rich has said that he had not heard from home for some time of course he is not - with his Battery[238] & I suppose the post has not followed him, it is too bad; if it can be avoided, I have written to him once since I have been here, but have not had a reply; he may have told the girls I shall see his letters when I get back. I am thankful he has been away[239] from this fearful fighting, by to-days news we are holding the Enemy on the Western Front & in Italy[240]. The Americans are pouring in by thousands but they seem to think we must hold out for a couple of months, & then Fosh[241] will be ready & I should think the war will be over or at least the worst of the fighting, we hope so at all events it is really terrible. At Buxton[242] the Canadians have their head quarters.

I hope you will make out this letter, & burn it when you have read it or any one seeing it will think you have friends in a Lunatic Asylum.


[233] Buxton, Derbyshire is a health resort of about 10,000 persons in the low season and several times this number during the summer tourist season. In addition the large number of hotels have been converted into hospitals and accommodation for military staffs.
[234] An indication of income levels is offered by the fact Bess Halsalls was able to stay at the sanatorium for at least four weeks.
[235] 'Dick' is Pte. Richard Mercer.
[236] It is interesting to note that Bess has been told all about the shrapnel incident and the cigarette case over the heart at Passchendaele and yet the matter is completely downplayed in all Pte. Mercer's letters home to his mother. The impact of the censors and the fact Georgina Mercer is a great worrier is most likely factors in this. Pte. Mercer undoubtedly related the details of the shrapnel incident in person and while on leave to England and Bess has forwarded this information to Georgina Mercer in Canada.
[237] The reference to “Base” is Pte. Mercer being at the “the Reinforcement Camp” for the 1st Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade and waiting for transfer back into active combat status. It is known that as a motorcycle dispatch rider he was involved in a road accident with a truck. This minor head injury is not reported in any official documents nor is there any records of Pte. Mercer being granted a leave at this time. As the driver of the truck that hit him was apparently driven by the son of a high ranking officer, details appear to have been hushed up.  Pte. Mercer later commented that he suffered a punctured cheek and general scrapes and bruises from the incident. The duration of this period at “Base” is unknown and records probably cannot be found, however, assuming the standard time period of about two weeks for letters to reach England from the Front one can speculate the accident [if it occurred about this time] may have occurred between the middle to the end of May 1918.
[238] Research will determine exactly where Pte. Mercer is at this time if indeed he is not with his Battery. Since the heavy losses in the battle at Villers-Bretonneux the Brigade has been in near continuous training as the high percentage of replacements are brought up to standard.
[239] Again, we are not sure what is meant by Pte. Mercer "being away" and missing the terrible fighting.
[240] Bess is perhaps referring to the recent military actions from the Battle of Asiago in Italy. The Austrians attacked along the Italian Front and were defeated in a confusing battle.  Total British casualties were estimated at about 1,500 of all ranks. During the period 14-25th June, the Eleventh Austrian Army lost almost 50,000, of which a substantial portion was at Asiago.
[241] The term "Fosh" is undoubtedly intended to be Supreme Allied Commander, the French General "Foch".
[242] More research is required on the details of the Canadian Corps Headquarters at Buxton during the Great War.
[243] Signed Bess: this is Bess Halsalls from the Liverpool area and who is a very good friend of Georgina Mercer.