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Date: April 12th 1917
Beulah Bahnsen (wife)
Ralph Watson

I think — Thursday after Easter Sunday, ’17.

My very dearest Kid: —

I guess we’ll go in again. In the meantime I am kept here with a party getting ammunition up from the cars — the most desperately hard work I’ve ever thought of — and dumping it outside. Climbing up is the hard part, and going overland seventy or eighty yards to the guns a little risky. Every day somebody gets killed. Yesterday Fritz wounded three of his own men who were carrying out our wounded, and killed one of our fellows this afternoon.

I was hoping we would be relieved, too, as I haven’t washed or shaved since we came in. Water for tea has to be fetched in gasoline cans, two each, from down a trench a long way, just this side of Nouvelle St. Vaast — or what is left of it. I am quite well — very.

If the battalion goes in again in a day or so, I guess I’ll go with them. They’ll need us. I can’t say I’m looking forward to it; but of course I understand what it means, and that it is what I am here for.

I wish it wasn’t so cold. If only the people at home understand this war and what we boys suffer — and never a holler! How little I understood, even up to a week ago; yet I’m glad I’m here. It is my place.

The Fritzies here work very hard and uncomplainingly and willingly with our wounded; every one has remarked on it.

They were a fine appearing body, too, those opposed to us. Of course nothing could last under our bombardment. It was magnificent — awful. It was a walkover for our boys. Casualties were light, very; but of course — in proportion, I mean —

If only we could get news! We know nothing, only rumours.

Yesterday I was over the No Man’s Land (of yesterday). I found some cans of Fritz’s bully beef — I don’t like it much. But the desolation — my God, it’s unbelievable! Even old skulls unearthed by shells — French — from the early days of the war! And débris of every conceivable description, German and English mixed!

Our barrage was marvellous, a perfect curtain. Nothing could live, and nothing did. The prisoners surrendered from deep dugouts, or were smoked out, or bombed in.

Do you remember once telling me you didn’t believe those moving pictures were genuine, that no one would risk his life for dollars? I thought of that remark more than once on Monday — with a grin — as I followed Captain C. up “on top” to get a picture, when down in a shell hole seemed the only possible place. He was the limit, that man, brave as a lion. We got some splendid pictures, and of course you’ll see them — both the movies and the official Canadian Records pictures. As I told you, I’m in several.

We had some narrow escapes, of course. Luckily we got inside of Heinie’s barrage and were comparatively safe from shells of that kind. (It’s queer how you forget machine and rifle bullets.) I suppose this cave will be used for other purposes now. One day I’d like you to come to see it. I don’t think any of the battle fields can ever be used for agricultural purposes or anything again. You can’t understand. No one can but those here. Every square yard contains unexploded bombs and shells and munitions; rusty tangled wire is all over, and holes, — just all holes — that’s all there is. Front line trenches are no trenches at all, really — only connected shell holes, half full of water.

How we exist, let alone “carry on”, I don’t know. Yet you never hear a kick.

For my own part, I haven’t been tried out yet. I haven’t done a “trip in”, let alone “go over the bags.” I can never be too thankful, though, that I saw this big battle as an eyewitness, right close up, and that you will have a picture record of it. . . .

Original Scans

Original Scans