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Date: July 1st 1917
Beulah Bahnsen (wife)
Ralph Watson

Sunday morning early, 1 July, ’17.

My ownest Kiddie, —

Tomorrow we parti for the trenches once more, and today we shall be decidedly busy. It’s Sunday, and we have an important Church Parade — a Brigade parade — and who do you think is to be there? The “Dook.” Quite like old Canadian times again. I didn’t know he was in France. Packing up will not take long; but, just the same, it is always a rush. There is none of that ceremonial regimental stuff about it; you pack it how you like, ease and convenience alone count. . . .

The weather is rather cold and wet, and we’ll miss the roof overhead pretty badly, I guess. Fortunately I didn’t ditch my sweater during the hot weather, as every one else did.

You will bear the date in mind, and remember the news of this time when you get this. Things are stirring in our section with a vengeance; the guns are going incessantly. . . . It is just possible we shall be left more or less alone in the front line, Heinie being more concerned about the guns hindering his retreat.

I wonder how they are going to explain the loss to the rank and file in Germany. Human nature is pretty much the same all over, and it is — must be, in fact — that the soldier cannot feel cheerful about these continual retreats, even if he implicitly believes that they are “according to plan.” I know how we should feel, and it would not be good, and it would not help us to “carry on.” I have been in this sector since the beginning of April, and I know that we — the guns and ourselves — have made it absolutely impossible for human beings to stay where they were. The true facts of the evacuation — whatever will be said (I am writing before the fall) — are that the enemy has been and is outclassed in every branch of war. In plain words, he is retreating because he has to. It is slow work, must of necessity be; but humans cannot stand this kind of thing for ever, and I look for a break, a bad break, somewhere in the line before October. If the Germans haven’t realized by then how foolishly they are trusting in a broken reed, then we must sit down and endure another winter. The thing that never fails to be amazing to me is that the German people cannot see things as they are. However, I’m not very interested in the larger aspect of the war. To me, it amounts to whether I have enough dry pairs of socks for the wet trenches I shall so soon be in; if he will shell us heavily; if we shall be within his trench mortar zone (very important this — his “sausage” is a fearful thing); how far the front line is from the jumping-off place where you store your packs; will it be possible to get bread and fresh meat in to us? How far will we have to go for water, how many days will constitute a trip “in”, and — never expressed, but half thought of in the back of the brain — will this be my Waterloo trip? What the politicians are doing, and the General Staff planning don’t interest us for a second.

Afternoon, 1 July, ’17.

The parade this morning was quite a surprise to me. Apparently it’s Dominion Day — no one knew — and when the Batt’ns of the Brigade had formed a square in a pretty field surrounded with trees, motor cars came up and discharged about all the brass hats in France, including the Commander of the First British Army himself (the Canadians are attached to the First Army). Note that ours of all the Canadians in France, was the Bgd. chosen for him to attend. We even had special “programmes” printed, one of which I enclose as another souvenir. Photographs and moving pictures were taken, and our fastest and latest type aeroplanes made rings round the affair in formation, in case Fritz should happen to take a look over. The band supplied the music. We like our own band; but it doesn’t compare with theirs.

It was impressive and interesting. The “Big Gun” made a speech in which he said the Vimy Show and later the (censored) one had plainly shown us that Fritz was getting less inclined to put up a stiff fight when we meant real business — he didn’t tell us when the war was to end.

During the “rest”, the specialty training — bombers, machine gunners, rifles, grenade men, etc. have worked on a competition basis for prizes — and after the parade the Colonel presented the prizes. There were eight prizes for the Batt’n, and notice this — “B” Co. took five of them. . . .

All the games and sports stuff and putting everything on a competition line is good in every way, makes the fellows keen, sets up friendly rivalry, and is interesting for every one. The rest has undoubtedly been a great success. The only kick the fellows have is that there were only two pays of fifteen francs each. I think that rotten myself; they could easily have slipped in one more, or even two.


They have recently got more particular about wearing your identification discs in the proper place, namely round your neck. You have two out here, a red, and a green. One is buried with you, the other — I dunno’ what becomes of it. I’ve always carried mine in my pocket — though I wear a little medal affair on a chain round my wrist. At present, I am using a piece of old string off a parcel for the two round my neck; but if you like to send me a nice piece of silk cord, strong enough not to break, and durable enough not to object to soap and water, yet pretty enough to remind me of things “nice”, I’d be tickled to wear it.

They have this moment come for our one blanket — sure sign of a move. A cold night on hard bricks tonight; better than mud, though.

I have really got hold of a Saturday Post with a yarn by Gardner in it. Reading matter has been terribly scarce here all the time, and to have a Post is to be in real luck — though somehow looking at the ads and things always makes me homesick. . . . It’s all so different, like going on leave; the fact that people have comforts and luxuries, can be free, hits you like the concussion of a shell. I don’t suppose you’ll understand this; but at times, when things are quiet, like just before going to sleep or dozing the day through in a funk hole, my mind automatically flies to you, and times we have had together, and what might be — if. Always — no matter if it occurs a hundred times — I hastily push the thoughts away from me, feverishly think of something else; but it never really goes. It always stays sort of behind in my brain, and worries me and keeps me awake. The fact is, I think of you as little as I can. I dare not give myself the luxury of it; things that I see and do, I immediately arrange to tell you of in the only way I can — like this.

Original Scans

Original Scans