April 15, 1916

Dear Miss Griffis;-

Your letter of March 23 came to hand two days ago. A couple of big bundles of papers also arrived but I do not know by whom they were sent. Do not think the papers you send are not appreciated even if I am discourteous enough to fail thanking you.

We are now out in divisional reserve but expect to go back into the trenches in a few days. The men are getting well rested up and they needed it for our last trip in was a very trying ordeal as you would probably read in the papers. It was in fact our first real action and the battalion behaved splendidly. Anything we had hitherto experienced in the way of war was a pink tea compared with what we were up against those few days. The Germans made several attacks after frightful artillery bombardments in each case. One bombardment began about 3 in the morning and lasted for 18 hours without a break. Hundreds of shells per minute must have exploded in our lines during that time. Our artillery sent back just as good as we got and perhaps a little more. A number of Germans came over and surrendered to get out of the shell fire. A lot of the German infantry coming over to attack seemed half dazed, probably by the terrible shell fire, and were shot down like sheep in front of our trenches, or at least what had been our trenches. In many places both our own and the enemy trenches were wiped completely out of existence. Most of us got scarcely any sleep for four days and nights. We were in five days but the last one was comparatively quiet. You will be pleased to know that our battalion did not lose an inch of ground. In one case four bombers broke up an enemy infantry attack after shooting the German officer. I used to wonder why men went insane under shell fire but understand it perfectly now. However we had very few cases of nervous breakdown.

Now I must stop giving you war news or the censor will take a notion to hold up the letter. Besides you will probably be able to read that sort of thing told in a better way in the papers. When one is in an action he sees only the very small part that comes under his individual notice and is liable to give a wrong impression.

You asked about Drs. E.G. Mason, Haszard and F.C. Clark. I have not seen any of them since we came to France last September. I understand Col. Mason is still with his battalion in England. I do not know where the other two are but know that the unit Major Haszard was with has been broken up and the men sent over in drafts.

The spring seems to take as long in coming here as in Alberta. We had a few warm days in the beginning of the month but lately the weather has been very wet and cold. The leaves are not out on the trees yet and we had a smart little snow storm yesterday afternoon. The birds occasionally do a little singing but what they have to sing about in this country I do not know.

I nearly forgot to tell you that I saw D.A.H. Taylor the night we came out of the trenches. His battalion was just moving up to the front and I did not have time to more than say “Hello!” to him. Au revoir.

Yours sincerely

Harold W McGill

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