France, July 20, 1917

Dear Emma;-

I have your letter of July 13 and was pleased to know that you were having a good time in London. I wrote you from the trenches and addressed the letter to 133 Oxford St London. I hope it reached you safely.

We are at present out in reserve, billeted in a ruined village. It used to be just behind the line but is now some distance back since the Huns have been moved along. The civilians are already coming back and starting in to rebuild their shell destroyed homes. It makes one savage to see the terrible destruction the Germans have left behind them. In the line we now hold there are pianos in a number of dugouts. These the Germans had looted from the towns they occupied. When we hustled them out they gutted and destroyed practically all the beautiful French homes. Of course in the smaller villages there was very little fine material to destroy but in the larger towns and cities the destruction has been wicked. I hope to live to see some of the fine German towns laid flat in ruins. Their people will then not be at all anxious to go to war again.

The records arrived to day but we have no gramophone as it was left up at the horse lines. One of our officers going on leave intends to bring a new machine back with him.

My correspondence is in a frightful state of neglect. I have a pile of unanswered letters in front of me that I can scarcely see over. I had a letter the other day from Mrs. Clarke of Calgary whom you will remember. She had not been very well. The Clarkes were always extremely kind to me. I had my room at their house for over four years.

How is your ankle? I am glad to know that you will not have to go back nursing those lungers for some time at least. Do you think you will apply for service in France? I wish you could get up with a C.C.S. but I presume that will not be possible until you have put in a certain period of nursing in a base hospital. And before too long a time elapses I hope we may be able to map out an entirely new program. Are there not such a lot of things we should have talked over? I should have had that taxi go out to Richmond and back. I shall look forward to my next leave with a particular interest and pleasure and if the war should be over then so much the better. Do you know anything about weddings? They are entirely outside the range of my experience; I was never at one in my life, not even as a spectator. With best of love I am

Yours ever

Harold W McGill

Published in: on October 2, 2006 at 8:00 am  Leave a Comment  

France, June 17, 1917

Dear Miss Griffis;-

Your very nice letter of June 12 reached me yesterday having made excellent time for these disturbed days. The stationary came along a few days earlier and I wish to most heartily thank you for your kindness in sending it. I have still on hand a considerable quantity left over from what you have previously sent but I presume that you thought from the few letters that I have been writing that my supply had run out.

Be careful of yourself working around those lungers. It will do your patients no benefit, you know, for you to contract the disease. I have a mortal terror of Tb. It is more deadly than Fritz’s trench mortars.

We are now having the best time we have had since landing in France, no Fritz shells or airplane bombs to worry us. The weather is delightful, rather hot but very acceptable after all the cold wet Spring we had to endure. The battalion is billeted in a very nice village prettily situated and we are again able to enjoy a few of the ordinary comforts if not the luxuries of life. The French people are very friendly to-wards us and our boys and the civilians get along splendidly. The battalion is doing training while out in rest but there is no forced pace and the boys are being encouraged to go in for sports and recreations. We had a battalion sports day last week, races football etc. An invitation was issued to civilians to attend and they responded very well especially the school children. There were special foot races for the boys & girls and every one of them seemed to enter for each event. The maire and town doctor were on the grounds. The doctor could talk English. He introduced me to Monsieur le Maire. As the maire had no knowledge of English and I had none of French we were unable to carry on a very animated conversation. The doctor was much interested to learn that I had been in Vimy as he knew the medical man that had been there. I gathered from the remarks of my friend that his Vimy confrere’s practice had been all shot to pieces. Some of our men dressed up and performed as clowns, to the wonderment & delight of the children. The program ended up with a concert in the evening. A pleasant time was had.

Yesterday was Brigade sports day and the program lasted all day. It was blistering hot but everything went off well. Our unit won a number of events including 1st & 2nd in the mule race. I rode to and from the village where the sports were held.

This morning after church parade a few of us got our horses and rode off to our swimming pool which is about 3 kilometres away. The pool is an old disused quarry filled with water. It is about 500 feet long, half as wide and very deep. It makes an ideal place for swimming although I must confess that I shouldn’t mind having a chance to take a dip in the sea again. However we all enjoyed both our ride and swim. The day is too hot for walking. I noticed some children out picking wild strawberries. It made me think of strawberry shortcake. Lord! It seems to me to be years & years since I have seen or eaten a piece of strawberry shortcake.

My sister Margaret has been bombarding me with letters regarding making an application for special leave. She has done so and thinks she might get away towards the end of the month. We are not getting any regular leave in the battalion now but I am making an attempt to get special leave. I should like very much to spend 10 days in England now. The further back a man is from the firing line the better chance he has of obtaining leave.
Margaret expects to get posted to a C.C.S. soon. I wish to Heaven she would get away from Le Trefort. The place is completely off the beaten track and very difficult to reach. I have not seen Margaret for a year & a half. If she were up at a clearing station or even in England we might get a chance to meet occasionally.

Did you know that Mr. Fleetham was dead? Dr Follett wrote me that the old gentleman had gone to California to recuperate after his attack of pneumonia and had died quite suddenly down there. He was a fine old man and I shall miss him very much when I return.

We were all greatly interested in the big fight at Messines & Wytschaete for we were up in that country for nearly a year. I know the geography of the Ypres salient better than I know the country around Calgary. It did not matter in what part of the salient one happened to be, he had only to look around to see the Wytschaete hill. The hill dominated the whole salient, and Fritz could see us from the time we left our billets to move towards the front. It would have been good business to have spent 50,000 casualties to take that ridge at any time during the war, i.e. provided it could have been held as it is now. The capture of the ridge will certainly make a big difference in our toll of casualties. I should have liked to have been standing on Kemmel Hill when those 19 mines went up. The engineers were driving the saps for the mines when we were at Kemmel over a year ago.

Let me hear from you again soon. Give my kind regards to Major Hewgill and ask him if he would like some stamps sent.

Sincerely yours

Harold W McGill