France July 12, 1917

My dear Emma;-

I have just arrived at the aid post of the battalion which is in the front line. The aid post is in the cellar of a chateau that has been wrecked by shell fire.

We had a lovely crossing and arrived in Boulogne about 2 P.M. My train left early the next morning and the girls were good enough to get up before daylight to see me off. Their train was to go some hours later. I did not want them to get up so early but was pleased nevertheless that they did. At the railhead I was lively enough to run across a divisional motor car which landed me right at our horse lines. Later on I came up into the line and reported for duty. You will see that I did not lose much time in getting into harness again.

My leave seemed almost too good to be true especially when you told me you liked me and gave me the promise I so longed to receive. I was prepared to have that taxi drive around London until the petrol gave out or I knew my fate. But do not think dear girl that I do not realize what a terrible responsibility I took when I asked you for that promise and the trust in me that it involves. The knowledge that you love me is very sweet and before long I hope we may be able to begin our lives afresh together. In the meantime we must both “Carry on”. I think though that quite soon our immediate relatives and those near to us should know of our engagement. However I shall leave the decision in this entirely to you; I did not tell my sister Margaret but shall by letter do so when we have come to a decision as to our general course of action. If any mishap should be my lot here I should like my brother & sisters to know that I had left behind one who is very dear to me. Can you tell me what size of a ring you will wear for me? I wish to send you one as soon as possible.

When I next get leave I shall ask for a month and we can be quietly married and spend it together. The change you have brought into my life has caused me to give up the idea of trying for leave to Canada in the autumn. Goodbye for present and please excuse this short letter.

Yours lovingly,

Harold W McGill

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Published in: on September 25, 2006 at 8:00 am  Comments (2)  

France, May 28, 1917

Dear Miss Griffis;-

Your letter of May 17 is to hand. Please excuse my writing in pencil; I lost my fountain pen during our last tour.

We are now out in reserve under canvas again Dieu merci. Our periods of rest have been mighty short and those of duty very long for past two months or more. Our last trip was a long trying one but fortunately our casualties were light. The weather though was fine all the time except for one days rain. When the battalion was in the front line I used to stay up all night and sleep during the day. The early mornings were beautiful. Some times I could see & hear 3 or 4 skylarks at once and other sing birds were plentiful. The screaming of the shells didn’t seem to disturb their singing at all. The first morning after we took over the Hun put on a vigourous straafe with 15 cm shells around our premises. He first blew in our aid post and shortly afterwards smashed in our sleeping dugout. Fortunately I had retreated in each case with my orderlies before the direct hits were landed. None of my men were injured although one had a very narrow margin. A man of another battalion was killed at the door of the dugout. It was lucky we had no wounded on hand when the hate started to come over. It took us 3 hours to dig our belongings out of the wreckage after the storm was over. Our rations were at the bottom of the dugout and we could not have any breakfast until we recovered them.

The records arrived this afternoon. I really do not know how to express my thanks. Somebody has made off with our gramophone but I have a search party out to locate it so that we may have some fresh music. The gramophone sounds like voices from home when we come out of the trenches.

I note your remarks re Major Hewgill. The Major is a very fascinating personality and I am going to make a stab for some leave in order that I may go over to England and see what he is up to. I hear that he has command of a reserve unit over there. No one could deserve it more.

I had the pleasure of dressing a badly wounded Hun last tour, a compound fracture of the right humerus. He was under 19 years of age and had been in the army over a year. He had been a student at Munich University and could speak a little English. He told us that their colonel had warned them all against the Canadians. The colonel had told them that the English were not so bad but that Canadians were a rough cruel lot who would use prisoners very badly. When he told me he was a university student I asked him where were the dueling scars on his face. In reply he gave a wan smile and pointed to the wound in his arm. After I put his arm up in splints he said “I thank you very much for your kindness to me.” I told him it was not our habit to make war on wounded prisoners. He wanted to know if I was acquainted with Philadelphia. One cannot help having compassion on wounded enemies but the sight of a dead Boche does not excite any sympathy in me. No body invited them here. I have just read of the recent air raid on England.
Do you ever see Capt. Geo. Johnson? I saw his name in the casualty list as wounded some time ago, but have not heard from him and do not where he is or how he is progressing. Neither have I seen Haszard for months. Major Gunn is still out here but I hear that Dunlop has been evacuated sick.

Let me hear from you again soon.

Sincerely yours

Harold W McGill