September 21, 1916
Dear Mr. & Mrs. Drader,
This is without doubt the hardest task I have ever had to do - telling you of the death of your son and my best friend.
Two days before we went into action I had transferred to 'D' Company to be with Eugene, little thinking that our long and intimate friendship was to end so suddenly and so tragically.
Within five minutes of the beginning of the action Eugene was left in command of the company, through Lieut. Macdonald being wounded. Eugene led the company over the shell swept ground in the most gallant way imaginable; shells burst all around him but he led us straight on with the most uncanny sense of direction. We reached our first objective and Eugene incited the admiration of everyone in the way he went ahead, getting his bearings and getting connections - doing everything exactly right.
Then, when we went over the top, made our assault, went on and started to dig in, he proved himself the soldier that I always knew he was. Another of our officers had been hit; then at 9.30 p.m., Sept. 15 a sergeant came to me and told me I was in command - Mr. Drader had been hit. It seemed to me an age before I could get to him; some Germans on our left were causing trouble then, when I traced him up, I was told he had been taken out alright. Accordingly I did not see him again alive.
Next morning I received the sad news that he had not been taken out but had died about 2 a.m. Lieut. Robert Ferris was with him. Eugene was shot through the spine and abdomen and his legs were paralyzed. He was conscious for a long time and always assured inquirers that he would be alright; he did not want to be moved for a while but said he'd get better alright. He never once murmured or complained about his lot. If he suffered he would not admit it.
He was game to the very last; he was a soldier every inch; he died a soldier's death.
He was buried near where he fell-a real soldier's burial, not the parade style of military funeral, but the short hesitating prayer that was said over his grave, with our heads bowed very low on account of the machine gun fire, was the most sincere prayer ever offered up.
He was loved and respected by everyone who knew him-the very type of soldierly bearing, kindness and good judgment.
He was the best friend I ever had. We knew all of each other's affairs, and I can assure you that his reputation for straightforwardness and clean living was well deserved.
On all sides I hear the same remarks-"the pity of it" - his youth, his build, carriage, and appearance impressed those who did not know him intimately. Those of us who were privileged to be his intimates add many noble qualities to this list.
Since his death I am not the same; I cannot be; but everyone is kind and I have received much kind sympathy, for we were known as inseparables.
As deeply as I feel it, it can be nothing in comparison with your feelings.
In his civilian life too, I wish you knew the excellent influence he has had on the lives of the young who knew him as their teacher. They worship him, and what is more, they try to imitate him. Many, many hearts in Edmonton and Gull Lake will be very, very sad.
And your grief; it seemed at first that no one could be more heartbroken than I myself; and I took chances for over a day in the front line that I never would have taken otherwise; I seemed to be obsessed with the one idea, that Eugene and I must not be separated. But I know there's nothing to compare with father's and mother's love, so I send you sympathy and I mean it more than I ever meant those words before. I share your sorrow, words cannot say how deeply.
I shall, if spared, take the first opportunity of seeing you and telling you as much as I can of the hundreds of things you'll want to know.
His personal effects are being sent to you. I have in addition his watch and his identity disc which I shall send you. I will do anything you ask that is possible.
Yours with sincerest sympathy,
Harry E. Balfour, Lieut.
49th Bn. Canadians