The following letter was received by Mr. W.F. Kerr, crown Attorney, from his friend, Mr.J. Dave McEwen, who has been fighting in France with the Canadian troops. Mr. McEwen enlisted in Toronto with the 9th Field Battery and sailed with the First Contingent. He is well known in Toronto and Whitby, and has many friends in Cobourg and vicinity. Mr. McEwen is an undergraduate of Oxford university, but has given up his studies for the present in order to serve his country:
Duke of Connaught's Canadian Hospital, Taplow, (Bucks) 30, 5, 15. (England)
My Dear Mr. Kerr:
I felt ever since I was wounded at St. Julien on April 29th, and more especially since resting the accounts of Canadian newspapers of Canadian heroism, that I would like to write you and put in a little word for the Canadian Field Artillery. I trust that you will not think that I am trying to 'blow my own trumpet,' but you know we got no chance to capture trenches, or to engage in bayonet charges, so that often the good work done by the artillery is overlooked.
On several occasions prior to the German attacks on the evening of 22nd of April, our artillery has been commended for their good work. On the night of the attack and for two weeks following, the Canadian Field Artillery got it 'in the neck.' Looking back, the one thing that strikes me most was the coolness displayed by our men, and the discipline under fire. I believe it was general in the artillery division, but I can certainly speak on this scope concerning the ninth Battery. Try to imagine what our situation was like? For days we were exposed to heavy artillery fire from the big German guns from three directions. Once the enemy had located the whereabouts of a battery, roughly, they would spare no ammunition searching for it, traversing, increasing and decreasing the range until the field in which it had taken up a position was simply ploughed up with shell holes. It was impossible to get under cover anywhere! Poor corporal Warrington of my section was unfortunately killed in a dug-out by a shell's bursting inside. Well for days we were under this fire. Every road leaving to our position was being shelled by the enemy! Our first line of wagons, from which we drew our ammunition supply, was in a farm about 500 yards away and this was being shelled all the time! And yet through all these terrible days our men were as cool as though there wasn't the least danger. True, it got on our nerves, We couldn't work off our pent up feelings by charging the enemy! We couldn't even see him! All we could do was to smoke, play cards when not actually firing. As for our drivers, they remained with their teams, all hooked into their vehicles, in a field nearby, ready to gallop up at a minute's notice to the guns. All the time, they too, were under the same, heavy fire, as the gunners' ammunition has to be brought up regularly to the guns, and these drivers were 'there' every time, with shells bursting behind and in front of them all the way. Then too, our officers were good. It is impossible to single out one more than another, although I must say it was a pleasing and consoling sight to observe Major MacDougall calmly smoking his long pipe just as if he were at the armories. In action, an officer who keeps perfectly cool inspires confidence, and the men unconsciously follow his lead.
I am proud to belong to the Canadian contingent. The chairman of the Manchester ship canal, Mr. J.K. BytheIl, was visiting the hospital I was in the other day, and he came to my bedside and asked me what Regiment I belonged to. I told him I belonged to the Canadians. He gripped my hand and said 'it means a great deal to be a Canadian to-day, more in fact than it did a month ago.' I agreed with him.
The Canadian troops have made a name for themselves that will live for all time. Unfortunately thousands of those brave comrades of ours will be unable to carry on the good work, as they have given their lives, willingly, to the Empire. But they have bequeathed a great heritage to those who are left. A great number of our wounded, including myself, will soon be going back, but more are needed. Canada is responding nobly, and I hope she will continue to answer the Mother Country's call. Every abled bodied man who has no ties should come forward. Will they not avenge the deaths of their fellow countrymen? Tell them that they are all wanted.
Remember me kindly to all whom I have the pleasure of knowing in Cobourg, Toronto and Whitby.
Yours most sincerely,
J. DAVE McEWEN.