March 8 / 18
My Dearest Betty:
It is the close of another busy day, & in the seclusion of my own little room & in comparative comfort I sit down to talk to you my dear; across the ocean & over the wide stretch of praise my thoughts flare & I can see you in the little homely kitchen preparing for your evening meal - I can see Billy playing around & hear his prattle, & Shirley running in from school all eager to tell of her doings there - in a little while you will be sitting down to supper & I know that you will think & speak of Daddy, "Somewhere in France" & you & the kiddies will talk of what we shall do when Daddy comes home again. God bless you my dear ones & speed the day for which we all long.
It is night, a night of exquisite beauty, following a beautiful spring day, over head the stars gleam bright, oh, if only all else were in harmony with the beauty of such a night, but alas everything else bears evidence to the blighting - cruel & devastating power of war. As I write there comes to my ear the roar & rumble of the guns, a sound which tells that across the valley & beyond the dimly silhouetted hills, only a few miles distant, our comrades stand in the front line trenches keeping their faithful vigil, & ready to die if need be, that the Empire & all for which the Empire stands might be kept inviolate from the ravages of cruel & pitiless foe. "God bless & keep our splendid boys" & as they look out with straining eyes into the darkness of "No-Man's Land" in which lurks the hidden death may they have the clear sense of His protecting - overshadowing Presence." Right by our Y.M. hut runs the road, (one of the great roads of France) straight & white between rows of Lombardy poplars fine - magnificent, old trees in pre-war days, - but now splintered & shattered & dead from gas & shell fire, the valley in which we are was once a beauty spot of Old France, thickly wooded but now all the beauty has vanished under the devastation of war, every tree has been splintered & shattered by shell or killed by the deadly fumes of gas, & to day our forestry battalions are busy felling the lifless trunks, & blowing out the stumps - then follows countless men with plow & spade, & in a few weeks many of the cruel scars will be covered from sight of growing crops - the hillsides too, once green & wooded, bear the scar made by shell & trench or mine. While through the valley & on hillsides, there are shattered countless, crosses bearing their single yet eloquent inscription "killed in Action etc" the last resting places of the best & noblest of France & boys form all parts of our far flung Empire - but more especially our own Canadian lads & it is somewhere among these that Pryor - Spick. Roberts- Patterson Baskerville etc lay - resting. In days that are to come, this valley will be a very Holy of Holies, to which will come thousands & thousands of our fellow to pay their tribute & thank God, for the sublime courage & love of freedom which inspired men to fight - suffer & die that the liberties of mankind might be preserved here & there also are heaps of brick & stone rubble, with twisted& broken beds & other articles of household furniture - these heaps of debris were once prosperous towns & villages, one afternoon walking among some ruins I noticed a child's broken iron cot, & as I stood & looked & thought, a large rat, scurried startled away, & as I carefully moved aside the broken bricks with my foot I saw - a skull - the skull of a little baby.
Not far from our hut there is the ruins & rumbling walls of what was once a beautiful century old church, surrounded by shattered tombstones - twisted crosses & grave & vaults torn open by shells it was from among these ruins I picked the three beautiful snow drops which I enclosed in my last letter. Across the valley, there towers, just beneath the hills all that is left of a historic & magnificent old Cathedral, just the inner arches & as part of the tower - when the Hun hordes swept down the valley on their ruthless march, they desecrated this sacred & noble edifice by using it as stables for their horses; while under its roof they committed such atrocities which will not bear telling.
If only some of the opponents of conscription could see something of these scenes I am sure their opinions would soon change, if red blood ran in their veins. Thank God the rank & file of Canadians in the Homeland, were true & loyal to the sons they have sent forth & to the memory of those who have already made the supreme sacrifice, We are glad over here that those who will not do their duty to the Empire & Humanity willingly are to be forced at last to do at least a part of it.
Well my dear the hour is somewhat late & if I am to be fit for the strenuous duties of to-morrow I must turn in. God bless you my dear wife & darling kiddies, in fancy I embrace & kiss you fondest love.