HAUTE AVESNES, France
December 26, 1916
Were you very lonely yesterday? We came up the line two days before Christmas and on Christmas Eve, Fat Creighton and I walked into - - - - - -, one of the largest towns in France, altho almost uninhabited by civilians, because it is only about two miles from the front line. Say! It was an interesting sight as the town was crowded with soldiers. We tried to get into a butcher shop to buy some fresh meat, but we couldn't get neat the darn place. It was full up, with crowds of fellows waiting outside. Then we tried to get into an estimatnet to get two or three bottles of champagne for Xmas. Did I tell you that champagne only costs $1.00 a bottle here? the town of course was in total darkness as Fritz shells it about once a week, but almost every man was carrying a flashlight. There are a few civilians living there running fruit, butcher's and souvenir stores. They all live in cellars.
Christmas Day dawned bright and cheerful. We got up at 7 o'clock and got our day's duties finished before 10. Porkie is up the line at one of the advanced posts, and Fat and I are behind the line in one of the main dressing stations. We expect to go up to the advanced posts tomorrow.
We had a lunch at 12 o'clock - a very light one consisting of bread, butter and jam. Doesn't sound very appetising and cheerful for a Christmas meal does it, but wait - every available thing was saved for supper!
We have two officers in charge with us up the line. One a Major, and one a Captain. They laid the table for us, waited on the table, and after supper washed up our billy cans. They also supplied us with large cigars and oranges. It was a great surprise to us, and every man appreciated it as a show of good comradeship and feeling. In front of each man's billy can was a handechief and tin of chocolate from the Canadian Field Comforts Commission. Two packets of chocolate from the Red Cross, and a box of mixed candies from the "Good Cheer Group" in Calgary. The meal consisted of beefsteak and onions, string beans, mashed potatoes, plum pudding with sauce, nuts, oranges and cigars. After supper the Major gave us each a toilet bag filled with candies, digs, tobacco, cards, writing material, gum etc. This was also a gift from the "Good Cheer Club". In each bag was a short note from one of the members. I am enclosing the note taken from mine. I am answering it tonight.
So, taking it all 'round, we had a jolly time. At nine o'clock, I went up in the ambulance to see Porkie. He said he had a dandy time. Most of his squad were "feeling good". I had a glass of champagne with them and came back to headquarters. While we were unloading rations from the car, a terrific bombarbment started up a little to the right of our brigade. I stood up on the top of the trench and watched the fun. Star shells were going up six and eight at a time - red and green star lights - . . .signals, presumably, for artillery support. I've since found out that Fritz came over on our boys, but got the worst of the deal by far. I guess he thought the boys would be celebrating and he would catch them by surprise, but he was sure out of luck. A fellow was telling me this afternoon that one of Fritz's prisoners that we took last week informed our officers that a raid was planned for Xmaz Day. so I imagine we were waiting for him. Gosh! It's a wonderful sight to see a night attack. The guns flashing away behind the line looks like sheet lightning in the summer time. The noise is terrific, and the star shells make It seem as bright as day. They also show up the white patches of smoke in the air left by the explosion of shrapnel. And the explosions of the trench mortars, high explosives, hand grenades etc. make a vivid red light.
Our boys pulled off a very successful raid last week and took several prisoners, amongst them being a few wounded. I took a field card from one of them, which I enclose, also one of their field dressings, which I will send with the next parcel.
We are all feeling in the best of spirits out here, and I think every man feels in his bones that he will spend next Christmas with his dear ones. It's nine months to the day since I said goodbye. I am enclosing a little hankie, a Fritz Field Card, the letters etc that were enclosed with out Xmas gifts, and Mother's letter received today.
Well, I really ought to close and turn in. it's nearly one o'clock and the fire is getting low. We are living in an old house with the roof off, and a big shell hole in the wall, with all the windows out and the door gone. But we have it quite comfy. The windows and door are closed with blankets, and we have a big brick fireplace. We have to pull down the roofs of houses and barns and use doors etc. for firewood. Where we are stationed is quite a big village, about half the size of Battelford. But most of the houses and shelled to pieces and there are guns positioned, and dugouts in the gardens and orchards that were used by the French in the spring of 1915. Any house that has four walls standing and any kind of roof is used for a billet.