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Date: May 21st 1915
Edmund MacNachtan


Belgium, April 3Oth, 1915

To Lieut-Col. N.F. MacNachtan, C.V.O.

I wonder if news of what is going on here has reached you yet, if so, you will be terribly anxious. When the General told us we would get it very much hotter here than we had previously experienced, he was dead right. How it is that any of us are still alive is beyond me. It is nothing short of a miracle.

We have been under fire, heavy artillery, for eight days. On Tuesday it was terrific. They started at us with what is known as 'whistling willies,' they are about a fourteen pound shell and are used for ranging. After they got us in a 'twenty-five yard bracket' they started in with high explosives, then things started to happen. The air was simply full of shells, splinters, smoke and blinding choking sickening fumes. A fuse came through the shield of our gun without touching anyone, the same thing happened at No.3 gun, a shell came through No.2 but did not burst until it struck the ground at the trail. No one at No.2 gun was touched but one of the crew at No.1 gun was hit in the shoulder by a splinter. I forgot to say that two guns of the 5th Battery got lost so they attached themselves to our battery. They (the 5th) lost one killed and three wounded. We had one killed and six wounded, one of the latter rather seriously. The man killed was sergeant Boone of Peterborough, an awful fine fellow. Bert Munn was rather badly wounded in the legs (Died).

I hope it will never be my lot to go through another such experience; it lasted nearly all day.

The sensation of sitting behind those guns, just waiting for a shell to strike was terrible. None of us expected to get out, how we came through it all is beyond me.

The men behaved like heroes, every man stuck to his post; there wasn't a quitter among them. We kept on firing as if nothing unusual was happening. Don't get the impression, dad, that we weren't frightened. I am not ashamed to say that I was scared stiff. I think everyone else was, too, but it does not necessarily follow that we were cowards. Probably we will never have another such experience. God knows, I hope not, our nerves are pretty well shattered.

Next morning the 'swine' started at us again; they fired a couple of the same high explosives at us to make sure they had us. Then we heard a rustling noise coming our way. It sounded like a street car exactly, that was all that was needed. We got orders to get out and out we got and take it from me, we didn't lose any time in the 'getting.' We sat down about 100 yards away and watched the 'brutes' start in to finish our poor guns. One of these tremendous shells hit the footboard of our wagon bodily, the whole wagon shot up in the air and there was a regular display of fireworks when the ammunition in it started to go. The gun was blown into an unrecognizable mass of twisted steal. A shell exploded very close to every one of our guns, but only ours, (No. 1) was damaged. We shifted that night.

There has been a terrible struggle going on in front of us for a week. Our poor Canadians have made an undying name, but at what a cost. Our infantry has been very badly cut up and there have been many casualties among our Artillery.

The British troops can't say enough that is good about our infantry; they tell us that nothing stops them they do not know what fear is.
I saw Major Beattie (Chaplain of the first Brigade, Infantry) yesterday. He held a burial service at poor Dicky Boone's burial. The Major looks and seem very well but his nerves are pretty well shaken, like the rest of us, the strain is beginning to tell.

The din about us cannot be imagined; it is like bedlam; dozens of our batteries firing, a fast as they can load and fire, with hundreds of the shells from the Germans contribute to kick-up an ear-splitting row all day long.

Our Battery (4th, 1st Brigade) has been doing wonderful work. Our shooting is very accurate. On Monday last we fired nearly twelve hundred rounds in two hours. Isn't that 'going some.'

I do not know anything else to tell you. The situation seems to change very little out in front of us. One day we made a gain and the next the Germans. This promises to be the biggest battle of the war.
The weather is beautiful, far too fine for such work as we are at.
Au revoir and don't worry,

E.L. MacNACHTAN, Sergeant.
4th Battery, 1st Brigade, C.F.A.