SIXTEENTH PAYS TERRIBLE PRICE
Canadian Scottish Lost 18 Officers and Over a Company of Men in Recapturing Line of Lost Trenches
The Allied offensive on the Somme has overshadowed all other fighting on the western front, But for it one would have heard more of the engagement of a month ago in which the Canadians were as severely tested as ever before. Their gallant conduct seems to have been better recognized in England than at home.
The following letter from an officer of the 16th Battalion, Canadian Scottish, which has been in France since February 1915, and has distinguished itself in every great fight with which Canadian gallantry is associated, will be of interest. It is dated June 21, 1916.
“I will now do my best to tell you about our big show which came off on the 13th. It is the first letter which I have tried to write since the action.
“To begin with the third Division lost about 1500 yards of trenches at 500 yards depth. We were out on a few days rest at the time, 11 to 12 miles away. We struck camp at 8.30 p.m. and made a forced march with the idea of counterattacking at dawn.
“It was quite light when we got into position and so only two battalions, the 14th and the 15th charged, and we supported them. Without any artillery support it was impossible and they were mown down by machine gun and shrapnel, but succeeded in establishing a trench about 300 yards from the enemy’s new position.
“We stuck in our support position for a few more days under terrible artillery fire expecting to make the attack any minute. We had three good officers killed and three wounded in this position.
“You can’t imagine what a modern barrage is like. Hell is not strong enough. At last we were taken out for 48 hours’ sleep while our massed artillery made its final preparation. All this time it was raining hard and the trenches, ditches, of course, were worse than they were last winter, and we were all in summer clothes.
“We came in again with definite orders that the 13th and 16th would attack, the objective being our old front line. This meant taking four lines of German trenches. We did attack at 1.30 a.m., after a bombardment as heavy as any at Verdun. (Heavy losses.)
“The 16th were the first into the objective and we sent those Huns flying in great shape. Lots of prisoners, but hundreds killed. I am sorry to say we lost 18 officers, 10 killed, not including Cotton and Sachs, who were on the brigade staff. Our casualties in the ranks were 252.
“You knew Adams and McLennan. Bell-Irving is now a junior Major and he did fine work. Kemp got a nice ‘blighty in the arm. My boys did fine work. Drafts are coming in every day and we will soon be up to strength.
“I had two close shaves—stunned twice. Once by a piece of casing hitting my steel helmet and again a chunk cutting through the padding of my overcoat and glancing off the side of my neck. “I was in the act of shooting a Hun at the time, but when I got to my feet again the swine was standing by with his rifle and equipment on the ground, so I took him prisoner and handed him over to a slightly wounded man to take out.
“You can’t imagine how cowardly the Huns were. One officers put his arms around my neck and cried on my breast when he found that I wasn’t going to kill him.