My Dear Ones at Home -
This letter finds me in quite a different place from the last one, for I am a 'casualty' and am having a few days in the hospital. I guess I have the distinction of being the first 184th man 'wounded' in action. I am not really wounded though, but a little shaken up with shell shock. I'll tell you the story as briefly as possible
I was sleeping in a dug-out for the day after being on outpost duty all night. About 12:30 (noon) the Huns started shelling the front line where we were. We were quite safe in our deep dug-out, but the poor chap who was on sentry duty at the entrance was blown to pieces Our officer called for a man to carry a message down the trench about half a mile, to headquarters dug out, to report the casualty, and I offered to go. In two places our trench was blown in and I had to crawl out and double overland - Fritz's snipers took a few cracks at me that whizzed by unpleasantly close, but you bet I lost no time. I went faster I think than I ever did in a 100 yds. dash and got into the trench O.K. I delivered my message to Major A. - & just turned to go back, when we heard a shell coming. I just had time to crouch down when I heard the terrific explosion - it seemed right at my side. It landed in the next 'traverse' to me, about 20 feet away, but being around the corner I was not hurt.
[diagram of trench by author: me! shell]
I was nearly covered up with a shower of stones and mud and almost stunned by the shock. I turned and crawled back down into headquarters dug-out. A lieutenant was lying on the floor unconscious and the Major was covered with black mud and bleeding at the nose & mouth Two other men were lying on the floor unconscious with shock. The dug out was full of dust & shell gas, so I got a bag and two or three of us that were all right started to put out the gas. Then a second and a third shell hit the dug-out. The second one knocked in one end and completely buried one poor chap, who we never saw again. Two men started out to get Red Cross men. Then a third shell hit, and I knew no more till a red-cross sergeant brought me around some time later. We could not leave the dug-out till after dark as the trenches were all blown in. I lay there for the rest of the afternoon feeling more dead than alive, with my head going 'round in a whirl and ringing like a bell. After dark we walked between three & four miles, thro' the trenches to where an ambulance was waiting. There were seven of us from the one dug-out, and we were nearly all in by the time we got to the ambulance. It did not take us long to get down to the hospital where we got warmed up & were soon comfortable for the night. Today I feel a little shaky, but will be ready to go back to the battalion in a few days. One of the boys in the dug-out was Billy Sharp from Arden and it was his chum who was buried.
For three nights Argyle & I were on out-post duty, 35 yards from the German lines. It was rather a cold and lonely job - just standing and watching all night - from 6 P.M. till 6 A.M. It was bright moonlight, and occasionally when flares went up we could see the Germans moving about in their trench. We were ready with fixed bayonets, loaded rifles & a box of bombs, but it was very quiet every night except for occasional sniping, & machine-gun fire that made us duck our heads below the parapet.
I must not make this letter any longer or it will not pass the censor.
The weather still keeps raw and wet. How I would enjoy the Manitoba frost & snow.
Do not worry for me. Even in the moments of greatest danger I feel safe & secure and am not afraid for I know who it is that cares for me.
'Yea tho' I walk thro' the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I will fear no evil', for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy Staff they comfort me. What a wonderful comfort there is in these words.
I read the psalms over & over; they are so wonderful & full of comfort.
With love to you all from your boy in far away France
Pte. W. M. Pecover