[in another's handwriting: Written about 1st or 2nd week of February 1917.]
[in author's hand: this letter starts at pg 10 through to pg 17; pages 1 - 9 missing]
coming with a loud whirring sound, and if they are close, you can see them in time to get around the corner. They make a terrific explosion when they strike, and throw up a great cloud of earth. The concussion will kill a man 50 yds. distant if he is exposed, to say nothing of the flying pieces of steel. Besides the explosive shells there is the shrapnel that explodes overhead & throws the chunks of steel down into the trench In the barage that we got into on[erased words] everything was coming over
Another thing that we have always to avoid is exposing ourselves to snipers. The Germans have excellent snipers, and the least exposure above the trench during the day time means almost certain death. On our last trip in, we lost several men through sniping
I have been made a sniper for our platoon, and when we go back into the trenches my work will be different than it was before and more interesting. A sniper has a post excellently concealed, either in front or behind our lines. He lay's there with a telescope, observing the German lines, and takes a shot at any luckless Bosche that exposes himself. In an attack the snipers go out before day-light as close as they can get to the enemy lines, and when his platoon comes over to make the attack, the sniper has to get as many Germans as expose themselves - especially machine gunners, etc. Everyone says that sniping is one of the most interesting things in the army, and I am glad that I have been chosen to take it up.
Our second trip into the trenches was only for four days, and during that time I was on outpost duty in front line. Things were comparitively quiet all the time and we had no casualties On neither trip into the trenches did I have a chance to try my rifle. No one except a sniper is allowed to shoot except when ordered while in the trenches we are constantly on the alert for gas, and 10 seconds, after an alarm is given, can have our gas respirators on, and with these there is absolutely no danger of being gassed. The new style respirators are quite comfortable & can be worn continuously for five hours.
After the last four days in the line the battalion went back 15 miles, to a little farming village, for a 3 weeks rest. The billets in the barns were too cold, so a week ago we were moved to a different town in the mining district, where we are now. We are billeted in private houses, and are much more comfortable. The town is quite a large one, and there are a number of fairly good stores. In every direction across the country you can see great coal mines
A few nights ago I received the parcel with the first pair of socks that you knit. I think that they are the nicest pair that I have had yet. They are almost too nice to put on - so clean and soft & warm. I have three pair of white ones now - two from home and a pair from Aunt Nell. The sweater and the air pillow that I got from Aunt Nell were beauties. A few nights ago I got a big parcel from Nellie Pecover that had been sent on Dec. 9. Your parcel, Nellies & a big tin box of beautiful home-made candy from Sue Kerr, all came on the same night. I also got a parcel of eats from Aunt May. It is a toss up between Argyle and I, who gets the most parcels, and we are the envy of the platoon. The only parcel that I did not get was the one from Boissevain. Argyle got a pair of rubber socks to go over his woolen socks, inside his shoes. Do you ever see them advertised? I am sure they would be a good idea and I would like to have a pair. He also got a louse-proof shirt to go under his undershirt. Oh those awful lice. We have not had a bath nor a change now for over a month, and I am nearly crazy. My underwear is alive. Yesterday I took off my shirt and picked off forty. I could have picked off forty more if I had not got too cold. My beautiful new sweater is full of them too. The only consolation is that everyone is the same. Argyle and McRae are the same as I am. It is terrible isn't it, but it seems to be impossible to keep rid of them. Tomorrow we are to have a bath and a change of underwear. I am going to fill every inch of my clothing with Keatings Powder & also our blankets. Perhaps then for a few nights I will be able to sleep with a little comfort. The boys says that If you put O'Cedar Oil on your clothes it will keep them off. You might send me a small bottle some time to try.
Our platoon commander is Lieut. Handy from Virden. He is a fine young fellow, and we all think the world of him. He uses his men as if they were his own equals in rank
Now dear mother, I have written you a long letter and have tried to tell you as well as I can about our life. I hope and pray that it will all be over soon. What a happy happy day it will be when all the boys come home.
Lovingly, Your boy