Oct. 10th, 1915
This is Sunday afternoon. We came out of the trenches on Friday night and I had to go on guard right away. I got this paper from an old Frenchwoman in the village. She and a girl here are the only people left for miles around. The girl has some medals. I think one is the Legion of Honor – for service to La Patrie. When the Germans came she opened the lock gates and flooded out their position. She also acted as guide to the French troops who came up to this district and fought in the trenches herself, so she deserves her medals. The old woman is probably making more money than she ever did before.
We had to go out on fatigue – patching up a trench – before I could finish this. Then on Monday we went to the trenches. I was in charge of a lookout post called the “Crow’s Nest”. It was just at a corner of our line, fifty yards from the Germans. As we were “standing to” just before six on Tuesday morning a truck mortar shell burst in the bay. The one sentry in the corner, G.B. Johnstone, was instantly killed, the other who was Bill Moyle was wounded and a third man Ferguson was also wounded. I was between Bill and Ferguson and was buried but not hurt. They dropped fifteen shells along the trench but did not get anyone else. I was taken down to the dressing station but came back next day. Thursday afternoon we had another man killed and one wounded by a whiz bang (high explosive shell). They also broke up some of our parapet by their mortars. The shell of the big German truck mortar is just a big can of high explosive weighing about fifty pounds or so. It is thrown out by a light charge of powder and comes comparatively slowly through the air turning end over end as it comes. If you are watching you can see them going and can hear the “whish, whish” they make. We were taking over French trenches in a chalk hill and they were very deep and the sides had crumbled down so it was hard to hear or see the dirty things. The Germans, as usual, had the best position, just below the crest of the hill and we were further down. We got their direct fire from in front and enfilade from both right and left. One of our listening posts was twenty five yards from the Germans, then the line eased off to the left as far as the Crow’s Nest at the corner, about fifty yards from the Bosches, then it cut away down the hill. Away at the left where No. 2 Coy. were (Glanville and some others) the lines were 350 yards apart. The line down there ran through a ruined village and orchards. The fellows there had a cinch.
We haven’t got any official news about our wounded yet. Bill Moyle’s face will be badly marked and he may lose his right eye. Ferguson is wounded in the leg and the arm. The other man, Kirby, is suffering from concussion only. Johnstone and Hodgson were buried in a little cemetery just outside the trenches. The chaplain came up and read the service.
We marched twelve miles last night to this place, where we are going to have two weeks rest. There was a report that Bill Moyle was dead but it has been officially contradicted.
I have been picking a few bugs off my shirt. I could hardly sleep last night for them.
I got the parcel of socks and handkerchiefs and wristlets this morning. Thanks very much. I needed underwear too, but a parcel came for poor Johnstone I got some of the underwear from it. No parcel like that can be sent back and it is the rule in the regiment that when a man is killed or wounded that anything that comes to him is divided among the section.
Five new officers have come to us and Major Hamilton Gault has come back. Four of the officers are our old ones, Mr. McDonald, Mr. Molson, Mr. McKenzie and Mr. Currie. Mr. Cornish was out with the Regiment before and was wounded. Mr. Currie has our platoon.
The country here is very like home. It is rolling land and the leaves on the poplars have turned yellow and are falling. It looks very peaceful here but you can hear the guns pounding away on two sides of us.
The nights are getting cool now and I expect it will be rainy soon. I think I will buy a waterproof cape, if possible, and possibly long boots.
Colonel Rogers has offered to help me get a commission in Kitchener’s Army but I don’t know whether to apply or not. I should have a certificate showing I have attained a good standard of education – which would be a lie – and my certificate from the Officers Training Corps. We were promised – Dr. Tory and Colonel Cruickshank that they would be sent to us but they never were.
It is getting late and I will have to stop.
Your loving son
Alec R. McQueen