Search The Archive

Search form

Collection Search
Date: April 28th 1917
William & Georgina Mercer
Richard Mercer

[transcription and footnotes have been provided by the collection donor]

Apr 28/17

Dear Father & Mother:-

I wrote you a P.C.[77] a few days ago just after I arrived here. I have not received any mail at all since I have been here. I am quite well but I can't tell you where I am of course. We had a splendid trip from Crowborough. Our camp[78] here is right near a little village about the same size of Theodore. Tom & I[79] are here but I don't suppose Walter[80] has come over yet. Of course he won't come to the same Camp. My the money is funny over here. I am getting used to it now though. My, I should like to tell you where we landed and where we are now[81]. I will be going up the line soon[82]. There is not much use me giving my address yet. Just as soon as I get into billets[83] I will give you it.

With Love

This is No. 3 letter[84].

[77] This is a simple "PC" post card or "Quick-Firer" that was common during the war, especially with volunteers who were less literate. The QUICK FIRER Field Service Post Card (Army Form A2042) consisted of a number of pre-printed sentences which could be deleted as appropriate. Nothing, except the address of the recipient, was to be written on the post card in order to alleviate the problems of censorship.
[78] The Camp being referred to is most likely near the French coast at Camiers, where the Canadian Motor Machine Gun Corps maintained a reserve training depot. This camp served to complete final training and from which the front-line units subscribed for casualty replacements. There are also a number of convalescent hospitals in the general area where lightly wounded and injured Canadian soldiers could be quickly returned to their original combat units. The more serious cases where shipped to "Blighty" or England for a longer convalescence.
[79] Pte. Tom Tracy and Pte. Richard Mercer have been trained as Machine Gunners and soon will be incorporated into fighting Batteries. Pte. Richard Mercer becomes part of the Borden Motor Machine Gun Battery and Tracy becomes part of the Yukon Motor Machine Gun Battery.
[80] Pte. Walter Wylie's Canadian Corp military unit is the 46th Battalion (South Saskatchewan) which is often referred to as the "Suicide Battalion" as a result of its very heavy casualties throughout the war. More details on this battalion will be researched.
[81] There are two references to not being able to disclose information. This is the result of stern warnings that were given to all new arrivals. Problems with the censor would result in letters being held and destroyed. Allied officer censors were very aggressive and monitored letters for indications of troop moral within each combat unit. As a result, little information on the true situation was ever sent home by the soldiers. At the same time, most soldiers did not wish to worry their parents and families about the realities of war on the Western Front.
[82] The term "up the line" means he will be going into a combat area in the Western Front.
[83] Billets are living accommodations behind the Front. They could be sheds, homes, old buildings or tents. There are a few references to heated tents in letters sent home by Pte. Mercer. Also, the Borden Battery War Diary makes several references to camp improvements and restriction of movement from these camps. By inference, the Battery probably built and maintained their own billets and did not rely on civilian facilities on a regular basis.
[84] This is the only surviving letter with reference to a number. I do not think Pte. Mercer was able to keep track of his letters in this manner.