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Date: October 24th 1917
William & Georgina Mercer
Richard Mercer

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

Oct 24/17[123]

Dear Father & Mother:-

I wrote you the other day just before we left France[124] and have not had a letter from you for some time. We drove up from France on our motor cycles[125] and we had some time too. My cycle[126] broke down two miles outside of this camp and we were held up for four hours until we were toed in. I saw Leicester[127] to-day while he was marching by our Camp[128] and he is coming over to see me to night.

It is awfully muddy here[129] and it rains practically all the time[130].

I received an excellent parcel from a girl named Evelyn Kidd of Wawota. She often sends me one.

With Love

[122] The following excerpt provides a hint of what Passchendaele, Belgium was to the war experience of a solder: "From the darkness on all sides came the groans and wails of wounded men; faint, long, sobbing moans of agony, and despairing shrieks. It was too obvious to me that dozens of men with serious wounds must have crawled for safety into shell holes, and now the water was rising above them and, powerless to move, they were slowly drowning." p. 142, No Place to Run, , Tim Cook (1999), UBC Press
[123] The Borden Motor Machine Gun Battery, War Diary recorded the following for the date, 
"Partly fine - Rain in Evening. Lieut. C.R. Gilman temporarily attached to "A" Battery, 1st C.MG. Bde. In accordance with Operation Order #133 of 1st C.M.MG. Bde. and on receipt of Orders from Maj. M.A. Scott 4th Div. M.G.O. this Battery with 8 guns in charge of Capt. W.C. Nicholson and Lieut. F.G. Waldron, left Camp at 5 p.m. and proceeded to take up gun positions at D.15.B. As the road was broken between WIELTJE and SPREEFARM all material had to be carried from below WIELTJE. The Battery was in position at 9:15 p.m. and when the 10th C.MG. Coy. moved out at 5 a.m. 25th inst., Guns were mounted and laid on Barrage Targets.(Appendix No. 2 - No 3 - No 4)"
[124] The Borden Battery War Diary noted 
“Under OPERATION ORDER NO. 132 the Brigade moved by road on 20-10-17 from BARLIN to YORK CAMP (Sheet 28.5.c Central) via BRUAY-BETHUNE, ROBECQ, MERVILLE, HAZENBROUCK and STEINVOORDE.” They were to provide firepower for the Canadian Corps participation in the extended Battle of Passchendaele.
“The order of March and times of departure to Passchendaele began at 7:00 a.m. with Headquarters and "A" Battery. At ten minute intervals, with a spacing of not less than 500 yards and at a velocity not to exceed 10 miles per hour on the road were the "B", "C" [Mercer], "D" and "E" [Tracy] Batteries. The Brigade Train left later to bring up the remaining trucks and equipment. The Service Car and the Medical Officer brought the rear of the column. The liaison between all parts of the column will be maintained by the Solo cycles. "C" and "D" Batteries will each detail one motor cycle to H.Q. and "E" Battery two motorcycles to the train. “ Pte. Richard Mercer was the "Solo" rider from "C" Battery. The column halted for 30 minutes between STEINVOORDE and POPERINGHE for lunch.
[126] In 1914 the Clyno motorcycle benefited from the war when the British Army selected the 744cc V-twin combination for use as a machine gun mount. Post-war production was based on the two-stroke and the V-twin. In 1923 demand for Clyno's light car stopped motorcycle production. p. 217 The Encyclopedia of the Motorcycle, Hugo Wilson
[127] Sgt. Leicester will receive a military medal at Passchendaele, however, the event and the medal have not occurred at the time of this letter home. When this battle is over, Pte. Tom Tracy will be dead, Pte. Mercer will be wounded and Sgt. Leicester will have received a metal and what appears to be a war-ending wound that will see him returned to Canada.
[128] The "Camp" is Camp York near Poperinge just outside the battle zone of Passchendaele.
“The battle of the mud and Ypres - Passchendaele, as it would become known, after the smear of brick that represented all that remained of the village which was the final objective - would therefore continue. Not, however with British soldiers in the vanguard. Some of the best divisions in the BEF, the Guards, the 8th, one of old regular divisions, the 15th Scottish, the 16th Irish, the 38th Welsh, the 56th London, had fought themselves out in August and early September. The only reliable divisions left were the ANZAC and Canadian Corps, which had been spared both the first stages of the battle and the worst of the Somme a year earlier. In what was called that ‘First Battle of Passchendaele,’ the New Zealand and 3rd Australian Divisions tried on 12 October to reach the remains of the village on the highest point of ground east of Ypres, 150 feet about sea level, where the Germans' Second Flanders Position of trenches and pillboxes marked the last obstacle between the BEF and the enemy's rear area.” p.367, The First World War, John Keegan
[130] The Borden War Diary makes little reference to rain during this period, so Pte. Mercer is exaggerating at this moment and is perhaps commenting on the ever present mud from the very poor drainage.