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

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

France Dec 24/17[165]

Dear Father & Mother:-

Received your most welcome letters to-day. Three all at once. I have received the one registered letter and parcel with sweets and cigarettes but not yet received the $10- or the gloves yet. You must have been surprised when you received Telegram about me, but don't worry I am quite alright. I can't tell you much about Tom, only that I saw the shell burst when he was killed. He was struck on the temple & was killed instantly[166]. I heard that one of the Sargents out of his Battery[167] took the little things he had and sent them home. They buried him just near the spot[168]. Received a letter from Walter the other day so he is quite alright. Oh say please thank Uncle[169] for the letter when you see him. My those cigs and sweets were good. Fancy Father going out shooting without cartridges. I should very much like to have a taste of some of the ducks you get. Well, this is Xmas Eve[170] and my chum who I met here (He is from LPool[171]) are going to have a feed to-night to celebrate. I am investing all the money I have got which is six pence. I hope by next Xmas I will be in the dear old Theodore again. I have got about four parcels so far but there are about umpteen on the way from Wawota and other places. Julia's Mother is sending me a cake.

With Love
911016 R.W. Mercer

[165] Pte. Richard W. Mercer is spending his second Christmas away from home. He has returned to the Borden Motor Machine Battery at Pernes, France after recovering from his wounds at Passchendaele. It is assumed the number of casualties in the Battery from Passchendaele was modest given the low number of casualty notations noted in the daily war diary. For the first time in about 6 weeks Pte. Mercer is now again amongst the comrades he has come to know throughout the recent battles and training. The Borden Battery War Diary stated, 
“Dull with Snow. Christmas Day at 130 p.m. very enjoyable Christmas Dinner was served, and followed by several speeches by the officers of the Battery. #426658, a/Sergt. W. Ross, #175383, Pte. L. Parry, #476344, Pte. J.J. Richardson returned from Leave.”   The members of the Battery might have been be permitted to sleep in a little on Christmas Day rather than the usual 6:45 a.m. physical training workout. Christmas breakfast would have been longer with extra treats. Perhaps at about 10:00 a.m., the men would take part in some casual lectures by the officers. The afternoon would have seen light duty, and by Christmas Eve the camp would be quiet and relaxed. The evening could have had Christmas activities perhaps ending at midnight. Liberal quantities of rum could also be expected to be available at this time.
[166] If there could be a "good death" at Passchendaele, instant death would be the one. Tens of thousands of men were wounded, lost strength and were slowly drowned and lost in thousands of water-filled muddy craters. The stretcher-bearers often required 6 men up to six hours to carry out a wounded man. Poison gas also claimed thousands of men at Passchendaele with a slow death by choking and drowning from fluid in the lungs.
[167] Yukon Motor Machine Gun Battery, 1st Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade.
[168] The location of his temporary grave was lost during the battle. Pte. Tom Tracy is officially recorded under the name of JOHN LAWRENCE TRACY. He was 20 years of age and was with the Yukon Motor Machine Gun Battery of the 1st Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade. He was the son of Allen D. and Mary M. Tracy, of Theodore, Saskatchewan. He enlisted at Saskatoon in early 1916, with the 196th Western Universities Battalion Bn. Born near Yorkton, Sask., he had just qualified as a teacher before going overseas. His name is recorded on the MENIN GATE (YPRES) MEMORIAL in Belgium. The Menin Gate Memorial is situated at the eastern side of the town of Ypres (now Ieper) in the Province of West Flanders, on the road to Menin and Courtrai. It bears the names of 55,000 men who were lost without trace during the defence of the Ypres Salient in the First World War. The Tracy name is engraved on Panel 32.
[169] The subject is quickly changed and reference to “Uncle” is Uncle Raymond Emery of Yorkton, Saskatchewan. Raymond was a retired 25-year Colour Sargent from the British military.  He is a brother to Georgina Mercer (nee Emery) and uncle to Cpl. Alan Emery and 2/Lieut. Denis Emery.
[170] It is curious there just a mention of "Xmas" but no offer of seasons greetings or a Merry Christmas to his parents or remaining friends and family at home. This is a subdued and quiet reflective letter.
[171] Lpool is a common abbreviation used by Pte. Mercer for Liverpool, England.