Search The Archive

Search form

Collection Search
Date: December 31st 1917
William & Georgina Mercer
Richard Mercer

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

France Dec 31/17[172]

Dear Father & Mother:-

Received your registered letter with $10 enclosed. It was a mighty long time coming wasn't it? I am now up the line[173] with the bunch again and am feeling fine. I am going to see if I can find Walter one of these days. I got a letter from him the other day so he is alright. Received a parcel from Homemakers Club sent by Mrs. Gregory[174] and one from Wawota and another from Mrs. Pryce so far. Have not received parcel with gloves yet. We have plenty of snow here now and rather cold[175]. I wrote you a couple of days ago so have nothing to say this time.

Your Loving Son
911016 R.W. Mercer

“The fourth year of fighting - 1917 - had proved a hard one for the Allies. With the French Armies in mutiny after Nivelle's failed offensive on the Aisne, the continuous bloodletting by Italians on the Isonzo front, the failed British tank battles at Cambrai and the mud of Passchendaele, and the collapse of the Russian Army, some wondered if the Allies would ever be able to bring the German war machine to its knees. The few successes of the British Expeditionary Force came with the Canadian Corps spearheading attacks.” P. 143. No Place to Run, The Canadian Corps and Gas Warfare in the First World War - Tim Cook
[173] Pte. Richard W. Mercer is involved in another camp move at the writing of this letter on New Years Eve. The Borden Battery War Diary stated ,
“In accordance with Operation Order #143, this Battery left Camp at 10 a.m.. [30 December 1917] and proceeded to New Camp at VERDREL. Move was complete by Noon. On arrival work was commenced erecting necessary buildings and general improvements of Camp. [and on 31 December 1917] Cold, Cloudy. Battery erecting buildings and improving new Camp. A Party of 5 OR's under Lieut. W.H. Smith who remained in PERNES as a rear party, to Clean up Billets Etc. arrived in Camp.” Pte. Mercer would have been busy packing and loading the equipment for the move to Verdrel, France. As he has now been with the Battery for about 8 months and has been involved in two major battles (Hill 70 and Passchendaele) plus being wounded, it is assumed more of the "grunt work" is left for the newer fellows in the Battery. Perhaps this letter was written while the 'rookies' were busy with the move.
[174] Research continues on the background of Mrs. Gregory and Mrs. Pryce and their relationship to the Mercer family.
“The winter of 1918 in France, the fourth for the few veterans of the 1st Contingent who had survived from the beginning, was one of the coldest in fifty years. With the Canadian Corps not involved in any major military engagements, keeping warm became a preoccupation for the infantry.” P. 163. No Place to Run, The Canadian Corps and Gas Warfare in the First World War - Tim Cook