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Date: April 9th 1917
Beulah Bahnsen (wife)
Ralph Watson

Right after Easter Sunday, 1917.

My darling Lal: —

I was in the big scrap, right from the beginning.

Am writing this in an underground cave. I have no paper or anything. This should be the greatest letter I ever wrote you. . . .

I never got a scratch, though you can bet I had some near shaves. Holy Gee! and my first experience under shell fire, too! I was plumb scared to death. I’ve got to admit it; but I think only I knew it. Long before you get this, of course you will hear the story of our advance. I told you it was coming quick; didn’t I?

Up to tonight, our division has two thousand prisoners, and they are still coming in. We have no news; we only know what is happening in our brigade.

The shelling is — well — I dunno’ — there isn’t a word. . . .

I was ahead of the tanks.

They were no use — too slow.

The arrangements went off without a hitch; the barrage was exact and splendid. I never saw one Fritz plane all day.

I saw more of the battle than any other Canadian. I was detailed to carry films and plates for the moving picture man!

I volunteered for it — grabbed it awful quick, when I heard of it. I was ahead of the 29th, and we took a film of ’em, going in.

Remember, every Canadian and English picture you see of the battle, your Hub passed the plate, and stood there.

There’s a lot of ’em, so look out. Try to see the Canadian Records pictures.

I am awful well — but worn out.

Our casualties have been light. The artillery did the trick. Every object was taken at the exact second as arranged — wonderful!

The Germans were a very fine lot indeed, clean and smart-looking; they were absolutely out-classed.

The photograph chap, a Captain, is absolutely fearless, and stood on “the top” to take pictures. I didn’t let him beat me; I went where he went — but I dunno’ how I got away with it.

Some of the pictures are to appear in the Daily Mirror.

I have lost all my kit — my razor — everything. Send me an Ever-ready Safety, please.

If only I could have got away with the souvenirs, I’m sure I’d be a rich man. The only thing I grabbed was a Fritz water bottle, as I was thirsty.

I had lunch in his third line trench on him: sour brown bread, two kinds of sausage — awful stuff! Cheese, two bottles of wine, and all kinds of cigars and cigarettes.

Our guns have advanced up in the open now.

I saw the cavalry go in.

You forget all about the machine guns and rifles; it’s the shells. The noise is so great you don’t hear Fritz’s till it’s on you. If you flop in time, you’re alright; but the air is full of flying metal all the time.

We captured a big general.

One battalion captured a field hospital complete.

It was the biggest day of my life. I can’t quite understand how it’s possible to live through a day like that; but the casualties were really very light indeed. I am, for tonight, in a big underground cave with passages hundreds of yards long. I haven’t shaved or washed for four days now. You are so doped with weariness and excitement that you don’t worry about such discomforts. I have no idea what I am going to do, even tomorrow.

I don’t know if the Canadians are going to be relieved, or not; or how far the advance has gone, or anything. You see, each brigade went over the top of the other; we hear the Imperials may go over the top of us.

Fritz still shells us all day. One dropped within thirty feet of me this afternoon, and I hadn’t time to drop; but was never touched.

I think of you all the time, dearie, all the time.

I am as cheerful as I can be, and hoping for the best.

Don’t worry, dear — please.

I am to be stretcher bearer with “B” Company of my battalion.

I met one of my pals being carried out by two Heinies — a lovely Blighty he had, through the flesh of the thigh. Lucky devil!

All the Fritz prisoners are nothing but stretcher bearers.

I can only wonder what Canada is thinking; but surely she is proud. It is a wonderful day. Easter Monday — everybody so smiling and happy. Our battalion repelled a counter attack, and ripped ’em up.

I was right amongst a bunch of tanks, when Fritz got a range on ’em and fairly surrounded ’em with big shells. Gee! I was glad to beat it.

It’s very cold and snowy — confound it. Au 'voir, dear.

God bless you.

Original Scans

Original Scans