May 11th, 1915.
Here I am in a semi peaceful locality at our wagon line. You all no doubt have read the story in the papers which this time is true (not like Neuve Chapelle). We are still in the big battle hoping every day to be relieved for a rest.
I dont believe I have told you the story yet, so here goes.
On April 22nd, we were in action about 400 yards on the right of the much coveted village. At about 5 P.M. they started shelling the village very heavily with gas shells and we saw a thick cloud of green coming across the country towards us. Then the rifle fire started and we opened up. The next thing we knew the French Zouaves were running back in hundreds throwing away everything they had. We blazed away and got the teams ready. Then with shells bursting all over and a machine gun playing on us from the village we limbered up and galloped out of action.
We were lucky in only having wounded a few men here. Then we came into action again in another place and fired all night. The Canadian Infantry meanwhile came up from reserve and checked the enemy's advance. They advanced next morning in broad daylight in extended order across the fields and charged the germans, driving them farther back still. I had the gun teams in a farm all that day and could see this magnificent advance from a slight rise behind our guns. Shells burst all around the guns and one killed the four I spoke of. Jack Johnsons were popping all around our farm, and I shivered and prayed that they would'nt touch our farm. That was the worst day for me as I felt the responsibility so much. I was afraid to move the teams in daylight for fear of being spotted and so we stuck there under the eaves of the barn with straw and blankets, etc. over the horses and wagons to conceal them from aeroplanes.
We moved again that night over the ridge and came into action again. Here we stayed for that day, moved again in the evening too early and were greeted before we got the teams away with four Jack Johnsons in our field. I did'nt know where to put the teams and scattered them along the hedges with shrapnel still bursting over us, but high in the air. We blazed away here until quite late and then moved back to our last position. Here we stuck for about a week, heavily shelled day and night and with the teams down in another field and up beside a big barn. We were very lucky here with the teams as we only lost about 15 horses killed and 8 wounded and only 3 men hit.
Serving the guns with ammunition was a tricky job here and the drivers were all keen to go up on the dead gallop. We also had to refill from farther back and it was just like running the gauntlet to do it. There were terrible sights in the streets of the town where once we heard the old chimes every quarter hour through the night, on our motor trip.
Then we had another strenuous night when they again tried the gas and it is a miracle to me how we came through so well, we only had one driver killed and three gunners wounded and I seemed to be the lucky one again as I was'nt even scratched.
Now we are in a little less strenuous position, but as Forward Observing Officer in the trenches I saw the most terrible bombardment of our trenches the other day. The infantry stick it to a man and the germans get a warm reception even when they do put over the gas. The job of fixing the telephone lines is rather strenuous but our signallers never think twice about it and I try to show them my own capabilities in this line by taking my turn at it.
Elizabeth sent me some "respirators" soaked in soda. We all wear them now around our hats ready for gas. This letter is plain truth, unvarnished, but it is meant to be interesting, not distressing.
One of the men brought in a bunch of lilac this morning. The field and trees are beautifully green and the birds are all singing. I love to watch the sky larks go soaring and singing up into the blue. Every night the whole sky is lit up with the blaze of burning farms and the coloured flares set up at the trenches can be seen. for miles around.
I have just rolled over to gnaw some maple sugar. I have been getting some from Aunt Hattie and some direct from Michie. Prunes, figs and tobacco arrived last night, with cocoa, soup tablets and maple sugar.