May 17th, 1915.
It is now a fight to the finish. You cant imagine our feelings over here. We English all try to be good sports. They talk about abolishing the bar in England and who is going to win the Derby and so on, but very few realize what a hell on earth these germans are planning for us. The sinking of the Lusitania was the last straw. When you think of poor Art. R. He was shot through the abdomen taking up ammunition for the infantry on the night of the 22nd. He turned over a dead officer on the road and found George his brother. Then so far as we know at present his mother and sister went down on the Lusitania. He certainly has a big score to settle, and in his place I'm afraid I would even shoot a german prisoner if I saw one pass. The report seems true that a sergeant of the 48th was found crucified on a barn door. And that ---- gas too. The very smell of it now makes my heart drop into my boots. Our first experience with it was of such an accompanying sense of critical danger.
All the 23rd I had the teams in a small farm and the weight of responsibility added to the fact that I had lost my coat made me shake all day and all night as if I had the ague. It is the infernal waiting under fire that gets on your nerves. When you are busy, serving the guns or running up ammunition you forget about the guns and shells. I have had coal boxes burst within ten feet of me and not know it. They dig such a deep hole that the splinters have to rise out of the crater. The average sized splinter is about twice the size of a walnut and they certainly go through the air.
I spent two perfectly rotten days in the trenches last week. It rained like fury the first day and with attacks and counter attacks, bust telephone wires and shells it was delightful. I had a machine gun turned on me when I was going to another F.O.O. station and some "whiz-bangs" let loose. These are small shrapnel shells from close range and you never hear them until afterwards. Above all this, was a mud bed. The infantry certainly deserve praise for their tenacity as this salient is crossed and recrossed by big shells and every trench enfiladed. We have appropriate names for different places such as, "Death Valley" Murder Hill, and Dead Man's Corner". The town or city is a shamble and burns every night lighting up the sky.
We are now in a more comfortable spot and I am in charge of the wagon line, teams, grub, water and ammunition supply. I've always off saddle during the day and saddle up and hook in at night. We have exercise ride every evening, and always sleep with our clothes on. The week following the 22nd, I woud'nt let the men take off their boots even and at that time were right close to the guns.
The Canadians did not lose any of their guns. The ones spoken of are British 4.7's which were right beside our old wagon line so you can realize what a long advance they made on that fateful evening.
We were in action all ngiht 22-23rd without any infantry in front of us. A staff of officers reported this to the Major that night and he sent out patrols. The germans evidently were intent on capturing the ridge and stopped there to dig in - lucky for us.
It is raining again now, but on the whole the weather has been good. The country fairly reeks with foul odors. Refuse, dead horses, and stagnant pools of water lend a marvellous touch to a fine air like this of Belgium.
The apple trees are in bloom and fields green with spring clover, while the innumerable bird melodies help to quiet the nerves and quel the murder instinct against all germans. They simply blow our trenches to pieces and bury men alive, then they attack after a day's bombardment, but our machine guns are too much for them, and they hate a bayonet. They never get into our trenches while there are any infantry there. Our machine guns fire twice as rapidly as theirs and one can quite easily distinguish them. Our battery was on the extreme left of the Canadian front on the 22nd so you see we were quite close to the beggars before we got out.
We and the Maj. L -‘s battery are the only two Canadian batteries still in action here. The others have gone to rest and we hope to go soon.