[Letter of March 30, 1917, published in the newspaper The Ladysmith Chronicle on May 1, 1917]
LETTER FROM TRENCHES
Jack Fisher, Former Resident of Ladysmith, Writes of Life in France.
March 30, 1917.
(To the Editor)
DEAR SIR:– I had the pleasure of reading a copy of your esteemed paper, dated January 23, 1917, in which I read an account of Robert Pollock’s return from the trenches. I am awfully sorry he is permanently disabled, and I wish you would convey to him my deepest sympathy through the medium of your valuable paper.
I remember the occasion of Arthur Gregson, Davidson and the Pollocks going to Nanaimo to join up, and I regretted that I was unable to go with them. I was turned down a few weeks previously on account of defective eyesight. Anyhow I am in France in the Royal Engineers (Tunnelling Co.) and have been in the trenches since the 20th of June, 1916.
I have been very anxious to hear from some of the Ladysmith boys. I have not met with any of them out here. I went to a certain town over here to register my vote in the Provincial elections and was in hopes that I should meet some of the Ladysmith or Nanaimo boys, but was disappointed when I got there, though I met a couple of chaps from Vancouver and Victoria.
I joined up on the 23rd of May, 1916, and was in France on the 17th of June, rather hurried, don’t you think? I may say the few months training I received while a member of the N.I.C.I. at Ladysmith came in very useful.
I am sorry that I am unable to state where I am, but it is not little walk from where Arthur Gregson and his comrades gave Fritz the time of his life, and have been in the same spot for about eight months.
I was shifted a little north of there about two weeks ago and I might say that I had no objection to the change as it was some warm spot, believe me. It was not so bad at night as we could see the Minneweifers coming over and could dodge them, if it was necessary to go out of the way, but in the day time they are rather hard to see. Our relief was coming in yesterday evening and had to cross a bit of dangerous ground, being exposed to enemy observers. They were evidently seen as the Germans opened fire with what I judged to be eighteen pounders. I was in a position where I could see the shells drop. One dropped by a house where I knew they had to cross a road. Then Fritz shortened his range and kept shortening it till he lost track of our chaps. Fortunately none of the boys were hit. One chap got a ducking by taking a dive into a shell hole full of water.
We had a warm reception on the occasion of our first trip to the trenches Fritz was shelling the road we had to travel, so we had to leave the lorries we rode from our billet in, and walk in Indian file. Some Australians were just ahead of us and we were getting along o.k. till we got to the communication trench, when a shell dropped into the road and sent the Australians flying. They were more surprised than hurt. They sat up and looked around for about a minute and it seems they both realized at about the same time where they were. Well, they just exceeded the speed limit leaving the spot.
I have come out if it o.k. so far but for a wee bit of shrapnel splinter scratching me on the nose. I am inclined to believe that I shall see the end of it without receiving a Blighty touch.
By the way, I would like to learn Paul Deconink’s address. If any of your readers could give it to me. I would also like to hear from Arthur Gregson. Arthur and I used to be very pally before he joined up.
I have an idea some of the Canadians are —— miles or so from here, but I have no means of finding out.
The summer is drawing near and our troops are well heeled and I look for the wind up in the course of three or four months.
Just a little illustration to show how accustomed the people of France are to danger. We were returning from the trenches one evening when upon turning a bend in the road we met a French girl and an English soldier taking a walk. German shells were bursting about three hundred yards away. A little further we saw some dozens of children, some of them no more than four or five years old, playing in a field. They seemed quite indifferent to the screaming and bursting shells.
We get lots of tobacco out here but not many cigarettes. The tobacco and cigarettes are passable, but I would give anything for some good old Canadian Meerchaum tobacco.
Perhaps you don’t know that Billy Pace, of Ladysmith, has been wounded. He was hit in the hand and sent to England. He joined the First Canadian Pioneers. He is back in France again, I hear.
I would like very much to hear form any of my old friends and acquaintances, especially someone who would save their Nanaimo and Ladysmith papers and send them out to me every couple of weeks. My address is: 158208, Lance-Cpl. J. L. Fisher, No. 1 Section 257 Co. (T) R. E., British Exp. Force, France.
Hoping that this will escape the wastepaper basket and wishing The Chronicle every success, I remain, yours truly,