France, May 8 1917
No doubt the authorities will have notified you long ere this of the death of your son. I would have written sooner but it was not until this morning that I could get the few details I wanted. At this late date, I would hesitate to write, did I not know that there is always a certain amount of doubt about an official notification of death. Unfortunately in this case, there is not the slightest doubt as I saw the man who was with him at the end, and later buried him.
"Dick", as we called him at College and in the regiment was with his company when they made their heroic charge on Vimy Ridge on April 9th. They took the first three lines of trenches, and had got as far as the Fotie Wood on the crest of the Ridge when a German shell landed, killing two outright, and mortally wounding Dick. Two pieces passed into his abdomen, one piercing the bladder. Though badly hit, he walked part way to the dressing station, but was unable to complete the journey, and had to be carried on a stretcher. There he was laid in a partial shelter from flying fragments. He seemed in great pain for a time, though he said little, and only asked for a doctor. Unfortunately a medical officer could not be brought just then, but it would have been useless as he was dying even then. Half an hour or so later, the pain went away, and he seemed to fall asleep. This gently passed into unconsciousness, in which state he died.
As far as I can gather from questioning the stretcher bearers, he gave no final message when he knew he was dying, but if I can see anyone in the future whom he spoke to, I will send it on to you. That night he was buried in the wood and a white cross with his name and regiment marks the spot.
To me, Dick (I never learned his Christian name) was something more than my senior at College, or comrade-in-arms. He always typified everything that was straight and clean and worth while. I am a better man through having known him and many others can say the same. He was pure gold right through and possessed an intelligence that lifted him far above the petty things of life. When I welcomed back to the Company after his period in England, I chided him on coming out so soon after he was convelescent from his wound.
But apparently he thought he had not done quite his bit and could not hang around hospitals longer than he was absolutely obliged to.
In writing these few feeble lines, I have tried to convey to you the place your son held in the hearts of all who knew him. You, his mother, will appreciate him best, I know, and grieve the most, but there are many of us who claim the honour to share that feeling.
If it should be that I am spared to return to Canada, I should deem it a high privilege to meet and grasp the hand of the mother of "Dick" - Prince of men.
Believe me, I remain
Yours in deepest sympathy,
Frank J. Whiting