• Michael Ritchie

January 2, 1917

Updated: Mar 11, 2019


Dear Mother and Father,

Just a few lines to let you know that I am in the best of health. Hope you are receiving my letters regularly. Received yours of the 10th of December. I suppose Mother, you are back home now. I hope you had a good trip to Toronto. Agnes will be getting along fine no doubt.

Grandma will be quite comfortable in that she has some heat right with her all the time. I suppose she will kind of miss poking the fire but the heat will be there just the same.

Your bonus will certainly be quite handy not that things are so high. Butter and eggs certainly are hitting the high spots for so early in the season.

It will not bust the bank though giving bonuses like that. Are you in your new office yet? I suppose it will be quite a swell affair.

Things do seem to be changing over considerably to the good in England. A good man is coming to the top now in Loyd George.

Col. Johnston and Major Watt are over here on a Cook’s tour and they are at present attached to our battalion. The Col. does not seem to have any use for Capt. Burnham. It seems that Burnham talked the Col. in everything he did to the betterment of the 93rd. men at West Sandling and Burnham made an underhanded attack on Canon Davidson by writing home to Peterboro insinuating that the Canon had deserted the battalion and was looking for a soft job etc. The Canon I hear is now in France on his own request and Burnham is on his way to Canada. It is immature to me but if Burnham has done all he is accused of doing I would like to punch him myself. Just on an old sore. The Col. painted him a black hearted villain alright.

Well Christmas and New Years passed over nearly unnoticed except for a little better spread. The Bosche was very quiet. The day after tomorrow I will be 20 years of age so I am already feeling the weight of my many years.

Well there is not an awful lot to say. Of course the conditions are just what would be expected after so much rain. The trenches are almost water logged in places. It is getting colder tonight and has stopped raining.

I suppose you know by this time that I am Scout officer to the battalion. It’s the same as Intelligence Officer. We keep a good observation onto the enemy and try to get information in different ways.

First off, I think I might be missing a page to this letter as he doesn't end with the usually, "Your Loving Son, Vincent". I don't think that I have missed much as he seems to be wrapping it up, but I think I might be missing something. There wasn't a whole lot to look up in this letter, a good chunk of it is the regular observations, 'how's the family', 'the trenches are wet', 'it's raining' and such. There are a couple lines that did stick out to me.

To begin with, the way that he explains how it is good that his Father was given a raise as the food prices seem to be rising. I'm assuming this is due somewhat of a food shortage as supplies would be sent over to help with the war effort and that in turn would raise the price. Please someone correct me if I am wrong in that statement. He also talks about becoming the equivalent to an Intelligence Officer for his Battalion which seems very interesting. I'm not sure what he has called specifically though because I do not think it is "Serut" but I had a hard time deciphering the word. The last quick observation that I would like to touch on would be about him turning 20. I find it incredible that he is an Officer, in the biggest war in the world at that time, and he is only 20. In our day and age it seems hard to comprehend.

Within this letter, there does seem to be some very juicy gossip. Vincent explains that while talking to Lt. Col. Johnston, he was informed of a situation between a Captain Burnham and who I believe to be a Major Davidson (though it seems like the word Canon is used to describe him, which I'm not sure why) and how Burnham seemed to be trying to put dirt on Davidson's name and make him look like a deserter. As it turns out, it looks like Burnham was headed back to Canada (not sure of the reason) and Davidson is fighting in France. In his files Burnham is definitely sent back home, but I do not see a reason displayed for it. I will have all the links to the soldiers mentioned below.

According to the 18th War Dairy for December, which can be found here, Col. T.J. (Thomas James) Johnston and Major R.P. (Richard Park) Watt arrived on December 29, 1916 to help the battalion with instruction. Both of these men, as well as most of the men mentioned in the story within the letter, are from Peterborough and served first in the 93rd with Vincent, which is how he knows them all. The War Diary for January 1917 can be found here as well.

Below I have posted the letters as usual, I hope everyone can read them alright. There are a decent amount of words that I am having trouble with this letter but the most important ones would be to make sure Davidson is, or isn't, actually referred to as Canon and what "Serut" actually is. As always all help is welcome.

Here is the information and files on the officers that are mentioned within the letter:

Lt. Col. Thomas James Johnston

Major Richard Park Watt

Captain John Hampden Burnham

Major John Cheyne Davidson

Also mentioned was the new Prime Minister of England Lloyd George. A good article on him can be found here.


That is all for this letter. Hopefully you enjoyed it and I will post the next one in about a week! As always, feel free to like, share, and let me know if there is any information that needs to be added or changed!

Thank you,

Michael Ritchie

#1917 #WorldWar1 #WWI #CanadianMilitary #Canadian #lloydgeorge #18thBattalion #93rdBattalion

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