• Michael Ritchie

March 25, 1917

Updated: Mar 11, 2019


Dear Mother & Father

Received your letters of the 25th of Feb. and also your cable. I hope you have received my cable. Dear Grandma I hope passed away without any pain.

Well am in the very best of health and hope you are all the same. Received my flannels OK and am delighted with them. Just what I want. What flannels I could buy here were unbearable.

My boxes come fairly regular. There is a big Canadian mail today and everybody is in high spirits.

Romaine Stevenson has gone to the R.F.C. and is in London at present on three weeks leave I believe. Well I was sorry to see him go as he and I had some good times together and has been a good friend ever since we left Canada. Personally I like to feel solid earth under my feet.

Well how are all the things about town. Somebody ought to take compassion on Burnham and shoot the poor fool. He must be a terrible burden to himself and everybody else.

Col. Johnston I suppose is back. He certainly is a big hearted fellow. The way he looked after his men was wonderful and they all inquire after him.

Well it is getting more like war here every day. Had the unlovely experience of being buried twice but can’t swing the lead with shell shock yet.

Have not succeeded in finding Bob Neill yet but know where he is. It is only about three miles and am going to try and do it.

Glad to hear that the chickens are laying.

Am just getting ready for bed. We are back in rest. Have a nice camp fire going and have just finished a cup of G Washington’s coffee which I got in one of your boxes. Have got on a nice clean pair of pajamas and am crawling into a sleeping bag. It is a nice change after sleeping in my clothes for two weeks and not having my boots off for six days.

Well, we just pushed our watches on an hour to the daylight saving time, which started last night and as we get up an hour earlier tomorrow morning I need the rest. Goodnight and kisses to all. Wishing you could tuck me in Mother.

Your Loving Son,

Vincent

As you can tell, the letters that he is writing home are becoming less and less frequent as his time in France continues. I'm assuming this has to be due to an increased work load as the war starts to pick up in 1917, as Vincent eludes to within the letter.

Though it is a short letter, there are is a good amount of interesting information within it. There a couple of things from back in Canada that we find out, about the passing of his Grandma, and the fact that flannels are apparently a lot better in Canada than they are in France. He also talks about a couple of people that are back home that he has mentioned in previous letters with some insightful opinions. The first one is Captain John Hampden Burnham, who as you can tell in this letter, and the previous one from January 2, Vincent is not very fond of. He was a politician that was an honorary Captain and only spent a very limited time in the field, in which time he did not seem to gain any favour with Vincent's original Battalion, the 93rd. If you would like to know more about Captain Burnham here is a bit of a synopsis on him. Also from the January 2nd letter, he speaks very highly of Colonel James Thomas Johnston, whom he states was very much loved by his men. The other soldier that he mentions in this letter and not being able to track down is Robert Neill, who I believe is the brother of his future wife Margaret Neill. He has popped up in a letter or two in the past as well. Another interesting item mentioned is that of one of Vincent's dear friends Arthur Romeyn Stevenson joining the Royal Air Force. As Vincent has mentioned before, the planes that he has seen in England training have left him in wonder. Through his records, it seems that Romeyn was transferred to the Air force on the 12th of March.

There are a couple of other little things that I found intriguing that he mentioned within this letter. The first one is the mention of changing his watch for Daylight Saving Time. I find this particularly intriguing because, as mentioned in this article, it says that the first year that it was widely observed was in 1916. So having him mention it in the second year of its use is very interesting to me. The other interesting item within this letter was his mention of having some G Washington coffee. After doing some research I found that it was an instant coffee popular with soldiers during WWI that was invented by George Washington, but not the same George Washington who was one of the founding fathers of the United States. You can find out a little more about the coffee here.


As always, the link to the 18th Battalions War Diary for March 1917 is here.

I will post the letter here and if you can spot the truth behind some of the words I could not decipher please let me know.

Thank you all for reading and I hope you are enjoying these letters as much as I am. As always feel free to share this and let me know if there is anything that you would like me to add!

Michael Ritchie

#1917 #France #18thBattalion #peterborough #burnham #johnston #WWI

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