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  • Michael Ritchie

November 8, 1916

Updated: Mar 11, 2019


Dear Mother & Father,

You will probably be thinking that I have been neglecting writing but if I haven’t been writing I have always been thinking of you. We do not get regular times to write. We may find time to attend to these things and then it might not occur again for a week or so. However, I will try and write oftener. It takes such a long while to get an answer to a letter that one is adept to become impatient.

We are getting miserable weather here now. It rains continually and in a regular downpour only letting up in intervals to regain new energy. The trenches will be very muddy.

I am at present at a machine gun school. I left the front line about three days ago. I will soon be through the course though.

I hope everybody is well at home as I am here.

I am billeted in an old convent and my room is so small that I have to stick my leg out the window to put my trousers on but taking everything into consideration I am quite comfortable.

I see quite a bit of Stevenson. We had a bathe together the other day. I went up to find him one night last week and as it was a very dark night and the trenches are very complicated I lost my way. I eventually found my way to my billet after much wandering about.

Mother, in your letter you asked if I had received my boxes. I got a box in September and another one a couple of days later but none since then. I suppose they are on their way.

I have been across here for about three weeks and I have only received two letters so they must be going somewhere. I will probably get them all in a bunch.

We have a very good nurse at the school. It is at an old French hotel and the French women certainly know how to cook. The meals are just like home.

I am progressing favourably in my French but the other day I wanted to buy some alcohol for a lamp and I bought out several stores before I got what I wanted. It is perhaps a very expensive way of learning I suppose but I am otherwise very economical.

I have ran into quite a few people I know over here. You remember young Macdonald who was a lieut. in the 93rd in the winter time. He is a Pte. in a Stokes gun battery. I met him this morning.

My platoon consists of all the 93rd Indians so you see it rather reminds me of Chemong. They are very good over here but kind of hard to keep from roaming around dead man’s land at night. They are very enthusiastic and will likely make good as snipers if they get a chance.

Every trip out to rest billets we generally manage to have one good meal. The last time out we had a pair of chickens cooked by a French woman and they were wonderfully cooked.

I see the battle of the Somme pictures have gone to Canada. I wouldn’t miss seeing them, they are simply wonderful. They were on in London about a month ago.

I suppose when this letter reaches you it will be near Christmas. All the French carriages have bells on them here and it reminds me of sleigh bells back home.

I got the Examiner with the pictures taken at Otterpool camp. It is a funny looking thing. My hair was just getting long enough to look messy.

Well I will write as soon as possible. Love to all and kisses.

Your loving son,

Vincent

Address

Lieut. V. M. Eastwood

18th Battn, 4th Bde

II Division

This letter has a couple of intriguing observations within it which I would like to touch on. The first is how this is the first letter in the last 5 or 6 of them that he does not mention anything about new underwear coming his way. I'm not sure if that is because he has gotten new underwear or if he has simply given up on the dream.

The next one I would like to touch on would be his mention of the Indians, or Native Americans, that are in his platoon and how he praises them for their enthusiasm. It is nice to see a mention of them in a letter home as they played an important part through WWI and are of course a very important part of Canada's history. If you would like to read up on some more information about Canadian Native Americans during the First World War you can do so here. For those who haven't read previous letters, or don't recall because it is from some of the first letters, Chemong is a lake near Peterborough where the Eastwood's had a cottage. Also, the mention of Dead Man's Land is interchangeable with what we know today as No Man's Land.

Something that I found really interesting in this letter is the mention of the Battle of the Somme picture. We all know that, like many battles through that war, the Battle of the Somme was a bloody battle that took many lives on both sides. What surprises me about the statement that he makes on the pictures, which would be called a movie these days, is that it was wonderful. Part of the making of this film was for propaganda purposes for the Allied soldiers and given his reaction it obviously worked. Here is an article on the movie and on the reactions at the time the movie was released.

The last thing that I want to touch on is Stevenson, or as he has been mentioned in previous letters 'Romaine Stevenson'. Initially I could not find much information about this man, but with the help of Eric over at the 18th Battalion War Diary, who graciously sent me over a copy of the Nominal Roll call of the 93rd Battalion, I have been able to track him down. His name is Arthur Romeyn Stevenson, so I did not find him as he went by his middle name, which Vincent had understandably spelled wrong. In this letter he also mentions a MacDonald, which the only one I could find in the above mentioned roll call was a Private George MacDonald. I'm not 100% if that is the same man, but if you are interested about the Stokes Battery that he was stationed at, as mentioned in the letter, here is a website that describes it as well as other trench mortars used by the British. I have posted a picture of the roll call below. You will see some other familiar names her has mentioned before on it as well.


Well, since there was nothing I couldn't read of much substance this week I don't think I will need your help deciphering anything, though I am always happy with the help provided.

Thank you again for reading and I hope you all enjoyed it. Again feel free to share and if anyone can get their hands on the picture he is talking about in the Peterborough Examiner I would be grateful if you sent it my way. I will continue to try and track it down myself and when I do I will share it with everyone.

*Thanks to Nathen Moore for passing on the picture that is talked about in this letter! It is amazing to see the him, as well as his friends around the time he is writing these letters.


Michael Ritchie

#France #18thBattalion #1916 #canada #WorldWar1 #WWI #LettersFromVincent #CanadianMilitary #93rdBattalion