• Michael Ritchie

October 7, 1916

Updated: Aug 28, 2019


Dear Mother & Father,

As you see I am attached to the 39th Battn. at West Sandling Camp. The battalion received its final smash yesterday and most of us are today with the 39th and are on the General list. Col. Preston as you know is in command. I have just got back from London. I was on three days leave. I got the rest of my equipment. Fixed up a few things, changed my account and was in to see the manager of the Royal.

I happened to get in with a officer from the R. Eng. from B.C. and he very kindly gave me a flying look at the place.

I was in the St. Pauls Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and a few other places of interest.

But the most wonderful thing of all I think was the London tube system. I was all over London for about 6p. You can go about four miles for something like a halfpenny.

The abbey was a wonderful place. A little modern touch was the standards of Canadian battalions near the main entrance. Just a few of the most valuable statues etc. are all sandbagged our you can’t see them but I saw enough to give me an idea.

The dome of St. Pauls is a marvelous work isn’t it. You can imagine my feelings after going through these places, Nelson's monument, Wellington's funeral car etc.

The 1st thing I saw as I entered the Crypt was Sir J.A. Macdonald’s bust so Canada has a little corner some place in these places.

London is full of Colonials, Australians, New Zealanders, Canadians, and also French and Belgians. You see the uniforms of nearly all the allied countries on the streets and in the places of amusement etc. I missed seeing a zepp raid and a zepp fall by one day. I could have seen the ruins but didn’t have time. Will see lots of them I guess before I am through.

Had three nights at theatres. I saw Chu Chin Chow at His Majesty’s and it was a wonderful piece. Something after Arabian Nights. Also saw The Bing Boys, a musical comedy running here now at the Alhambra.

Well altogether I had an interesting three days.

Was sorry to see the old battalion smashed but it may be for the better. The 139th under Col. Smart came late last night.

We just heard the sad news of poor Art Ackerman’s death last night. The experiences he had gone through are too much to come through without cost. He has done his part and done it well. I just received a letter from him only one week before he got hit and he gave me some advice which I will always remember.

Things look as if they were going to settle down for the winter. There are no casualties in the 93rd yet as far as I can see. I think they are in front line by now.

When up in London I was staying at the Regent Palace hotel just off Piccadilly. Going up to my room one afternoon I was just stepping into a lift when somebody rushed in after me and grabbed me by the shoulder. It was Les Stevens. He is looking very pale and is at present on sick leave. He was about as surprised as I so when I got ready to go back to Camp he came down with us and stayed with me overnight in camp. Had a talk with all the boys and went back to Folkestone yesterday morning.

You know Joeliff of our church, well he has gone out of his head poor fellow. He was very sick for a couple of days and then went out of his head. He has gone to hospital now but was around the camp until it broke up. One night he worried the Col. all night by knocking in his tent and telling him to get up that there was a zepplin raid and that bombs were dropping on the camp. I heard him clawing at my tent but let a holler out of me that scared him away. Poor old fellow, he has gone religously crazy.

Well there is hardly anything else to write home about.

About my underwear. Get me that stuff that Jack wore last winter which I think is best Stanfields I think it is. We are getting rough weather here now. Ross Cameron has got his majority now and I was also speaking to Major Carruthers.

Well will write soon again. Everything is fine and am feeling well as I hope you all are.

I received the stove heater and you may be sure it will be very useful. When it is damp and the bed pretty cold I make up a cup of broil.

We are still in tents so we had to get an oil stove so things are pretty comfortable.

With love to all,

Your loving Son,

Vincent.

On this Remembrance Day we want to remember all the brave men and women that risked their lives and died for us abroad over the years. While doing this project, my respect for the military men and women of our nation has continued to grow steadily. I am glad that I have these letters to give me perspective about the life and thoughts of a soldier during the First World War. Though at the time of the letter above he hadn't seen any front line action, there are still a lot of interesting observations that give you a good idea of how a soldier viewed the world and the struggles they go through.

In this letter you can see Vincent gets the bad news about his friend from home Art Ackerman, which as I discussed in an earlier post, we already knew about his unfortunate fate. The way that he views the fate of Art stuck with me. He was obviously sad, but he also seemed very proud of what Art did and the ultimate sacrifice that he gave for his country. Another unfortunate occurrence that he spoke of during this letter was of a man, I think might be Joseph but it is hard to make out the writing, and how he seems to have gone mad. This must have happened fairly regularly with men at the front, but to know that it also happened to men before they got to the front is a scary thought.

On a lighter note, Vincent seems to have enjoyed his time in London and had a chance to be a tourist and see the sights of a new city. As I have touched on before, he really seems in awe of the new technology that is making it's way into the world around this time and he expresses this as he talks about the tube in London. He also mentions that he went to see two shows at the theatres in London. I have found a site that has all of the shows that were playing in the main theatres in London at that time which was very instrumental in helping me figure out what he had written about. That site you can see here.

The last thing that I want to discuss is the official break down of the battalion that he was originally stationed with, the 93rd. As he mentions, he is now with the 39th, which I do not believe he will be staying with for very long. He also talks about the 139th coming in and joining them as well. I believe that he must of misprinted the name. As the 139th was broken up around this time period, yet I believe it was dissolved into the 3rd and 36th battalions. Where the 136th was the one absorbed into the 39th and had a Colonel Smart. So the 139th is highlighted in the letter not because I can't make out what it says, but because I believe he misprinted it. Also, as you can see from the beginning of the letter, he has moved from the Otterpool Camp to the West Sandling Camp which I spoke of last post.

Speaking of misprinted words, here are a couple that I was struggling with and maybe you folks to help me out with it.

*After some help from Nathen Moore and a few others, as well as going back over the letter, I believe 'unleashing' is now 'interesting', 'Joseph' is now 'Joeliff', 'midum' is now 'modern' and 'Helsm's' is now 'Nelson's'. Thank you for all the help everyone! As for poor Joeliff, Nathen has left a little bit about him in the comments if you would like to check it out.


Page 4 and Page 1

Page 3 and Page 2

Page 8 and Page 5

Page 7 and Page 6

As always, thank you for reading and continuing this experience with me. I hope you find these letters as interesting as I do and, especially on this day, find a respect for all of our military and veterans over the years.

Lest We Forget,

Michael Ritchie

#1916 #england #CanadianMilitary #RemembranceDay #WorldWar1 #WWI #LettersFromVincent

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