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  • Michael Ritchie

September 18, 1917

Updated: Mar 11, 2019


Dearest Mother & Father mine,

I know you will be thinking me very ungrateful in not writing more than I do. I try and write a couple of letters each week but one days seems like another and it is like sending you a carbon copy of the letter previous.

I went on leave the 23rd of last month and went straight from the front line to the boat and believe me we were having a hot time of it. So you see how would enjoy it. I had fourteen days in and about London. I got fitted out in clothes etc. which I badly needed. I cabled you as soon as I landed and waited a reply and expected it all the time I was in London but I suppose you never received it.

Father I had to draw on you but can adjust that later. I hope it was alright. My promotion is on its way with about four months of back pay so there will be something coming in. The C.O. transferred me the ‘D’ Coy to take command of it and so I am up the line with my old company, the one I was with first, although it has changed about six times since those times and there are few of the old boys left.

I got four days extension for investations and went up before King George. It certainly was a very nice little ceremony and I am glad I went, although I applied for it only for the extension and so worked it that way, which seemed rather small.

I met a whole host of people in London I know. Ran into Art McCarter one day on Russell Square. He was living around the corner from the Imperial Hotel where I was staying while in London. He was wounded not very badly in the calf of the leg and could get around quite easily. I was also with Romain Stevenson for a day or so before he sailed for Canada. I can tell you it was a great temptation just to keep from coming along home with him. He took all my souvenirs in his trunk. I mailed the helmet which I hope you received by this time. Write and tell me if it is complete with cockades etc. as I rather suspected the person who bundled it up of removing some part of it. The sword I nearly lost. Going down to the station I was carrying it an stuck it down the back of the seat in the taxi so it moved off with it when we forgot about it. It was early morning and the streets were fairly clear so I saw our taxi about three blocks away rounding the corner. I made a run for it and skipping around a couple of blocks, jumped on the running braid and captured the lost souvenir. The young lady which the taxi had picked up gave a scream but when I got the sword and explained things it was alright.

Was with Gordon Matthews and Meridith Huycke for a short time, also Walton Stevenson.

It was sad news about Grant Mourail wasn’t it. He was in a Bn. in our Brigade and the day he was killed we lost quite a few good fellows. Little Tommy Dougall of whom probably you have seen me mention in my letters was killed. He was my assistant when scout officer. He became scout officer when I went to take a company.

Macdonald, who was with the 93rd the winter we stayed in Peterborough was also killed. By the way the password last night was Peterboro. It seemed so strange out here to hear that name.

We have been having some wonderful weather out here this last three weeks but it is getting on into fall with the prospects of another winter campaign. A couple more will probably do us all in but then the Bosche will have the same hardships.

I am trying to write a bunch of letters this afternoon. You would laugh if you saw my writing table. This is an old Bosche dugout and is in pretty good shape although our guns have made it look sick like. There are various types of armenents about. Three or four revolvers hanging about, knives etc. and the cook up stairs is starting a fire for tea. He is responsible for any shells we get as he makes a big smoke & smokes us out below and then the odd shell comes over saying “I seen you” but we don’t fare too bad, he is a wonderful cook. He can make about a six course dinner out of a can of bully beef and some hard tack.

I received the boxes pretty regularly and am well fixed for summer underclothing thanks to you. I have two suits of Stansfields heavy winter ware that you sent me last winter and they are fine. I had to throw the other suit away because it was so terribly lousy last spring but I am well fixed for the winter if you send me one heavy suit.

I haven’t sent you those pictures I promised you but will do so at the 1st opportunity. These French photographers are useful, winds at speed.

I see you received a letter from Colonel Morrison. It was very nice of him to write you. Our new C.O. is a peach and he certainly gets all the support we can give him.

I see in your last letter that Roft Darling passed away. I suppose soon as he came into town he started to go in stages.

Well I am going to write a letter to Jack and Aunt Mary and a few others and then it will be about dinner time.

Well love to all and kisses and to heaps to your own dear selnus.

Your loving son,

Vincent.

P.S.

I was very nearly forgetting. Herb Dixon was over to see me not long ago. He is with the Princess Pats and he and I went for a long walk one night when we were out in rest billets together. I was urging him to try and get back with his commission. I hope I will see him again shortly. Owen Cavanagh is about two hundred yards away from me now and I see him quite often now. Bob Neill and Clair Stewart were both over to see me one day but I was away on leave so I missed them but will probably see them shortly.

I will try to keep this little write up at the end short as the letter you just read is fairly long. It has within it some pretty interesting observations and a lot of name dropping. He shares a couple of amusing stories in this one which I find fascinating. Where he is writing about chasing down a taxi in London to recover a souvenir sword he had left in the back seat was a treat to read. Also the observation about the cook and being able to make a gourmet dinner out of military rations was fairly entertaining. You can read up a bit more on the food that soldiers had available to them here if you would like as well. I'm not sure which word he is using when he explains this in the letter, but it seems that Vincent attended a ceremony to receive his Military Cross in front of the King of England for the purpose of receiving a couple of extra days off on his leave. I feel like receiving the medal would be a good enough reason to go but apparently that is not why he went.

Underneath I have a list of the names that he mentioned throughout this letter. Many of them you might have seen previously in other letters, some of them are new to my eyes, and some I might need some help to figure out as the writing is a bit off or I wasn't able to find them in a database. I will start with the names I know and work my way down:

Art McCarter (Arthur Burnet McCarter) - Probably a cousin on his Mother's side

Romain Stevenson (Arthur Romeyn Stevenson) - Good friend, mentioned in many letters

Gordon Matthews (Gordon Smithson Matthews) -Friend from home, mentioned previously

Meridith Huycke (George Meredith Huycke) - Friend from home, mentioned previously

Little Tommy Dougall (Thomas Dougall) - Was Assistant Scout Officer to Vincent, killed. More info

Colonel Morrison (Gordon Fraser Morrison) - One time Commander of 18th, more info

Bob Neill (Robert Mercer Neill) - Future Brother-in-Law I believe

Walton Stevenson (James Walton Stevenson) - Friend from home, I believe this is the right man

MacDonald (George MacDonald?) - Only MacDonald I found from the 93rd, but did not die in war

Grant Mourail? - Seemed to be someone from Peterborough

Herb Dixon? - Again, probably a Peterborough man

Owen Cavanagh? - Another Peterborough man?

Clair Stewart? - A fourth unknown Peterborough man?

As you can tell, I might need help from someone who knows a bit more about Peterborough's WWI soldiers to help me identify the last couple.

It also looks like he did not stay at the Savoy when he stayed in London, as the paper from his last letter suggested. Seems he stayed at more modest accommodations in the Imperial Hotel which happened to be right by Russell Square, which he ran into Art McCarter.

A couple more helpful links:

The Princess Patricia's - The unit in which Herb Dixon was in.

War Diary for the 18th, September 1917

In this letter Vincent's writing seems a bit rushed, which makes sense as he has many other letters that he wants to write (which sadly I do not possess). Because of this, it seems that there are a couple more words than usual that I am not sure of. If you fine readers could take a look at them that would be excellent.

Thank you all for reading this letter and for your future help in assisting me with some of the people mentioned in the letter that I could not find. Please share, especially with people in the Peterborough area, and let me know if there is anything that I should add or update.

Thank you

Michael Ritchie

#1917 #huycke #VictoriaCross #bosche #souvenirs #DCompany #18thBattalion #93rdBattalion #France #london