December 19, 1916
Dear Mother & Father,
Well it is getting very near Christmas and the boxes are beginning to come in. This last week I received four boxes from you so I have been living pretty high. The marmalade was put away in no time. I got the parcel containing the gloves and the handkerchiefs and they could not have come at a better time. One box was pretty badly crumped about but I salvaged a fine pair of thick socks, a bottle of homemade catsup, some oxo and some preserved ginger from the wreck. It had evidently been on its way for quite a while. It was addressed to the 93rd battalion. I also received a small box from the Robertsons and it was very kind of them to think of me. I am writing them a note this afternoon.
I am rather racing against time to get this letter off and I have about half an hour to do it in. I am, as you will know by now, with the 18th Battalion. Lt. Col. Morrison is our C.O. and I believe he comes from Toronto. He was a major in the 19th before the Somme. The Brigader is General Renie of Renie’s Seeds. Quite a few 93rd men have been draughted into the battalions of our Brigade so I often run into an old 93rd man. The other day I was surprised to see one of out Sergt. Majors, a full fledged Private on bridge guard.
The French villages are very clean and tidy. Out of heavy gun range they are in very good condition as the Germans passed through them without much resistance in 1914, but where there has been any heavy fighting houses and whole villages have been wiped so completely off the map that there is scarcely a brick to show that there were homes there in peace times and people lived there. In other places the Boshe has perhaps dropped a couple of wizbangs into every house but has left the cellars in good condition. Most of the French houses are substantially built and when the walls are knocked in with shell fire it only makes the cellar stronger.
It is quite wintry out here now. It snowed last night and this morning, everything is white. Last trip in the trenches it rained almost every day and everything was muddy. We had to wear hip rubber boots all the time in.
The war news looks rather good doesn’t it. The French success around Verdun just when Germany was setting forth her peace terms, kind of bolstered up the confidence of the French people.
Well we are making preparations for our Christmas dinner. We have four chickens to take in with us. Well I will write another letter this week. Hoping you receive this around New Years.
Hoping you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and I hope that I will be with you before another one. With love to all the family and kisses. Your son. Vincent.
PS. This letter is a very bad mess but it is written in a hurry. I will write another one this week and take time on it.
There are a few things that I find really interesting in this letter, mainly how he describes the French towns. How it is so easy to spot the towns that either were in the path of explosives or showed some resistance to those that the Germans just were able to pass through is very intriguing. I find it fascinating to read the take of a soldier that is part of the fight back seeing the initial destruction that occurred at the beginning of the war.
A couple of other things to note. He obviously got a lot of presents from home, all of which he seemed to enjoy immensely, even the package that seemed to be crushed on its journey to him. He also talks again about the preparations he and his fellow soldiers have been getting together for their Christmas dinner in the trenches. Four chickens probably made quite a good meal for them on that December night.
Within this letter he mentions that he has seen a lot of soldiers from his days in the 93rd throughout the last little while as many of them were transferred to his battalion. He also mentions a couple of commanding officers that I would like to share some information about with you. The first one he mentions is his Commanding Officer, Lt. Col. Morrison, who I believe to be Gordon Fraser Morrison. Some information about him, as well as his Attestation paper, is available on the 18th War Diary's website here, as well as some additional information on the Canadian Great War Project's website here. He also mentions Brigadier General Robert Rennie (he incorrectly spelled it Renie) who was the General for the 4th Brigade, which the 18th Battalion was a part of. You can find his digitized service file here if you would like to learn a bit more about him. Vincent also mentions that he is from Rennie Seed's, which I believe is a seed distributor from around that time. A picture of their catalog from that here is shown below.
There weren't many words that I struggled with in this letter but I will have the letter beneath this if you would like to help me out with the red words above.
This post is already pretty long, so I will just provide a couple of supplement links if you want to look into a couple of the other things that are mentioned within this letter:
The term 'Whizbangs' is used by Vincent when discussing a certain explosive. That, along with a couple of other slang terms from WWI can be found here.
Some information on Canadian WWI Generals, including General Robert Rennie, can be found here.
Some information on the end of the Battle of Verdun, which Vincent Mentions above, can be found here.
You can also keep track of what the 18th Battalion was up to in December 1916 through the War Diary here.
Again thank you so much for reading these letters and as always, like, share, and let me know if there is any extra information I should put in or something I forgot.