December 25, 1916


Dear Mother & Father,

Well today is Christmas and it is fine and cold with not a terrible lot of mud, although last night rain simply came down in torrents. We had a fine Christmas dinner, having four roast chickens. So we fared pretty well. Everybody had lots of boxes. I received a dandy from you also another one containing apples which certainly did go fine. I don’t think there is anything I enjoyed better since I left Canada than some Canadian apples. My platoon had their dinner Christmas Eve and brought me in a helping. They had some fine roast pork and some good vegetables. It certainly did go fine.

You may be sure I have been thinking of home all day and letting my imagination travel a little. I hope you had a bright, happy Christmas. How did the Christmas tree work? I suppose Jack and Agnes were able to get home. I hope they were.

The Bosche just carried on as usual today and did not show himself. I suppose he is starting to see the dark side of the game. We found him at the proportion of about twenty to every one shell of his no matter what size, but he is a pretty wise old boy.

We can get nearly anything we want in clothing at the trains in rear of the line. It is mostly Ordnance stuff but quite substantial. I am getting a long pair of leather boots from Ordnance so I will be fixed up all right in the footwear.

I have a pair of good ankle boots and a long pair of Canadian Penetangues or shoe packs with thick soles.

I brought a sleeping bag across from England and was able to carry a double blanket, quite a few changes of shirts etc. and have lots of socks. If I get that hot water bottle it will be fine. I can use it quite often, Your feet out here are always cold.

I received your parcel containing the mits, handkerchiefs, tooth brush and paste and everything came in fine. My teeth are in very good shape. I have cleaned them regularly since I left home. There is just one that bothers me sometimes but I am going to have the dentist fix it up for me.

I had quite a surprise this morning when I ran into Eldred Cumberland in a telephone station in a post. I did not recognize him at first, but it didn’t take him long to. I certainly was glad to see him. We had a little talk but I was pretty busy. He said Grant Laurie was trying to look me up. I told him where my billet would be and as we are stationed pretty near together, I will probably see him soon. I hope I do.

I suppose there is good sleighing now at home and quite a bit of snow. The old Brock st. Rink will probably be with a good sheet of ice by now.

I received a dandy box from Mrs. Matthews in England and it certainly was very good of her. I think I have her address in my kit.

I suppose you will be moving into your new office Father, You will evidently have quite a place there when you get through with it.

You can send that underwear along if you like as it is always acceptable out here, and two or three changes are not out of the way.

I suppose they are quite anxious about Harold Knapman but I suppose he has been on the move and not had time to write. Time flys pretty fast. Harold will look after himself all right.

We are getting quite a few officers who have been in England for quite awhile. With lots of Officers it makes the work lighter and the stand to’s are shorter when there are plenty to relieve.

I see Dunsford and Worth quite often, also Percy Might. Jess Ketchum was in to see me and had quite a tale to tell about meeting a Bosche patrol. He was dazed by a cylindrical stick and when he got his senses again the Bosche had got away. Kind of hard luck.

Where ever we are Mother we always have a brazin to heat things on so I won’t need the steino. We get a ration of fuel so there is always a fire around, as for the pocket lamp, I am getting one and a refill from Ordnance.

Grandma is quite hard on Mar. I suppose Mar though it was a great joke. How did Grandma like her cards? Wish her a Happy New Year for me. I will drop her another card soon. You probably know our Brigadier Father. He is Renie of Renies Seeds. The Corp. Commander is General Byng or something like that. General Turner was our Divisional commander.

War has dealt this country pretty hard. Magnificent works are merely scrap rion now.

Some of these big shells make tremendous craters. Some are so deep that you could easily put a house in them. Shrapnel has an ugly singing noise in the air but if the shell does not light near you generally have time to get under cover.

Well I hope we get the peace we want and have this whole affair cleaned up. I think the bosche has lost most of his punch and peace looks good to him but is afraid to take the consequences of accepting our terms.

Well I hope you are all well and that He will look after us all and keep us.

With lots of love & kisses.

Your son,

Vincent

For Vincent's letter home on Christmas Day in 1916 he wrote a long letter with a lot of information in it. He also has some great observations that help us understand the mindset of a Canadian soldier during this time in the war. I will start by going through some of those quickly.

I find his paragraph about the "Bosche" and the way the war is going to be very intriguing and even somewhat poetic in a way. Admittedly, when he says that they are now seeing the dark side, I did think about Star Wars... Granted, this is still almost 2 years until the end of the war, but that paragraph, along with some other notes later in the letter, would have you think that the war was mere months away from its conclusion. His talk about all the equipment he has was also very interesting. I'm sure since he was an officer he had a bit more in the way of luxuries, but it seems he has a good stocking of clothes and equipment to get him through day-to-day. The last observation I would like to touch on is when he is talking about the beautiful country and how the war has brought "Magnificent works" to scraps, which is a solemn visual.

In this letter he also mentions a great multitude of people. Some of them are family, his Grandma, his sisters Agnes and Mar, and his brother Jack, and some are comrades or superiors. We will start out with his friends and acquaintances that he mentions from back home. There are some that we have already seen in previous letters such as Worth and Percy Might, and some new names such as Eldred Cumberland, Harold Knapman, Dunsford, Grant Laurie, and Jesse Ketchum. As you can see, I linked their individual papers and files to each name that I am almost 100% sure of. For Dunsford, there is a set of brothers that I found and I am not sure which one is the one that he is speaking of, Martin Dunsford or Sydney Jarvis Dunsford. I am leaning towards Sydney as he joined around the same time as Vincent and has what I believe to be Vincent's Uncle as the Medical Officer, but they both should have been over there and he could have run into either I would think. I think the name he mentions is Grant Laurie as well but I could be reading that wrong as I couldn't find any information about anyone with that name. All of the men mentioned seemed to sign up in Peterborough except Jesse Ketchum, who is from Ottawa, but I believe he is the right man as he signed up with the 93rd, same as Vincent.

He also talks about his superiors. One of them was mentioned as well in the last letter, General Robert Rennie. He also mentions General Julian Byng, who as many know was Commander of the Canadians through a good part of the war and lead many Canadian soldiers to battle. If you like to see a quick snap shot of him I have a good link here. The other General that he mentions that is in command of his Division (the 2nd) at the time was General Richard Ernest William Turner. If you would like to read a bit more information about him it can be found here.

There is other interesting information and observations made throughout this Christmas letter but I think I have covered most intriguing ones. I will post below the letter to see if someone can help me figure out some of the words I was struggling with. Especially the boots he was getting, that one is bugging me the most. Also, here is a link that I found that shares a bit more information about the rink that he mentions back home within it.

To add to the story, the 18th War Diary for December can be found here, which explains that on the day this was written, Percy Might was admitted to the hospital. Also, the next day, Vincent lead a raiding party into the enemy trenches but did not encounter any one.

I hope you all enjoyed this letter, I know I found it one of the most interesting as of yet. I'm sure some of the regular readers might have some things to add to this letter and feel free to do so down in the comments below, that way the knowledge can be shared with all of the readers!

As always please share and like and spread the word. There are a lot of names mentioned within this letter that might have family still in that Peterborough area.

Thank you all!

Michael Ritchie

#1916 #robertrennie #christmas #GeneralByng #GeneralTurner #France #WorldWar1 #WWI #LettersFromVincent #18thBattalion #CanadianMilitary #Canadian

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