November 30, 1916


France

Dear Mother & Father,

Received your letter of the 5th last evening and am sorry you are not receiving my letters regularly. The 1st couple of weeks over here things came along so rapidly that I didn’t get settled down to writing as often as I should, as for the cable, I was unable to get it through, but possibly could have left some body word to send it for me but my letter I thought would be sufficient as it anticipated the move by a couple of days.

Dupuy has just joined the coy. And battalion I am in so I will have a friend with me as he is not a bad sort if you let him go his own way.

Am expecting the underwear you mentioned in your letter along any day. In the meanwhile I have got a black and white sheep skin vest which is great for keeping a person warm but am afraid it will be bad for harbouring insects. I wish you would send me along some oil of cedar as a preventative.

You will likely receive this letter about Christmas. I have been looking for some real good Flemish lace but most of it now is for stuff manufactured for a purpose as I want it for. We will most notably as I told you before be spending Xmas in the trench but that won’t hinder us from having our little celebration.

We are fixing up a place to hold our Christmas dinner in. We have a Gramophone coming over from England in a couple of days. It will notably be in a dug out.

December 5

Sorry I couldn’t finish my letter but I was on detached duty and could not write let alone sleep or eat.

We are at present in billets and I am planning to have a bath and a general clean up. I had a shave this morning after due deliberation.

You were asking me what I would like in a box. Chocolate and cigarettes are the thing I use mostly. If you have a couple of heavy socks knitted they wouldn’t go amiss. Also a heavy pair of leather gloves with tops on. Nothing fine but warm and heavy enough to stand wet and wear.

When in the trenches, if it is dark you often have to feel your way along and when it is muddy, it soon sports a fine pair of gloves. I have been wearing a pair of riding gloves but they are more like a mit and haven’t got the index finger cut out.

I suppose I won’t be able to send any Xmas presents as I haven’t got any really good souvenirs yet. I tried to buy an iron cross from my corporal but he wouldn’t sell it for any consideration. One of the Imperials sold one to an officer for 25 Francs.

How is Jean getting along. I am glad she is taking music as she will certainly be able to play well. I sent Grandma a few postcards but I don’t know whether she has received them or not. Received Margaret’s letter and I suppose she is back home now.

It seems as if I have been away from home for years. There will be considerable changes when I get home I suppose.

Well I will write as often as I get the opportunity. Just put the no. of the battalion, never mind the Division etc.

18th Battalion B.E.F.

France

You were right Father in your address etc.

Well, you may rest assured I am in perfect health etc. Never felt better in my life and have already earned the nickname of ‘fat’. Perhaps I should not say earned, but rather got it pushed on me.

Well I will write soon and let you know how things are. In the meanwhile and always I will look to the One above to bring me through this alright if He deems fit.

With Love and Kisses to you all and if this reaches you around Xmas, I hope you have a merry one because I will be having one out here but always thinking of home. That is as merry as the circumstances permit.

Vincent

This letter I believe is when he starts getting a hang of writing his letters and how long they take to get to who he is writing too. As you can see, this letter is dated November 30th, as well as December 5th, and he is already talking about Christmas. Now in our day and age 20-25 days to get a message to someone seems like a lot, but i'm guessing back then, especially during a war, that would be the norm. One thing when he is talking about Christmas that I found intriguing is the use of Xmas. I had thought that that term was a lot more recently coined than the early 1900's, but after doing some research I have come to the conclusion that it has been around a lot longer than that. I would usually post an article explaining a bit about the history of Xmas but I did not find one that I found covered it well. So if anyone comes across one and would like to post it below in the comments that would be most welcome.

Another thing that I found interesting, is at the end of the letter when he is addressing his father, it is the first time in his letters that he seems to be particularly religious. Around this time I'm sure most of the soldiers in the Canadian army were quite religious, and I'm also sure that believing the Man above is looking after you was a comforting thought.

There wasn't a whole lot to research within this letter, as he talks mostly about clothing (still hasn't received the underwear) and Christmas. He does mention a fellow soldier, which he sees as a friend, named Dupuy. I have mentioned him before in an earlier letter, though I spelled his name wrong then. With the help of one of you guys, Nathen Moore, I found out that his full name is Frederick Dupuy and he signed on as an officer in Peterborough. His Officers Declaration is below.


Another thing that I found odd that he mentioned, was trying to by an Iron Cross from one of his superiors. An Iron Cross was a military medal awarded to Germans and one of the most recognizable military medals out there. Here is an article with some interesting facts on it. I do find it interesting that even through the war there was a market for war souvenirs taken from the enemy.

The last thing that I want to mention is the Gramophone that he mentioned they were getting from England. For those of you who might not know, the gramophone was a device that allowed the user to play music. I find it pretty cool that Vincent and his companions were planning to have some music in the trenches during Christmas.


There are a couple words and phrases I was not 100% sure on and I will post the letters below so that you can read it yourselves and maybe you will have a better idea than I on some of them.

As always, thank you for taking the time to read these, and like and share on any platform you would like!

Michael Ritchie

#1916 #18thBattalion #France #CanadianMilitary #Canadian #WorldWar1 #WWI #trenches #christmas

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