At Sea, May 7th, 1916 – (Letter #13) 

Dear Brother;

Just a few lines to let you know I am well. Hoping this finds you all the same. Well, I am on my way but don’t know where. Left Mulford last Monday night and we are having a fine trip. Jack, you know we can’t tell what ship were are on or where we are going. You know from experience yourself, but I don’t know myself where we are going to be. It don’t bother me any. I do not know my address. Will write when I get to know my address, so you can write and give me the news. Hope they will get Teddy Roosevelt in this Fall and that he will get after the Germans.

Give my love and best regards to Florrie, Sam and kids, not forgetting Ted and Mary. Will close for this time.

From Lee

Editor’s Note:

Teddy Roosevelt criticized Woodrow Wilson for not entering the war with Germany. In 1916, Roosevelt was encouraged to run again for US President, but eventually he declined and placed his support behind Republican leader Charles Hughes.

Wittey Camp, April 9th, 1916 – (Letter #12) 

Dear Brother;

Jack and B, your most welcome letter and Sunday Globe received last week. Glad to hear you are all in the pink as this leave me at present. Well, Jack, they keep us on the move. We left Codford last week and thank God for that. It was the worst place in England. I think we are now in a very nice camp. We are 35 miles from London. It is a fine place, a good dry camp and we are handy a town, only five miles from a place called Godalming, but we call it God Help Me. We are right in the path of the German airships. They went over our camp three times last week when they made their raids, but they were flying so high.

We can’t leave our camp now as I am in No. 1 platoon and I have to mount gun. I am number one man that pushes the double button. Jack, we have been under orders to go this past month. We may go any minute or we might be here for three months yet. We had our last laugh. I had six days, went to Southport to my old billet and had 8 shillings to spend, that is about $1.75. And since we came back, we only get a shilling a week, that is 24 cents in American money, by God, can’t buy tobacco on that. We will go to Egypt or Mesopotamia, as we got our light drill suits for a hot climate.

Are you working every day? Hope you are. I had a letter from Ina yesterday. Only had one letter from home since December 15th, I write every week. I would like to know where in hell all the letters go to. I get tired writing and getting no answer. There were Canadians in this camp before we came. They are now in Aldershot. It is not very far from here. I am going there next Sunday if I can scrape up the fare. That is the hell of it – can’t go any place without some money. We get hell and no money.

How is Dave Ross? I wrote to Flo and Eugene, but never got an answer. Well, Jack, I will have to come to a close for this time. When you answer this letter, register it, as I am sure of not being here and then I am sure of getting it. Give Teddy and Mary a kiss for me. Our last draft of machine gun men got all cut up and killed and I suppose I will get the same. To hell with them as long as I get a few of them first.

Give my love and best regards to all friends, not forgetting yourself and B.

Editor’s Notes:

A throw-back Thursday photo of Clyde River kids that are much taller now

As we come to the end of another successful season, we invite community volunteers to join together for clean up time on Saturday September 29, 9:00 am to 12:00 noon. The Park is closing a little earlier this year to allow for work to be done on improving the site.

Anyone who has participated in this event knows that working together in the park is good fun and good exercise. It is a great chance to enjoy this beautiful place with friends and neighbours. Feel free to take along some bulbs for planting. We suggest you bring along a rake and wear work gloves. Refreshments will be served.

If it is raining, the close-up will take place the following Saturday at the same time.

Codford, February 18, 1916 – (Letter #11) 

Dear Brother;

Jack and B, you are most welcome letter received yesterday. Glad to hear you are all in the pink, as this leaves me still in Codford and still at the same old job. We have been having it very exciting around here the past couple of weeks, as the Germans have been getting pretty handy us. They went over our camp the other night, but we knew they were coming and we had all lights out. I was right on my machine gun but they did not come low enough to get a shot.

They dropped 500 bombs on Bath, right in the city. I do not know what to make of it. England is slow in regards to not having the coast better guarded because they can only come one way and we could knock the hell out of them. We could catch them either coming or going, but, Jack, we can’t do it without the guns and zeppelins. I see Russia is doing a great work. I think you will see a big move within a very short time, as they are sending us away from here in very long drafts. My mates in my old Batallion are all gone, Lord Derby’s men in their place, the ones that fetched up, so we don’t have anything to do with them.

We had rotten weather here all the time, rain all the time and mud up to your knees, the kind that won’t come off when you lift your feet. You have about a ton on.

I got Mother’s parcel at last. I did have one great feast on tobacco and cake. Did you say Eldon had enlisted? Let me know when you write again. Had a letter from Eugene and Flo today – very pleased to hear from them but no letter from Mother yet since November but I have written just the same.

Well, I will have to come to a close for this time. Grub is a damn sight – worse since we came here. Every damn shilling I get my hands on goes for grub, so I try to manage to pull through. Give my love to all and lots of kisses for Mary and Teddy, not forgetting yourself. Tell Herb Hatch all the damn lies you can think of. I would like to see him here when the airships are dropping bombs. I bet he would shit his pants, excuse my plain talk and scribbling.

Goodbye, with love and best wishes from Lee.


394 Private Lee G. Darrach, Camp 4, Hut 33, 3/7 L.F., Codford, St. Mary’s, Wiltshire, Machine Gun School, if not at this address, please forward.

Editor’s Notes:

  • During WW1, Germany initiated 50 bombing raids on England – referred to as Zeppelin raids. Even though there were both Zeppelin and Schütte-Lanz airships, the Zeppelins were better known. Weather made it difficult for them to hit target, so bombs were often dropped miles off target. Zeppelins were named “baby killers”. In 1917, they were replaced by airplanes.
  • Lee refers to Lord Derby’s men being fetched up. Lord Derby was appointed Director-General of Recruitment in 1915 and he initiated the “Derby Scheme” where men ages 18 to 41 years would volunteer to being called up (or fetched up), if necessary. Single men were called up first. However, this plan did not produce enough men and they introduced conscription in early 1916.

This article was submitted by Donald E. Holmes.

Wellington Barracks, Halifax, Nova Scotia

The men and women who work voluntarily in close proximity with pastors in any congregation, regardless of denomination, deserve mention. In this instance they came from Kingston, PEI, and they are limited to five families, so that the character of the church is akin to a large family. The ten deacons in this agrarian community were all men as one might expect from the time period—late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Charles Holmes, born in Froxfield, Wiltshire, England, in 1818, joined the British Army and at an early age, served in India for a time, then went to Canada. He commanded the first regiment to occupy Wellington Barracks, Halifax, at its opening. After discharge from the Army, he settled in East Wiltshire (Kingston) PEI in 1852.

Charles Holmes was 34 years old when he landed on PEI where he farmed and was a very devout Christian who became the first of ten deacons of the Kingston Baptist Church. These were the men who served as deacons in this small wooden, rural church.

  • Captain Charles Holmes – October 2, 1818 – March 24, 1909
  • William Ward _____________ — ____________ [moved to USA]
  • William Foster Fraser JP – February 1, 1841 – April 1, 1912
  • Daniel Ward – January 12, 1875 – November 9, 1946
  • William Henry Holmes – October 30, 1858 – December 24, 1913
  • James Augustus Holmes – May 30, 1863 – June 19, 1954
  • Stephen Ackland – April 18, 1873 – April 16, 1973
  • Burgess Henry Newson – January 28, 1877 – March 17, 1974
  • Parker Coles Newson – May 8, 1918 – September 10, 2008
  • Milton Irving Ward – (still living)

One unique feature of this story is that few churches of any denomination, particularly Baptists, have a deacon’s cane.  In the Church of England tradition there were historically two wands—the Rector’s warden’s wand, and the People’s warden’s wand. The former has a mitre as the symbol, and the latter usually a simple unadorned Latin cross or crown. The two examples below are the two wands that appear in the centre aisle of St. Clement’s Anglican Church in Toronto. The role of the early warden was to keep order in the church and in the churchyard by the use of his pole with the specified finial atop. It was used during the service to wake people who had dozed off to netherland during interminably long sermons. An additional prodder with a feather atop was used to wake any lady who had obviously momentarily entered the afterlife. In order these wands are [featured below]:

Rector’s Warden’s wand

People’s Warden’s wand

Ladies’ wand


In Kingston Baptist Church, the Deacon’s cane, the equivalent of the warden’s wand, was purely ceremonial and rarely seen.  Indeed, it was more an archival relic than an integral part of worship. This particular cane is documented in Family Tree 1818—1963:  Captain Charles Holmes 1818–1909 by Esther Holmes, Saskatoon, SK. She writes:

Charles Holmes, as Deacon of this Baptist Church at Kingston, possessed the “Deacon’s Cane” (an honour held by senior Deacons) for quite a number of years.  After his death [1909], it passed out of the family, to Deacons Ward, then Fraser, then to Charles Holmes’ sons William till his death, then to James, who possessed it till moving away to Freetown. The Holmes family can be justly proud of the fact that the father and his two sons, as Senior Deacons, all possessed the “Deacon’s Cane”.

The remainder of the story comes from pieces of information I gathered after laborious hours of searching and questioning people who might have known the story, and attempting to find people who once lived in the area and might have been cognizant of details others had forgotten, and because of my age at the time, I had never known.

Kingston Baptist Church – Photo credit: Donald E. Holmes

The first deacon of the Church, Captain Charles Holmes, my great-great-grandfather, was in possession of a cane which he took to the Island from England when he was in command of the first regiment to occupy Wellington Barracks in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He carried this cane with him most of the time, and Mrs. Susan Newson recalled seeing Grandfather Holmes (as he was known to her and many other people), walking up the hill with the cane. At the time of his death, this cane was passed out of the Holmes family as stated above by Esther Holmes. When James went to live in Freetown, he gave the cane to Stephen Ackland in whose house I found the cane. Strangely, none of Stephen’s four daughters recalled their father possessing such a cane. There was great mystery surrounding the whereabouts of the cane and many of the older people had actually heard of it at one time or another, but none could describe it accurately in detail nor tell me where it was.

One evening I went on a search and after many attempts stumbled into the correct place:  the house of one of the daughters of Mr. Ackland. Elynor, Mrs. Grant Willis, told me there was a cane lying in one of the old trunks belonging to her father which had never been opened since his death in 1973. She showed me the cane, and from the scattered clues I already had about it, I figured this had to be the one, that cane that had been considered lost for so many years. In reality, the cane was never lost, but its tradition had died out with James Holmes’ move from Hampshire to Freetown, PEI, in the early 1920s. James had the distinction of being a deacon in the North River-Kingston and Freetown-Bedeque Baptist Churches for 65 years.

James Holmes had given the cane to Stephen Ackland, but Mr. Ackland chose not to carry the cane to church with him on all occasions as the former deacons had done to symbolize both their authority and friendship. The cane had become purely ornamental; it still is. It is made of cherry wood, likely the trunk of a very young cherry tree because of the evenness of the entire stick, and the top of the cane is carved in teak. The finial, carved by hand of course, has a dog’s head with two amber eyes, wooden ears, and a brass collar around its neck. The dog’s head signified that man’s best friend was his dog; the brass collar signified the eternal friendship of the ring. As strange as the story about this cane is, and the fact that none of the Ackland girls (Grace Murray, Hilda Murray, Gertrude Willis, nor Elynor Willis), knew anything about it, it is even more odd that Stephen’s wife, Ellen, did not mention it to any of her children. She was a very active church member and knew about this cane. Most peculiarly of all is the fact that she never had the cane passed on to the next senior deacon in line for it.

Senior Deacon Stephen Ackland (centre) with cane – 1958

In the photo (above) the Senior Deacon, Stephen Ackland (85 years old), holds the cane as he stands in Long Creek Baptist Church beside the Baptist minister, Rev. Owen D. Cochran and Dr. Rowena Cochran, who is holding flowers, on June 29, 1958, at their retirement from the five-point North River pastoral charge.

Deacon Burgess Newson, who was ninety-four at the time I interviewed him told me the following anecdote: “Steve [Ackland] and I were nominated for Deaconship at the same time, and he won by two votes. He got the cane, and I guess likely I’m next in line”.

Burgess Newson was elected deacon at a later date and in 1971, when this account was written, he was indeed the senior of the three deacons.

Senior Deacon Burgess Newson with cane 1971

At the 110th Anniversary service of Kingston Baptist Church, on September 5, 1971, the cane was ceremoniously presented by the Rev. Arthur Willis to Deacon Burgess Newson (pictured here). Deacon Newson offered prayer before the completely filled sanctuary.

The cane, handed from one generation to the succeeding one of senior deacons is emblematic of the honour of being senior deacon. Seniority is determined by date of appointment to the position of deacon, and secondly, according to age, the older appointee taking the honour if two or more were appointed at the same time. Parker Newson and Milton Ward being the other two in line for the cane respectively, but neither one ever had possession of it.

It has been 45 years since that interview.  I have no idea where the cane may be today.  Do you know where it is?


Editor’s Notes:

  • An earlier story written by Donald E. Holmes, Indignant Silence – A Place for Public Worship, was published on this site here.
  • If anyone knows where the cane is now, they can email me, vivian@eastlink.ca and I will pass your message on to Donald Holmes.

Clyde River Baptist Church

The Clyde River United Baptist Church Womens’ Missionary Society is having their Annual Thank Offering Service, Sunday, Sept. 23 at 7:00 pm. Special guest speakers will be from the Baptist mission trip to Guatemala. For more information, call Jo-Ann at 902-675-4335. Light refreshments will be served afterwards.

Codford, January 20th, 1916 – (Letter #10)

Dear Brother;

Jack and B, just a few lines to let you know I am well as this leaves me at present hoping this will find you all same. Well, Jack, all we are doing is moving about, as we have fever in about all the camps in Codford. We have moved five times so far and I head tonight. We are going to move again next week. Well, we have had pretty fair weather the past week, but, Jack, we have had some awful rain here, in fact, it rains now every day for about an hour. There is no wonder we have so much sickness and fever. I don’t know how I escape. I have some bad colds. I am having a lot of trouble with my left eye. It is caused by the cold. It is a hard sight sometimes, but it don’t bother my sight any.

Well, Jack, how is the war going along? We don’t know anything about it here. We might as well be in the woods a thousand miles for all that we don’t know that there is a war.

Well, Jack, I have not had a letter from you now for 7 weeks. I wrote to the post office in Southport, so you can see what they say on this slip. I never got the parcels that Mother and Fran sent to me. There is no use sending me anything without registering it, as there are some awful damn thieves over here. They won’t take anything they can’t carry.

Well, Jack, every time we move, it is worse. In this camp, we can’t get enough to keep a rabbit alive. I went to the major yesterday and put in a complaint for our hut. And he went to the Brigadier and there was hell to pay today in the cookhouse, so I don’t know yet if it will be any better or not. If not, I think I will jump it, if they don’t send me right to the front. We are all ready to go. I am on another gun. It is called the Lewis. It is a lighter one and is easier to work. I passed first class in the Maxim Gun. There is a lot to learn on what you have to know.

Well, are you doing anything this winter? Hope you are. Is Sam working? I hear Eldon is married. I think I will get married myself. I would if I could get out of here, but not churched. But I think we are all quite harmless on the grub we are getting. When you write, give me all the news. I think I will be OK if I can kick clear of the fever. It is a hell of a thing. It is called Spotted Fever and also Pneumonia and, believe me, Jack, you get pretty poor care, as there is so many here.

Will close for this time. Hoping to hear from you all soon. Give my love to all. Tell B to put in a good word for me in her prayers, as I think I will need it. Give Ted & Mary lots of kisses and Eugene and Lillian. I wonder if I will ever see them again on this little earth of ours, but I don’t think I will. I am more scared of this fever than bullets. I am not down hearted. They can kill me but not scare me.

Remember me to Flo, Same and Dave Ross. How is Dave? Tell him to drop me a line when he gets time. Will close with love and best regards to you all. I hope I will hear from you before I leave here.

Goodbye, Lee

Editor’s Note:

  • It was determined that Spotted Fever during WW1 was Meningitis. Men had to sleep in overcrowded huts with little heating or ventilation, and those nearer a heat source were at higher risk.