Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Editor’s Note: The Guardian will run a special feature on Saturday, November 10th on WW1. Included will be a feature on our series, “Letters from the Great War”. Make sure to check it out.

Devonport, 5 Sandringham Street, Scarborough, England, June 3rd, 1918 (Letter #29) 

Dear Brother;

Your most welcome letter received a few days ago, the registered one, I mean. Glad to hear you are all well and I do hope Teddy is alright by this time. Well, you can see by this letter they are still keeping me on the move. I am now in the town from where I sailed for Egypt and I do not like it. It is too hard for me. We are supposed to be getting hospital training, but it is a damn job, carrying beds out of the wards with the patient in them. It is too heavy for me. I refused to do any more today. I am willing to do it, but I can’t. I have been excused all stretcher drills and marching by four doctors in the training battalion in Blackpool and, also, all the lifting in my old unit and I am damn sure I won’t do it here.

Well, I was over to Plymouth the other evening and I ran into two brothers from Charlottetown, PEI. They know us. They have folks in Cornwall and Nine Mile Creek, so we had a good time. They came over here on a cable ship from Halifax. They are waiting for a boat back. I am only 15 minutes walk from Plymouth. There are lots of Yankee sailors here, lots of them from Boston. Your dollar came in very handy for grub. I got 4 shillings and 2 pence for it, that is full value. I have not had a drink for 8 months, can’t afford it, it takes all I can get hold of to buy something to eat as we do not get it any other way. It is wicked here and it is damn little we get.

I am sure of getting your letters now, as long as you send them to the Scarborough address. Aunt Maggie sent me a parcel and a letter. I got the letter but the parcel she sent to the Lancaster Fusiliers unit, so I know they pinched it. Did you ever get the watch back you sent me?

Well, I do not know what to think of this war. It looks kind of bad now on the western front. I wish to God it was over. I am damn fed up. I expect to be in France or some other front in about 6 to 8 weeks time. I would rather be out at the front than be messed about here.

Well, I will have to come to a close for this time. Give my love to all and lots of xxx to Ted and Mary and a thousand thanks for the $. Remember me to Herb Hatch and old Klein. Tell him we got Jerusalem for the Jews and that I done my bit in getting it for them, so they can all go there after the war is over in 1928. What has become of Dave Ross? I never hear tell of him.

Goodbye with lots of love and best wishes from Lee.

Editor’s Note:

  • The US began sending over troops in the Spring of 1918, at an estimated rate of 10,000 per day. This was a tremendous boost to the Allies and helped to reinvigorate the tired soldiers.

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Editor’s note: CBC Radio Mainstreet (FM 96.1) did a follow-up interview with me to talk about our series “Letters from the Great War”. The segment will air on Friday, November 9th, sometime between 4-6 pm. Our history committee engaged Alan Buchanan to voice all 32 letters and one of these will be featured as part of the interview. Make sure to listen in.

Blackpool, England, March 26, 1918 – Letter #28 

Dear Brother;

Jack, just a few lines in answer to your most welcome letter received March 23rd. Pleased to hear you are all well, but I am awful sorry to hear about Mr. MacDonald’s sudden death. It was the first I heard about it. That is the first letter I had from you since last May.

Well, Jack, I am still alive and able to move as you or Flo said. It was my mother’s prayer that saved me. I did not ever think for a minute that I would be alive to tell you that I was in France the second time, as I was in the worst of it 36 hours from the time I left England and, believe me, it was hell and I have been through hell.

I am in Blackpool now, came here yesterday, transferred to the R.A.M.C., so you can see for yourself, I am not much more good when I am no more good for infantry, but I would not be surprised to be in France again within another month. I know I won’t like this. I would rather be fighting than taking care of the wounded, but we can’t suit ourselves in the army. If I go again, it will be my last. I won’t try to go through what I haven’t done as they have not given me a very square deal, as I have been at it for nearly three years without a leave. I only had 10 days out of hospital and I was back again within 10 days in France.

Now, Jack, I want you to write this address and they will send them on to me as God only knows where because I do not. Well, I am just thinking as I am writing this letter, will I ever see Boston and you all again. If I have to go again, I won’t. But nevermind, it is all in a lifetime. I would like to be able to sit down and have a good talk with you all and I could tell you what kind of damn skunks we are fighting – that would make you open your eyes. Thank God, you have not gone through it and if you don’t, I will for you.

Give my best respects to Herb Hatch and Klein. I guess they are only friends I have, so don’t ever worry over me. When you have time, drop me a line. As always, I like to get a letter.

Love and xxx for Ted and Mary.

Your brother, Lee.

Editor’s note: 

  • Lee likely fought in the Spring Offensive, one of the fiercest and desperate battles of the War, which took place at the Western Front. The Germans realized it was their last chance to win this war before the Americans fully deployed their resources. The Germans also had the advantage of extra soldiers that had been previously fighting in Russia.
  • R.A.M.C. – Royal Army Medical Corps – they operated the army’s medical units.
  • Mr. MacDonald was Jack’s father-in-law, Beatrice’s father. Mr. MacDonald ran the Charlottetown Water Works. These are the same MacDonald’s as Lucy Maud Montgomery’s husband Ewen.

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England, August 9th, 1917 (Letter #27) 

Dear Brother – Jack & B

Just a few lines to let you know I am getting along pretty well. Hoping this will find you all in the pink. Well, I am out of hospital again and back to duty but still in England. I am now with the 5th Reserve, Lancaster Fusiliers in Scarborough. It is on the east coast, the first place the Germans raided. I guess you remember it. I know I do and I am in it now, but it is better than France. I expect to go back anytime now. My knee is as well now as it ever will be, but it is awful hard to march as my knee is weak, but I have to go back just the same.

I have had a very good time so far since I came to England but I have not had a letter from you or from home for four months. I do not know whether you are all dead or alive, would like to hear from you all once more and I would also like to know when the war is going to end. I am fed up with it, wish Uncle Sam would hurry up with about five million men and get them over here and wipe the damn Germans off the face of the Earth.

Well, Jack, are you working all the time and how is business in Boston? Does it make much difference since they started into the war? Now be sure and write soon and give me all the news. Remember me to Florrie and Sam and all the children, not forgetting Ted and Mary.

With lots of love for all,
Your brother, Lee

P.S. This address will get me alright now. If I have to go to France before I get an answer, they will follow me alright. Lee

#281426 Pt. Lee G. Darrach, 5th Reserve Lancaster Fusiliers, D. Coy, Racecourse Camp, Scarborough

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Uplyme, Devon, England, July 6th, 1917 (Letter #26) 

Dear Brother;

Just a few lines to let you know I am getting along fine. I am leaving hospital one week from today and going on sick leave. I don’t know how long they will give me but I will be at our depot for a while before I go back, God only knows what regiment I will get back to. They can send me to any Battalion now after coming out of hospital. I am going to try to get out of the infantry, as I can’t do any more marching. The doctor told me I would always have a bad knee.

Well, this is a lovely place here but is awful lonesome here for me. I could stay another month if I wanted to. We get plenty of good grub and we have to be in bed at 8 o’clock. The girls are very scarce around here. I will have to get out. I am going to London from here for a few days and then to Manchester.

Well, I don’t know when this war is going to be over. I am damn well fed up with it, but I suppose I will have to go back again soon to France and, believe me, I have seen enough of France. There are too many iron foundries flying through the air to suit me.

Well, I have no news so will have to come to a close for this time. Give my love and best regards to Flo, Sam and kids, Mary and Teddy and all. Don’t write until I can give you an address, so I can get your letters.

Goodby with love and best wishes, from your brother, Lee


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Exeter, England – June 25th, 1917 – (Letter #25)

Dear Brother;

Just a few lines to let you know I am in England in hospital in Exeter. Is in the South of England. I was blown up with a high explosive, but thank God, I did get not get any of the shell. It shook me up pretty bad. I did not know how bad it was hurt for a while, but I got a bad knee out of it. I was sent down to the base in France and sent to First American Hospital, so you know I was alright then. To make it better, the major’s name was Darrach. He is from N.Y. and he is a fine man. He and I are great pals. He took me in to his ward and he would not allow any other doctor but himself to look after me and he took the best of care of me. He is the head doctor of the hospital and, if I ever go back, I’ve got to go to N.Y. and see him.

Well, Jack, they have lots of rich man’s sons as orderlies. There is one of the Drapers from Hopedale and Judge? (forgot his name) from N.Y, his son. They are doing their bit, in fact, they are all college men and the sisters are fine. They are out of the Presbyterian Hospital in N.Y. There is a Sister MacDonald from Summerside and a couple more from Canada. It is very quiet where I am now, very strict. I am hoping to get up soon on sticks.

My address is #3949 Private Lee G. Darrach, 1/7 Lancaster F. No. 1 Auxiliary Hospital, Exeter, Devon, England. That will get me for a while. Give my best wishes to all – Ted and Mary, Flo, kids and Sam and the whole bunch.

From, Lee

Editor’s Note:

  • Based on the dates of the letters leading up to and including this one, Lee was likely fighting in the Battle of Arras when he was wounded. The Battle of Vimy Ridge ran from April 9th to 12th and was part of the Battle of Arras which extended from April 9th to May 16th. His letters indicate he was fighting in France from March 10th on up until the time he was wounded.
  • First American Hospital was in Paris, France.
  • The Sister MacDonald that he is referring to is Beatrice MacDonald from North Bedeque. She left PEI for New York to advance her education. When the war began, she joined the effort. Beatrice is the most decorated nurse of WW1, the most prestigious award being a Purple Heart. The Guardian ran a story about her, click here. To learn more about PEI Nurses in WW1, we recommend reading Katherine Dewar’s book, Those Splendid Girls: The Heroic Service of Prince Edward Island Nurses in the Great War.

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France – April 28th, 1917 (Letter #24)

Dear Brother;

Just a few lines to let you know I am well. Hoping this will find you all the same. I have not had a letter from you since I came to France, but I have written every week. Hope you are getting them alright. I know Mother doesn’t get half my letters I write, as I can tell by the letters I get from home. My address in now 1/7 Lancaster Fusiliers, C.Coy, B.E. Force ℅ G.P.O. London attached to #427 Field Coy (E.L.) Royal Engineers.

Well, I bet you are pleased that old Wilson did take a tumble and came into the war. Give me all the news when you write. I bet there is some excitement around Boston. I see by the papers they are sending troops over here. Well, I think it will shorten the war.

Things are very lively on this front but it is all one sided and that is our side. I hope they will drive them all straight to hell, but I don’t think the devil will have them. Do you ever hear from Vernon MacLeod? I wish I had his address. He might be right handy for all I know. When I get his address, I will write to him. I have seen quite a few Canadians, but no one I know yet.

Well, how is work this Spring in Boston? Are you kept busy all the time and is Sam working all the time?  I wonder how poor Eldon is getting along. I hear he had to go to Halifax. I don’t see why they keep him with such a bad heart. Well, we are having very good weather at present and I hope it will keep so. We did have awful rotten weather ever since we came to France until last week. Well, there is always something to do on this front.

Well, I am with the Engineers at present and there is plenty of hard work for all of us all, but I would like to drop in and have a good feed with you. I think I could stand it all right. Remember me to Herb Hatch and all the boys. I bet Teddy is a big boy now. Lots of love and xxx for Mary and Ted. Remember me to Flo, Sam and kids.

With love and best wishes from your brother, Lee.

Editor’s Note: The US remained out of the war as long as they could. Politically, they took a position of neutrality; however, they were helping to finance both Britain and France in their war efforts. Americans with British ancestry had been keen from the beginning to have US join the war, but others who were predominantly Democrats were dead against it. There were two developments that changed that balance further to the earlier sinking of the passenger liner RMS Lusitania in 1914. In 1917, Germany decided, in an effort to finally win the long war, to starve out Britain by blocking merchant ships reaching its shores by declaring “unrestricted submarine warfare”. The US also intercepted a telegram where Germany offered to assist Mexico in regaining the territories, now part of the US, they has lost in the Mexican-American war. The US declared war against Germany in April 1917 and later in December against Austria and Hungary. Germany calculated the US would take some time to be ready to fight a war, and, by that time, it would be over.

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France – April 22nd, 1917 – (Letter #23)

Dear Brother;

Just a line. As you know, I have been carrying this letter for a long time, but I am sending it to England tomorrow morning. We are having an awful hard time. I would give up my life for a feed. Money’s no good here. Jack, I wish you were handy, so I could get some bread from you. We have been stuck into it damn hard of late, but we have been pretty lucky. We lost about 54, so that is not bad, but your old humble is still on top yet, but I don’t think it will be for long. Your chances where I am is about as good as a snowball has of lasting five minutes in hell. Give my love to all. I don’t get much chance for writing.

Good bye, with love and best wishes,

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