Archive for the ‘The Great War’ Category

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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France – March 18, 1917 – (Letter #22) 

Dear Brother Jack & B;

Just a few lines to let you know I am in the pink. Hoping this will find you all the same. I am still on top, but this is a hot show and we are giving them their money’s worth and some change. I tell you, Jack, stick up for the Turks. They will fight square. They are sports. I will give the devil his dues, but the damn German will not. I don’t think they know how to fight square. It is quite a change for us fellows here. We had open fighting in Egypt, but it is trench warfare here. We can shift them.

It is iron foundries flying here. It is marvelous how on earth a human being can live through it. We can put it all over them in bombardment. I don’t see how in hell they stick to it, but, Jack, the mud is my worst enemy here – up to your armpits. When you get stuck, you are in for it. We had one of the boys stuck in it for 27 hours last week – could not get him out with rope. All we could do is give him plenty of rum and a sand bag to rest his head on. Of course, conditions here won’t allow you to do what you would do if you were stuck in the mud in Boston. It cost one life to save this boy. We had to do it in the open and a sniper got one of us. I am on the Somme front and there are worse places than where we are. I am going to send this letter to England with one of the boys, as a letter like this would cost me 10 years in prison or up against a brick wall. They watch you.

Send me a watch. Ask Florrie to chip in with you. It is hell on sentry going without a watch and especially when I am out on night patrol around the German trenches. It is to know the time to get back before daylight. There is not three watches in the company. We can’t buy nothing, not even bread. I think damn little of some of the French. You can’t get nothing out of them, and when you steal, they report you to the officers. I am up for stealing straw, about 200 of us. It is hard sleeping in mud about six inches deep, so we pinched the straw. I don’t know yet how we will come out of it. It is better in the front line trenches than back in the rear and you are safer, too. I am not with the machine gunners now. I am with the Battalion.

My address is 17 Lancashire Fusiliers, C. Coy. B.E.F. ℅ G.P.O. London, the same as my first address only B.E.F. I hope you get this letter alright and I hope you won’t be mad for asking for another watch. You can see I don’t expect to get knocked out. Give my best regards to Sam and Florie and kids. Teddy and Mary, not forgetting yourself and B. Write me a nice long letter like the last one. Will close with best wishes and love to all.

From your brother,

P.S. Remember me to all the boys. 

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France – March 10th, 1917 – (Letter #21) 

Dear Brother;

Jack and B, your most welcome letter received in Egypt some few weeks ago and was pleased to hear you are all in the pink as this leaves me at present. I would have written sooner only it was not possible as we were on the move. We are all in France now, Jack, with the big push where the iron founders are always flying over your head, and sometimes too low to suit the Tommies. There is more lead and iron flying around here in five minutes than there is in Boston. It is quite cold here. We feel it awful after coming out of a hot country.

When we landed here, there was snow on the ground, but I would rather be here than in Egypt. You can get your breath here. I had enough of Egypt and sand. You asked me if there were any Canadians with me. There are two from Nova Scotia. One used to work on an ice team in Forest Hills. We are billeted in barns or any place we can get shelter. Of course, it is not hotel conditions, but we can stand it. The mud is awful here, right up to your ass. The next billet to me are two kiddies. Their mother and father were killed when the huns went through here, but they will never go through again.

I am with the Battalion now, so my address will be 1/7 Lancashire Fusiliers. C Coy. B.E.F., care of G.P.O. London.

Well, I will have to come to a close for this time. Write soon. I may be on toe or maybe not, as this is a bad show. Remember me to Sam and Flo and kiddies. I will write to them when I get a chance.

Goodbye, with lots of love and best wishes from your brother Lee.


Heard from home and Eldon is home, glad to hear it. He got clear of this hell. Never mind, I will have my Christmas dinner with you next Christmas.

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Egypt – October 4th, 1916 – (Letter #20)

Dear Brother;

Jack and B, just a few lines to let you know I am in the pink. Hoping you are all the same. I have been just wondering if you got my last letter, the one with the first letter I wrote to you. Well, we are having it a little cooler here at present and the nights are very cool. I am still on the desert but everything is quiet here at present. Did Flo get my photos I sent her? They aren’t very good but the best I can get here. I was very much surprised to hear Eldon was in England. I do wish I could see him but I am a long way from him. I suppose he will be in France next. I wrote to him but got no answer, yet it is about time now.

I had a letter from home a couple of weeks ago and they are all well. What do you think about the war? When do you think it will end? What has the big fellow to say about it now, I mean Albert MacKinnon. I would like to have him out here for a while. He would find out that he was living. I heard that Annie was home, would have loved to see her. I suppose Flo is back. Did B have a good time at the Beach? I bet Ted did and Mary.

Well, Jack, I have no news, so will have to come to a close. Glad to hear you are having steady work. Is Bates still mayor of Quincy? I hear Dave Ross is running a shop of his own, is that right? Give my love and best regards to all and lots of xxxx for Mary and Ted.

Sorry to hear about Baby Hatch being drowned – remember me to Herb – tell him I’ll get a few extra Turks for him.

From, Lee

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Egypt – August 28th, 1916 – (Letter #19) 

Dear Brother;

Just a few lines to let you know I am in the pink. Hoping this will find you all the same. Well things are very quiet here at the present. I am sending this letter back to you again as it has done some travelling, so I will send it again. This is a cut out of the English papers about our time in Egypt. See what you think of it. I never got a letter from home, only one they registered to me. I am not with the Battalion. My address now is #3949 Private Lee G. Darrach, 125 Brigade, Machine Gun Co., #3 section, 42 Division, E.E. Force, ℅ G.P.O. London.

I suppose B is back by this time. Glad to hear you have steady work, hope it will keep up. Is Sam working all the time? I know we got a steady job here. Well, I have not news that would interest you, so will close for this time. With love and xxx for the kiddies and all.

From your brother, Lee

Editor’s Note:

Lee’s time in Egypt which he was not able to speak about in the past few letters was the Egyptian Expeditionary Forces’ involvement in the Battle of Romani. In this letter, he sent his brother a newspaper clipping that appeared on the front page of the British paper, The Daily News & Reader. The story offers a full account from a journalist who was present near the Battle. The Battle of Romani was fought alongside the ANZAC Mounted Division (Australia-New Zealand Army Corps) against the Ottoman and German forces to protect the Suez Canal. Sir Archibald Murray was the British commander and chief. The British/ANZAC forces intercepted the enemy 23 miles from the Canal and were successful in pushing them back a further 18 miles. The Suez Canal was not closed to traffic at any time during this battle. Also, after the great losses ANZAC suffered in Gallipoli/Dardanelles Campaign (Feb 17, 1915 -Jan 9, 1916), this was an important victory.

Read full newspaper clipping included with Lee’s letter here – Battle of Romani – Newspaper Article

To learn more about Australia and New Zealand’s participation in this battle, click on ANZAC historical link here.

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Somewhere in Egypt/Middle East – August 6th, 1916 – (Letter #18) 

Dear Brother;

Your most welcome letter received. Glad to hear you are all well, as this leaves me at present. I got that letter back that I had written to you. The censor got them mixed up. Mine went to England and my address was written on it, so I got it back and the letter is in my kit bag. I don’t know where that is at present so can’t send you the address this time, but will try and do later on.

Well, Jack, we had something doing the past ten days, but we are back to the base now. We gave Jonnie Turk a run for his money and believe me they can run, too. We all came out of it lucky, but it was a hard march across the desert after them, as it is awful hot here. I have not been in a town since I landed here, as I would like to send you all a souvenir, but I can’t get nothing and this is the last sheet of writing paper. Well, I can tell you they are a hot lot of prisoners that was taken in this time. They are in rags. I have not seen any with shoes on yet. It is the case, I guess, where they have to fight, as they got German officers – it is do or die with them. They are damn glad to be taken.

I wish I had my way. I would not take a German prisoner on my life. They are getting their own medicine back now. I would hate to be in their shoes. The Canadians are doing good work I hear, but they are all doing the same. We are not being overfed here, but it is pretty hard to get it where we are at present. I don’t think you would know me at present as I am so thin. But I feel fine, never felt any better in my life. Will get my photo taken if I ever get to a place and send you one.

Remember me to Sam, Flo and kids. That is right. Kill Albert MacKinnon if you can’t make a Britisher out of him. Is he ashamed of the flag he was born under? I would like to talk to him for five minutes.

My address is 3949 Private Lee G. Darrach, #3 Section, M.G.C. #125 Brigade, E.E. Force, ℅ G.P.O. London. The old address goes to the Battalion and they might lay there for months now. I hope to hear from you often. Give my love and best regards to all, Mary and Ted, not forgetting yourself and B.

From your brother, Lee

P.S. Give my address to Eldon, as I would like to hear from him.

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Somewhere in Egypt/Middle East – August 2, 1916 – (Letter #17)

Dear Brother;

Jack, just a few lines to let you know I am in the pink. Hoping this finds you all the same. I have written a dozen letters since I came here and got three returned to me. I would like to know if you are getting any of them, as the ones that came back were addressed alright.

It is very hot here, but the nights are cool. Did Flo and kids go home this summer? I heard you were not going. I wish I was, but I don’t think this can last much longer or I hope not. I heard Eldon was training in Upper Canada. Wish I could get his address.

My address is 3949 Private Lee G. Darrach, C. Coy, 1/7 Lancaster F., E.E. Force ℅ G.P.O. London. I hope you get this letter alright. Remember me to Sam and Flo and kids, also Teddy and Mary. With love and best wishes for all.

I remain your brother, Lee

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Somewhere in Egypt/Middle East – June 27, 1916 – (Letter #16) 

Dear Brother;

Just a few lines to let you know I am in the pink. Hoping this will find you the same. It is very hot here at present, but the nights are cool, so it is not too bad. Do you ever hear from Vernon MacLeod? Is he still in France or is he living? Did you answer my last letter that you got from me in Milford. If you did, I never got it. I got one from Mother. It was sent on to me.

Do you get steady work now? I know I don’t have to worry about losing my job. Do you think it will last much longer? I hope not. It was too bad about Lord Kitchener’s ship going down. What do you think about it in Boston? Send me some papers and put a sheet of fine emery paper in them as I want it for my bayonet. Do not forget.

I will have to come to a close for this time. Hoping to hear from you soon. Give Mary and Teddy a kiss for me. Did B go home this Summer? So, goodbye for this time.

From your brother, Lee

Editor’s Note:

  • Lord Kitchener was the British Secretary of State for War during WW1. He predicted a long war and organized a large British volunteer army. On June 5th, 1916, Kitchener was on his way to Russia to discuss munition and financial challenges when his ship, HMS Hampshire, was struck by a German mine off the west coast of the Orkney Islands in Scotland. They had taken a different route than originally planned. Some suggest it was because of bad weather and others suggest it was to throw off anyone considering an attack. Two destroyers had accompanied the ship, but they were falling behind and instructed to not continue. It was shortly after that the ship stuck a German mine. Kitchener was among 737 who died. This stuck fear in the British. They thought they would now lose the war. In the years since, there have been conspiracy theories surrounding his death. Kitchener, Ontario, is named after Lord Kitchener.

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Somewhere in Egypt – May 17th, 1916 – (Letter #14)

Dear Brother;

Just a few lines to let you know I am in the pink. Hoping this will find you all the same. It is very hot here but the night is fine and cool. I tell you it is quite a change from Boston in every way. Are you going home this summer? I don’t think I will without they give me nine month’s leave and the walking is good. Are you still with Bates? I hear he is mayor of Quincy. I bet he will make some of the Faxon tribe toe the mark.

Well dear brother, you will have to excuse my short letter, as we cannot tell where we are or anything concerning the army. Give my love to Flo, Sam and kids, not forgetting Mary and Teddy. With love and best wishes for you all.

From your brother, Lee

Editor’s Notes:

  • Many Islanders who headed for Boston during those years resided in the Quincy which is a Southern suburb of metropolitan Boston.

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