Letters from our Soldier Boys
The Leader-Mail, Granby, 11 October 1918
From Cecil Meyer
Just a few lines to let you know that I am still in the ring. I am writing this by candlelight in an old barn, sprawled out flat on the floor. No doubt you've heard of the Canadians good work on August 8th and 9th, and now you are reading of our good work on 2nd Sept.
Down south on the former drive we advanced about 9 miles and on this latest, seven miles. First our battalion went into the line on August 30th and we went over the top early in the morning at 5 a.m. Later the same day we went over again at 4 p.m. In two days we took all of Fritz's strong points and straightened the line for the big kick off which took place on the 2nd Sept.
For this work (although the cost was pretty heavy) Sir Douglas Haig congratulated us highly for straightening out the line and reducing the strong points for the big push. Of course a good number of our fellows were killed and wounded, but the enemy's losses must have far exceeded ours, exclusive of the prisoners we took. Open warfare is a very exciting sport, believe me.
Fritz fights a strong rear guard action, but we are the guys to put him to the fight and keep him on the run.
We had two tanks with us (this was three days later) the most of the way, and for artillery fire—well, hell was let loose. It was terrible.
It was great sport taking prisoners and at the beginning of the battle they came in in streams. I can't begin to tell you the whole story of the battle in this letter but this, together with what you've read in the papers will give you some idea of what your boy has been through.
For a fool stunt I pulled off on the 2nd I have been promoted and may hear more from it later. While out in no man's land I volunteered to deliver a message asking for more machine gun fire at a certain point, and got away with it alive. Our officer asked for a volunteer and it was several minutes before anyone would speak and really the hail of machine gun fire and bursting shells was enough to make anyone reluctant to leave our nice cosy shell hole that we occupied for the moment. Anyway, I guess I got hot-headed, so out I rushed back to our own lines and through some very hot fire from the Germans, and made it alright. When I arrived back to my shall hole I found my officer had been killed and a number of the poor fellows who had been with him had been wounded. I had nothing else to do but take cover myself and think things over, for two or three snipers had seen me make the run and were hot after me. I stayed with my officer about an hour, and while there collected his personal effects. That night, I with four men, under cover of the darkness, got his body and took it to battalion headquarters for burial.
Some of these days I may be able to tell you some hair-raising stories of my experiences. Nothing shocks me these days. What I have seen and gone through would make you shiver if you knew, but I hardly think you'll ever want to know the worst.
This last trip up the line was pretty hot and we lost quite a number of officers and men, but my luck was dead against me for a Blighty.
Here's a newspaper extract I picked up. "When the Canadian and British went into action on Monday (Sept. 2nd) morning, they were supported by what is said to be the greatest artillery barrage of the war. The start was at 5 a.m. and by 6 a.m. the enemy line was passed at several points." That is the day we made seven miles.
Here is what the 3rd Battalion (mine) was up against:— "Canadian Troops showed the greatest spirit and courage in storming the Drocourt-Queant lines, which had been perfected by the enemy during the past 18 months and which provided a most formidable obstacle furnished with every device of modern engineering. The enemy had reinforced his defences here in such a degree that on a front of 8,000 yards no fewer than 11 German Divisions were identified.
France, September 11th
My Dear Father:—
Am writing just a few lines to catch to-day's post.
Have received your parcel, it was a dandy. Please keep up your good work, for home-made cooking is a great treat these days in the line. Tea and sugar, socks, a cake (cookies take too much room), a tin of maple butter and a little chocolate will be what I need and will be greatly appreciated.
Had a very hot time this time, on August 30th and September 2nd. We straightened out a very strong point. We pushed into Fritz's lines over seven miles.
I have been promoted Lance Corporal, and in charge of a section in the 4th Platoon. This is only a start but you just watch me climb!
Have heard that I will soon be taking over a job as Company Clerk. The present Company Clerk is figuring on going to England. It will not exactly be bomb proof, but it saves a good number of trips over the line.
Don't take too much stock in this for nothing is definite yet. My Company Officer was speaking to me yesterday and also the Clerk himself. They can't give me anything definite. He is pretty sure of going away and the officer was just finding out things.
I hope you can read this writing, I have only got a stub of a pencil.
Renmember me to the boys and tell them I am in all these big scraps these days. Love to all, as ever, your loving son,
P.S.—Have forgotten to mention that I saw Percy when coming out of the line last week. We were both terrible looking sights, he had a heavy moustache and I had a beard a foot long, and were dead tired. He was with his tractor hauling a heavy siege gun from the front and our battalion was coming out badly in need of a rest. Could not stop to talk, but both had a hearty handshake and were very glad to see each other. —Cecil