To St. Williams' Women's
Dear Friends:--A most pleasant surprise came to me the other
evening, when the orderly corporal handed over to me your generous
What a jolly time Willie
Green of Langton and I had, for Willie is all of old C Company I
have left with me now, and he worries for fear he will be drafted
away again and not have any chums from Norfolk.
We got the package open at
last and counted the pile of socks and comforts. We had 16 pairs
and each had a comfort and some a pair of shoe laces (very much
appreciated). I picked up the sack and began to wander over the camp
trying to find as many from C Company, 133rd Battalion, as possible,
for I knew what it would mean to them more than the others.
You cannot imagine the big
smile. Something from home -- Norfolk. Girls knitted those socks and
comforts, and, best of all, Norfolk's women had remembered!
I did manage to keep a pair
for myself and the comfort was hemmed with golden silk, and the tops
of the socks had red, white and blue stripes. You bet I was selfish.
Couldn't help it; I wanted that pair.
This is my first letter
beyond those to my own people I have written since leaving Camp
Norfolk's Own is no more. It hit me hard. I was so proud of
my ballation. But the spirit of Norfolk is with us and even though
scattered all through the Canadian divisions, Norfolk's sons will go
through. Yes, and hold their own. This is the world's greatest war.
It is the biggest thing that has ever happened since the great
flood. We want to be in it. We are in it.
I have often wondered what
will be the situation in Norfolk when peace is declared. Before Vimy
Ridge I visited the 14th Canadians and old C Company was again in
solemn council assembled. Now my old comrades are gone, John
Crearer [sic], Corp.
Nethercott, Sergeant Knowles, who was so badly wounded.
Many things were discussed
and one was what we could all do for Scotland. The "Jocks"
as they are lovingly called, have fought shoulder to shoulder with
us, even as their Irish cousins. When conscription came, they had to
send some ploughmen back. Now there are many children in both
Scotland and Ireland who have lost both fathers and brothers. There
is no one to care for them now. England is well organized in this
The Scotch are as proud as
they are brave and true-hearted. They will struggle along somehow
but why not get some of these children out to Norfolk?
There are many farms in
Norfolk in need of a boy or girl who could bring up the cows and
gather the eggs, and save the housewife many a step. By and by, with the strength
of growing years, they will prove invaluable.
Their fathers have
saved Canada to us with their blood. For those who love children,
who love their cheery presence, there are little arms that long for
you now and little hearts that ache to be loved again. I write this,
to you especially, and it is not only the wish of Norfolk's Own
living, but also the wish of Norfolk's heroic dead.
---- o ----
I will now tell you of an
incident of the war.
France is a beautiful land
now, of sunshine and flowers, roses everywhere.
I called upon the village
cure one Sunday and said,
"M. le Cure, I have come to beg a few
of your roses."
"Sit down, monsieur, and
tell me why you want my little pets, for I love them, you
know," he replied.
So seating myself, I began to
tell him of the cold morning in January when John Carnahan and I
drove to the residence of the late Matthew McDowell and enlisted in
"It is for his
"Oui, oui. Certainly you shall have them. Marie?" he
called and a little maid came running, armed with shears.
I protested, but such a
bouquet! The old cure reached for his hat. "I will accompany
"No, no, M. le Cure, the
way is long."
"Ah yes; you will permit me. My pleasures are few now." I
thought of the long vigils he had, of his years, for his hair was
flowing white. Yet the sturdy old man now takes the place of five
priests at the front.
called Marie, and away she ran, and I wondered why, but we were not
long on our way when a score of young girls caught up to us, laden
with roses, and with them, Marie.
Some time after we all
reached the 14th burial plot. There are 84 graves, all marked and
numbered, with a cross over all, with a brass plate bearing each name
-- 16 of them 133rd boys. And so I had roses enough for all of
One tall young lady worked
upon a lovely wreath, which she placed upon the cross and knelt
down. We all followed her example while the old cure prayed.
I remember his faltering
English, "And may these brave men, and all others who fall in
the cause of Liberty, Justice and Right, through Thy mercy, Lord,
find a place of refreshment of joy and peace, through Christ, Thy
Son, our Redeemer. Amen."
I rose and looked over that
shell-torn ground of the valley of death. It looked to me as though
some giant's plough had torn it saunder and after it an earthquake
had torn great chasms here and there.
The girl clung to the cross,
sobbing bitterly, her comrades trying to comfort her.
said the priest, "the bridal roses. Her brothers first, and now
her lover have fallen for France, and she has brought for your
comrade the roses intended for her wedding day."
I went to her, speaking in
French. "I understand and appreciate your remembrance of the
stranger dead. No greater honor could you have shown than
this." But I got no further. The maiden rose and gave me an
embrace and a kiss -- a sister's kiss -- as is the custom in France,
and something was thrust into my puttee. I stood dumbfounded, while
the maidens seemed to melt away.
The cure drew a poinard from
my puttee. "See, monsieur, she has made you her knight and her
avenger, for this poinard (very useful at close quarters in bayonet
fighting) has been in her family since the Crusades. It belonged to
a knight of France. And her colors, too, see." He pointed to a
blue ribbon with a medal around my neck.
I founded my tongue at last.
"Monsieur le Cure,"
I began, "I was her knight already, had she comprehended.
Indeed, so is every Canadian soldier." The maidens were coming
around again. "We Canadians are brought up to respect and
protect women, whosoever they are. Nothing can make a Canadian
soldier fight harder that the thoughts of his dear ones at
"I understand now,"
said the old cure, after he had explained to her friends in French.
"why Canada has conquered at Ypres, at the Somme and at Vimy
Ridge. Oh, the good fight!"
So we wondered home, the
priest and I -- the old world and the new. It was in the gloaming
now, and sweet indeed were the clover meadows and the roses; but
sweeter yet to me is the thought that the women of France remember,
even as our own.
---- o ----