Dear Captain Newcombe:--
By the time this letter reaches Simcoe you will no doubt have heard
of the battle in which the boys from Norfolk County took part, and
of the losses, which I do hope and trust, will be light, as quite a
number of Norfolk boys are in other units, and I have not had a
chance to see or hear from them.
I am very sorry to let you
know of the deaths of Privates
H. E. Sherman, Harold Diver and E. W. Holmyard, all of whom were in
the same platoon as myself.
Private Driver was killed on
the way through the trenches on the morning of (censored) just
before the attack. As nearly as I can tell, he was killed by a shell
dropping amongst the machine gun section, of which he was a member,
killing one officer and batman, and I believe, four of the machine
Private Sherman was killed
after we had gained our position and had retired by order to another
position, and were there digging ourselves in. He also was killed by
concussion from a shell, which dropped amongst a cluster of man
digging in and trying to consolidate the position, as at the time a
terrific artillery duel was in full swing.
I cannot speak too highly of
the ability and courage of such a friend as Sherman was, and
although I was not with him at the time, I can positively say that
he died a soldier's death. Before going into action he told me that
should anything befall him to be sure to write to his folks, which
is more that I can do, but I will ask you to call of them and tell
them what I have written to you.
Private E. W. Holmyard was
wounded on the morning of August 17th just after we had been
relieved and were on our way back to the support trenches, and I
learn than he died on the way to the hospital.
Before we went into action
our platoon had five Norfolk boys, but now we have only three,
Private Roy Dell of Port Dover, Private McGary [sic] of Port Rowan, and
myself, and must thank the good Lord for his kind providence and
care over us during the terrible and trying hours and days through
which we have passed.
Well, Captain Newcombe, I
will try to give you a faint idea of what happened on that great
day, which I will never forget. The night previous to the attack we
were ordered from our billets in a village close to the line, at
It had rained during the day
and the ground was slippery under foot. One our way to the trenches
we had to pass within a short distance of some of our heavy guns,
which at the time were under heavy gas bombard, and we had to put
our gas masks on from about two miles of our walk to the front line.
We had quite a heavy load to
carry: our equipment in battle order, 150 rounds of ammunition, 1
shovel and two sandbags loaded with Stoke's gun ammunitions.
We arrived at the assembly
grounds about 20 minutes before the time set for the attack. There
we dug ourselves into shell-holes, and I can say that at this point
many a prayer was offered to the Almighty.
In a few moments the guns of
our artillery opened and the word was given, "Over you
I do not think that anybody
could give an exact description of the sight which lay before our
eyes when we got over the parapet.
On the boys went, over the
first and second German lines of defense. From what I can remember,
our guns had silenced the German small guns, or at least a large
percentage of them, for they did not open on for a long time.
The position which our
brigade had to travel over was not very easy when we got close to
our objective. Nevertheless our battalion gained its point. Later,
however, we had to retire on account of both our flanks being open.
We lost our platoon officer,
Mr. Kennedy, a fine man, who had risen from the ranks; and our
officer in charge, a gallant leader, was wounded and had to retire.
Then our company officer, Major Nation, who up to this time was
second in command of the battalion, took charge of his own company.
Things were very hot about
this time. Our company was under heavy rifle and machine gun fire,
as the Hun did not like the idea of being driven from his position.
You will think this a rather
long letter, but I do hope you will be able to tell the families of
Privates Sherman and Diver what I have written, as I could not do it
myself and it was a request from them. I feel that it will be better
done by you. Yesterday I met Corporal Melvin Wheeler and Leslie
Knowles, and we talked things over and they too were of the same
I also met Major McDowell on
his way toward the line. He looks fine and apparently in good
health. And on my way back to the billets I met Private Roy Collver.