Etc. -- Private J. William Fare's 20 Aug 1917 letter
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Lightly edited transcript of a page 7 article in the 13 Sep 1917 issue of the Simcoe Reformer:

Word from the Front Line Trenches

The following interest letter from Private Fare has been loaned to us by Rev. H. C. Newcombe: 

Somewhere in France
20 Aug 1917

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 gun crew.

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 10:15 p.m. 

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 go!" 

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 opinion.

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. 

Sincerely yours,
J. William Fare.

P.S. -- After I wrote this letter I learned with deep regret that Private H. W. Wrigley is missing, Private C. Louch wounded, and Private C. Reid of Simcoe also missing. 
Private J. Cairnes came out of the battle OK and wishes you to tell his wife and let her see this letter.

Letter mentions
J. Cairnes
Roy Collver
Roy Dell
Harold Diver
Murray Hamilton
E. W. Holmyard
Leslie Knowles
C. Louch
Major McDowell
Private McGary
C. Reid
H. E. Sherman
 Melvin Wheeler
H, W. Wrigley

Copyright 2014 John Cardiff