Letters from the Front

Captain James Roy Gray

Letter from France

London Free Press

Sunday, December 30, 1917

Transcribed by: Bob Logan

Letter from James Roy Gray, with the Imperial Army Tank Corps C.E.F., to his mother, Margaret (Westland) Gray dated Dec 30, 1917 from somewhere in France.

Dear Mother

    I know it is ages since I wrote to you, but conditions have not been of the best. And, well I have been over the wall twice since I wrote last. Of course nothing can be said about such things now, but when I come home I shall tell you the story of a roll of friction tape, also of other things.
    You want to know where I am and with whom, but of course it is impossible to give you even a rough idea, as we are G.H.Q. troops, and may be used anywhere. In fact, in the last seven months we have been practically from end to end of the line.
    I have not had any mail for two weeks. I must now give up hope of one batch of mail, as it is evident another has gone down. It is disappointing very.  Despite even greater disappointments and tragedies, though I see friend after friend go west to the land of eternal peace, among the most recent being two who were entitled to wear the 1914 ribbon, though I do not know when my time may come, remembering the story of the pitcher which went too often to the fountain, the will is still to carry on, for unless we carry through our enterprise to triumphant issue then Leslie, Mervyn and the growing lads of today will have to don, in their turn, the uniform of the King and became the soldiers of tomorrow.
    My New Year’s wish then to you and daddie, to all my relations and friends, and to all engaged with us in our great task, is that you may all receive the grace of fortitude to withstand trouble and to carry on cheerfully till victory is ours. We, over here, know that you at home are bearing the heaviest burdens of sorrow and suspense, and we wish you to be happy, as we are, who live from one day to the next, and throw care to the winds.
    At present, and for some time to come, we are fairly comfortable and perfectly safe, and are enjoying the Christmas season to the best of our ability. I am in a rough cubicle for two, in a large wooden hut, with an improvised stove, table, beds, seats, washstand, and cupboards. My roommate has just left me for a few weeks so I occupy the mansion alone.
Yours cheerily,

Prelude to the above letter in the London Free Press:

For the past seven months Lieutenant Gray has been in the most exciting branch of the Imperial service, the Tanks, commanding one of the land battleships, which have struck terror into German hearts by their uncanny abilities to break through all obstacles. His service has been exciting but, as he says himself, it will be a closed book until after the war, the military rules of silence interposing a solid wall between the stories which Lieut. Gray promises to reveal and what can be said in letters.

Service of a year in the Ypes salient stands to the credit of Lieut. Gray. He enlisted here with the 18th Battalion, and went overseas with the famous fighting unit. After promotions to non-coms rank in the 18th he was offered, and accepted, a commission in the Imperial service, and then volunteered for the "tanks" service. That was seven months ago. He is still commanding a "boat"