Letters from the Front

Gnr. James Llewlyn Frise, 69th Battery C.F.A.

Artist wounded while serving with Canadian Artillery

Toronto Star

Thursday, May 31, 1917

Transcribed by: M. I. Pirie


Gunner James L. Frise was formerly a staff artist at the Toronto Star. Prior to the war he had served with the 48th Highlanders of Toronto.  This letter was published on May 31st, 1917, but the actual date of the letter would have been earlier.  The following is a transcription of the introduction to the letter as provided in the newspaper:

BIG SHELL EXPLODES RIGHT UNDER HORSE

Gr. 'Jimmy' Frise Tells How He Lost a Finger of Left Hand

This is the graphic account given by Gunner 'Jimmy' Frize, formerly one of The Star's staff artists, of how he received his 'blighty.'  Gunner Frize is now in an English hospital suffering from severe injuries to his left hand and the loss of his third finger.

 


'Bingo.'   Right under my horse the three of us went down in a heap like a steeplechase spill at the Woodbine.1  A ration car came by at the gallop.  It struck a shell and upset.  Bully beef tins and biscuits were strewn all over, with the sergeant in charge underneath.  I hadn't seen so much to eat for days, and there I was without an appetite.

We were packing up ammunition, and I was walking between my horses, which probably accounts for my being here instead of 'over there' this beautiful May day.  We were going along at hundred-yard intervals when the shells began to whine past my whiskers.  The interval between my leader and myself was considerably reduced during the next  few seconds. After the shell burst I crawled out from the hoofs and flattened against the bank and listened to the dirt and stones pattering on my tin bonnet.  The Fritz's still kept whistling, making nasty holes in the road.

My hand was paining me a good deal, also bleeding considerably, although I had a strange hold on it with my right.  One of my horses was dead and the other cut up quite a bit.  The N.C.O. arrived and found the dressing station close by in one of Fritz's old funk holes.  Since then it's been stretchers, trams, ambulances, hospitals and hospital trains.

We had a hot place at Vimy Ridge and we agree with Bairnsfather2 that this is surely a war of exhaustion.  Mud, and still more mud right up to the knees.  Tired out horses mired in shell holes, sore feet and empty tummies, such was the 'push' that read so easy on paper.  But we're winning the war all right.

I can't say how long my vacation will last, but it will be fairly long.  ------, a fine little hospital, a Red Cross hospital in connection with the town, and the help is all volunteer.  We are given every attention.  Usually in the afternoons there are motors to take out a party.  Then there are the movies and concerts.

At a concert the other afternoon, given by the Artist's Rifles, Buchanan and Thomas of the London Opinion did some rough cartoons, which were afterwards auctioned off at good prices.

 


1Woodbine was a Toronto racetrack.  It is still in operation.

2Bruce Bairnsfather (1888-1959) was a famous British war cartoonist and creator of the Old Bill comic character .

3This is cartoonist Fred Buchanan of the Artist's rifles.  Buchanan was also a singer and composer.  Photo and more information.

 

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