Trenches near Messines, Belgium
Monday, November 15, 1915
Transcribed by: marc
The following are extracts from a letter from Lieutenant A. G. Mordy, formerly Accountant of the Winnipeg branch, written in France on 15th November, 1915. This letter refers to the trenches in front of Messines, Belgium.
The four months I spent in England outside of my military life were like one long holiday. We had a wonderful golf course
We arrived here at noon, having left Shorncliffe the preceding evening, and as the battalion was going into the trenches the same night I found myself in the front line twenty-four hours after leaving England. We marched from billets to the end of the communication trench and then I was guided by my sergeant through what seemed miles and miles of trenches with my platoon sweating along behind, until we finally arrived in the fire trenches. The process of relief then takes place and the relieved battalion marches out. There is a certain schedule laid down whereby each battalion of the brigade spends so many days in different localities, one of which is divisional reserve, where we do nothing but loaf and eat. We are there now, and I was fervently thankful when we arrived here the night before last. We were soaked to the skin. We had a rotten turn in the trenches and going in we went overland, as the communication trenches were so muddy. It is risky, but rifle bullets and machine-gun fire bother us like bees and mosquitoes. It is the shell-fire that gives us the funk though. Our dugouts were very wet and for five days I got about three hours' sleep. Coming out it was pouring rain, and as we came overland it was quite exciting. I was relieved at 8 o'clock and started down with my platoon by a new route, as certain improvements were under way which made the old one impossible. The night was pitch dark and Fritz was firing a lot, but fortunately none of us were hit. Twice I fell into a trench about eight feet deep and my pack weighing, it felt to me, about a ton, I wallowed in the bottom until I got out again. The men all did likewise at one stage or another, and then as soon as we got on a flat piece of ground a flare would go up from the German lines, machine guns open fire and we would stick our noses in the ground until the excitement subsided. We finally arrived on the main road, and my men who had cursed continually and with a vocabulary that was astounding up till that time, thereupon commenced to sing and chaff. I cannot begin to adequately express my admiration for men who have been through the mud of Salisbury, the fighting of Ypres and the drudgery of the trenches for months and get wet from head to foot carrying 75 pounds weight, and yet sing at the start of a long march in pitch darkness in pouring rain. I only hope that they get what is coming to them when they return to Canada.
I saw a wonderful sight when we were last in. A German aeroplane was observing over our lines and a British plane got after it. They were exchanging shots and were hidden at times by the clouds, when the German started descending. Little puffs of smoke floating near indicated that the anti-aircraft guns were firing, but they never seem to do any damage. When the German got within about 1,000 yards from the earth, the British, who had followed him, made away as the German artillery started up. The German was immediately overhead and as the trenches at that point are about 500 yards apart, we could see he was doing his best to make for his own lines. However, he came to earth about fifty yards behind our front trench, and then Fritz put over 96 big shells in quick succession in order to destroy the machine. This was after they got the range, and the occupants had time to get out. The pilot was killed and the observer turned out to be a lad of 18, quite gentlemanly, who had received a commission from the ranks and held an Iron Cross of the second grade. He was quite upset over the death of his comrade and he evidently expected to be shot immediately and had to be reassured on that point. That night I saw a casualty being brought away from that vicinity and recognized a former Commerce boy named Blacklay, who had been shot, dying almost immediately while doing duty beside the aeroplane. I remembered his coming into our orderly room at Winnipeg to enlist and being told that the battalion was filled up. I arranged to have him taken on.
I was fortunate enough to be selected for some rather daring reconnaissance work extending over three days and nights in
I have run across quite a number of Commerce boys over here, in fact I officiated at a banquet in Shorncliffe the night before I left at which there were 60 bank men, of whom 40 or 45 were ex-Commerce. The Bank may have made undue sacrifice but I can assure you the need is great. Lovett was in my platoon here but is now taking a cadet course and I am glad to say is getting a commission. Young Fraser, one of our ledger-keepers, is in the orderly room here. I have heard about the brave deaths of poor old John Low and little Bean. My CO. but needs to know that a man is from the Commerce to feel assured that any promotion concerned is warranted."