Letters from the Front

Sgt. William W. Ireland

A Red Deer man with the 13th Battalion writes about life at the Front

Red Deer News published Wednesday, December 19, 1917

Thursday, November 22, 1917

Transcribed by: M. I. Pirie

According to this announcement, Sgt. William Watts Ireland was awarded the Military Medal for his bravery at Vimy Ridge.

To the Editor of The News.

Somewhere in France, November 22, 1917.

Sir.--This is rather a difficult task I have set myself to do, because I am a very poor hand at writing a letter, and I only hope I shall be able to make myself clear.  What I want to do is to have a knock at those "I didn't raise my son to be a soldier" people.

I am 100429, Sgt. W. W. Ireland, D Company, 13th Battalion Royal Highlanders of Canada, of Red Deer.   My wife and five children live in Red Deer now.  I am the only man in my Battalion at present from Red Deer, and I want you to give me a little space in your paper.

What has got my goat is the fact that at a certain gathering in Red Deer a person made a statement that out here in the trenches the Canadian soldier was charged 75 cents per pair for his socks.  Now this is absolutely false, and it seems to me to be almost insulting to tell it to intelligent people, but there are a lot of people who will make such statements and a lot more who will believe them, and take it as an excuse for young fellows who do not come forward.  The real fact about socks is that every platoon is provided with two water-proof sacks, and every day one comes with the rations containing a pair of clean dry socks, and the other goes back to the transport with dirty ones.  If a man loses his he cannot expect to get clean ones.  Moreover, every man when he leaves the base has three pairs of socks--one he is wearing, and two he carries in his pack.  Not only is such care taken of his feet, but of his health generally every possible sanitary precaution is taken.

A few words about rations.  When everything is considered they are generous.  Of course I am talking as an old soldier, who has seen another campaign and knows what it is to "carry on" on semi-starvation.  Mind I am not saying it is a picnic out here, far from it, but what I want to assure you is, that every effort is made to give everyone a fighting chance.  You must always remember we have the enemy to reckon with, and he does not hold his fire because our transport is bringing up our rations.  He tries all he can do to destroy it, and we do the same to him.  In fact, we have got him beat at the game, and it really is wonderful what our transports do at times. 

Again I say I don't want you to think I am trying to make out that the work out here is easy, it is not.  It is hell with the lid off, and we want to get it over, and get back to our wives and children, but we want them to grow up free citizens of a free country, and that is what we are fighting for, and don't forget that the fight is in Canada as well as in France.   There are people who talk of peace negotiations:  don't have it.   We started with an ideal, let us stay with it and prove it.  None realize the position of the women at home more than I do, and nobody wants to be back more than I do.  Hard as the lot of the man might be out here, it is infinitely harder for his wife.  She carries on handicapped by his absence and worried by the uncertainty, and then has such false statements as I have mentioned to give the lie to, and sometimes by people who are supposed to know. 

I wish to say to the women who have spent so much love, money, and time knitting socks for us not to get downhearted, but to stay right with it, and if they don't get evidence of our thankfulness, take it for granted.  We do appreciate it although we do not always make a spiel about it.  You will have a slight idea what a task it is to deliver to all the boys in the muddy trenches a clean dry pair of socks every day.

Mr. Editor, I have one little request to make to you:  Before you publish any reports about me will you kindly make sure that they are absolutely correct.  Thanking you in anticipation.

Naught shall make us rue
If the Empire to itself
Do rest but true.

A soldier Citizen of Red Deer