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(If you have any personal letters you might like to contribute, have a photograph or know what happened to any of these men, please email the webmaster or the SSGS).
These letters are transcribed from, and courtesy of, the Berwick Register newspaper, Berwick NS, by Phil and Stephanie Vogler and reproduced here with Phil's kind permission. The Register Extracts and Vital Statistics are at: Berwick Register Extracts Project - a site created by the Voglers consisting of extracts from the Berwick Register newspaper. This site now hosts a collection of vital statistics (1900-1916 so far) compiled and indexed by John Parker. Lots of Lunenburg Co. names there .
Many of the men, or their families, mentioned below were from Lunenburg County.
[Berwick Register of June 30, 1915]
At the Front.
Mrs. T. B. Morse favors us with a letter from Dr. W. T. M. MacKinnon, dated "Somewhere in France" June 3rd, which reads as follows:
………But when the war is to end no one knows. The only tip I can give you is that when you hear of the Allies having taken Lille, you may count on the war being half over. You have probably seen my letter to Mrs. Clark in The Register, and know of some of the things I have done and seen.
I have been up near the fighting line for several weeks in command of a section of a Clearing Station. We are working under canvas. I have forty-four big hospital tents for the accommodation of five hundred patients. My personnel consists of four medical officers and thirty-five non-commissioned officers and men. We live in tents and do our cooking out of doors.
During the recent active fighting we were very busy and several thousand cases passed through our station. On one busy day we dressed, fed and sent to the base 1036 wounded men. Recently, we have been working behind the Canadian Division, and several hundred wounded Canadians have passed through our hands. This is the first time a Canadian Station has worked behind our Canadian troops. The Canadians are now out of the trenches getting a much-needed rest. In the recent engagement they more than sustained the excellent reputation they made at Ypres.
A recent German criticism says that the Canadians are the best fighters in Europe today. They have certainly given the Germans a bad time of it whenever they have been in the lines. I was at Ypres for a day during the big fight in April. It was certainly a terrible affair. I was at the Canadian Field Ambulances, where the wounded were being brought in a constant stream from the front. I saw many of the victims of gas. The smell was so strong on their clothing that they had to be kept outside the buildings. Several died before they could be moved to a hospital. The noise of the guns and the clatter of the convoys going and coming to and from the front were terrific. Later in the day I went up to Ypres, two miles away. The place was being shelled by the Germans, but we got up to what the soldiers called Hell’s Corner. The city was in ruins. We did not find any wounded, but saw many dead horses in the streets and several dead civilians lying where they fell when trying to escape with a few of their belongings. As we were standing by the car a shell whistled by us and landed in a house about 40 rods away. We took the hint and left at once. Another shell followed and struck a house just at the moment we passed it. We put on more gas and did not wait to see the result. About a quarter of a mile further another landed in the rear of a house as we flew by. The occupants were all out in front with their household goods, waiting for an opportunity to get them away. It is a most pathetic sight to see the inhabitants leaving the danger zone. The aged are put in wheelbarrows or dog carts or sometimes even in baby wagons. Children, too small even to walk, are compelled to try, and you see them trotting along clinging to their mothers, who are loaded down with bundles of all kinds. Every kind of cart you can think of is brought into service. The stream of refugees sometimes extends for miles. When night overtakes them they sleep in the fields, if there is no shelter for them. Where they are going they do not know. Their only desire is to get away from danger.
At the hospital we see some awful wounds. Fine fellows, who have done their bit, maimed or disfigured for life, yet all anxious to recover and return to duty. When they come to us they are bloody, dirty and muddy. We give them a mattress of straw and two blankets and at once provide them with hot soup and cocoa. They are then washed and dressed and given, if possible, clean clothing. Their wounds are dressed and they are then sent by ambulance train to the Base or to England. Cases too seriously injured and cases requiring operations we keep here until they are better as the result of treatment.
We have had a number of wounded German prisoners recently. One man had a broken thigh with bone protruding. Gangrene had set in and amputation was necessary. His last words as he went under the anaesthetic were "Gott strafe England." He recovered and was sent to England.
Another convoy is coming in with more wounded, so I must stop.
Address: Major W. T. M. MacKinnon, First Canadian Casualty Clearing Station, British Expeditionary Force, France.
June 30, 1915
Letter from Kenneth Butler.
Shorncliffe, Kent, Eng.
Dear Mother. – You will see by this that I have reached camp. I wish I could tell you all the sights I have seen and their extreme beauty, especially since I have arrived in England.
We broke camp on the Common on Tuesday, (May 18th) and went into theArmouries, where we stayed till Thursday. Everything was in a bustle and there was lots of excitement when we saw that we were really going at last. We could hardly believe it when they first told us, but when we were told to turn in our blankets and parts of our equipment we thought that perhaps it might be true. Thursday morning there was a little note in the papers telling the way we would march to the boat. We did not leave the Armouries till after twelve o’clock, but long before nine the streets were black with people. We marched a mile and a half through the city and the streets were lined with people all the way. They were cheering and waving flags. We went on board the liner Saxonia about two o’clock, got our berths and had dinner. We sailed from the dock at six o’clock sharp. The docks on the water front were lined with people the whole way out of the harbor and there was a big crowd on Citadel Hill. Flags waved and whistles blew till we were out of sight. Friday morning we were on the Atlantic, out of sight of land. I expected to be seasick, but I was not a bit sick the whole way over. We had a little drill each day, but most of my time was spent with a magazine in my hand or leaning over the rail trying to catch sight of a vessel or anything else that had motion. For the most of the way we seemed to be alone on the water. We passed a couple of boats the second day out. When off Newfoundland we saw some icebergs. Everyday was about the same till we got near this coast and into the “war zone.” Then we had boat drill. All the boats were slung over the side so as to be ready for instant use. We saw nothing suspicious, though, and when we got within about a day’s sail from England, a couple of torpedo boat destroyers came out and escorted us in. One of the men from the boat told us that the captain said we were chased by a German submarine for more than two hours, when one of the destroyers chased it and it had to give up. If that is true, it was pretty close to us.
About three o’clock on Saturday morning (29th) we entered Plymouth Sound and we docked about six o’clock. I was up when we first sighted land and saw all the sights. I wish you could have seen what I saw. The scenery was most beautiful.
We took train about twelve o’clock for camp. Did not get there till the same time that night. We passed through several large towns, and also through a part of London. We saw Windsor Castle from the car window. At every station along the line there was a crowd of people to welcome us. They certainly received us well over here. Coming into the harbor we passed some ships that were in the fleet that Nelson commanded at Trafalgar. They were crowded with sailors, who sure made some noise cheering.
The day after we arrived (Sunday) I went in the afternoon to Folkestone. (I sent you some views of that place.) The English towns are pretty. Everywhere you go you will find flowers blooming. The back yards of mills and houses are perfect flower gardens. The streets are so clean and the fields are so level and green, with trimmed hedges all around them that one seems to be looking at a picture.
We have got down now to drill in earnest, but the weather is so hot that we almost roast during the day. We get up at 5.30 in the morning, go on parade at 6.30, stay till 7.30. After breakfast we fall in at nine o’clock and drill till 12.45. After dinner we fall in at two and drill till five. We do a little work, you see. We have route marching with full equipment every afternoon, and believe me, in this heat, it is hard work as any one could want.
We have a very good camp here. It is clean and the huts (we have houses instead of canvas) are warm, light and clean, but the dust is something fierce.
I am well now and am enjoying myself fine. Have talked with a lot of fellows back from the front, wounded or choked up with that gas the Germans are using. We are only about five hours from the firing line and on fine days we can hear the big guns booming across the Channel.
Remember me to all the young people and ask them to write as often as possible. Tell them I will write whenever I get a chance. Ken.
Address: 67715 Pte, J. K. Butler, B. Company, 25th Battalion, East Sandling Camp, Shorncliffe, County Kent, England.
August 18, 1915
Letter from Roy Beardsley
DEAR MOTHER: - I will tell you about my trip on the boat from Canada.
We only had a convoy from Quebec for two days and then we were alone until we were in sight of England.
The first three days of our voyage were foggy, the others were beautiful, although I was sick for a day.
We lost a man overboard about our fifth day out, which made things kind of gloomy for awhile. We were eleven days coming over on the boat.
The view as we came into Plymouth harbor was certainly grand. I have never seen a prettier place in all my travels. The scenery is beyond description.
There are about forty or fifty thousand soldiers here and we have a grand time. I saw the Robinson boys and am going to see Will Somerville and the other fellows Sunday. They are about three miles from my camp, so you see we cover quite a bit of land.
As we came through Exeter the Mayoress treated us to tobacco, oranges, cake and sandwiches. She also presented us with the enclosed card. We appreciated her kindness very much.
We also passed through the outskirts of London. It was fully a half-hours ride, at a mile a minute, I was going to say, as the trains ran fast before we got through the place. It is some city and worth seeing.
If the boys home could only see a few of the sights here and how the English people treat us, they would envy us.
I was going to speak about the train. The engine is small and the cars have no end doors, but have three compartments with side doors. About ten ride in each compartment. The trains run at a greater speed than I ever travelled before.
I have seen a lot of the boys back from the front, who were wounded, and it was a sad sight. None of us said much, but thought a good deal about it, and will certainly have it in mind when we go to the front. We will teach them (the Germans) a lesson if we have the strength to do it.
If the people of Canada could only realize what is going on, every man that could handle a gun and endure this life, would be into it. They don’t realize it though. I never did until I saw for myself. I am glad I am here with the rest. You may tell the boys just how I feel about it, and let them think it over. There are lots of young fellows in Nova Scotia that would be doing a great deed if they would only follow the boys in Khaki …….
I had a narrow escape from lightning yesterday. There are twelve boys in each tent. Carl AlcornOne of the boys in another company committed suicide the same day, by shooting himself.
I was down to Norfolk Beach and could see the coast of France very plainly.
P.S. Send papers from home.
6618 Roy H. Beardsley, C Squadron, 2nd Brigade, 3rd Contingent, Ditgate Camp, Shorncliffe, England.
[Berwick Register of Wednesday, August 4, 1915]
[Phil Vogler: Cyril's father was a Doctor and the family was originally from Lunenburg County. When his younger sister died (earlier than 1915) she was buried in Bridgewater. I don't think he died since his name is not listed with the men from Western Kings that did die in that war.]
Letter from Cyril March.
S. S. Northland
July 10, 1915.
Dear Mother. – A few lines to let you know we are about to land, safe and sound, after a very pleasant trip and with beautiful weather.
Submarines are numerous and are rather avaricious, so we did not take the usual route.
A couple of days out, when we approached the danger zone, every precaution was taken in case of being torpedoed. The boats were lowered to the promenade deck, a special guard of 50 crack shots (supposed) were chosen from the 1750 men on board. Most of our Regina boys were in the party. I was one. Our work was, in case of being torpedoed, to prevent the small boats from being sunk by gun fire from the attacking submarine when she rose to the surface. Our boys were stationed right at the stern, up over our one big gun, on the highest deck. We kept the horizon continuously swept with powerful glasses, looking for periscopes, but none showed themselves.
Yesterday afternoon two tiny specks were seen on the horizon; they grew and grew and came fairly leaping over the water. They were two British destroyers, Black Devils, they are called.
In the morning our ship had received word from England that an escort would protect us. When about 100 miles distant the “Black Devils” sent word that they would reach us at 3.30. They arrived at 3.40.
When they came we were much relieved – although we were not exactly afraid of a cold plunge – then the British flag could float from its staff. Just imagine, mother, a time when the British flag floats only with grave danger to its ship on the ocean! I trust that Canada will have men to send until the flag that has stood for Liberty and Protection may safely float to any breeze that blows.
One of the most beautiful scenes I have ever witnessed greeted me when I first appeared on deck about 5.30 this morning. The coast with its fortifications very close on the left – the rich green foliage, and the Old Cornish Castle, about which Jack the Giant-killer legends hang in interesting lore, lifted its turrets over the hill and above the mist.
Back of all, on the sky line, were the hedge-fenced fields, and in the harbor, as we go along, numberless ships, transports, cruisers and just this minute, a submarine goes with its turret above water and its cheering crew. Everywhere we receive cheers ………..
[Berwick Register of October 6, 1915]
Letter from Capt. J. W. Margeson.
To the Editor of The Register:
As we are on the eve of departure from England for the Continent, I thought it might interest your readers to receive a brief account of our sojourn in this country. We have been here since May 31st, preparing for the work which must now be undertaken. Our camp is beautifully situated, sheltered between the hills in the County of Kent. In this valley about 75,000 Canadian boys are in training. London is 60 miles away and on week-ends I occasionally run up to see the sights in that most wonderful city. One of the famous Cinque Ports, Hythe, lies just in front of us on the Atlantic Ocean. Only a few miles distant to the south-west William I. landed in 1066, and a few miles to the north-east Julius Caesar landed in 55 B.C. and made Britain a Roman Province. I have visited both spots and I can assure you it made me think. Only one mile from this camp stands the castle where the murderers of Thomas a Becket halted on their journey to Canterbury. At Sandgate, two and a half miles away, the great Temperance Reformer, John B. Gough, was born. Canterbury, with its religious associations, is only 15 miles distant.
In my spare moments I have seen as much as I could of this country for I may never travel this way again. The training has been very thorough. Our men came from Nova Scotia physically fit to undertake hard work and hard conscientious work they have done. From 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. there has been little time for play. All the men have had their practice at the Hythe shooting ranges, which are looked upon as the finest in the world. Trench warfare has been undertaken and it would surprise you to see how quickly the 25th Battalion can “dig themselves in “ and prepare to meet the foe. Much more has been accomplished which I am not privileged at the present time to make known. However, you can take it from me that the boys are ready – prepared to fight, prepared to die if necessary for the preservation of those liberties which Canadians have enjoyed across the seas.
Our Brigade (the 5th) is comprised of the 22nd Regiment (French Canadian); 24th Regiment (Victoria Rifles, Montreal); 25th, (Nova Scotia) Regiment. Col. Watson is brigadier. He has seen service at the front and is an excellent officer. Col LeCain is very popular in the battalion; the boys have every confidence in him and are prepared to follow him wherever he leads. Major L. H. McKenzie, of Stellarton, the adjutant, is one of our hardest worked officers. I have recently been appointed assistant adjutant, which, with my duties as paymaster, gives me long working hours. However, that is what I came over for and so long as my health is good, I shall not complain.
We have just completed our list of men for the front. We are taking 1,025 officers, non-commissioned officers and men, together with several interpreters. We have not had a death in the battalion since coming across. The men are kept in the best possible physical condition, get plenty of good, fresh air and are well clothed and fed. We hear no grumbling from any one. The 17th Battalion is our reserve battalion, from which we will get our drafts of men as we require them. We are only allowed to take 35 lbs. personal baggage on the transport, the rest we must carry on our backs.
Tomorrow morning we have a parade in full marching order and inspection by the brigadier. I can assure you it will tax all my strength to carry my load. The boys from Lunenburg County are all well. Capt. W. L. Whitford is my room mate and is looked upon as one of our best officers. Lieuts. Mosher and Murphy are doing creditable work. Harry MacIntosh, Lunenburg, is quarter-master Sergeant, C. Company, while Sergt. Roy King is in the same Company. G. C. Nicholl is in the quartermaster’s stores, Gordon W. Hall is the medical orderly and expects soon to be transferred to the Royal Flying Corps, Sydney Hallimore and Thomas Nass are both hard workers, Frank Zwicker, Harold Aulenbach and Joseph Bolivar are on the staff as batmen, J. Neilson and W. H. Corkum are always on the job. The latter is Enam’s son. G. Edmonds is in the A.M.C. Lieut. Gerald Cragg and the boys with him are getting on fine. J. W. Hamm, of New Germany, is a shoeing Sergeant in the Artillery. M. Freda, from Chester, is not far from us. Harry Chase is with the 6th Mounted Rifles. Capt. R. J. MacMeekin, formerly of the 17th, is with the Canadian Army Dental Corps. He looks well and feels fine. I hope I have not left any names out but as I have only a few minutes to draft this hastily written letter I may have done so. There is one thing Lunenburg County can be proud of “No crime sheets appear against our boys.” All seem convinced of the hard and serious task which lies before them.
Of the boys in the first contingent I heard good reports from all. I saw Hilchey, Caldwell, Millett, Mader and Wile. The former was wounded. The rest of the boys I have not run across as yet, but hope to before long.
I noticed by the press that patriotic meetings were held in Lunenburg County on the 1st anniversary of the war. Meetings are good, but action must follow them. We need men, but above all machine guns and ammunition. We have been fighting men against guns. We cannot keep this up. We will win, but not until our guns are as effective as those of our enemy and our ammunition as plentiful. Our men are better, but we need the stuff to back them up. Thank Heaven it is coming and before long you will see the result of it. The man who sits at home and thinks this war can be waged successfully without doing something is making a mistake. All cannot come over here. It is at great personal sacrifice that many of us have come. Everyone can do something to help the cause along. The purchasing power of $1.00 is more today in Canada than it is here.
I saw Admiral Beatty’s squadron the other day and it certainly was a sight to see the Dreadnoughts and smaller craft all ready for battle but unable to find an opponent ready to grapple with them.
I hear no politics discussed over here. The people are thinking of other things. I would like to see our Canadian people following their example.
We have had inspections by the King, Lord Kitchener, the Premier of Canada, Sir Sam Hughes and the Hon. Bonar Law. All seemed pleased with the troops as they passed under review.
I must not stop without mentioning the good work of the hospital staffs. The Canadian doctors and nurses from Canada are also doing a noble service. The Red Cross Church Institutes and Y.M.C.A.’s are on the spot lending their aid. Taken together it is a great organization running like a perfect piece of machinery.
It has been raining nearly every day since St. Swithin’s, but we hope to see a change soon.
We have been visited with hostile air craft, but so far no bombs have fallen on our camps, although I think this was one of their objectives. Our airmen are right on the job. We should not, I suppose, fight in the spirit of revenge, but the action of the Huns in submarining passenger ships and killing women and children is enough to make our blood run cold. You can hardly realize the dastardly type of warfare they wage. We will fight fairly and will win in the end.
I must bring this rather rambling letter to a close as duty calls me elsewhere. Your readers have my best wishes. I merely ask you to think once in a while of your friends enduring hardships in France and the Dardanelles and I know you will do all in your power to make their task easier. The motto of the 25th Battalion is:
“Tho’ beaten back in many a fray,
Never strength will borrow
Where the vanguard stands today
The rear will come tomorrow.”
J. W. Margeson.
East Sanding, Sept. 9, 1915.
[Berwick Register ofDecember 15, 1915]
A Halifax paper says:
Captain J. W. Margeson, M.P.P. for Lunenburg, is understood to be returning on the Pretorian in charge of 150 wounded soldiers. The report that he was returning to “reorganize the pay department in Nova Scotia” was incorrect on the face of it – as some other of the current gossip in London cabled to Canada is incorrect, and is officially denied from Ottawa. The pay department of Nova Scotia is in the expert capable hands of Colonel Sircom, and in no military division in Canada is the pay department in more perfect condition. Many officers being recalled from the front will come home in charge of wounded soldiers, and during their stay in Canada will doubtless be employed in the special service of addressing recruiting meetings. Captain Margeson will be eminently successful in this connection.
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