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Ruby M. Cusack
Maritimers and the Great War 1914 - 1918  
Edited by Ross Hebb

“The men who wrote these letters knew the Great War
was an extraordinary event,

a terrible struggle of unparalleled proportions.

The war was ‘awful’ but they felt it had to be fought.”

The evenings were getting shorter as the sun went down much earlier than it did a couple of months ago. There was the feel of frost in the air.

I liked the warmth from the wood stove that made the kitchen so cosy.

Since today was a half  holiday, we had few lessons to do, which gave Mum the evening free.

She was rummaging through a trunk to find some old letters that belonged to her mother. After her death, Grampy had given them to Mum who treasured them dearly and every so often she would read them. Although Mum made little if any mention of the letter writers or the content of the letters, I noticed she held her hankie in her hand and I often saw a tear roll down her cheek.

Through  twenty personal letters from Maritime soldiers who were in the First World War published in “Letters Home” by Ross Hebb, we learn from the soldiers’ own words, what it was like to be on the battle field, not knowing what tomorrow would bring as well as the worry of how those who were left behind, across the Atlantic Ocean, were making out. Enlistment meant being separated from loved ones at home.

Clarence Arthur McCann was born in Windsor, NS in 1891. He joined the 28th Field Battery in Fredericton, NB. On March, 1915. His first letter home, tells his parents about having supper in Lindsey Lunch Room and sleeping in the Exhibition Building. It seems the “grub’ did not compare to what he would eat at home. His parents were probably very pleased to receive such a long newsy letter.

William A. Muir was born in Mill Settlement, NB in 1897 and joined 115th Infantry Battalion in February,1916 at Saint John. He wrote his mother from Valcartier, Quebec on May 24, 1916. He was in the field with about five thousands tents and more going up all the time. They expect to have 50,000 there by summer.

George W. Loughery was born in Waterford, NB in 1896, joined 55th Battalion in October, 1915. He wrote his “Dear Mamma” from the Wellington Barracks in Halifax on December 2, 1916. He asks her, “How is the wood holding out?” He is more or less looking after Captain Wetmore and enjoying it very much. Another letter was dated November 10, 1915 from Linhook, Hants, England. George was killed in action on June 13, 1916.

Charles McInnes was born in Moncton in 1880. He joined the 140 Infantry Battalion at Sussex, NB. In 1902, he left Halifax for the Boer War. This time he is leaving his wife, three daughters and an infant son at home. His letter gives a detailed account of the trip. His final paragraph includes a prayer for his wife and children that “God may spare us all to meet together again on this earth”.

Harry Heckbert was born in Summerside, PEI in 1887. He was drafted on March 23, 1918. On April 29, 1918, he wrote his wife from Bramshott, England with advice to take good care of her money. He has only received two dollars since he enlisted.

Edward Earl Jay wrote his sister about the very nice girl he got acquainted with in Edinburgh and his wish to bring her home to PEI.
Many letters express the yearning to be able to visit home to see friends and relatives as well as the every day tasks such as haying and harrowing. One guy thought of going out on the blueberry plains and having a feed of berries. It appears the boys waited for the letters from home that took so long to reach them. Another concern for the single fellows was the girls they left behind - anxious to know if they were asking about them.

Frank Edwin Lockhart was born in Petitcodiac in 1883. He joined New Brunswick’s Fighting 26th Infantry in November of 1914. On Christmas Day of 1915, he was in a dugout when he wrote his mother from Belgium. It was the first Christmas he had spent away from home.

“Sudden, random, unpredictable death was a constant reality of life at the front and for kilometres behind the lines.”

Arthur Harrison was born in Gowland Mountain, NB in 1897, joined No VIII O.S. Field Ambulance Unit (CAMC) at Sussex in August, 1916. His letter from France of December 7, 1917 expresses concern about conscription and he expects everybody at home will vote against it.

Arthur’s letter of November 26, 1918 tells of hearing no guns.

The Armistice which ended the hostilities came into effect at 11:00 am on November 11, 1918.

“Once the war was over everyone wanted to get home as soon as possible. The troops had, however been ferried across the Atlantic over the course of four years, so getting them all home took time.”

“The men who wrote these letters knew the Great War was an extraordinary event, a terrible struggle of unparalleled proportions. The war was ‘awful’ but they felt it had to be fought.”

The returned soldiers said little about the war.

Many a grandchild had no idea, the photo of the handsome guy in uniform that decorated the parlor wall, was their grandfather.