Source: Wrote book of poetry which was published by the 18th Battalion Association.
Pte. Fred Your London, Writes from the Front
St. Valentines Day in the trenches held by the 18th Battalion was marked by a few iron souvenirs from Frits, according to Pte. Fred Young in a letter home. He humorously refers to the exploding billet-doux of the Huns as valentines and takes pleasure in announcing that none of the Western Ontario battalion “fell” for the blandishments of the German shells.
His letter follows:
“Godnoes,” Europe, February 15, 1916.[i]
Did you get any valentines yesterday? So did we. The Canadian mail arrived last night, bring a few designed by Cupid, and Fritz tossed us over quite a few, designed by Krupp[ii]. In fact, he literally poured them over, but as the horseshoe was hanging on the door when he quit our stretcher-bearers drew a blank. We have learned to take his “spasms” philosophically.
“We have it doped out, too, that we know a few wrinkles about house keeping. The architects of our dugouts omitted the drawing-room and parlor, but we couldn’t have furnished them anyhow. Our dining-room furniture consists of a jackknife and spoon, our kitchen utensils a mess tin, and our bedroom suite is composed of a waterproof sheet and blanket. Bathroom equipment is one towel and a piece of soap. The washbowls in which we perform our ablutions, while not exactly made in Germany, are made by the Germans, by their favourite pastime of perforating our front door yard with shell holes. Jupiter Pluvius[iii] does the rest. Can you beat that for light housekeeping? We pay no rent, for its easier to move than pay rent.”
“With the landscape behind the firing line yielding to the embrace of Spring, this wouldn’t be a bad country at all to wander in, if Fritz wasn’t so darned reckless about where he tosses shells. One Sabbath evening we were admiring the sunset and listening to the even-song of the thrush, when the too-familiar screaming of shells interrupted our reverie. We flopped. A salvo of high-explosive shells burst near us caused most of the real estate in our immediate vicinity to perform a fantastic ouchy-coochy dance. We joined the festivities by executing an enthusiastic shrapnel slide. And, believe me, there is nothing about that slide to confuse it with the hesitation waltz. The program was short but by the time we had disconnected ourselves from our surroundings, we had lost all further interest in in the beauty of the scenery. The censor emphatically refuses to allow us to repeat the uncomplimentary remarks we made about the German Empire. But we’ll get even.”
“We are led to believe by the temperance columns of Canadian papers, that the Lord’s Day Alliance is intensely interested in the welfare of the Canadian Soldiers. As this happened on a Sunday, it is distinctly up to the Lord’s Day Alliance to camp on Kaiser Bill’s trail. He may ride roughshod over Hague treaties, but we can see him finish now.”
“In olden days, we read that nights went forward in shining armour, trusting in God, and his own strong right arm. The trust in God idea is still popular, but the strong arm stunt has no more chance in disputing the right o’way with a salvo of 9.2 [inch] shells than a celluloid dog would have at catching an asbestos rat in Daniel’s fiery furnace. Forward, the L.D.A.”
“There was an interesting scene the other evening in the reserve lines, as the boys who had drawn the lucky numbers for leave lined up for transportation instructions. Less fortunate comrades, good-naturedly bombarded them with expression such as “Oh, you lucky devil” and “Yorkshire pudding for yours, next week pal.” Then, amid reciprocated salvos of “Good luck,” they swung off, with beaming faces toward dear “Old Blighty.” And the lads that had been left behind to “carry on” were soon hitting the trail with resolute faces set trenchward, blithely singing “Keep the Home Fires Burning.”
“The mud has disappeared to such an extent, that we can find places occasionally where wee can travel on the earth’s surface, instead of the usual half-fathom below. To the optimists it sure is a happy omen, for they have always maintained that we call eventually emerge on top.”
Yours as ever,
Source: The Brussels Post. March 16, 1916. Page 5.
[i] The Battalion was relieved by the 19th Battalion after serving in the front line from April 8. The Battalion returned to La Clytte, Belgium via communication trenches and the Battalion War Diary notes: “Relief was delayed on account of heavy shell fire in BOIS CARRE Communication Trench.”
[ii] Reference to the artillery and shells produced by the German Krupp industrial conglomerate.
[iii] A reference to rain fall.