Remember Me

Remember Me

Saturday, May 23, 2015

1915, May 23rd. Charley's 25th letter home from France. WW1

May 23rd, 1915

Dear Mother
Well tomorrow is Queen Victoria's Birthday but I guess I won’t be able to celebrate it this year as in previous years.
(Charley might have enjoyed this kind of a day a few years earlier, having a picnic with friends at Winnipeg Beach)

The wounded are coming in very fast now as you can see by the papers. There are a couple of big battles raging now. Every train that comes in brings more Canadians, every day at present. There are several of the 90th regiment from Winnipeg laying wounded here. My old Battalion is all cut to pieces. Lucky for me that I transferred to a Hospital. I see enough here to suit me.
Had a letter from Ruby the other day she seems to be quite satisfied in her new sphere of life. By her letter, they have again changed their address and by what I can hear of Montreal it must be the nicest Residential part in the city.
V-V wrote me a few lines the other day, the second page was mostly French. Was glad to find she is doing so well at her College.
Things around here are just about the same as usual at present we're very busy and expect to be so as long as the fine weather lasts.
Well Mother I have absolutely no news only that I am still alive and as fat as ever. Remembrance to Dad and V-V when you write to her. Tell Dad I will drop him a line this week.

In this collection letters, there has been a lapse of just over a month.  Charley may have written home during this past month but these are the only letters that have survived.

These last four weeks would have been extraordinarily difficult and intense for everyone on the Western Front. The Second Battle of Ypres was fought from April 22nd to May 25th.  The Battle of St. Julien on April 24th 1915 was the first use of poison gas by the Germans against Canadian Troops. Not often mentioned is that the allied forces began retaliating with gas attacks against the Germans beginning in September of 1915 fearing that they might otherwise lose the war. 

Charley, we must remember, is writing home to his Mother. Charley does not elaborate on the horrors that he and the other medical personnel are dealing with around the clock at their Hospital at Le Touquet.  His mention of his old Battalion refers specifically to the 10th Battalion Overseas Contingent ~ men from Victoria, Vancouver, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and about one hundred from Winnipeg.  

The story of the first Canadian Division at this Second Battle of Ypres is remembered as an historic and heroic stand by a hastily formed organization of (such young) men who were the first to arrive at Valcartier Quebec less than a year before.  'Citizen soldiers' mostly untrained and armed with the notoriously dreadful Ross rifle.  Almost from the moment of their arrival in France they won themselves a reputation for courage and tenacity. This is considered a pivotal battle and one that 'saved the day' for the allies. The cost was too high. The Canadian Division was literally 'cut to pieces'.  6,714 Canadians were killed, wounded, or made prisoners of war in defending Ypres.


The message on the back of the postcard noted: “Here we are and it’s lovely.” The image shows a family setting at Winnipeg Beach in 1912.  (Archives of Manitoba, Winnipeg Beach 8, N13253)


  1. Thank you for sharing these personal letters. Getting to know Charley and family pretty well. Your commentary is so helpful

    1. Thanks so much Scott. I really appreciate your comments. This is such an amazing journey for me and I am humbled to have the opportunity to share it. Warmly, Nicola