Letters from France to Lanark County




The following letter was received by Miss Annie Wilson of the Scotch Line from her brother Stuart Wilson, on active service in France.

28th October, 1917

(not transcribed in full)

Dear Annie:

We have been on the move this last week.  I suppose you can guess where we are.  At least the papers will tell you where the Canadians are attacking again.  We have been sleeping in hay mows and straw piles with the pigs, chickens, etc.  Our present billet is a big barn.  I have slept very comfortably everywhere we have yet been.  Lots of straw and a couple of blankets; may it never be worse.  We have stopped here for several days resting up before going up any further.  It has rained a lot lately and the mud is bad but what must it be further up?  They say they are swimming in it.  What with lice, mud, rain, shells, gas, bombs from planes, when he is out the soldier has a lot to contend with.  When one thinks what the men were up against the first winter we are in comparative comfort.  If the Russians had only kept to their part but this fall would have seen the finish of it.  The Italians seem to be getting theirs now.  This is good farming country fully level and pretty wet at all times.  They grow a lot of sugar beets for stock and also for sugar making.  You were asking me about Red Cross work.  I cannot say much about it except from here say and that is praise.  I see lots of ambulances carrying wounded men running around with labels on them “donated by such and such Red Cross Society in Canada”.  A lot of views some of these soldiers have taken from “Jack Canuck” and I thank that paper which keeps hollering about what it is doing for the private soldiers would be better suppressed.  I believe your work is also shown in comforts to men in hospitals.  A box every fortnight from now on would be acceptable.  Cakes, jams, chocolate, etc., is the stuff.  Two boxes came tonight to two of the crew and we had quite a feast.  We had salmon and sardines, preserved cherries, peanut butter, and chocolate.  That with our regular stuff is a real help.

Yours, Stewart

descriptive letter from France by Alexander Walker

Miss Lillian Walker received the following interesting letter from her brother Alexander Walker this week

Somewhere in France, 29th October, 1917

Dear Lillian:

(not transcribed in full)

At present we are having one terrible time of it.  The banging of the big guns are never silent.  Every night Fritz bombs us behind the lines from his aeroplanes and life is just one continued nightmare all the time.  This is just about the toughest corner of the front that we have been on yet and each day has its toll of casualties but if we are suffering then God help Fritz because he must be living in a veritable hell.  The drive on Lens was certainly a hot affair.  We had a cable trench to dig but Fritz caught us in his barrage.  It was awful, big shells and overhead shrapnel.  I got a slight scratch on my hand, that is all, while in front and behind me men were knocked over like bowling pins.  God knows how I ever got through that drive but I did and as soon as I was again in billets I immediately gave thanks to God for bringing me safely through.  On that front we had a deep dugout in which to get away from the big shells but on this front all we have is bivouacs but we are still in the game and Fritz knows who he is up against when the Canadians start.  It seems to me that they shove the Canadians on every hard part there is to take.  We have the reputation of always gaining our objective and once taken we hold them.  Some of the battalions have incurred heavy losses since we came here but Fritz has suffered 100% more.  Well, sister, I think often of you and mother and I pray god will see me back safely but if my time to go has come I am ready to go.  I never plan ahead any more because of what use?  I never can tell for even a moment whether I will be alive the next minute or not.  I think the Germans have suffered more in the last few weeks on this front than they did in all the rest of the war.  We are driving ahead every day slowly to be sure, because of the mud and the hard proposition of moving up the guns but we are still driving them back.  I do not know when the war will cease.  He is fighting desperately and stubbornly and every battle is contested in the strongest possible way but I hope the big ones on both sides will soon see the awful havoc that is being wrought and come to some kind of understanding.  Well, dear, I must close even though I do not write you right away, you write again soon. God be good to dear mother and keep you both safe until I return and now little sister good night and I will write again as soon as this offensive is over.

Your Affectionate Brother, Alex


Pte. Edgar McKarracher in a letter received by his parents Mr. and Mrs. Daniel McKerracher, Fallbrook, states that he was along with Clyde Wilson of Perth and Elmer Bales of Falls when they fell in action.  Edgar also says that after this battle he and Dr. Scott’s son of Lanark were practically for four days without any food but at last reached a farm house where they obtained food.


Posted: 11 February, 2005-by Christine M. Spencer of Northwestern University, Evanston, Il., USA


Lieutenant William John McLean
Died: April 9, 1917

Place of Birth:
Perth, Lanark County, Ontario
Next of Kin:
David McLean (father,) Perth, Ontario
Address at Enlistment:
Smiths Falls, Ontario
Date of Birth:
February 25, 1890
Trade or Calling:
Dental Surgeon

Lieut. Wm. McLean Writes of His Experiences in France.

The following letter was received recently from Lieut. Wm. McLean by his father, Mr David McLean. Lieut. McLean went overseas with the 130th Battalion and has been in France in the think of the conflict for some time:

France, Jan. 18th, 1917

Dear Father: –

I must write this evening for I may not have a chance again for some time. We came out of the line today after a month’s stay. We had it very hard in the line for the weather was very bad most of the time. We had a couple of trips out of the trenches, but just long enough to have a night’s sleep and a bath. The trenches were in very bad shape and it was nearly impossible to sleep, except when were were almost ready to drop. Bad and all as our trenches were they had nothing on the German trenches. Some of the recent prisoners seemed to think our trenches were fine. Just before we came out we some some real fighting and things were warm for 2 day[s] or so. Quite a bunch of prisoners were taken. Most of them were quite young chaps and were apparently quite glad to be taken. Our boys were in a hurry and blew up many dugouts that were full of Germans and in all probability cause many casualties.ie

Jan. 21st, 1917

Since I started this letter things have happened. They were shelling while I was writing and a big one almost put us out of business. A fragment came through the door and knocked things about a bit. No one was hurt but we were busy for awhile and most of the time on the move.

We are now away from the line, almost out of hearing of the guns, and run a good chance here of living to a ripe old age if we are here long enough. We marched out in full heavy marching order. It was quite a hike with a seventy-five pound pack, but the weather is cold now and did not mind it much. I expect we will be here for almost a month and probably into some ‘show.’ We are billeted in a little town. The billets are not very good, but i was luck and got a good bed. So once more I can get my clothes off. For over a month I never took off my boots except to change my socks or wash.

The weather here now is very much like early winter weather in Canada. There is a little snow but scarcely any frost in the ground and it i is just cold enough to keep the snow from melting. I had a letter from Aunt Minnie the other day and a parcel with some maple sugar which was fine. We had it on our porridge while it lasted. Well, dad, news is scarce and I must write some more letters to-night.

Give my love to all,



Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read.

Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in Hometown News and now in The Townships Sun


About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

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