The Story of Trenches –Fred Knight Legion Branch #99 Cowansville



Photos of Frederick J. Knight in the British Army in WW1 who immigrated to Cowansville, Quebec and was one of the founding members and president of Branch#99 Canadian Legion in Cowansville.

Contents of a letter my Grandfather Frederick J. Knight once wrote to my Grandmother Mary Louise Deller Knight during World War 1.

Christmas 1915

My dearest Mary,

It’s bang, boom and crash all day long. It’s a mess rat-a-tat-tat day and night; fires and explosions, yelling and running and shooting; sandbags and trenches, war, war, war, such as I have never seen before.

We had been in the trenches for 20 consecutive days before Christmas dawned. For 20 days we had faced that strip of land, 45 feet wide, between our trenches and that of the Germans. It was a terrible No Man’s Land, dotted with dead bodies, crisscrossed by tangled masses of barb wire. That little strip of land was as wide and as deep and as full of death as the Atlantic Ocean; impassable and filled with human hate.

And though the sunshine of that bright Christmas morning in 1915 fell upon us few had the Christmas spirit. In our hole we quickly noticed, that during the regular morning shooting hour, that the German trenches were still. Someone drew a target on a board, fastened it on a pole and stuck it above the trench, shouting to the Germans: “See how well you can shoot,” and within a minute the mark had been bullseyed. The board was pulled down, and we lifted it again so that the Germans could see their score.


Photos of Frederick J. Knight in the British Army in WW1 top row left last one

The air was still and I raised my head along with my fellow fighters and we saw hundreds of German heads appearing. Shouts filled the air, and we wondered what miracle had happened. Men laughed and cheered. There was Christmas light in our eyes and I know there were Christmas tears in mine. There were smiles on the faces across from us where days before there had been only rifle barrels.

For once all of us on both sides of the trenches were happy for that one glorious instant that it didn’t matter what we were. Some of us with more Christmas spirit than the others jumped out of the trench and began waving our hands and cheering. Suddenly a very tall German, with a happy smile which exposed two rows of glittering white teeth, climbed out of the trench and shouted:

“Our Lieutenant presents his compliments to your Lieutenant and desires to know if you will select four men and come to the middle of the neutral territory to arrange for a truce for burying the dead.”


Photos of Frederick J. Knight in the British Army in WW1 top row far left.

Our lieutenant agreed in an instant and I was one of the four men selected, and I shall never forget how I felt as we advanced to meet the four German soldiers and their lieutenant, who were coming toward us. We felt as if we wanted to throw our arms about these men, and they told us later in the day that the same desire was upon them.

The hatred of war had been suddenly withdrawn and it left a vacuum in which we human beings rushed into contact with each other. You felt their handshakes double handshakes, with both hands in your heart. The truce was arranged for one hour and the men from both sides were to come out and bury their dead. The soldiers flocked from both trenches and rushed at each other and shook hands. “I want to have your photographs”, said the German lieutenant to our party. He sent back for his camera and we enemies stood with our arms about each others’ shoulders while the lieutenant snapped his camera.

“If I don’t have the chance to send you the prints before the war is over, he said, “I shall see that you get them afterwards.” And with that he took our addresses.


Photos of Frederick J. Knight in the British Army in WW1– far right- Bernie on the left.

At last the bodies were buried and the hour of truce had passed, but the men did not go back to the trenches. All along that once terrible strip of No Man’s Land the Germans and talked or played cards, exchanging tobacco and cigarettes and joking and laughing.

“Don’t blame us,” the Germans said. “It Isn’t our fault that we are fighting. We all have wives and children, and we are just the same kind of men and feel like fools”. It wasn’t until the sun began to go down that the groups broke up and we all shook the hands that might slay us tomorrow. After supper we heard a sudden blast of music as a little German band had crept into the German trenches and played songs from all over the world, That night there was no shooting coming from either side.  In the morning, the sound of rifles was heard far down the trench. My friend next to me jumped out of the trench and began waving his hands and began to shout a morning greeting to a German soldier he had made friends with the day before. There was a sudden rattle of rifle fire and he collapsed with a bullet through his head. The sun was shining on a world gone mad once again.


Photos of Frederick J. Knight in the British Army in WW1 top row far right

Historical Notes

  1. Page 26 -

    Clipped from

    1. The Gazette,
    2. 20 Sep 1945, Thu,
    3. Page 10 -  -

      Clipped from

      1. The Gazette,
      2. 24 Sep 1945, Mon,
      3. commentsLinda—- I know this photo from the newspaper that was shot in Cowansville. I am the young girl in the Brownie uniform on the right There was a young boy from the french community and myself that pulled the cords to unveil the cenotaph to commemorate the opening of the park in front of Bruce Mills…It was in the corner of the lot directly in front of the main office and where the store used to be.. Right in front and to the right is where we used to go into the factory right after the Santa Clause parade… We would file through the building in aisles that I think served the workers.. I think this because they were always covered with sheets of fabric and we could never see underneath them..At the end of the line we received a gift.. A very nice and big gift. and bags of hard candy.These gifts were from the Bruck Mills and owner Mr. Lee..I can remember a few years later when I had my three children and they were pre schoolers and the Lees lived on Hillcrest across from my mother’s house invited me to go over to their house with the children for them to choose a Xmas gift from the many that they had in the storage area of their house.. I am not sure if they were still giving out gifts at Bruck and these were left over or if they were from a few years before.. Needless to say the kids were thrilled with their early Christmas gifts..I don’t know if any one else went there for gifts.. Some of my memories for you.. My 15 minutes of fame….All best wishes. hugs Judith Pickel

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.

One response »

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s