Butler, Kenneth

From: Butler, Kenneth

To: His Mother

Stonefarm Camp, Shorncliffe, Kent, England

Dear Mother

You will see by this that I have reached camp. I wish I could tell you all the sights I have seen and their extreme beauty, especially since I have arrived in England.

We broke camp on the Common on Tuesday, (May 18th) and went into theArmouries, where we stayed till Thursday. Everything was in a bustle and there was lots of excitement when we saw that we were really going at last. We could hardly believe it when they first told us, but when we were told to turn in our blankets and parts of our equipment we thought that perhaps it might be true. Thursday morning there was a little note in the papers telling the way we would march to the boat. We did not leave the Armouries till after twelve o’clock, but long before nine the streets were black with people. We marched a mile and a half through the city and the streets were lined with people all the way. They were cheering and waving flags. We went on board the liner Saxonia about two o’clock, got our berths and had dinner. We sailed from the dock at six o’clock sharp. The docks on the water front were lined with people the whole way out of the harbor and there was a big crowd on Citadel Hill. Flags waved and whistles blew till we were out of sight. Friday morning we were on the Atlantic, out of sight of land. I expected to be seasick, but I was not a bit sick the whole way over. We had a little drill each day, but most of my time was spent with a magazine in my hand or leaning over the rail trying to catch sight of a vessel or anything else that had motion. For the most of the way we seemed to be alone on the water. We passed a couple of boats the second day out. When off Newfoundland we saw some icebergs. Everyday was about the same till we got near this coast and into the “war zone.” Then we had boat drill. All the boats were slung over the side so as to be ready for instant use. We saw nothing suspicious, though, and when we got within about a day’s sail from England, a couple of torpedo boat destroyers came out and escorted us in. One of the men from the boat told us that the captain said we were chased by a German submarine for more than two hours, when one of the destroyers chased it and it had to give up. If that is true, it was pretty close to us.

About three o’clock on Saturday morning (29th) we entered Plymouth Sound and we docked about six o’clock. I was up when we first sighted land and saw all the sights. I wish you could have seen what I saw. The scenery was most beautiful. We took train about twelve o’clock for camp. Did not get there till the same time that night. We passed through several large towns, and also through a part of London. We saw Windsor Castle from the car window. At every station along the line there was a crowd of people to welcome us. They certainly received us well over here. Coming into the harbor we passed some ships that were in the fleet that Nelson commanded at Trafalgar. They were crowded with sailors, who sure made some noise cheering.The day after we arrived (Sunday) I went in the afternoon to Folkestone. (I sent you some views of that place.) The English towns are pretty. Everywhere you go you will find flowers blooming. The back yards of mills and houses are perfect flower gardens. The streets are so clean and the fields are so level and green, with trimmed hedges all around them that one seems to be looking at a picture.

We have got down now to drill in earnest, but the weather is so hot that we almost roast during the day. We get up at 5.30 in the morning, go on parade at 6.30, stay till 7.30. After breakfast we fall in at nine o’clock and drill till 12.45. After dinner we fall in at two and drill till five. We do a little work, you see. We have route marching with full equipment every afternoon, and believe me, in this heat, it is hard work as any one could want. We have a very good camp here. It is clean and the huts (we have houses instead of canvas) are warm, light and clean, but the dust is something fierce.

I am well now and am enjoying myself fine. Have talked with a lot of fellows back from the front, wounded or choked up with that gas the Germans are using. We are only about five hours from the firing line and on fine days we can hear the big guns booming across the Channel. Remember me to all the young people and ask them to write as often as possible. Tell them I will write whenever I get a chance.

Ken

Address: 67715 Pte, J. K. Butler, B. Company, 25th Battalion, East Sandling Camp, Shorncliffe, County Kent, England

Berwick Register, June 30, 1915

Contributor: This letter is transcribed from, and courtesy of, the Berwick Register newspaper, Berwick NS, by Phil and Stephanie Vogler and reproduced here with Phil’s kind permission.

MacKinnon, Dr. W. T. M.

From: MacKinnon, Dr. W. T. M.

To: Mrs. T. B. Morse

June 3rd, 1915 At the Front. Somewhere in France

………But when the war is to end no one knows. The only tip I can give you is that when you hear of the Allies having taken Lille, you may count on the war being half over. You have probably seen my letter to Mrs. Clark in The Register, and know of some of the things I have done and seen.

I have been up near the fighting line for several weeks in command of a section of a Clearing Station. We are working under canvas. I have forty-four big hospital tents for the accommodation of five hundred patients. My personnel consists of four medical officers and thirty-five non-commissioned officers and men. We live in tents and do our cooking out of doors. During the recent active fighting we were very busy and several thousand cases passed through our station. On one busy day we dressed, fed and sent to the base 1036 wounded men. Recently, we have been working behind the Canadian Division, and several hundred wounded Canadians have passed through our hands. This is the first time a Canadian Station has worked behind our Canadian troops. The Canadians are now out of the trenches getting a much-needed rest. In the recent engagement they more than sustained the excellent reputation they made at Ypres.

A recent German criticism says that the Canadians are the best fighters in Europe today. They have certainly given the Germans a bad time of it whenever they have been in the lines. I was at Ypres for a day during the big fight in April. It was certainly a terrible affair. I was at the Canadian Field Ambulances, where the wounded were being brought in a constant stream from the front. I saw many of the victims of gas. The smell was so strong on their clothing that they had to be kept outside the buildings. Several died before they could be moved to a hospital. The noise of the guns and the clatter of the convoys going and coming to and from the front were terrific. Later in the day I went up to Ypres, two miles away. The place was being shelled by the Germans, but we got up to what the soldiers called Hell’s Corner. The city was in ruins. We did not find any wounded, but saw many dead horses in the streets and several dead civilians lying where they fell when trying to escape with a few of their belongings. As we were standing by the car a shell whistled by us and landed in a house about 40 rods away. We took the hint and left at once. Another shell followed and struck a house just at the moment we passed it. We put on more gas and did not wait to see the result. About a quarter of a mile further another landed in the rear of a house as we flew by. The occupants were all out in front with their household goods, waiting for an opportunity to get them away. It is a most pathetic sight to see the inhabitants leaving the danger zone. The aged are put in wheelbarrows or dog carts or sometimes even in baby wagons. Children, too small even to walk, are compelled to try, and you see them trotting along clinging to their mothers, who are loaded down with bundles of all kinds. Every kind of cart you can think of is brought into service. The stream of refugees sometimes extends for miles. When night overtakes them they sleep in the fields, if there is no shelter for them. Where they are going they do not know. Their only desire is to get away from danger.

At the hospital we see some awful wounds. Fine fellows, who have done their bit, maimed or disfigured for life, yet all anxious to recover and return to duty. When they come to us they are bloody, dirty and muddy. We give them a mattress of straw and two blankets and at once provide them with hot soup and cocoa. They are then washed and dressed and given, if possible, clean clothing. Their wounds are dressed and they are then sent by ambulance train to the Base or to England. Cases too seriously injured and cases requiring operations we keep here until they are better as the result of treatment.

We have had a number of wounded German prisoners recently. One man had a broken thigh with bone protruding. Gangrene had set in and amputation was necessary. His last words as he went under the anaesthetic were “Gott strafe England.” He recovered and was sent to England. Another convoy is coming in with more wounded, so I must stop.

Major W. T. M. MacKinnon

Address: First Canadian Casualty Clearing Station, British Expeditionary Force, France

Berwick Register, June 30, 1915

Contributor: This letter is transcribed from, and courtesy of, the Berwick Register newspaper, Berwick NS, by Phil and Stephanie Vogler and reproduced here with Phil’s kind permission.