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Killed in the Trenches of World War I
The battles of the western front are the stories of trench warfare and over the past 100 years much has been written about those trenches,  the combatants, the weaponry, the strategy, and the battles.    For the student of wartime history one way to truly understand what happened between 1914 and 1918 in trench warfare can be found not in the history books,  the regimental records, and diaries but rather in the letters written from the heart by young men to their mothers, fathers, wives and sweethearts and the letters written to families at the time of the soldier’s death. Many young men from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada fought in the trenches of World War I.  These are but a few letters that tell their story.  Killed in the Trenches of World War I, presents descriptions of the daily life, feelings, and the tragedy of death. The letters and the pictures are randomly selected to portray the vivid story of life and death in the trenches of World War I
Credit: Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada (Canadian Troops returning from the trenches; wet and covered with mud,  November, 1916.)  
Lieutenant Frank Cann 85th Battalion Aged 23 South Ohio, Yarmouth Co. Nova Scotia. Died January 1918 “   ...   On   his   return   to   France   as   an   officer   he   was even   a   greater   help   to   the   battalion,   first   as   Lewis   gun officer    and    then    when    the    position    of    intelligence    and scout   officer   became   vacant   he   expressed   a   desire   for   this position   which,   you   will   understand,   is   a   very   important one   in   the   battalion   and   could   only   be   given   to   an   officer of exceptional courage ...  We   went   into   the   line   and   the   first   night   we   went out   in   No   Man's   Land   with   a   patrol.   He   received   a   very serious    wound    by    rifle    or    machine    gun    bullets    in    the vicinity   of   stomach. A   stretcher   party   at   once   went   out   and brought   him   in   and   he   was   rushed   out   of   the   line   as   quickly as   possible.   Our   medical   officer,   whom   I   consulted   at   the time,   said   the   wound   was   very   serious   but   that   he   was putting   up   such   a   game   struggle,   was   so   strong   physically and   had   lived   such   a   clean   life   that   possibly   he   had   a   slight chance ...” Lieutenant Colonel A.H. Bordon Commanding 85th Canadian Infantry Battalion “It   was   nearly   midnight   on   the   14th   -   15th   when word   came   to   the   dressing   station   that   Lieutenant   Cann had   been   wounded   while   out   on   a   patrol   and   the   stretcher bearers   could   not   get   him   through   the   trenches   on   account of   the   narrowness.   So   Captain   Brown   and   I   immediately went   out   with   our   dressings   accompanied   by   two   runners.     When    we    reached    the    dugout    to    which    place    they    had taken    Frank    he    was    comfortable    on    a    stretcher.        We immediately   dressed   the   wound   and   placed   a   clean   dry blanket   under   and   over   him.      The   medical   officer   gave   him a hypodermic injection to relieve his pain. He    was    quite    cheerful    and    spoke    to    us    and    was resting   nicely.   However,   the   stretcher   bearers   were   right there   and   we   placed   an   emergency   ticket   on   him   and   he was    rushed    right    out.    On    account    of    the    snow    on    the ground   many   of   the   officers   and   men   were   dressed   in   all white   and   I   must   tell   you   that   Frank   looked   awfully   pale.      I readily noticed that he always had such a high colour. We   held   very   little   hope   for   his   recovery   as   the wound   was   severe,   two   machine   gun   bullets   having   gone right   through   the   abdomen.   Indeed,   we   all   felt   badly   to hear    that    Lieutenant    Cann    had    passed    away    at    No    57 Casualty Station (C C S) on the 15th.” Sergeant S.F. Williams Medical Orderly
  Corporal Charles C Stingel 3rd Battalion Aged 28 Carleton, Yarmouth Co., Nova Scotia   Died April 9. 1917 “...   Your   son   was   killed   instantly   by   a   shell   while   we   were   engaged   in the   last   offensive   on   April   9at   5:30   pm.      He   came   forward   to   help   us   after having   been   affected   by   gas   from   a   German   gas   shell   which   had   caused   him   to drop   out   for   a   time   although   I   had   advised   him   to   go   back.         ...   He   had   always expressed   the   wish   that   if   he   had   to   give   his   life   for   his   country   he   would   not have to suffer, and I can assure you he was granted his wish.  ...” Lieutenant, Chaplain, Signallers The Trenches Feb 3, 1916 “We   have   just   got   back   to   the   trenches   after   a   three   weeks’   rest.      As far   as      the   rest   went   it   did   not   amount   to   much   as   they   kept   us   going   pretty steadily but one was not dodging shells and rifle  grenades all the time.  The   trenches   have   dried   up   wonderfully   since   we   went   out   and   the brigade   that   relieved   us   did   a   lot   of   work   and      fixed   up   the   trenches   in   pretty fair   shape.      It   was   a   brigade   of   the   3rd   Canadian   Division   and   their   first   time in   the   line.         Their   battalions   were   all   up      to   strength   and   they   had   lots   of men for working parties.  Don’t   worry   about   that   shooting   on   Christmas   Day;   they   have   the   range of   our   trenches   all   right,   and   we   have   of      theirs,   too.      There   is   shooting   going on   all   the   time.      From   where   I   am   now   we   can   look   down   on   the   German   front line      about   65   yards   away.   The   bullets   are   clipping   the   sand   bags   on   the   roof of   our   dugout.      About   every   30   seconds   a   sniper   seems   to   have      a   line   on   this corner   but   one   is   perfectly   safe   as   long   as   he   keeps   his   head   below   the parapet.      It   is   high   enough   so   that      a   man   has   to   get   up   on   the   firing   steps   to look over.   ....” Charlie
Credit: Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada (Resting in Reserve Trenches, 2nd Canadian Field Ambulance. June, 1916.)  
Credit: Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada (Officer giving his men advice in trenches. August, 1917.)  
Private Vernon Spates 85th Battalion Aged 19 Pleasant Lake, Yarmouth Co., Nova Scotia  Died April 9, 1917  “... In the action of Easter Monday, April 9, - a day on which many a Canadian hero made the supreme sacrifice - he was wounded in the foot and thigh just as he reached the German front line.  Our boys were having a mix-up with the Germans and one of their hand bombs burst quite near your son inflicting the fatal wounds.  One of the company stretcher bearers immediately dressed his wounds and shortly after he was carried to the rear.  Even then they hoped for the best, but in vain, for on returning from the trenches two days later it was to learn he had died from his wounds ...”  R. Willcock, Lieutenant O.C. “C” Company 42nd Battalion
James Wilbur Dexter 85th Battalion Aged 23 East Benton, Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia Died June 15, 1917 “...   I   must   say   that   I   was   Jim’s   comrade   and   chum   in   France.      We were   both   scouts   and   were   always   together.      We   fought   together,   we   rested together,   we   ate   together   and   we   slept   together.   Needless   to   say   under   the trying   circumstances   we   were   the   lost   intimate   of   friends   and   the   truest   of pals.            Even   yet   I   long   for   the   companionship   of   one   so   true   who   lived   so nobly and died so gloriously.  ... I   as   gassed   by   the   same   shell   that   Jim   was,   only   not   nearly   so   badly and   I   was   with   him   until   almost   the   last.      When   the   stretcher   bearers   took him   out   of   the   trenches   for   the   trip   to   the   hospital   he   was   unconscious.      He was   brave   to   the   last   and   died   with   the   spirit   of   fight   until   the   wrongs done to Christianity and humanity were redressed. ...” Hartley E. Scott
Credit: Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada/ (Grave of a Canadian in what was No Man's Land; August, 1917)
Gunner Ernest J. Amirault 1st Canadian Light Trench Mortar Battery Aged 25 Middle East Pubnico, Yarmouth Co., Nova Scotia  Died October 8, 1918  ... At the time Gunner Amirault was killed he was standing in the gun-pit firing his gun when an enemy shell landed on the edge of the pit and exploded before he could take cover.  A piece of the shell struck him. He was instantly killed and did not suffer in the least.  In fact he was not aware what struck him ...  Captain William H. Leishman
Credit: W.I. Castle / Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-000786 (1st Battle of the Somme, France, 1916. "No Man's Land" in front of Canadian lines.)   
James Freeman Doane 85th Battalion Aged 21 Yarmouth North, Nova Scotia Died September 2, 1918 “   During   the   operation   at   Passchendaele   on   the   30th   October   he   was wounded   in   action   and   consequently   invalided   to   England   for   a   period   of convalescence and rest. He   rejoined   the   battalion   from   Blighty   on   the   31st   August   this   year.      As an   original   member   of   the   Nova   Scotia   Highland   Brigade   he   carried   on   at   all times   in   true   Nova   Scotia   fashion   with   the   welfare   of   his   battalion   and   the successful   prosecution   of   our   big   task   always   at   heart.      He   could   be   depended upon   to   conduct   himself,   whether   in   or   out   of   the   line,   in   a   manner   reflecting credit upon himself and his associates. The   circumstances   surrounding   his   death   have,   no   doubt,   been   written you   by   his   Company   or   his   Platoon   Commander.   Briefly,   they   are   as   follows:   at about   5:10   am   on   the   2nd   September   while   advancing   with   his   company,   “D” company   towards   enemy   positions   during   the   recent   successful   operations   by the   Canadian   Corps,   he   was   hit   in   the   breast   by   a   machine   gun   bullet   causing his death instantly. J. L. Ralston. Lieut. Colonel Commanding 85th Canadian Infantry
Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada/PA-001086 (29th Infantry Battalion advancing over "No Man's Land" through the German barbed wire and heavy fire during the battle of Vimy Ridge.) 
Private Keith Crosby 24th Battalion Victoria Rifles Aged 17 Carleton, Yarmouth Co., Nova Scotia Died April 11, 1916 Bramshott Camp Diphook, Hants, England Dec 1915  Dear Dad I   received   your   letter   last   night.      I   just   returned   from a   pass   to   London   and   found   five   letters   waiting   for   me.      I   had been   on   pass   for   four   days.      I   saw   all   the   interesting   things there   were   to   see   including   Westminster   Abbey,   Buckingham Palace,     Westminster     Cathedral,     St.     Paul’s     Cathedral, Whitehall, Zoological Gardens, St. James Palace, the Tower.    The   last   day   I   was   there   I   hired   a   guide   and   saw   the guards    change    at    Buckingham    Palace.        The    guards    there consist   of   the   Royal   Horse   Guard,   Life   Guards,   Grenadier Guards.      They   change   to   the   tune   played   by   the   bands   of   the Irish   and   Scots   Guards.      We   have   to   salute   the   colours   as they are carried by. There   were   six   of   us   Yarmouth   boys   of   the   40th   stayed together:   Lance   Corporal   Cliff   King,   Lance   Corporal   Adelbert Taylor,   Lance   Corporal   Harry   Smith,   Lance   Corp.   Emerson Porter, Harry Porter and myself. London    is    packed    full    of    troops    -    English,    French, Canadian,    Belgian,    Australian,    New    Zealand    and    Indian; everywhere   you   go   there   you   see   soldiers.   The   place   is   also full of fellows back from the trenches on furlough.  They   come   in   from   the   trenches   right   here,   clothes   all muddy   and   torn,   rifle   and   kit   on   their   back.      I   have   seen   a good   many   of   the   First   Contingent   boys   back,   among   them quite a few of the Princess Pats.  I   was   with   a   English   fellow   the   other   night   who   is   out of   the   King’s   Own.      He   had   been   there   fifteen   months   and was   back   home   for   nine   days.      What   a   good   time   we   had together.  Keith
Credit: Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada (Canadian troops returning from the trenches. November, 1916. 1st Battle of the Somme.) 
Private James A. Ricker B Company, Royal Canadian Regiment Aged 21 Yarmouth North, Nova Scotia Died August 27, 1918     Somewhere in France  April 20, 1918  Dear Mother,   Your   letter   of   March   came   last   night   and   I   will   try   to   answer   your questions as to what we do in the trenches. In   the   front   line   of   all   there   is   nothing   to   do   but   watch   the   “wily   Hun” especially   at   night.   He   may   be   a   quarter   of   a   mile   away,   more   or   less.   We stand   two   or   three   together   with   a   box   of   bombs   close   at   hand,   keeping   a sharp   lookout   along   our   wire   in   front   to   see   that   he   does   not   sneak   over   and surprise   us.   We   get   most   of   our   sleep   during   the   day,   the   two   or   three   our dates. The   front   line   is   generally   the   quietest   place   in   the   trenches   because Fritz   does   not   often   come   near   us   and   his   shells   go   further   back.   When   in   the trenches   to   the   rear   of   the   front   line   we   have   work   to   do   at   night   -   digging trenches,   building   wire   entanglements,   carrying   up   materials   from   the   rear, carrying rations or any other work that has to be done. You   can   imagine   what   it   is   like   on   a   dark   night,   especially   the   barbed wire.   During   the   day   we   keep   out   of   sight   as   much   as   possible   because   he has his balloons and planes in the sky looking for targets for his gun. When   out   on   the   rest   we   have   it   easy   and   can   have   a   very   good   time   have   drill   and   training   the   same   as   in   England   but   shorter   hours.   I   expect   the news   of   the   present   operation   makes   you   worry   for   us.   We   know   very   little of   what   is   going   on   and   can't   tell   when   we   may   be   in   the   thick   of   it,   but   I   am not   worrying   for   myself.   I   can   see   nothing   very   alarming   in   the   news   we   get and I believe the Germans are nearer their finish than is apparent. You   asked   if   the   noise   of   guns   affected   my   hearing. The   noise   is   not   as bad   as   you   might   think.   When   a   way   back   of   the   line   you   hear   a   great volume   of   noise   during   a   bombardment   like   steady   thunder,   but   when   in   the line   you   hear   only   the   guns   that   are   near.   It   is   the   gunners   that   have   their hearing hurt. Somewhere in France May 19, 1918 Dear Sister, You   asked   if   I   had   ever   been   "over-the-top."   I   have   not,   nor   have   I ever   been   through   a   real   heavy   bombardment   nor   been   in   the   line   when   it was attacked.  I   have   not   seen   a   man   killed   sense   when   I   was   hit   a   year   ago.   But   I have   crawled   all   over   no   man's   land   on   patrol,   looking   for   trouble   near   the enemy   lines:   have   stood   on   listening   post   away   in   front   of   the   front   lines; have   been   in   the   line   on   the   longest   trip   ever   made   by   the   Canadians   and some   say   the   British;   and   I   have   seen   Germans   in   the   “wild   state"   when   I   was not permitted to fire at them for fear of giving our own position away.         I    have    had    some    experience    with    German    gas    and    have    quite recently had my first experience with aerial bombs though not very near. 733236 Private James A. Ricker B Company Royal Canadian Regiment BEF France
Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada (Canadians resting in captured trenches in front of Arras. Advance East of Arras. August, 1918.)
Private Eugene Murray Lewis 25th Battalion Aged 21 Yarmouth North, Nova Scotia Died April 29, 1917   Front Lines April 29, 1917  ...one of my corporals found Eugene Lewis’s body a few nights before we came out of the trenches and also that of another Yarmouth boy, A. Muise.  They were both killed instantly and within a few yards of each other. We had them buried that night in the usual manner. Some day I hope to be able to tell his people exactly where he is. ... Lieutenant Trask