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Letters From the Front Charles Stingel (February 3, 1916)
The Trenches Feb 3, 1916 Dear Mother Yours dated Jan 17 received tonight. 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. We moved our billets twice and I could not seem to get settled in any of them. Of course we did not have beds or anything like that; just barns, but they were not so bad. We had straw to lie on and with our blankets and great coat we slept pretty well. Not very good chances for writing and I never wrote a letter while we were out. Have a lot of writing to do now to catch up. 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. I never see the boys in the 8th Battalion now. We are on the left of the Division and they are on the right. Charlie Flanders June 25, 1916 Dear Mother Well, I must try and write a few lines. Suppose you have been wondering why I’ve been sending nothing but cards, but we have been up against real war for the last few weeks and we haven’t had time or the opportunity for writing letters. We have been out of the trenches the last five days but I have been doing nothing but resting and sleeping trying to get back to normal. Believe me, we have seen some pretty rough times the last two weeks and a week ago today and for 48 hours previous it was simply Hell, but I came through without a scratch. I can’’t make out yet how any of us escaped getting hit; it’s marvellous to see how many men will come through a fight like that uninjured. I would like to able to tell you all about it but you will get it all in the Canadian newspapers. But I’ll say one thing - I never felt better ibn my life that I did after we once got started and it was glorious to see the way our boys went after the Huns. But 90 percent of them wouldn’t fight. As soon as our boys got close to them they would throw up their hands and say “Mercy, comrade!” And of course a fellow cannot put out even a German when he has his hands up. We took quite a bunch of prisoners. They were a pretty poor class of fighting men, new troops, too - the first time in eh trenches for some of them, so they said. They were probably second or third class reserves. Our battalion received congratulations from nearly half the British army in Flanders and it is nice to know that we did well what we had to do. Our guns established a record last night; they were into action in 13 seconds from the time the SOS call was sent for artillery support. It’s a grand sight to see them in action at night, but it’s awful to think that men are trying to live under such fire. We were billeted in a farm-sized town the last time we were out. There was a picture house and theatre and places were one could get a good square meal. There were three or four regiments of the Guards Division there and the Coldstream’s band used to play in the theatre. It has the record of being the finest British Military band and I can quite believe it. They played one Russian selection describing the advance and retreat of the French from Moscow in 1812. You could almost see the burning town. It is one of the greatest pieces of descriptive music ever written. We also saw a nice military display in a French city not far from our reserve billets. One of Joffre’s right hand men, General Foch, decorated a bunch of Canadians with French honours won during the war. There were about seven officers and 25 men. Our signal sergeant was one of these. He got the Medaille Militaire for work done at Ypres and Festubert. It is one of the highest honours the French can bestow. It was founded in 1870 in the Franco-Prussian War. It is a silver medal with a gold center inscribed “Valour et Discipline” engraved on it. There were two companies of Canadians and two companies of French troops formed for the guard of honour. They formed a square in front of the city hall. The presentation of decorations took place inside the square. There were a lot of Canadian and French staff officers present and they looked fine with red bands and gilt caps. The officer in command of the French companies was the smartest looking soldier I ever saw. You should have seen him salute with the sword. There were two Canadian and two French bands. The Canadians were on the ground first and when the French marched in our band played “The Marseillaise” and the French answered with “O Canada”. A moving picture machine took pictures of the whole thing and I suppose they will be showing them in Canada before long. Charlie Corporal Charles C Stingel (Service Number: 438072) was born on August 15th 1889 the eldest son of Mr. and Mrs Ronald Stingel of Carleton, Yarmouth Co. Nova Scotia. He was enlisted into the 52 Battalion at Fort William Ontario on December 19, 1914. He was then drafted into the 3rd Battalion as a reinforcement. Before enlisting Charles was employed by the Canadian Pacific Railway in Fort William . Once deployed overseas he was in the trenches of the western front since September 1, 1915. During the last offensive at Vimy Ridge near the Farbus Wood on April 9, 1917, Charlie moved forward, although he had been affected by a German gas shell and advised to drop out, and was killed instantly by an exploding shell from enemy fire. Charles Stingel is buried at Bois-Carre British Cemetery near Thelus, a village 7 kilometres north of Arras, France. Thélus was captured by the Canadian Corps on the 9th April 1917, and it remained in Commonwealth hands until the end of the War. The commune contains Battle Memorials of the 1st Canadian Division and (at Les Tilleuls) the Canadian Artillery. Bois-Carré British Cemetery was begun by units of the 1st Canadian Division in April 1917 and used until the following June, and the 61 graves thus made are in Plot I. It was greatly enlarged after the Armistice by the concentration of graves from the surrounding battlefields. Charles Stingel is listed on the Carleton War Memorial, Carleton, Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia. Carleton War Memorial