7. Letter from Samuel Monteith Loghrin to his brother his bother Thomas Alexander Loghrin
In my dugout somewhere in Belgium
We are in reserve about 1 mile back of the firing line and it is raining all day today so I have the time to write some letters. I was away for a week's course of instruction in trench warfare. One officer from each regt. in the 2nd Can. Division. It was a very interesting and instructive course. We tried out several telescopic sights to find out which is best suited to the Ross rifle for use by our snipers.
Don² has been made a Lance Corp. just put his stripe on today. Some soldier. I believe he holds the record for fast moving from the time he enlisted until he reached the firing line. But without my assistance, he would not have been able to do it. Don is very cool under fire and never gets excited. That is one of his good qualities, he is very popular with the boys. "Jeff" as he is called, the big first baseman of the 18th, has a host of friends in our regt.
Say Don tells me that last Friday he had a close shave. He was one of a working party of about ten who were doing some repairs in the front line. They saw a German artillery observation officer on his hands and knees behind a shrub near the German trench watching the result of their own artillery fire. A sniper of ours with a picked? rifle shot this officer right in the head. The Huns sent a dose of shrapnel after the working party, one man a few yards from Don had his head blown off. The rest of the party beat it, scared but not hurt. These kind of small scraps occur almost every day. For over a week things have been quiet, no heavy bombardments since we left the front trenches. During our last time in front trenches we had two men killed and about a dozen wounded in our company. A week ago last Wednesday was the heaviest bombardment I have yet been in. In three hours enough metal passed over our heads and around us to start a good sized foundry in business. The Canuck batteries fired 4000 rounds over our heads into the German lines. Say it was fine sight, trees over a foot through were blown into the air, mud, planks and cement could be seen flying in the air. After a time the smoke got too thick to see the German trenches. We expected to get orders to go over the parapet and assault the Hun line, but the order never came. Perhaps it is just as well, for sure some of us would not be here now.
When it comes to making ourselves comfortable, the Canucks are great hustlers. We build fireplaces in our dug outs. Make them out of tin. I found a 6 in. sewer pipe which I use as a chimney. It works fine. Lots of good wood around here. I found a row of walnut trees which had been smashed by artillery fire last fall. Chopped my week's wood out of the tops, dry and the best of wood.
I visited a ruined Belgian village on Sunday. Brodie, my servant, brought back a table and I grabbed a chair and a few decorations for my dug out. My dug out is built into a bank on the side of a road. Just a square excavation about 16 ft. long by 9 feet wide all underground but 2 rows of sand bags. On these two rows of sand bags rests the rafters. Roof is corrugated iron. Whole top is covered with about 3 ft. of earth to prevent shrapnel from smashing it. No windows, use candles for light. I am writing this letter by candlelight at four in the afternoon. But say that walnut burns fine and this place is quite comfortable. Found a patch of potatoes that were planted in spring 1914. When war broke out, they were partly taken up by German soldiers. Enough were left in the ground, small ones I suppose, for seed. These grew a nice crop which was well hidden by weeds. I took up a sand bag full and the tubers taste fine. Potatoes are not issued in the rations and cost here, bought from Belgian farmers, 2¢ per pound. I am going to pit a couple of bags from that patch and believe me, I will hide the pit. Wandered through a ruined distillery yesterday. No booze anywhere; the Germans sacked the place a year ago. The vats reminded me of the tannery and days gone bye.
Canadians are the real rustlers, in fact, I heard an English officer say he believed the Canadians would steal the Cross of Christ. But he was a little sore because he was late in finding the place.
I was in a ruined Belgian farm one day. Saw a broken cream separator and a gas meter. Must
have been an up to date agriculturalist. It will take years to replace this country, whole villages smashed to pieces and rows upon rows of trenches 6 or 8 ft. deep. It took 3 armies to put them there and it will take an army to fill them in.
If today is a sample of Belgian winter weather, I am sure going to rustle everything I need for life in this dug out. A dug out is a cross between a root house and a milk cellar. But it's up to each man how comfortable he makes himself. If you sit around here and shiver, you will get the nerves. But if you get out and hustle and make yourself comfortable, you will be all right. One of our officers had nervous collapse and believe me he sure was a wreck, shook like a leaf, could not hold a cup of tea in his hand. Was sent back to England.
I have to post this letter by five. The mail goes out at night. Everything goes in and out of here after dark. It is not safe to drive a wagon up here in daytime.
Write soon. Give Bill³ this letter to read but be sure the newspapers don't get hold of it. "We fight, not advertise" is the 18th motto.
With love to you and Fannie and the family*, I Remain, Your Brother, Sam
¹ This letter was written by Sam Loghrin to his younger brother, Tom Loghrin.
² Don Jeffrey was a younger half brother of Sam and Tom Loghrin.
³ Bill Jeffrey was also a younger half brother of Sam and Tom Loghrin.
* Tom and Fannie had five children at this time and were farming in Downie Township.