100 Years Ago: In the Trenches

The Intelligencer March 15, 1915 (page 1)

“Belleville’s Splendid Boys Fear Not Germans or Shells. At the special request of Sir Mackenzie Bowell the following interesting letter, received today, is given for publication:

France, Sunday, 21st Feb., 1915. Dear Dad: Well, we have had our baptism of fire and have just returned to billets for a few hours’ rest. We were up in the first line trenches, some of which are only 100 yards from the Germans. It was great. After the first half hour was over it becomes something indescribable. A great intense zest arises and one immediately begins to call all his thinking powers together in order to outshoot and outpost the enemy.

We went into the trenches at 3 a.m. on Friday, amidst bursting shells and machine gun fusilades in addition to searchlights and huge star shells. Such a sight and sound it was. Wonderful! By the time dawn came we had settled down to our work and overcome any little nervousness men naturally have when marching in, and in front appeared the trenches of the Germans. Shells started at dawn again, but our artillery was quite equal to the occasion. …

The country around here is in an awful state, bearing tragic witness to the great struggle that has lasted for weeks. Of course we notice these things more now than we will later on, but everything is laid waste. …  The men behaved splendidly and their work was highly complimented by British officers who have been here for weeks. All the Belleville 15th and 49th boys are fine and untouched so far. …  Now, dad, I am off to bed in a very comfortable billet, and from the way I feel I will sleep every minute of the few hours I have. Good-bye and dear love to you all. DICK.”

[Note: this letter is from Richard D. Ponton]