100 Years Ago: 34th Battery at Langemarck, Letters from Soldiers, Leo Ross Reported Wounded

The Intelligencer May 26, 1915 (pages 1, 4, 8)

“The 34th Battery at Langemarck. By Sergt. Gerald Spafford. On the Firing Line, Belgium, May 7th, 1915. Dear Mr. Bowell: …  You all have heard the story of what the infantry did, and those acquainted with the situation and formation of the line here will appreciate the following brief sketch of the part the boys of Belleville’s Fighting 34th Battery—now a part of the 2nd Battery, 1st Brigade—played in the battle. We were in the thickest part of it from beginning to end. …

While the sacrifice is a noble one, and we realize that they have done their duty for their King and Country—’tis sad. I herewith refer to one of my comrades who has been associated with the 34th Battery since its inception—a lad well known and popular with all who knew him, and many of the G.T.R. boys will regret to hear of his death. I refer to Gunner Leo Ross, who died as only any hero dies, fighting at his post of duty. No braver or more efficient soldier ever wore a uniform.

Leo was one of the 1st Brigade’s best gunlayers, and while fulfilling this duty in action on April 31st, 1915, under a terrific fire, he was killed. Our position enfiladed the enemy’s trenches. We were exposed to frontal, enfilade, and rear fire, but had to stick to it to support our infantry, who were rushing a position. We saw him buried in a beautiful garden of a near-by chateau. A cross marks the spot. We all extend our heartfelt sympathy to his bereaved parents. May it be a source of comfort to them to know Leo did his duty, never flinching, and did it well.

We also lost our section commander, Lieut. Helmer, the following day. We feel his loss keenly. His fine example and unselfishness shall always be remembered. Many of our boys with the other section are wounded. I cannot learn their names. Driver E.A. Carre, one of my boys has been wounded, but is still doing his duty. I cannot express my true feelings as to the splendid behavior of everyone of our boys. We all send our kind regards, and trust a speedy termination of the war will bring us back soon. Respecfully, SPAFFORD.”

The Intelligencer May 26, 1915 (page 2)

“The following letter has been received by Mrs. Lavin of 23 Charlotte street, Belleville, from her husband, Sergt. J. Lavin. St. Johns & Elizabeth Hospital, London, N.W.

I am getting on fine, but I had a very painful time. I have four bullet holes in me but one bullet did the lot. It struck me in the back of the arm, about 4 inches above the wrist, went through my arm, breaking a bone, entered my hip and came out through my back about 1/2 inch off my back bone. I was very lucky I did not bleed to death. …  We had a terrible time. Out of six officers in my company four were killed and two wounded. …

This is a fine hospital. It is a Catholic Hospital, but they treat anyone here no matter what religion, and the nuns are splendid; they will do anything for us. …

I forgot to tell you where I was wounded. It was at a place called Ypres, which is nothing but a hell upon earth. It is impossible for me to describe its wholesale slaughter.”

The Intelligencer May 26, 1915 (page 2)

“Gunner Paterson Wounded. Mrs. D. Patterson, 8 Victoria Ave., Belleville, has received the following telegram from the Adjutant General, dated Ottawa, May 25:—Sincerely regret to inform you 40469 Gunner William Paterson, 1st Field Artillery Brigade officially reported wounded. Further particulars when received will be sent you. Adjutant General.

The following is the last letter received by Mrs. Paterson from her son: Belgium, April 30, 1915. Dear Mother:—I have received all letters and papers up to this date. …  I got a wound on the fingers of my left hand and am back of the horse lines. …  Do not worry about my fingers. I would not have told you, only I was afraid it would get in the papers and you would not know what happened.

I was lucky to what some of the others were. I also had the side of my serge torn by a piece of shell, but my aluminum cup in my pocket turned it.”

The Intelligencer May 26, 1915 (page 8)

“Gunner Leo Ross Reported Wounded. Mr. James Ross of this city, this morning, received the following telegram: Ottawa, May 26th. Mr. James Ross, Belleville,—I sincerely regret to inform you that No. 40488 Gunner James L. Ross is officially reported as wounded. Further particulars, when received, will be sent you. Adjutant General.”