100 Years Ago: The Call for Smokes

The Intelligencer November 26, 1915 (page 6)

“The Call for Smokes. The Thing Most Needed for Soldiers Is Often Lacking. This is what one of the men in the Royal Field Artillery, who himself has fought with the guns ever since the retreat from Mons, wrote to a friend: ‘What we want almost more than anything else, are cigarettes and tobacco for our pipes. It isn’t simply a fancy—but a real need. They are a big comfort. It’s something fine when you are with the guns to have some whiffs of tobacco smoke. It eases your mind. You forget about hard things. It stops you thinking hard. At home you don’t—you can’t—enjoy a smoke like you do out here. It keeps you going every day if you get a supply. But when you only get a small packet of cigarettes a week and no tobacco, it’s like offering a sardine to a starving man. I’ve often smoked rolled leaves because there was nothing else.’

Another soldier writes that it is at night in the trenches that a smoke is most precious. ‘So long as you can get a light without letting the Germans know it, a pipe in the dark is delicious and consoling. The night gets on your nerves, the least noise makes you start. It’s because you’ve nothing to do. You must smoke, chew—do something.’

There is no doubt at all that smoking is of the greatest comfort to these brave men who are risking their lives for us every hour of the day. The Over-Seas Club established their Tobacco Fund in the early stages of the war and in eleven months have been able to send, through the generosity of the Canadian public, $50,000 worth of smokes to the front. This seems a large amount, but the tragic note is that it is only sufficient to supply about five packages to each of the 40,000 Canadian soldiers at the front. Just fancy that, five packages for a healthy man in eleven long weary months. Now that the Second Canadian Contingent is at the front, the shortage has become greater.”