New material

 

More from Uncle Oscar

It's inevitable. When you publish a book, more material will soon surface. And so it is with my book Letters to Vimy. Earlier in 2017 I reprinted a large collection of letters from my uncle, Pte. Oscar French, who died at Vimy Ridge in the First World War. But there are still more emerging! It's almost as if he is sitting on a cloud in heaven (maybe he has found THE cloud of the internet!) and continues to write letters home. Wouldn't that be a neat concept!?!

 

STEALING APPLES FROM THE ORCHARD

Here's a letter from August, 1915, describing army life as a trainee at Niagara-0n-The-Lake

 

Brotherhood of St. Andrew Reading Room

A Company, 37th Battalion, C.E.F., Niagara Military Camp

Aug. 27, 1915

 

Dear Mother –

 

I guess that we are destined to have a day in Toronto at exhibition time. I hear we are going over next Thursday and back the same day. We are to have a big march through the city and be inspected by the Duke of Connaught who was here last week. The 35th Battalion are sending a company of picked men over to stay as long as the exhibition lasts. They are to be what they call a model camp and will give illustrations of trench digging and trench warfare.

 

Was there a rumour up there that the allies had broken through the Dardanelles. On Wednesday night about nine o’clock a rumour spread around the camp that they had broken through. I was in bed when the fellows started to come in. They raised such a racket that I got dressed and went out. Some were running around in their shirt tails beating on tin pans. The officers came out and raised the mischief about the noise and told them that there was no truth in the report. Some of them felt about as small as a cent when the papers came in the next day and they found that it wasn’t right.

 

Our battalion was out on a route march to-day again. There is great rivalry between our battalion and the 35th. Each thinks that they are a little bit better than the other but I think our boys have got them beat at fast marching. Our ordinary pace in marching is between one hundred and twenty to one hundred and thirty paces per minute so you can see that we are no slouches. Our board has improved quite a bit now. We get fish once a week and butter for breakfast and supper.

 

Our fellows pretty nearly got in wrong with the farmers the other day. We went out in the country to practice company in attack. They let us rest beside an orchard for about an hour and when we had to move on most of them were so full of apples, peaches and plums that marching wasn’t very pleasant for awhile. We heard that the farmer had made a complaint to the colonel but haven’t heard anything more about it lately.

 

Hoping you are all well, I will close now,

With love from Oscar

 

POSTCARDS TO MY FATHER

Shortly after publication, I found an album with two of his postcards addressed to "Master Elmer French", his baby brother at the time. Elmer became my father. 

I'll present them here. They came from overseas.

In the first postcard, printed text on the back said:

The Pet of the Regiment

An extraordinary assortment of mascots and pets accompanies the Canadian Contingent. Dogs and goats and other animals are numerous. One regiment actually adopted a small boy, a newspaper seller, who was anxious to go with them. He was smuggled somehow on to a transport, and has since become a bugler.

In the second postcard, Oscar's letter to Elmer was short and simple: Well Elmer I suppose Santa Claus will be around when you get this. He has to go around in a waggon here as there is no snow on the ground. From Oscar. It was written in December 1915.