Canadian machine gun teams operating from shell holes on Vimy Ridge

Selected excerpts from the letters of Private Oscar French:

Niagara-on-the-Lake, June 13, 1915

Billie Quinlan and George Reynolds left with the reinforcements last Wednesday and I guess they are well on their way across the ocean by now. I hated to see some of our fellows going and the rest of staying behind. We had a big review parade yesterday. The 36th, 37thand 35th Battalions were reviewed by the headquarters staff. I had some talk of the 36th leaving here next Saturday. We haven’t much idea when the 37th will leave.


Exhibition Camp, Toronto, September, 1916

I suppose you heard about the big powder factory up near Parry Sound being blown up yesterday. We got the news here last night and the 74th and 75th battalions received orders to be ready to go up there but they did not go as there were plenty of soldiers much nearer than Toronto. I don’t know as sending soldiers up there would be much good as it likely was the work of a single German spy. It seems funny that more of the Germans in Canada who are having just the same privileges as British shouldn’t be in the pen.


On the train to Halifax, Nov. 15, 1915

We passed through Levis, a town just across the river from Quebec about midnight last night and our first stop this morning was at a town named Riviere du Loup. The fellows had lots of fun with the Frenchmen there making fun of their town. Our train just passed another French town called Rimouski now. Every town we pass we stick our heads out of the window and yell till we can’t see.


Bramshott Camp, Liphook, Hants, England, November, 1915

My first sight of England was certainly a grand one as I don’t think I ever saw a more beautiful place than the harbour of Plymouth. The fields are quite green now and the high cliffs along the shore are covered with a reddish moss. The towns here look quaint to us and in the towns the streets are very narrow and the houses are much more closer together than in Canadian towns. The fields in the country are laid out in all sorts of queer shapes and they are generally fenced with hedges.


Risborough Barracks, Shorncliffe, June 12, 1916

I am still in England yet but for how long I cannot say. Fifteen of the boys from this base left here last Friday for France and there are still about a hundred of us left that are now ready to go. I see the Canadians have been doing some pretty stiff fighting this last week. There were long pieces in to-days paper about the great fight they had made at Ypres… Wasn’t that a corker about Lord Kitchener being lost. Nobody would believe it until they had seen a paper. They are having quite a time to determine on a man to take his place. I don’t think that they will get anyone any better.


Somewhere in France, Oct. 8, 1916

Say Mother if it is not too much trouble and you get a chance to buy them would you send me a pair of long boots. I don’t know what they will cost or what it will take to send them but whatever it is I will make it right. I guess Dad would pick me out a pair sometime when he is in Midland. Size eight would be best so that I can wear a couple of pair of socks and get them with good high legs.