SMOKE ‘EM IF YOU GOT ‘EM

Friday, March 12, 1915

In Trenches, Rue Petillon

The Battalion War Diarist wrote for this day: “Quiet day on our front.  Some fighting still going on at Neuve Chapelle.  Usual schedule shelling and sniping.  Night of 12th/13th lost one man (Pte. A. Jones) killed, and one man wounded of a patrol which was out in No-Man’s-Land.  They were caught by machine gunfire.  Sergt. Lang and 3 men went out and searched carefully, remaining out till dawn, but could find no trace of Jones.  It is supposed he was taken, either dead or alive by enemy patrol which was known to be out also.” [1]

Note:  The official records declared Pte Arthur Stanley Jones # 25960 “Previously reported wounded and missing now for official purposes presumed to have died, as of March 26, 1915, in the trenches south of Fleurbaix.”[2]

12 Mar 15THIS DAY IN RMR HISTORY: “Canadian Associated Press; London, March 11.  One would imagine from a letter received from a Canadian officer serving with the contingent on France that neither ‘Jack Johnsons,’ *  the ubiquitous sniper, nor unceasing German bullets cause him and his men so much concern as the absence of cigarettes.  ‘A smoke at night now is a great comfort and it’s hard to do without one,’ he writes; and then he adds, ‘Possibly we are not entitled to anything from the Imperial Government or from British newspapers, but the Canadian Government has evidently not provided for us in this way.’

He goes on to point out that English ‘Tommies’ get as many as 70 to 100 cigarettes per week.  In addition to tobacco, while in their own particular case, for instance, twenty smokes is all they have received.

Face Prussian Guards – Ten days ago this Canadian company had the distinguished honour of being face to face with Germany’s crack regiment, the Prussian Guards.  So close were they to one another that they could hear the ‘Bosches’ talking in their trenches, and hurling abusive epithets at their inveterate enemy, the British.

‘They are splendid shots,’ writes the officer, ‘and are very cunning despite the fact that that the peepholes in our trenches are concealed, they actually succeed in firing through them time and again.  The other day they tried to draw our fire, and locate our sentry by clever display of dummy figures and had we fired our volleys would have been returned tenfold.  This dodge, however, like many others, didn’t work.’

To and From the Trenches – He describes the journey to and from their locations in the trenches as one of their most dangerous experiences.  In one case these Canadians have to pass some distance in full view of the German trenches, which are not more than 200 yards away, and although they come and go under cover of darkness bullets whizz around them.  The other night the company had only just emerged from the danger zone when the Germans turned a machine gun on it.”   [3]

* Note: “Jack Johnsons” was the term used by British and Canadian soldiers to refer to the big artillery shells which tore up the ground.  “When a shell hits the ground right and explodes it tears a up hole fully six feet deep and easily twenty feet across.  When you were quietly leaving the trenches in the night, and making back towards the base, first thing you know you tumble into one of these big holes.  That is when you curse the ‘Jack Johnsons.’  You get some bad falls that way… These holes are all around the trenches, and in the darkness you cannot see them.”    [4]

[1]    War Diary, 14th Canadian Battalion, The Royal Montreal Regiment, March 12, 1915.  Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa, http://data2.collectionscanada.ca/e/e044/e001089701.jpg
[2]    http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/mass-digitized-archives/circumstances-death-registers/Pages/item.aspx?PageID=48881
[3]     “Canadians in Trenches Want Smokes Badly,” The Montreal Daily Mail, Montreal, Quebec, Friday, March 12, 1915, pg. 1, col. 3.
[4]    “Another Ottawa Member of Patricias Invalided Home,”  The Ottawa Citizen, Saturday, April 3, 1915, pg. 1, col. 1

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