As Printed in Brampton's The Conservator
(Set out below are five of the eight letters referred to in the article Letters from the Front. The other three letters printed in The Conservator may still be subject to copyright laws that prohibit reproduction without consent. For those letters set out below, we’ve added a bit of punctuation, some extra carriage returns and the occasional annotation to aid in the reading.)


Publication Date: March 18, 1915

Written by: Lieutenant Reginald Conover, Halton Rifles contingent, 4th Battalion

Sent to: his parents

February 21, 1915

I received your letter last night after returning from our tour of duty in the trenches. Very fortunately we had no casualties in the Halton Rifles contingent, although the lads in my platoon would persist in putting their heads up above the parapet of the trench to see what the Germans were doing. It is not a healthy pastime as the Germans are mighty fine shots with their rifles. They are equipped with telescopic sights and can hit a man’s head every time it appears. Fortunately the Saxons occupied the trenches opposite us and they are rather less vindictive than the Prussians who are regular devils.

The trenches are not so bad, they have boards on the bottom which keep the men out of the mud. The men are kept constantly bailing and pumping the water out of the trenches. The men have dugouts built in the walls of the trenches for sleeping apartments. The officers have another, a trifle larger where they have their mess. They have a stone in it for cooking. The men have charcoal braziers in their dugouts for cooking and heating purposes. They are much more comfortable than they were some time ago when it rained so terribly. Fortunately, the rain has abated. We have only every other day now instead of every day as it used to be.

I was astonished at the extraordinary cheerfulness and marvelous good health of the men. They are very cheery. I am speaking now of the men whom we relieve. Our fellows were very keen and smile back at the Germans with such good marksmanship that the Germans learn it is not healthy to show themselves. Some of the Germans get quite cheeky and move about quite unconcernedly early in the morning. At night we can hear them laughing, talking and singing as our trenches are only about 100 yards from theirs. One of their chaps whistled, “Many brave hearts are asleep in the deep.” Our chaps chaffed them quite a bit. Queries about the Embden and Blucher [types of guns] brought back a volley in return.

The Germans appear to be to be getting short of ammunition, as they do no fire as many shells as they did. Whenever they do, our guns quite easily silence them. They hurled several minewafers [presumably a form of grenade] at our trenches one morning, but their ranging was very poor and they either fell short or overshot the trench. They use a trench mortar for this. Our artillery got the range and half a dozen shells made it so uncomfortable for them that they thought discretion was the better form of valor and since that we have heard nothing of that particular gun. The artillery keep up an intermittent duel, shells are constantly flying over the trenches with a shrill whistle. The objective is usually guns or buildings where troops are supposed to be.

The trenches are close to each other, unless the Germans attack, our artillery doesn’t shell the trenches of the Germans as they might hit our troops. The Germans have a very great respect for our rifle fire. It is only the accuracy and rapidity of the English rifle fire that has stopped the German attacks in the past. At first our artillery was not as strong as it is now. But now we have more and as a result our trenches are not shelled as frequently as they were.

February 24

Our battalion was complemented by general…who commanded the brigade to which we were attached. I believe he has asked for our brigade to be attached to his brigade as a Fifth Battalion. This particular brigade was in the thick of the fight at the beginning of the war. I have just received a couple of Brampton papers which we have been circulating among the lads from Brampton. We were glad to get them.

All the Brampton men are well.

R. Conover

Publication Date: March 25, 1915

Written by: Frank S. Rutherford, Second Field Company
Sent to: Miss Gertrude Rutherford, his sister

March 2, 1915

I have a short time to spare this morning, so will fill in the moments by writing a few lines to you, as no doubt you will be wondering where we are, what I am doing and how I am getting along. We have been up to the front for a week and at last have been seen real warfare. We had the misfortune to lose our section commander while working in the front line of trenches and feel very badly as he was a very fine fellow.

My party was quite heavily shelled on two different occasions, but none of us were injured as we took cover in the trenches. We are now taking up a new position and at present part of one section are billeted in an old “Estaminet”, in other words a public house. We expect to march on in a short time. The Allies seem to be holding out very hard but not gaining much ground due I think in to the very wet ground over which they have to move in case of an advance. The Germans are under the same difficulty.

Our work so far has consisted of making trenches and repairing old ones, filling sandbags for the parapet and constructing barbed wire entanglements. We hear some great news from the British troops who have been through the fighting from the first and we feel that we are very young in the game yet.

We have seen many evidences of fighting in our march up here. These are mainly in the destroyed churches which we passed. One peculiarity which we have noticed is the comparative easiness with which the peasants seem to go about their work of farming etc. even within range of the German guns. While we were working on the trenches last week a farmer upon whose farm we were working started threshing grain. The smoke of the engines drew fire from the German guns. We had to stop work and conceal ourselves. The farmer’s shed and house were struck and large holes torn in the ground all around. The farmer did not seem to mind and continued his work until ordered to stop by an officer.

The British Royal Engineers have done very creditable work and have set us a good example to live up to. They have not lost as many men as might have been expected since they have had to work the very dangerous and difficult positions. Most of their work is done at night under cover of darkness.

I might tell you a good deal more but we have to be very careful as all our letters are censored to see that n information of any value is given out.

Write soon and often as we all look forward to mail days.


Publication Date: April 1, 1915

Written by: Lieutenant Reginald Conover, Halton Rifles contingent, 4th Battalion

Sent to: his father

February 21, 1915

…Our mail is delivered to us each night in the trenches at the time they bring in our rations. Life in the trenches is not too bad. By working hard for 3 days and nights I have my portion of the trench drained and tolerably safe from rifle and artillery fire.

The men are very cheerful and do not mind working while off watch. We have to do the most of the work of deepening the trench and making the parapet thicker at night as the German snipers pay too much attention to anyone whose head appears even for a moment above the trenches. This morning one of them has been blazing away at one of our iron loopholes and has wasted a lot of ammunition and gained nothing as we covered the hole with a sandbag early this morning.

One of my men was very slightly wounded in the nose by a bit of a sniper’s bullet yesterday morning. The Allemand paid dearly for his fun as one of my men brought him out of his perch in an elm tree about 300 yards from our trenches… There has been quite an artillery duel between the opposing forces. Shells are screaming overhead continually. As yet very few have fallen near our trenches. The Germans seem to pay more attention to the farms and villages in our rear and they are always silenced by our artillery.

Yesterday I had my first experience of shrapnel. I was sitting down at the end of my trench talking to Ross Berkeley of the Argos football club and suddenly “boom” and shrapnel hit the trees in front of us and the parapet against which we were sitting. It certainly did not take us long to get into our dugout.

Everyone except the sentries beat it for their dugout when the Germans started shelling.

I may say that the General, when he inspected my trenches the other night complemented me on my [sic] work that we had done in them. The troops that occupied them did not do much work in theirs. Both the men and myself [sic] felt quite proud as a result.

Corporal Clarke, son of John Clarke, of Brampton, was wounded yesterday. He was taking a message from one dispatched [sic] post to another for one of the officers and had to run from one post to the other as there was no cover. A fool sentry lost his head and bayoneted him. He is seriously wounded but the surgeon said he will recover. Clarke is a very brave chap. His was a particularly gallant action as the German snipers pay great attention to those unprotected places. The accident is very much regretted by all our officers in A Company as Clarke was a particularly good soldier and a clever armourer.

We are out of the trenches to-day for a four day rest and appreciate the rest very much.

It certainly was hard luck that Canada did not have a battleship or two in that North Sea fight. We have only the Liberals to thank for it. They would not help England, blindly thinking that there was no emergency. Everything that Borden spoke about in favour of our Naval Bill has come to pass.

Publication Date: April 1, 1915

Written by: Jack Pagan, 36th Peel Regiment

Sent to: Mr. S. Wilson of Christ Church Bible Class

March 12, 1915

I am glad to say all the Brampton boys, with the exception of two, are in the best of health and spirits; Harry Ceeley [of the 36th Peel Regiment, spelled also as Seely and Ceely] whom we left in the hospital in England, and Sergt. Clarke, who is wounded.

I am sure not one of your boys have forgotten or will forget your kindness to us while in Brampton. Well, here goes for a little news, or at least as much as the censor will allow.

We are at present, billeted in a barn about 1 mile behind the firing line, taking a rest after a spell in the trenches. The trenches are fearfully muddy and as one gets no chance to sleep in them a few days sees the majority pretty well all in.

We have had no fatalities in the 36th yet, although some narrow escapes. At night the whole firing line is illuminated by search lights and star shells and one has to travel warily to go unobserved by the enemy. The Germans have some wonderfully accurate shots amongst their snipers and it is these fellows who are causing the deaths of the majority of our men in the present mode of trench fighting.

The Canucks really are at the front now, so you may depend on hearing they are making out O.K. before long. We have the material and we are going to deliver the goods when the time comes.

An original cross for the graves of Canadian soldiers has been introduced by the chaplain of the lst Brigade. It is an ordinary cross with the inscription “Canada” looped over the top, like a Maltese Cross. One can see them dotted around the country already.

Publication Date: March 18, 1915

Written by: Corporal H. Robins, 36th Peel Regiment

Sent to: Mr. Cox, a friend

February 24th [or 25th or 26th] 1915

My dear friend

Just a few lines hoping to find you all going on all right as I am about the same. Well, we have left Salisbury Plain as perhaps you may have heard. We were about a week travelling here. We were three days on the boat travelling so I guess we must have come a long way round and then we were another eight days on the train so I guess we were all rather cramped up by the time we arrived at our destination. We have been on the move ever since. Last week we were near the firing line, our fellows were taking turns in going in the trenches. We have retired about 10 miles from there since last Monday. Well, the weather is just about the same as at Salisbury Plain, plenty of rain and mud. In fact, I think it’s worse.

Well I will conclude with fond love to all, from your loving friend

H. Robins