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Duff & Morrison Collection

"Just when he was passing a parapet a shrapnel burst and hit it, the pieces flying in every direction. Lou said that when he opened up his eyes, he did not expect to find his head or any other part joined to his body..." Jessie Ryan, Toronto [Ontario] 28 Feb. 1916


Toronto
Feb. 18, 1916

Dear Aunt Lily,

Mother received your letter yesterday and I certainly hope you are all over with the cold weather you are having. We can't imagine what it would be like to have the thermometer drop down even as far as 24 below, and to have it there all the time, O-O-O-O-O. We nearly froze the other day when it got as cold as 10 below, however it was just there for a few hours, but I do wish it would stay around zero. We have had very little snow here this winter. There has been tobogganing actually one Saturday since the Winter began and that was last week, now today there is hardly any snow left at all. However, we take advantage of it when ever it is here. Last Saturday, we went to the hills with Alex, a girl friend of his, and Isobel McGee, a girl friend of Lilian's and mine, daughter of first vice president of Eatons. She is very nice and we got her out of Havergal L.C. for the afternoon and evening. They live out at Mimico in the summer-time and we are together all the time.

Well I suppose you want to hear from Lou. We received a letter written by, or I should say letters written by the sisters in the different hospitals where he has been taken. He was not able to write for himself, so the sisters or nurses wrote for him. However last Saturday, we received a letter written by him. He said in the first place that he could not write a very long one until he gets better which the doctors say will be two or three months, but he says he will be up in a few days, so that sounds better. It would not have happened if it had not been for the carelessness of some soldier under Lou. Lou was made a Lieutenant on the ninth of January. Their parapets were becoming weak and they decided to strengthen them. Lou ordered that old sand bags be piled up in front at night to act as a screen in the day-time so that they could work behind them unnoticed. Through some mistake, new sand bags were put up. They were of course very conspicuous and the trench they were in is between 30 and 40 yards from the Germans. The Germans were firing on something back of where Lou was when they saw the hated new sand bags and immediately opened up fire on them. The boys stayed until it became too hot and then Lou had them get out but he had to stay back for some reason or other. Just when he was passing a parapet a shrapnel burst and hit it, the pieces flying in every direction. Lou said that when he opened up his eyes, he did not expect to find his head or any other part joined to his body. However, it was, and he got up and hurried along the trench, then I guess he fainted. Before the explosion, he had a pipe in his mouth, and after, part of it was there but the rest of it he said he did not stay to look for. As soon as the other soldiers found out that he had been hurt, they sent word along the line to the dressing station and they soon had stretchers out. They carried him back from the line and tied up his head as best they could, then carried him a mile to the dressing station. Then he says his head was roaring and he was very sick at the stomach. He was then taken to the casualty hospital and was there two days, I think. Then he was moved to Buelluel?...or something like that...Then to the hospital in Boulogne where he was operated on. He received two bad gashes in his head behind his right ear. There are a couple of tubes inside for drainage and both the wound and ear are discharging freely. The hearing of his right ear is entirely gone, but he thinks it will come back. I certainly hope it does. From Boulogne he was taken to the hospital ship and by night crossed the channel. He says these ships are very comfortable. Next he was shipped to the Central Military Hospital, Shorncliffe, and finally (as far as we know) to the Duchess of Connaught Red Cross Hospital, Taplow, England. This place is the home of one of the Mrs. Astors. A very beautiful place. There are two Moose Jaw doctors in this hospital who Lou knows and they well sure see that he gets every possible chance of recovery. When he finished his letter he must have been pretty tired as he said his head was running on wheels. He considers himself exceedingly fortunate to get off as well as he did and I suppose he is. In the mean time he is out of the trenches. This morning's paper states that 600 yards of trenches have been taken by the Germans right where Lou was. It is better for him to be in a hospital in England than a prisoner in Germany. We address his letters as follows. Lieut. L. R. Duff, #73017, 28th Battn., 2nd Canadian Div., Duchess of Connaught Canadian Red Cross Hospital, Taplow, Eng. We do not expect that he will come home to Canada but that he will visit a Mr. Rowlandson's sister, in Winchester. This boy was a Moose Jaw boy and was in the trenches with Lou.

I am writing this letter at school from 11:30 to 12 o'clock. When I eat my lunch I think I am going over to the Cottage Hospital to see Lilian Ryan. She is there not as a nurse just now but as a patient with toncilitis, or however you spell it. She got quite over her sickness when at our house, but that was not enough for her, poor girl. I expected to have Jean Galloway over tonight to have some fun, but she was engaged for the evening, but it is just as well as Lilian and I expect to go over to Moulton L.C. to a little play they are having there. We know several girls who go there............I have had my lunch now and it is half past two. I have been to see Lilian R. and she looks alright but her throat is sore. Her temperature was up to 103 so that is quite bad enough.

Very likely you will have heard by now, but at noon Alex phoned me and said that Galloway's had received a cable at about nine o-clock this morning that Gordon had been killed at the front. I do hope that Lou is not well enough to go back for a long time. This war is certainly dreadful. Poor Auntie Tot, she must feel awful. Mother went up there as soon as she got dressed, but even she cannot feel for Auntie Tot as Lou was only dangerously wounded.

It is awful the way they send the cables, without any warning.Just yesterday they got a letter from Gord saying that he did not expect to be near the front lines for some time yet and that he was feeling fine. They were I think about twelve miles back front the front in Flanders. Of course you know we feel badly for our boy and hope that he will get better but I wish he could come home and stay.

This letter did not turn out as I expected it would but that is what electricity will do for you. Still it is better that we should know and not be like in the olden times when no one knew until the war was over, what had happened. Let us hope that this cable was not true.

Much love for you and don't forget Jean.

Jessie

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These letters were genereously submitted by Lilian Ione Heselton and they are copyright to Lil. They may not be used without written permission of the submitter.

These letters span the years 1914 to 1918, and were written to Lily (Richey) and John Morrison at Yellow Grass, Sask., and their little 4 - 8 year old daughter, Jean (in later years called by Reché). Their hired girl was Lena.

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Duff & Morrison Collection

Intro | 30 Dec. 1914 | 9 Jan 1915 | 26 Feb 1915 | 18 Apr. 1915 | 29 June 1915 | 21 Aug. 1915 | 24 Oct. 1915 | 14 Oct 1915 | 1 Nov. 1915 | 19 Nov. 1915 | 6 Dec. 1915 | 7 Jan. 1916 | 7 Feb. 1916 | 10 Feb. 1916 | 11 Feb 1916 | 18 Feb. 1916 | 3 Mar. 1916 | 8 Mar. 1916 |

   

 

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