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Letter from Albert Bertram Mudge during WW1 to his mother in Guelph Ontario, 1915
Belgium, April 28, 1915
Mrs. R. Mudge, 41 Queen St., W., Guelph, Ontario
Dearest Mother and the rest;
I suppose you are anxiously awaiting the receipt of this letter to know
if I am all right. Well, I am as fit as a fiddle thanks to my good
health and God’s help and mercy in sparing me. By the time you will have
received this letter the papers will have told, as best they know how of
the way the Canadians brought honour to the country that sent them here,
but the half will never be known of the individual heroism displayed
during the charge and the days that followed.
I had gone to an important city near our billets about 5 o’clock and was
in a store when suddenly there was an awful roar and all the windows were
broken and the goods on the shelves fell on the floor. About a hundred
yards up the street on the other side a “Jack Johnson” (18 inch shell)
had demolished a house. It is wonderful the damage one shell can do.
They have been dropping them into this town steadily for two days -- a
case of wanton destruction, as the town was demolished last November,
this just seems like heaping insult on injury.
Our captain came along then, a fine man, whom we lost in the charge, and
who sent us ahead to tell the officers to have the men fall in at once.
Shortly afterwards we were ready to march off, after having filled our
water bottles and gathered some grub into our haversacks, a wise
precaution, not taken by all companies. On our way to the position we
were to attack we met the French on the road coming back, gasping for
breath from the effects of the gas bombs that were used by the dastardly
Germans, in their attack. One cannot blame the French for not being able
to face it, as it made our eyes smart when we were half a mile from the
trenches, almost an hour after it was used. The success of our attack
depended on it being a complete surprise which it surely was. As one
prisoner we captured said “We had thousands of men in reserve at this
point ready to continue the advance at daybreak, and never in the least
expected a counter attack so soon.” Our boys advanced in extended order,
with fixed bayonets. (as per instructions received in Salisbury Plains)
As they came through the hedge 150 yards in front of the trenches the
enemy has almost completed, they were met by a hail of bullets from rifle
and machine guns through which it would seem impossible for a man to pass
alive, but some of us did, other poor fellows only got part way. As we
got within a few yards of the trenches, the Huns beat it, for they will
not stand and face cold steel when backed up by a “Tommie.” As we
stopped for breath in the trench, I found myself sitting on a big
strapping Hun, who was crouching down in a corner. We took his rifle and
ammunition from him and one of the boys stayed with him. We made other
prisoners there too, who held up their hands pleading not to be
bayoneted. Our Colonel Lockie then led us through the woods and out the
other side. We lost a number there, and also captured many besides two
large French guns, which has been captured.
Dawn broke at 3:30 a.m. and found the Canadians “standing to” ready for a
counter attack in trenches that had been dug within the last two hours.
We were shelled something fierce all day and early the next morning were
relieved by fresh troops. We went back about ˝ mile and dug ourselves in
for reserves for the excitement still continued as far as the shelling
goes. They dropped them all about us all day long, and all night, but we
were safe unless a shell happened to drop right in close to our dug out.
There are fresh troops and big guns here now so just watch our “smoke”
save the day. At what cost I cannot say yet until it is official, but
the losses later would have been far worse, if we had not checked them
Mother, dear, you would not know me now. I haven’t washed in five days
and am covered with mud from head to foot, and am writing this in a hole
3 ft. in diameter and 4 ft. deep, with plenty of straw and a horse
blanket to cover me, and a couple of green shutters for a roof. The
paper was supplied me by W. Forgie our Y.M.C. secretary who brought it to
us with the shells bursting all about him but he knew we wanted to write
home and let our folks know we were safe. Our officers were bricks and
there are none better in the British army when it comes to going right
into it, leading the men. Well, mother, dear, I will have to close for
this time. Let my friends know I am safe, as I cannot write more now.
By God’s grace I came through thus far safely and I am leaving to Him the
final outcome. Be brave, mother, dear and trust Him to see me safely
home. Give my love to all and tell them that Canada has need to be proud
of her boys, and to send more like them.
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Linda M Shea email@example.com
My grand uncle Albert Bertram Mudge was b. 14 Nov.
1894, Peterborough, Ontario s/o Richard Chapman Mudge and Minnie Ellen
Crossley. He was a private in the 16th battalion, Canadian Scottish
Highlanders. After the war he moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba where he
married Verta Eileen Meacham, 21 Apr. 1920 and had one son. Uncle Bert
worked for Eaton's from 1919 until 1958 when he retired. He died 28 Nov.
1968, Winnipeg, Manitoba. This letter was written to his mother in
Guelph, Ontario from the trenches at Ypres, Belgium.