On Remembrance Day.
As longtime readers of this blog may recall, I always post something for Remembrance Day. In this year's Remembrance Day post, I'd like to highlight the work of the Canadian Letters and Images Project (CLIP), an invaluable online archive of Canadian soldiers' letters, photographs, and related materials based at Vancouver Island University. Like the letters featured in a Remembrance Day tribute that I discussed here last year, the CLIP website helps to make an ever-more distant past a bit more vivid.
For your reading this year on Remembrance Day, I'd like to share a letter from the CLIP website. This letter was written by the young soldier whose portrait illustrates this post, James Henderson Fargey of Belmont, Manitoba, who enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force in July 1915 at the age of seventeen. On Sunday, October 1, 1916, Fargey wrote home from the Western Front:
My Dear Mother,One thing that strikes me about the above letter is its immediacy: despite the passage of nearly a century, the hometown situations that Fargey describes - a neighbor's death, children's homework, a new coat of paint on the family home - still seem familiar to a twenty-first century reader. Fargey writes nothing about combat and very little that is specific to military life, a reticence that may be influenced by army cenorship: all soldiers' letters were read by military authorities before being mailed, and soldiers were discouraged from writing about troop movements or combat conditions. At the same time, keeping the focus on the homefront could have been a way of making up for the geographical distance between a young soldier and his family. Fargey's words seem all the more poignant when one learns that the Manitoba eighteen-year-old died barely two weeks after finishing this letter, on October 15, 1916. After being wounded in action, Fargey sent one last letter home promising his mother that "there is no danger at all" and assuring her that "I will get alright." When Fargey died two days later, a nurse who cared for him wrote to his mother: "He was one of the finest lads I have ever seen & an absolute hero. . . . It may be a little comfort to you to know that everything that was possible was done for your boy & now that all the soldiers graves are well kept I shall put flowers on your boys cross with your love."
I rec' your long interesting letter to-day and was very pleased to hear from you. I also rec' a long one from Della Lawson.
I was very sorry to hear that Mr. Smillie had passed away. It will certainly be a shock to the family and when Bert is over in England and physically unfit.
We are having beautiful weather now, especially to-day the sun is shining and but the nights are very cool.
I am glad to hear that Mr. Jon Williamson is around and hope that Arthur will soon be able to around as one invalid in a Family is enough.
Was sorry to hear that you had little wheat but if the price keeps up it won’t seem to be so bad. I suppose flour is up in Fran price and will likely be up all winter.
We get good bread here and general enough; but now and again there are short rations. The Germans use black bread and you should see some of them eat our white bread. They work on the roads around here and get so much a day. They seem to be well satisfied.
So you are getting the house painted as it will make quite an improvement on it.
I guess the club will be successful alright and I hope that Aileen and Cecil are successful.
I rec' the parcel of papers the other day and have enjoyed reading them as we have been stayed at this camp for couple of days.
So Cecil and Aileen have plenty of homework to do now. Cecil certainly must have worked pretty hard for this age. I guess you have had some time with Wintie Smith.
I enjoyed your letter to-day and thank you for the scripture chapters I read my chapter every night when I can.
While I was in Bramshott I sent a scarf to London to Leslie Smith's grandmother for to keep for me as I had one when I came over and she is going to send it over as it get rather cool in the evening.
We had service this morning and communion after the service. Major Gordon is certainly a good minister and is well liked among the boys.
Arthur, Leslie and myself were at communion the generally hold service out in the open. I wrote to Willie Lawson to-day as he had sent me some clippings on behalf of the Bible Class.
I haven't rec the parcel yet but expect it any day now.
Well this is about all the news I have to tell Remember me to all.
From you loving Son
PS Your last letter was dated Sep 11th
On this Remembrance Day, ninety-five years after the end of the "War to End All Wars," I pray for peace - and I express the hope that the stories of those who gave their lives in military service will never be forgotten. AMDG.