A Letter Home: The ’18th’ suffered terribly lately.

Note:  Posted corrected to state true author of letter and to add text from second JPEG.

On May 2, 1916 Major George Whitford Nelson’s wife Edna wrote a letter to her family in Canada. The 18th Battalion had been in overseas action since September 1915 and had seen fighting in Flanders. It has been blooded in action and had sustained 84 dead and untold wounded of a total of 3,055 Canadian soldiers that died from September 1, 1915 to May 2, 1916.

Major Nelson was an originating officer of the 18th Battalion and was Taken on Strength November 4, 1914 in Strathroy, Ontario. There is on record numerous letters from himself to his wife Edna at the Bruce County Military History site and some of them have been transcribed and saved as JPEGs. I offer the actual file and have transcribed it as accurately as possible so that it can be viewed and searched.

It is a fascinating letter that indicates many aspects of service in the Canadian Expeditionary Forces and the 18th Battalion specifically.

The first example is the reference to Major George Emmerton. Numerous War Diary entries refer to Major Emmerton leaving the Battalion for hospital and returning. He was suffering from rheumatism and cold, wet environment of the trenches and the weather, coupled with poor diet and exercise would have affected Major Emmerton who was 37 when he joined the Battalion.

Major Nelson offers another example indicating “the ’18th’ suffered terribly,” paraphrasing a letter from the battalion commander, Colonel Wigle. The suffering had only begun and casualties would mount as the battalion cycled in and out of the trenches in Belgium and then was transferred to the Somme Front from one type of hell to another.

Last, the closeness and familiarity of the soldiers. Not only did they serve together and create a bond but the areas they were from had small, cohesive populations with similar roots and many soldiers of the 1st and 2nd Canadian Contingents had prior military service, often serving with many of the same soldiers from their home militia units. Note the Major Emmerton had a brother serving in the 18th Battalion, Lance Corporal Ernest Emmerton (53906),

Note that the letter is written in Surrey, England most probably when the Major was on leave.

Eversfield, Emberlane                                                                                     Esher, Surrey,
May 2. 1916

Dear Edith,

No doubt you will have lost patience with me by now for being so
negligent but really the time has flown. It seems just like yesterday we
landed here it is nigh on two months.

George [and] Major Emmerton are away to attend “Medical Board” this and I feel so I had do so at last settled down to write. They receive their ‘sentence’ either a further leave of absence or to report at Folskline [Folkestone] tomorrow prior to sailing direct for France. I fear George will leave at once. In fact I know he will, as he is determined to turn every stone to get there. He is getting special mention as to his service Pte Doctors [?] at Hospital and Col. Wigle is here in city to help him strengt [SIC]as he is determined to get him back, he misses him so much otherwise he would have got a leave of six weeks.

He has had so little time with us he attended hospital quite regularly until last week. His hand has healed over nicely but of course will quite a scar. The wrist however is very weak and I fear he will often find trouble with it. He cannot raise himself with it nor rest much on it and cannot even close his fingers in a grip yet. For example yesterday he tried to sharpen his pencil and could not hold the knife, so you see if he were like men trying to “slide out of things” as so many Military officers doing too he could easily get three months’ leave if he wished. That is not, however George’ style. He knows he is needed and he is only to anxious to go.

Major Emmerton may not pass as fit as he is still far from well with Rheumatism. A change of weather crippled him right up. He expects something either here in England or in Canada.

Col. Wigle is expecting to get command of a Brigade soon and if so is giving George a Staff appointment on it. It will not be a promotion in rank, not for a while at least, but may lead to something later, and as I figure it, much more safe. He will get a substantial increase in pay too. He might be rather undecided about taking is [it] as if Col. Wigle leaves ’18th’ it will mean George will be second in command and then, anything happening [to] Major Mulligan [Milligan] would mean Georg [George] being Lt. Col. in command of his dear old ‘18th’. That rather appeals to him as he loves the old Battalion.

The ’18th’ suffered terribly lately. Col. Wigle wrote that it was ‘Hell’. Major Emmerton’s brother Sergt. Emmerton was shot in the face and the piece of shrapnel had to be cut out of mucles [muscles] of his neck, He is in England now and lost sense of taste and smell completely. Lance Corporal Fleming of Owen Sound a fine big six-footer and really good looking chap had lost one leg. The shell that hit him killed the two men with him in Transport service.

Took a few snaps yesterday had to a camera as George’s is still in France with Sid. Will send you some as soon as finished. Have one if it turned out all right, of the two Majors in gas-masks.

We have two months yet in our house here which now begins to feel like to us. June 22, we leave here and expect to get something somewhere on the east or west coast for [the] summer months. If there is still no hope by Fall of George going home with us going with us we will sail home about Sept. or October. George will have leave June or July and we will spend it in Scotland. We may wait his next leave for sailing. It should come in Sept. or October.

The [children] are doing so well are as happy with daddy. Babe seemed to know him right from the first sight of him. She rubs his face and Says “my daddy”. Geraldine will allow no one to do for her but daddy and do you know poor dad has been compelled to sleep four to a bed for we all wanted him and he tried to suit all.

We have now with us a Scotch girl about my own age or older as companion help. She is educated and refined and is very nice indeed [a] Miss Jessie McIntosh. She takes full control of the house and I go out any time leaving her with the children and know that all is right. She is just right sort of cheery companion one needs when alone and the children like her well. She is an excellent cook and we have enjoyed many good dishes since she came. And now for the surprise – we pay her $7.68 a month. Do you not wish you could strike a snap like that over there —- 8 shillings a week. To-night she is planning a big farewell dinner for the ‘Majors’ and leave me perfectly free to spend all my time now with George.

Well must close for now. Do write me as soon as I long to hear from Canada and will so much more after George goes. Much love from all to all.

Lovely yours,


JPEG of Letter by Major Nelson to Edna.
Page 1 of Letter by Mrs. Edna Nelson to her family in Canada.
Page 2 of Letter by Mrs. Edna Nelson to her family in Canada.
Page 2 of Letter by Mrs. Edna Nelson to her family in Canada.

The Butchers Bill from September 1915 to May 1916

Last Name First Name Age KIA Rank Service No.
BASS J 02/03/1916 Private 406252
BEESLEY J 10/04/1916 Private 412616
BROADWELL EMERALD BRITTAN 21 30/01/1916 Private 53892
BRODIE JAMES BENJAMIN 42 25/02/1916 Private 53776
CAMPBELL MALCOLM JAMES 21 13/10/1915 Private 53323
CARMICHAEL G T 08/04/1916 Private 412557
CARTHY E 19 26/12/1915 Private 54209
CLARKE FRANK L. H. 29 05/11/1915 Private 53092
COLVIN D 24/02/1916 Private 54223
DAVIES WILLIAM G. 13/04/1916 Private 54292
DREW ALFRED HENRY 22 02/04/1916 Private 402060
DRINKWATER H 21 25/04/1916 Private 54015
EVANS T J 30/03/1916 Private 406522
FENDLEY R 10/04/1916 Sergeant 53226
FLEMING E G 19/04/1916 Lance Corporal 53240
FLINT G R 20 12/03/1916 Private 406715
FREW W W 30/09/1915 Lance Corporal 53227
GAGEBY ROBERT 33 02/03/1916 Private 406719
GANGE HERBERT FRANCIS 21 10/04/1916 Private 53570
GARDNER HAROLD STANLEY 24 02/03/1916 Sergeant 54020
GARROD A 10/04/1916 Private 53571
GEHL JOHN ANDREW 28 24/04/1916 Corporal 53916
GERBIG JOHN 28 20/12/1915 Private 53918
GOODIER EDWARD 32 24/11/1915 Private 53678
GREEN JOSEPH 31 08/04/1916 Private 54182
GUNN WALTER GEORGE 27/04/1916 Private 412733
HADLEY J 28/02/1916 Private 412764
HALLAM ERNEST WALTER 32 29/09/1915 Captain
HARRIS G H 26/03/1916 Private 53059
HART ANSELL ARTHUR 19 09/01/1916 Private 412755
HENSON J 30/01/1916 Private 54139
HILLSON JOHN 02/03/1916 Private 54227
HISLOP J 29/12/1915 Private 54341
HOLLAND M 29/12/1915 Private 53345
HUDSON ARTHUR 29 12/04/1916 Private 54233
HULME A 10/04/1916 Private 53468
JONES T 11/04/1916 Private 54324
KENNEDY EDWARD MILLER 23 10/04/1916 Private 54074
KNIGHT GEORGE EBENEZER 17/11/1915 Private 53350
LAWRENSON 01/10/1915 Private 54031
LAWSON FRANK 28 12/04/1916 Lieutenant
LOGAN H J 22 29/09/1915 Private 53476
LONG ARTHUR G. 23 29/03/1916 Private 407039
LOWES WILLIAM ERNEST 30 27/03/1916 Lance Corporal 53420
MacDOUGALL J 30 20/04/1916 Sergeant 53365
McDONALD JOHN RODERICK 34 06/04/1916 Private 53766
McFADYEN DUNCAN SHEPHERD 19 10/04/1916 Private 457307
McMILLAN W 23/11/1915 Private 53143
McVITTIE J S 13/03/1916 Corporal 54104
MORGAN HERBERT 36 01/05/1916 Sergeant 53075
MUNDIE WILLIAM J. 30 13/10/1915 Private 54348
MUNRO G 02/03/1916 Lance Corporal 54282
MUSSEN W J 19/03/1916 Private 402796
NELSON T 13/10/1915 Private 54356
NELSON W 13/10/1915 Private 54340
NEWLANDS P 26/12/1915 Private 53712
NEWMAN S G 24 10/03/1916 Private 424413
NICHOLSON J E 23/04/1916 Private 63682
PIPER T J 40 04/11/1915 Lance Corporal 54167
POWELL GEORGE HERBERT 24 12/04/1916 Private 405390
PRIESTLEY TRUEMAN 17/11/1915 Private 53840
REEVES A J 30/01/1916 Private 53847
RIDGLEY A 20/10/1915 Private 53386
RITCHIE A 32 13/03/1916 Private 406384
ROUSINTHOL M J 10/04/1916 Corporal 53905
RUCKER B A 22 04/12/1915 Private 54234
RUNCIMAN G T 25 29/03/1916 Lance Corporal 53281
RYDE WILLIAM H. 26 23/11/1915 Private 53278
SALE CHARLES EDWARD 38 17/01/1916 Major
SANDO A 09/04/1916 Lance Corporal 54325
SAPIENZA E 31 26/04/1916 Private 53389
SIMPSON E 30/03/1916 Private 53283
SMITH THOMAS HENRY 34 11/04/1916 Private 54319
SMITH J 02/04/1916 Private 53850
SPOONER J 47 14/11/1915 Lance Sergeant 53878
STANLEY W 05/03/1916 Private 53510
STORING WILLIAM WESLEY 21 27/12/1915 Private 53394
SUMNER IRA WILLIAM 22 25/11/1915 Private 54320
TAGGART J 29 09/10/1915 Private 53858
UNTHANK LESLIE ERNEST 28 13/10/1915 Private 54141
VINICOMBE A J 25 05/03/1916 Private 54280
WHITINGTON W 26/03/1916 Private 53628
WICKENS HERBERT LUTHER 21 10/04/1916 Private 53413
WILSON C J W 02/04/1916 Private 406642

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