Witley Camp. January 1918. It had just snowed 4 inches and Private Charles Arthur Reed (reg. no. 651593), formerly of Eden Grove, Ontario was responding to a letter from his mother.
His primary concern at the beginning of the letter was the need for tobacco – specifically cigars. His letter included the brands of the cigars that he wants, giving more than one brand to allow substitutions as it appears the supply of cigars are tight. He further outlines a basic plan to ensure the supply will arrive at timely and convenient intervals, so he does not run out of this precious luxury. Private Reed is not specific to the mean his mother should take to ensure he does not go without his cigars, leaving this up to her. The tone of the letter is hard to read due to its brevity but there is a tone of insistence and frustration towards his mother in regard to his needs involving his cigar supply.
He requests Prince Alberts, Tuxedos, Velvet, Senator, “…or any you can get.” Obviously, he is desperate for a consistent supply and even recommends to his mother to reach out to an “Ivan Cook” to help her with this task as “…it [cigars] don’t last long.”
Further, he relates some of his travels and that he needs money, $25.00 (approximately $500.00 today), for a leave he will be taking to Scotland to attend a wedding of a woman he met a year prior to writing this letter. His service record shows no leave during this period, but we do have a photograph of Private Reed and his friend Private E.F. Zimmerman (reg. no. 651151) with two women from Edinburgh that creates a connection over 100 hundred years after this letter was written.
Could one of these women be the one mentioned in the letter?
Private Reed as precisely 23-years and 6 months old when he wrote this letter. Before his enlistment he as a salesman for W.T. Rawleigh, a company based out of Illinois, U.S.A, with a range of over 100 products that they manufactured or distributed ranging from vitamins, lotions, salves, and other products for personal use. This company had offices in Montreal and Winnipeg.
Perhaps Private Reed was a successful “Rawleigh man” as these salesmen were called when he enlisted with the 160th Bruce Overseas Battalion and had acquired his taste for cigars in preference to cigarettes.
Having arrived in England on 28 October 1916 Private Reed and the rest of the 160th Battalion must have been climbing the walls of their huts as Witley Camp as over a year had transpired since their arrival in England.
For Private Reed he was transferred to the 4th Canadian Reserve Battalion 1 March 1918 as the 160th was broken up to be replacements for line battalions, with many of these men going to the 18th Battalion. Which is what happened to Private Reed. By 29 March 1918 he was in Etaples, France at No. 2 Canadian Infantry Base Depot and passing to the Canadian Corp Reinforcement Camp on 3 April 1918 he was transferred for active service “in the field” with the 18th Battalion on 13 August 1918 at Fouquescourt, France, just in time for the beginning of the Last 100 Days.
With or without his cigars, Private Reed served as a runner, carrying messages through this active time of combat.
His luck ran out of 10 October 1918 when he was wounded by a German sniper in the right hand. From his service records the wound was not severe and it appears that the treatment outlined for him was going to have him healed and ready for active service in short order as he was first sent to No. 32 Stationary Hospital at Wimereux and then several Convalescent Depots in France. But, alas, he came down with influenza, possibly the Spanish Flu, and was shipped to England for further care and treatment.
Discharged from care on 8 January 1919 he was set to return to Canada and arrived home 3 August 1919.
On 9 August 1919 the Paisley Advocate wrote a column about Private Reed’s return that fills in his service a bit more than a set of attestation papers would.
“Pte. Charles Reed, a former Eden Grove boy, who enlisted at Walkerton with the 160th Battalion in January 1916, and has seen some active service at the front, where he was wounded, arrived back in town on Thursday last on a visit to his old friends. On the breaking up of the Bruce unit on England last spring, Charles, like most of the 160th Boys, joined the 18th Batt. And went to France in March. He was a runner for the headquarters staff, and carried messages under fire during the big fights at Amiens, Arras, and Cambrai. At the big Cambrai show which was put on in the open country on October 10th, Charlie was attempting to deliver a message to an advance company which had gone over the top, when a sniper from behind some bushes tried to put him out of business. The first shot struck his hand, which was holding the lapel of his coat and went clean through his finger. Charlie fell, and as he lay perfectly still the German, after firing another ball his way, suspected he succumbed, and turned his attention to some other quarter. Charlie afterwards crawled along the grass and in spite of his wounded hand succeeded in delivering the message. For this feat he was recommended for the Military Medal, but unhappily never received the decoration. On going to the hospital, Charlie contracted the flu and trench fever and ever got back to the lines again. Pte. Reed, who was known throughout this section as the Rawleigh man, he being on the road for that form for over two years prior to enlisting, arrived back from overseas last week, and after visiting friends in these part, will assist his father, Mr. Arthur Reed, formerly of Eden Grove, on his fine 215 acre farm two miles south of Fergus.”
Source: Paisley Advocate. 9 April, 1919. Page 8.
Charles Arthur Reed would farm with his father and get married to a Jennie Viola Dennis on 19 June 1919 at Tara Ontario.
In 1921 Reed left the family farm as the Paisely Advocated dated 30 March 1921 records:
“Mr. Chas. Reid [sic], former Rawleigh man, had taken the agency for this district, and moved to Paisley from Fergus. He is occupying the brick cottage next to the Balmoral hotel.”
As it turns out, he was replaced by a W.J. Ellis in 1923 who became the new Rawleigh man in the territory.
Charles Arthur Reed would live until 9 July 1974 and is buried at the Chesley Cemetery at Chesley, Ontario. He was active in the Chesley Legion Branch (no. 144) and had nine children. His relatives still live in the Paisley area.