Source: Regimental Rouge
PTE. TURNER SAYS RATS RUN OVER FACES OF THE SOLDIERS[i]
St. Thomas Man in the 18th Tells of Experiences in Belgium – Spring in Air and Birds are Singing – Local Ladies are Thanked for Kindness.
Mrs. J.D. Lamont, secretary of the St. Thomas Chapter I.O.D.E.[ii], has received a letter from Pte. Archie Turner[iii], in Belgium, thanking the chapter for gifts sent at Christmas time the letter says in part:
“I now take pleasure in writing to you, thanking you very much for the presents you sent us boys, for we were so glad to see the good ladies of St. Thomas had not forgotten the boys of the 18th Battalion. We have been under shell fire for four months. That call us the ‘Mad Brigade[iv].’ We were the first to go to the trenches overland[v]. All the boys are doing well. We had Christmas dinner in the trenches. We had plum puddings, but no turkey this time; but we cannot complain, for we had lots of everything, and I think it was all right. They jar my dugout. They are sending a few over to Bill.[vi] Mr. Lamont, we have lots of rats for bed chums. The run over our faces when we are asleep. I think this is all this time, thanking all of the lady officers for their kindness, and hoping to see you all when we return.
Give my kind live to Mr. Lamont. Tell him to remember me to Col. Green[vii] and also Mr. Richardson. We have to wear hip rubber boots; lots of mud. I am in Belgium four months. A long time not to have your clothes off.
The birds sing lovely out here in the morning. Spring is not far off out here, and I wish the end of the war was not far of. So good-bye to you all again. Hoping to hear from you soon.
Pte. A. Turner (53745)
C Company, 18th Battalion
4th Brigade C.E.F.
Care G.P.O. London.
[i] St. Thomas Times-Journal. February 2, 1916.
[ii] International Order Daughters of the Empire.
[iii] Private Turner was not to survive the war being killed in action May 12, 1916.
[iv] The origin of this reference is not known and is the first time seen by the transcriber.
[v] This may be a reference to when the Battalion entered the line during its first deployment on September 21, 1915. During this march my Grand Father, William Robb Dewar was wounded.
[vi] “…for we had lots of everything, and I think it was all right. They jar my dugout. They are sending a few over to Bill.” This passage appears to reference artillery fire. Getting “lots of everything” may refer to the variety of calibres of shells the Germans are firing upon them. The shells “jar my dugout” and the Imperial forces are shelling Bill, the nickname for Kaiser Wilhelm.
[vii] Lieutenant-Colonel William James Green was the officer commanding the 91st Battalion based at St. Thomas. He would be temporarily attached to the 18th Battalion in March 1917 for a ten-day tour of instruction. He died October 26, 1958.
THOMAS MAN DIES IN BATTLE[i]
Pte. Archie Turner if 18th Falls While Fighting for Freedom – Has Two Brothers Here.
A telegram was received Sunday[ii] by Mark Turner, 5 Regent street, this city, informing him of the death of his brother, Pte. Elias (Archie) Turner, on May 12, in France.
Pte. Turner came to St. Thomas from the West in the fall of 1914 and enlisted with the 18th Battalion for overseas service. He had been through some of the thickest of the fighting and escaped unhurt until the day upon which he met his death while in the trenches.
Pte. Turner will be remembered in St. Thomas as being employed with Ellison & Lewis coal dealers, before going west. He came to this country with his brother about twenty-five years ago[iii] from Fordingbridge, Hampshire, England. He was a middle-aged man and a great sport. He was of a very kind disposition, good-natured and jovial, but of a roving nature. He was for some time with the 1st West Surrey Infantry before coming to this country.
The deceased soldier leaves two brothers and three sisters. The sisters all live in England and George Turner, employed at the Pere Marquette shops[iv], and Mark Turner, 5 Regent street, are the brothers. Pte. Arthur Franklin Turner[v], of the 91st Battalion, son of Mark Turner, is a nephew.
Mark Turner is a faithful employee of A.E. Ponsford Ltd[vi]., until last September when he was compelled to cease work on account of illness. He has been unable to do anything since.
[i] St. Thomas Time-Journal. May 29, 1916.
[ii] May 28, 1916.
[iii] This information is incorrect. Archie Turner’s attestation papers indicate he served with the West Surrey Regiment for six years followed by seven years in the reserves.
[iv] Part of the Pere Marquette Railway system.
[v] Private Arthur Franklin Turner, reg. no. 123732, served with the 21st Battalion and survived the war.
[vi] A local liquor store.
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