Clarence Arthur McCann June 8, 1891 - June 2, 1947

Clarence Arthur McCann was born in Pembroke, Hants County, Nova Scotia to Arthur Frederick and Ella Jane (Carmichael) McCann. He grew up in Windsor, Nova Scotia, Canada.

He married Ada May Smith on July 27, 1912 in Falmouth, Nova Scotia and together they had 14 children.

In 1915, Clarence travelled to Fredericton, New Brunswick to enlist in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. He embarked for England not long after and remained overseas for almost four years. While there, he wrote many letters home. Over 100 of them survived and have been transcribed. The originals have been donated to the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.

I offer these transcriptions to those who have ancestors who served in the Great War so they might have a glimpse of what that life was like for these men.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

June 27, 1915

Dear Father, Mother, & Wife & Lela & Victor and Everybody:

Well, we are here, but I will tell you all from the start.  The letter with this tells you up to 30 miles from St. John so I will start there and tell you as I can remember it.  First:  We had the best and calmest trip across that ever was heard of.  By the morning of the second day out I took sick and threw up about 8 o"clock, then I felt very squeamish for four days, but after that I felt like a top and never felt better in my life than I do right now.

The grub on the boat turned out rotten.  Porridge and lima beans for breakfast with butter and rank coffee.  Soup and roast meat with bread and sun-burned potatoes for dinner.  Canned beef, prunes and bread with poor tea for supper.  Everything except the bread that was cooked on the ship was rotten.  The canned beef was good.  Everyone had to be at the table first to get dishes.  There were armed guards and M. Police on duty day and night.  We were each issued with a hammock and two blankets, plate, mug, knife, fork and spoon, and a life belt.  This all belongs to the ship.

We had boat drill every second day so we would know something in case of accident, but nothing happened.  We never got an escort till 24 hours before we landed and then a gunboat with speed of 38 miles per hour and the dear knows how much artillery picked us up and took us in.  There was so much gambling among the men that all hands landed broke except about half a dozen and one of them had over $500 and the others nearly as much.  These men ran a game of their own, each for himself and they always win in the end.  They all belong to the C.P.R.  I saw one take $95 from one of them in half an hour, but he lost it all next day.  I had $4.25 when I landed and have it yet with six shillings that Mr. Muirhead advanced this morning to those who were broke.  I told him I was.  If you don't look out for yourself here no one else will.  You have to watch your stuff like a cat.  Our little bunch had the last boat to leave the ship with the captain so if anything had happened I don't know how we would have fared.  We had to wear life belts all day the last two days and keep them close at hand at night.

Six horses died coming over and were hoisted up and thrown overboard.  Two more were shot.  Could not be got up on their feet and had that disease anyway, so were not wanted.  The vet, who came over is a young fellow from out west somewhere and I don't think much of him, though one man said he had seen him tending horses in camp with his father before.  The disease takes them in the head below the eyes.  The lower jaw starts at the muzzle and swells till they choke to death in from 24-72 hours.  Gradually, the head swells, they get weak and dopey looking and have to be put in slings they get so weak.  They can't eat and can only suck a little water.  The lower lip drops and swells three inches from the teeth.  One had pinkeye and distemper with it and he was an awful sight with the bloody matter running from his eyes.  He was a fine looking horse as are most of them and some gained a lot on the trip and none lost any.  They felt so glad when landed that some ran away, although they were on their feet all of 15 days.  The vet. did not seem able to help any sick ones and only used a disinfectant for eyes and distemper.  He shot the two horses and made a swell job of the first I don't think.  He shot him fair between the eyes and knocked him down.  Then after he had thrown the blood all over the place and was tired out, got him right on the second shot, two inches above the eyes.

We saw whales, sharks, porpoises, flying fish and steamers and ships coming and going and if on a liner with lots of money would be a great trip as would be all of it, and I have not seen the best yet by any means.

We were issued with two blankets and a rubber sheet, water bottle, mess tin and haversack on Thursday and all hands examined for venereal diseases on Friday.  I feel sure we have two cases with us, but I don't know what will be done with them.

We got into Plymouth Harbour Saturday a.m. about 7 o'clock and docked about 3 o'clock.  There is a remount depot there of 4,000 horses, so I am told, and about 75 men came down and unloaded the horses.  I forgot, we had to clean all the manure away from those skates everyday and that is an awful job - no room, you know.  Once, we took up the floors of wood and washed the steel floor with water.  It's all done by moving the horses over one and I was about the only one game to go in around them, so had most of the moving to do.  If they did not get over, pull their head over and tie it there, put your back under their flank and fire clear of the floor right into place and you can move any horse that way.  Try it and see.  You want to do it quick to be effective, though.

Plymouth is next door to Ireland, I guess.  Anyway, it's a large city.  The docks are all concrete and take the largest liners.  A track runs two feet from the edge and on it are four traveling derricks for unloading steamers.  The drydocks take the largest liner and everyone has a battleship in for repairs.  I suppose there are eight or so of them.  The dockyard is very large, full of cars, tracks and machine shops and all kinds of shops and cops, too.  There are big derricks for unloading coal.  They are 70 feet hight and swing on a base with a traveling truck on the arm so you can pile a tremendous lot of coal all around one of them.  Although we had a pass out, the big mogul, whoever he is, would not let us out of the yard so all we saw was the dock and cars passing the gates.  The people jammed all they could to see us but the cops shut the gates.

All the houses are built of stone or brick and tiled with slate or iron.  Every street or road in England is made of stone in the country and paved or concrete in the cities.  Everything is neat and clean as a pin.  Though everything in the towns and cities are of stone, yet everyone has his garden and sometimes you would think you were in the country and they are the best gardeners in the world, I guess.  Anyway, everything you can see is beautiful and no money or time is spared to make it so, but stone is cheap.  We started from Plymouth at 10 o'clock Saturday and go to camp at 10 o'clock at night and fairly flew all the way.

Now for the R.Roads.  All the roadbed is made of crushed stone, the rails are of the heaviest steel and laid on wooden ties.  All the roads are laid perfectly, curves and all.  All switching is done from a tower.  One man does it all by levers, no brakeman on top of trains or throwing switches here.  Wherever a train stops there is a dandy station and tower.  The tower man throws all switches, even for yard switching, and they seldom have an accident.  All the cars and engines are only half the size of the C.P.R. except the passenger coaches.  The shunting engines are just like those at Wentworth and pull a deuce of a string of these teapots.  They depend on a lot of cars, not what one will hold.  The cars are all drawn by a chain and only the passenger trains are connected to the engine with air brakes.  Each car has two buffers on each end with a head the size of a tea plate and a spring behind so when the cars meet, the jar is all absorbed and you get a pleasant ride.  The main line engines are the same type but larger and a larger tender, but very powerful.  No pilot, cylinders out of sight and no bell and a small shrill whistle.  They don't need them.

The cars are made into compartments, seating from 5-7 people facing each other, with the door at the side.  The top of the door drops down and there is a closed window each side of the door.  The third class is as good as first class, both all nicely upholstered.  They lock the doors and average about 55 miles per hour from Plymouth to London, but some places when it is extra good go about 70.  We tore through some stations as large as Truro without looking at them and you could not see them anyway, just a flash.  The curves in the line are so perfect that the drivers go faster on the curves than they do on the straight way.  All the way it was farms and beautiful at that.  All the fields are fenced with oak trees or green hedges.  Hay and grain cut and going in.  There are no big barns except where there are a lot of stock.  The hay is stacked as large as a house and the top thatched.  When they want any they cut if off with a big knife and so always keep a square face to the weather.  Lots of sheep, cattle, horses and pigs.  Only one farm in twenty has an orchard and down where we are, only large fields of hops on poles.

There are no crossings on the roads here nor a road never goes on the streets of a town or city.  When the road crosses the rails it either goes over the rails or above them by means of a stone culvert.  The lines are all double tracked and a train is going or coming all the time.

Every farmer's property is hedged around so the railway is flanked all the way by hedge and is very beautiful.  We came halfway to London then our two cars were put on another train and we came to Paddington Station.  Here we took the subway train made up of five cars driven by electricity drawn from a centre rail.  Through a black tube like a funnel just as tight as ever we could go.  We left the subway train some place near Charing Cross Station and got to the street by an elevator.  At C.S. Station we took the train for here.  We went to Shorncliffe but that was two stations too far so the Army Service Corps brought us back here in two army motor transports - 3-ton trucks - about ten miles and we got here (Otterpool Camp) at ten last night.  Folkstone is ten miles away and all these places are summer resorts of fame.  We did not know where we would eat but the Heavy Artillery from Halifax two days gave us all we want so far and mighty good it was of them, too, but I'll save that till next time.

The Column from Fredericton is here, too, as well as many more with, I suppose, between 800 and 1000 horses.  It's an awfully big camp and the county all around is camps.  The towns are overrun with soldiers.  But I only mean to tell you of our trip this time.  We are under tents and I like it fine so far.  We came right across the south of England and are now only about 30 miles from Dover and fifty from France.

Well, I am here safe and sound after 13 days traveling (we were on the water 12).  I am surprised at the beauty of the country, the queer looking trains and their speed and the cheap price of things.  You should hear us squabbling over the deuced money.  Now it's hard to think of everything, so anything you want to know just ask.  After you get this, you will get one every week.  Try to let me have news often.  I am getting tired writing lying on the boards we have as floors, so will close with my address and love.  (I want Ada to get this.)


C.A. McCann
28th Field Battery
7th Brigade
2nd Continental C.E.F.
Army Post Office
London, England

© 2010 Pamela Wile. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

Friday, November 12, 2010

WWI Projects/Blogs

John Reid at Anglo-Celtic Connections posted about a new project to watch in this post dated November 12, 2010  It's called the Muninn Project which Reid says is "An international, interdisciplinary project to investigate innovative uses of First World War Records".  Check out the Muninn Project blog.  I found a link to a photo of General Sir Samuel Hughes  (at the Library and Archives Canada Flickr Photostream) who was mentioned in Clarence's letter dated May 25, 1915.  I think both of these sites might be a great resource for my research into these letters.

© Copyright 2010 Pamela Wile. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Video Gives Me a Better Idea of the Conditions during WWI

I watched the first in this series of videos and I was hooked.  The ends are "chopped" off a couple of them, but I was happy to see the film footage and photos anyway. BBC World War One from Above - 1/4 BBC World War One from Above 2/4 BBC World War One from Above 3/4 BBC World War One from Above - 4/4

Until next time, Happy Researching!

© Copyright 2010 Pamela Wile. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission

June 14, 1915 - Bay of Fundy

Dear People,

I am writing this 30 miles from St. John in case we stop at Halifax, then I can mail it.  Of course, we may not stop at all and no one can find out.  I can only see about 100 yards from the ship on account of the fog.  The transport we are on is the Herschel, some foreign boat, I think, by the lingo over the doors.  This is manned by English seamen, about 100 ft. long and as homely as the deuce.  She was formerly a fruit steamer and has been in Glasgow fitting up on purpose for this trip.  We came from Fredericton on Saturday morning and the people gave us a great sendoff as well as a big lunch for each man, donated by the ladies.

We got on board this tub about 12 o'clock noon same day and had the afternoon and evening as well as Sunday ashore.  We were in West St. John and had to ferry across to the city.  The Ammunition Column came to St. John with us and, with the 26th Battalion, sailed on the Caledonia, a regular transport, Sunday at noon.  We expect to cross together when we catch them.  They go to Halifax to get the heavy artillery, but I don't know whether we put in or not.  There is an escort waiting for us somewhere, probably Sydney.  It will take us 12 - 14 days and we will likely land in France, because we have 460 horses on board and all the horses have gone to France so far.  We unloaded the horses this morning (stated at 6 o'clock) from the cars and were two hours.  I tell you those horses moved mighty fast.

We have on board the C.P./P. Construction Corps which, with our 42 and officer and crew, make about 700 men.  The C.P.R. men loaded the horses between 9 - 12 and we have to tend them across - just feed and water.  We eat 16 men to a table and sleep in hammocks.  This old tub sets so high, I know she will roll.  Then I'll bet we will be sick.

As soon as I know it I will send you my address.  We left St. John at 3 o'clock today and are making only eight knots.  The people of St. John gave us a royal sendoff and the Ammunition Column and the 26th got the same.  There were many sad partings.  Conditions here won't let me write any longer.  So goodbye till next time.


© 2010 Pamela Wile. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

Local WWI Story and a Postcard Collection

Check out this link to a Dal News story about the efforts made by Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia during WWI

And, here is a link to one Dalhousie University Archive collection of postcards sent home from the front:

I enjoy reading these stories and hope there are more in the near future.

© Copyright 2010 Pamela Wile. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

June 11, 1915 - Fredericton

Dear Father, Mother, Lela, Victor:

This letter is goodbye to all.  Forty-two of us go from St. John as soon as the troop can be loaded.  There are 42 from our battery, the Ammunition Column and, I think, the 26 Regiment.  I was the first driver on the list.  I don't know how long we will be in St. John.  Probably not more than a day or two, so  you had better not write till you hear from me again.  We are bound for England.  I will have any mail on the way for me returned home or possibly they may forward it on for me.  I don't know just now but it doesn't matter.  I will get it in the end.  I am sending the grip home with some things I don't need, also the watch.  I planned to start for home tonight but these orders came very suddenly and I did not know I was going till 11:30 today; nor anyone else for that matter.

Now I am glad that I qualified for 1st place as driving, still I don't like the idea of going from you all but we will hope I come back safe and sound.  Of course, we need a lot of training yet and the war may be over before we are ready.  Now I have a lot of packing to do so this must do till next time.  You never saw a happier bunch of men than those who are going in your life.  Now I am not very demonstrative, but you have my best love - all of you.  So goodbye till you hear from me next.


© 2010 Pamela Wile. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

June 7, 1915 - Fredericton

Dear Father,

I received your letter Saturday noon and the parcel this noon.  If I had got the parcel with the letter I could have saved 35 cents for writing material which I bought Saturday night.  But no matter, it won't spoil and I can use it sometime.  The only money we can draw here is the $6.00 the major gives us between the 15th and 20th of each month and everybody gets that , so if I come home I will have to save what I can from pay day and the rest will have to come from home.

I did not think last summer that Henry Ward would ever work again, he was too sick at times.  I am sorry to hear that C. Sellon and J. Currie are dead, but it is as likely to be them as anybody.  I notice mostly all of the casualties are in the infantry.

When I spoke of my boots being rough on the inside I meant it was the untanned side of the leather, so there is nothing I can do to make them better.  However, I like them fine and they fit me perfectly.  I used a lot of grease called Dubbin on them when the weather was wet and they got very dark, and when the weather got dry and warm (it has been awfully hot here lately) I tried to clean them and get them a lighter color to shine but I could not do it, although I tried soap and warm water as well as gasoline.  However, on Saturday they issued us with our second pair and I got a pair of Slaters (regular dandies), size 7, just the right length but a bit narrow so I sent them to the cobbler this morning to have them stretched.  I like to have boots that fit.  So many here have them too big and they wrinkle all up and look like the deuce.  Of course, the quartermaster tries to make you take the first pair of your size he finds and there are so many makes made on so many different lasts that sometimes you can wear 6's in one make and have to have 8's in another, so I just stand and holler till I get what I want.

I am on picket today, went on with three others and an N.C.O at five last night.  My tricks were from 5-7 and 11-1, last night and the same today, up and down, mostly sit down out by the horses to see that they are all right.  Two hours on and four off, when on guard we have two on and six off.  But it's only play with no rifles to carry, only it's a bit lonely at night becuase the rest of the picket are 150 yds away, whereas the guard beats right alongside lots of company.  There is a draft of 42 men ordered for England from this Battery at any minute with Mr. Muirhead (Lieut.) in charge.  I don't know whether I go or not yet.


P.S. Mr. Muirhead started to make out the list of men he would take, 20 gunners, 15 drivers, 6 N.C.O.'s and himself, and he had me down as one of the best drivers, but the major took the reins himself and does not know the men's work at all so I don't know whether I go or not, but I will let you know as soon as I can...I thought you all might like my photo so I had it taken Saturday.  They cost me $2.50 and you will get them the last of the week.  Do what you like with them, but see that Ada gets one.

© Copyright 2010 Pamela Wile. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

View of Ypres in 1919

I read about this film footage over at Anglo-Celtic Connections blog.

Apparently, it will be aired by the BBC on November 7, but is available at

If you ever wondered what Ypres looked like to your CEF ancestor, have a look at this video.  It certainly gives me a different perspective of the hell they must have seen.

© Copyright 2010 Pamela Wile. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

Canada 1914-1918 Ypres

I saw this website on an email list, I thought I would share it here.

This website is for The National Schools Vigil which is a Remembrance of the 68,000 Canadians who died in WWI.  From November 4 - 11, These soldiers' names will be projected one at a time and displayed for 25 seconds simultaneously in each of the participating schools in Canada and in Belgium.  Please have a look at  Canada 1914-1918 Ypres  and read about this worthwhile project.

Clarence would have known many on the list of casualties and he often wondered if he would ever go home again.  What a terrifying thought!

© Copyright 2010 Pamela Wile. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

June 1, 1915 - Fredericton

Dear Lela,

I don't know what to tell you, only that I am well, never felt better that I know of.  We have a fire up here in town every day but they never amount to anything, the firemen are too quick (three on duty all the time).  They only have two wagons with ladder and hose.  One horse on the ladder and two for the hose always on the job.  When the alarm rings these horses jump to their places, the men to their seats and the third man opens the doors.  Then look out, for they stop for nothing.  The men drop their work wherever they are and go direct to the fire and as everyone has a wheel here, it doesn't take them long to get there.

I did not know John Harris had a car.  Something he found, no doubt.


P.S.  The city has a pumping station going all day and night to draw water from the river for the city, so they don't need any fire engines.

© Copyright 2010 Pamela Wile. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

Monday, November 1, 2010

June 1, 1915 - Fredericton

Dear Mother,

Now I got to hurry because it's nearly suppertime and I am on fatigue today.  We are still here although there are rumors in the air of us going to Sussex right away.  Some say the cars are at the station now.  I enclose a clipping of the talk the inspecting officer had with the Gleaner regarding us as a Battery.

I hope John Currie has not been killed though it may be so.  Its just as liable to be him as anyone.  Still, there may be a mistake like Arthur Warr's case.

Now I can't think of much to say, so if you want to know anything just ask me.  I am perfectly well, never felt better that I know of.  I think I will try to come home about the middle of this month if nothing prevents.

I must lay in some more writing material for I had to borrow this paper.  You will have to see each others' letters to get all the news because I hate like the deuce to write letters.  I don't think I wrote half a dozen in the last three years, but I will do the best I can and your letters will always be welcome.  They keep me in touch with home.

You have two pairs of socks that I sent home.  Please fix them up and send them to me by P.Post.  We are only issued with two pairs every six months and wearing them in rough boots they don't last long.  The toes are all gone out of mine now and have been for six weeks.


© Copyright 2010 Pamela Wile. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

June 1, 1915 - Fredericton

Dear Father,

I can't write much because they will soon call me to set tables.  I am on fatigue today.  It is easy though - only about three hours' work all day if everyone works with a will as we have done today.  Next time I write I will tell you about it.

They are paying the separation allowance direct from Ottawa alphabetically and three days ago the L's in this town got theirs and the M's follow pretty closely, so she should have it by now, I would think.  I have not cashed that order yet and don't know whether to send it home or keep it to help bring me home.  I managed without it and expect money tomorrow.  It won't cost more than $12 to take home and back.  Soldiers get a fare and one-third.

The Ammunition Column has been served with deck shoes but they are not connected with us at all.  They never see the firing line but keep our first line wagons supplied with ammunition from the railroads and waterfronts.  They may not need them in the war and they may be changed into a Battery of Artillery.  Anyway, they are doing the same drill we are now.  Now I'll give you our officers' names.  First there is Major Crocker.  He has been sick ever since we came here and had six weeks in the hospital.  If he can't stand it here he can't stand it at the Front.  However, he looks better.  Captain McDonald, Lieuts. Muirhead, McLatchey, and Hardin.

I must leave now.  More next time.


©  Copyright 2010 Pamela Wile. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

May 25, 1915 - Fredericton

Dear Father,

I don't know when I will come home, it's a question of money, but I want to go home before we go across.  I would come now if I had the cash.  The talk is that we can expect to go to Sussex any day now and that will be 25 miles nearer home.  We are getting lots of hard drill now.  The weather is much better here now than it ever is home at this time.  In mid-summer it's very hot (110 degrees in the shade they tell me), and much colder than elsewhere in the winter.

Drake should have paid the bank charges on that draft, I added them to it at the bank.  It is queer you have had no money yet.  Ada has been sick so she could not get in.  You drive out some night and see her about it.  The other boys from home tell me their people have got the money they signed home.  They got it about the same time we got ours here, so Ada may have it.

I don't know anything about the separation allowance.  I signed all the papers here and that's all I can do.  I suppose the government takes its own time, they have the upper hand.

They discharged McInnis this morning, could not get any satisfaction out of him.  Yesterday, the major gave any who were frightened the chance to get out and about twelve are going if they let them go.  It doesn't seem possible, but they say that is the custom.

We are all trimmed up today expecting Col. Sam Hughes here to inspect us.

Don't worry about those bells, they will have to wait till you can do something for them.  Another letter and roll of photos with them.


© Copyright 2010 Pamela Wile. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

May 24, 1915 - Fredericton

Dear Father,

With this letter you will get two photos of the Battery.  About twenty of the men are not in the picture because they were away on leave, and the captain was away also.  However, it compares very well with one like it of the Ammunition Column.  These cost me $3.00.  Raise a little collection if you can because it about bused me.

(P.S. I am perfectly well, barring a slight cold which I have had since coming here.)

Part of the A. Column called the A. Park have gone across (about 20 men).  All the Columns have been issued with their steamer shoes.  They are not allowed to wear the military boots on the steamers on acct. of the hobnails, and though they have been going away for six months past they expect to leave soon, possibly this week.

One of our N.C.O.'s was home on leave and he says there are 80 horses in Sussex waiting for us, so it looks as if we would go there soon.

We have a full holiday today after striking because they only intended to give us half a day.  They always give us Saturday afternoon off, but last Saturday they worked us all day.  The A. Column had a day on Friday, Saturday and all day today.  So we thought we should have more and kicked.

John Bustin is here now and I had quite a talk to him yesterday.  He expects to be home in a week.  Our major is awfully hard, gives us the deuce about everything.  The officers are altogether different.

Keep one of the pictures and give one to Ada.


May 15, 1915 - Fredericton

Dear Father,

That envelope that Ada got was my assigned pay and she will get the separation allowance very soon now for the major took the final facts in each case today and I think the papers will only go to Halifax.  The money will go to Ada, all of it, and she will get it to you so it does not matter much.

I think that acct. of Drake's ran nearly 12 months.  Anyway, that was only the second in 24 months.

Nearly everyone here keeps a horse or colt and you see many men breaking them at night (all trotters).  We don't know anything about feeding horses until we come here and see how a V.S. does it.  Six qts. of oats, 4 qts. bran and a very small feed of hay.  Three times a day and every horse as fat as a hog.

I will write Aunt Bessie soon.

They are always collecting a crowd to play base- and football in spare time and as they won't let a man alone it is hard to get chance to write.

That colt you said Worth had is after Aerial Wood and out of that sorrel trotter the Porter boys had and should make a good one.  $150 is cheap and I wish I had it.


© Copyright 2010 Pamela Wile. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

May 9, 1915 - Fredericton

Dear Mother,

Don't talk about Windsor, this place catches all the water from the sky.  I guess it has rained for a week and the last three days came out fine and clear but hotter than August.  Everyone was wringing wet when drilling.  There is no difference in the weather between here and there.

Jim Redden likely deserted; three have from here.  I would like to be home but still I don't get time to be lonesome here.  If we are not working, someone starts to carry on a roughhouse.

We have lots of magazines from the ladies of the town.  I am perfectly well and expect to be vaccinated tomorrrow.  They will soon have me shot full of dope.

More again, Clarence

© Copyright 2010 Pamela Wile. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

May 9, 1915 - Fredericton

Dear Father,

I am tending horses today (we have 12) and can't go to church so have time to write.  You will get only $20 this month.  They overpaid me $3.30 last pay and stopped it this time.  70 cents laundry bill and was advanced $6.00 through the month, so they cut down my assigned pay so it would cover it all.  They won't let you get into them any.

I have skated three nights on rollers and it is great sport.  Being handy on ice helped me a lot.  I have not had a fall yet but when you get one, you get it good.  You fall faster and harder than you do on ice;  the skates just run right away from you.  I am one of a half dozen here who can ride a horse out of 150 men.

Guess I will clean up now.


© Copyright 2010 Pamela Wile. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

May 1, 1915 - Fredericton

Dear Lela,

Just a line to let you know I am here yet and well.  I hope you're the same.  Very dirty weather here.  Take care of yourself and be good.


© Copyright 2010 Pamela Wile. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

Monday, October 25, 2010

May 1, 1915 - Fredericton

Dear Mother,

Only a line or two to let you know I'm well.  It is very dirty and we have the day off.  It is not much good to try to write here, a regular roughhouse all the time, but I am managing this.  See father's letter for more news.  I can't write all that over again as you know I don't like to write much.


© Copyright 2010 Pamela Wile. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

May 1, 1915 - Fredericton

Dear Father,

Received your letter O.K. with instructions about my money, but it is too late.  Wes signed the pay sheet the other day and Ada had told me what Mr. Russell said about my money, so I changed my assigned pay from your name to hers on our major's advice.  This will take effect this month and we expect our money between May 1 - 5, so she should get this at the same time.  Then the government takes a hand and says a man must send half his pay to his beneficiary and that would be her.

The separation allowance of $20.00 should be paid in about five weeks from the time I came here, so the Sergt.-Major told me.  It is stormy here - snow, hail, rain, and we have had two days off.

They never found that boy, supposed to have been drowned.  Some of the people are cleaning up their gardens here but no planting yet.  I paid A. Mathewson all we owed him long ago.

I have all of my uniform now except gloves, waist cartridge belt and spurs, that is all I know of.  Our uniform consists of two suits underclothes, two pair socks, 1 pr. boots, 1 pr. rubbers, 1 pr. puttees, 2 top shirts (grey), 1 toque cap, 1 sweater coat, 1 fatigue shirt and pants, 1 tunic, 1 pr. riding breeches, 1 great coat, 1 dress cap, 1 bandolier, 1 kitbag, razon, s. brush, knife & fork, spoon, boot grease, 2 towels, comb & brush, 1 pr. mittens.  That's all I can think of except badges:  Maple Leaf on cap, Canada on shoulder straps and Maple Leaf on coat collar.  Our drill is mostly marching around the parade ground in different formation and some physical training, semaphore (signaling with the arms), lessons in knotting and lashing, gun sighting, and laying (we have a dozen guns (12 pndrs.) and wagons here).  Then we have lectures on gunnery by the lieutenants.  Then the battery manouvres (at first with the guns but they were too heavy so we tie two sheets to a rope five ft. apart and four men represent horses so we can learn all right).  We have had two route marches.  I used to get tired at first because I was not used to walking so much, but now I feel fine.

Our battery consists of four 15 pndr. guns.  They are the best light guns in the world.  They always move on at trot, never walk except in case of fatigue or very rough.  We won't get our guns this side of England and as none of us every worked on one we will have a lot to learn yet, and more to do when we get our horses, etc.  Artillery is a combination of every other branch of the service apart from the guns, except the navy, so we will have a pile to learn.  Our parade ground is about 150 ft sq on one side of the main building and three times as large on the other side where the horses are and small pieces of ground scattered all around between numberless sheds, stalls and offices.  We have about 60 men of the 55th Infantry here and they only use less than half of the large building.  Next to us is a fine large trotting park and we see a number of fast horses and colts training.  We play ball and football there, too.  Boots are no good.  I know they won't stand water.  I got my feet wet last night on the pavement.  Hobnails weaken the soles.


P.S. The people here use us grand, that is the older church people.  They sent us pie and cake for supper three different times and that is all we ate.  Then they came up and darned our socks for us on Thursday night.  They put me in mind of Mrs. Nalder.  We would get more, only when the 23-24 Batteries were here it was such a chore and every one felt so bad about it they did everything they could for them and the novelty wore off, so we only have a few of the steady ones to do for us.   The churches here are fine.  The talk here is that we must be out of this place by May 15.  The N.C.O's think we will go direct to England.  I want to go home sometime in May in case we should go across.  I would like to see you all before I go.


© Copyright 2010 Pamela Wile. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

April 24, 1915 - Fredericton

Dear Father,

I am writing Saturday noon instead of Sunday.  We have this afternoon off.  I won't write to Mr. McLean.  Too many might ball it all up, so I will leave it to you.  I borrowed a martingale from Jenkins.  It was one with black rings and a buckle underneath by the belly band, but I got none with the harness.  Esty Cochrane gave me the other one.  That horse you have now is a tough little plug and should be easy to keep doing nothing.

The talk here is that we go to Sussex about the first of this month.  We will be 20 miles handier home then.  I was to the military doctor and got some medicine for my cold on Tuesday.  I hate to take it, but I can't do anything else like I could home.  Our drill hours are from:  rise 5:45, parade 6:30 till 7:30, breakfast; parade 9:00 till 12; dinner, parade 2:00 till 5:00.  Must be in at ten unless we have a pass.  I can [have] one any day but have had only one since coming here.  I was late three weeks ago Sunday night and got one week without pass, although I could go out till ten.  I can get a pass till anytime I want it up to 6:30 parade a.m. all night, but don't need it here.

That McGinnis or Fitzgerald that stole the clothes up the Midland and joined up in Windsor is always in trouble with the officers here.  Awfully pig-headed and there are others.  A fellow has to be very careful here.  Liable to catch all kinds of things among a crowd like this, and around the latrines.  Mostly toughs although there are some nice fellows and some who don't care whether they are clean or dirty.  We send our underwear to the laundry every Monday a.m. and it costs about 80 cents per month.  Towels, shirts, drawers, socks, handkerchiefs.

I received watch Friday noon and your card this noon.

From Clarence

© 2010 Pamela Wile. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

April 18, 1915 - Fredericton

Dear Father,

Only a few lines to let you know I am quite well now.  Enclosed you will find an express order for $25.00 and will send more the last of the month.  You see Dr. Martell and J.A. Russell and find out who I can send this money to in future and what has to be done to use it as I said.  Before I came here quite a while I gave W. Card my note but he could not use it without a good name, so thought he had destroyed it.  But he has sent me his bill with the note credited (enclosed).  Now I do not know whether this note is in the bank or not. 

The Battery is going to search for a lost child this afternoon and as time is short, I will close.


P.S. The Sergt.-Major told me it would take about five weeks for Ada to get her government allowance from the time I came here.  I am telling her.

© Copyright 2010 Pamela Wile. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

April 18, 1915 - Fredericton

Dear Lela:

Was very glad to hear from you.  You may have those silk pieces if you want them.  I am feeling fine now.  This is a fine place to catch cold.

I have not much time now so with this will close.  Yesterday we all refused to parade for drill on account of bad and not enough food, but the officers promised no better.

Write soon.


© Copyright 2010 Pamela Wile. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

April 18, 1915 - Fredericton

Dear Mother,

Just a few lines to let you know I am fine as a fiddle now.  I was inoculated again Friday but never felt it at all this time.  I am living as good a life as can be expected of anyone under these conditions.  You get a boot on the head about the time you think everyone is settled for the night.  I do not know who hurt that colt.  It is hard luck but cannot be helped now.  We have a fine church parade every Sunday morning, presenting a very fine appearance.

I cannot write anymore this time because I have a couple of others to write and in about half an hour the Battery is going on parade, having volunteered to search in the woods for an eight-year-old boy who is lost since yesterday.  So I will give you more next time I write.

Your letters are always welcome.

With love, from Clarence

© Copyright 2010 Pamela Wile. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

April 11, 1915 - Fredericton

Dear Father:

Only a short one.  Had you not better see D.W. MacLean and get John's address from him, then write stating the case re F.Drake.  Ada will only get her P. money from Mr. Russell and will get her S.A. from the Govt. direct.  On March 31 she got $13.87.  I signed on Mar. 6 and this is correct if they figure 30 days to the month.  She should soon get her S.A. now.

We are regarded as part of the 2nd Contingent, I believe, and when I signed on I requested $25.00 of my wages to go to you.  The major was doubtful about it but said he would try it.  Since that, Ada wrote me saying Mr. Russell (I presume) said I would have to send my wages to her to bank; then I saw the major, he said for me to come in when he was not busy and we would change the card to her name and in that case you will have to use your Power of Attorney and draw from the bank when she deposits.

We had a pay day last Tuesday but I was inoculated that morning and went to the Armouries for clothes in the afternoon.  Was taken sick about 5 and went to bed.  The major took sick next day and went to the hospital and has not come back yet.  (See Lela's card.)  So I have not got my money yet but expect it any day and need it soon, too.  We have to get all our clothes altered so they will fit and have to pay ourselves (mostly shortening sleeves).  I have a bad cold in my head from sleeping in this barn of a place but feel great outside of that.  I drank the green tea they give us at first and suspect there is saltpeter in it.  Anyway, it nearly ruined my kidney before I found out what was doing it.  Well, the inoculation settled there and I hardly dare move for four days now.  I buy a glass of milk at the canteen and am feeling fine.  After meals I take a kidney pill.  I feel very sorry about that mare but you can make it right with Victor.  I guess my job will last long enough.

I get the papers all right and am mighty glad to.

The drill has increased, so we do not have much time to get lazy now.

I will send you $20.00 this month, I guess I will need the balance.  They stop back $10 for clothes for six months, so I will get $26.60 more again.


P.S.  Have a talk with Rev. Mr. Martell about that money when you get a chance.

© Copyright 2010 Pamela Wile. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

A New Way of Life - March 28, 1915 - Fredericton

Dear F. & M.

We arrived here safely Tuesday night about 8 o'clock after changing cars at Digby for the Boat, then at St. John for F. Junction and at the Junction for this Town.

This is a very pretty place in summer but dull now.  It seems like a wealthy man's city, there is not enough stores and factories in proportion to the fine homes.  There seems to be quite a lot of building going on, but do not see any crowds going about shopping, although the stores are fixed up fine.

The streets and sidewalks all seem old, being wavy and broken, and the only men I have seen working on them or signs of repair was an old man picking up paper on a pointed cane.

On the arrival of our train, Capt. McDonald met us and brought us to the Exhibition Building where they will keep us as they had the 23-24 Batteries.  It is a large building and the part we are quartered in is about as large as the drill hall home.  When war broke out, they built bunks two tiers high and four lines long.

The night they arrived they gave us three large blankets each and were going to leave us for the night but we kicked so they took us down to Lindsary Lunch Rooms and we had a good supper, then back to bed.

Three blankets but hard boards, oh! so hard.  However, we each got a tick next day about six feet long and three ft. wide, but first I went poking around and found a bout a dozen mattresses like ours home which I used one of for a couple of days.  But they were damp and might be diseased, so I took it back and now used my little tick.

Beach and I bunk together and keep each other warm, for, mind you, it has been cold for a couple of days back.  Wind blowing, I suppose, fifty miles per hour laden with frost and snow which some wind finds its way in around the windows.  We are right under one, on top bunk, but there is no room in the lower ones for clothes or standing room.  Last night, we spread our two ticks side by side then threw one blanket over them and hung one over the window where I mean to leave it, so we had four over us.

The grub has been awful, not enough and very poor at that.  However, the last three days it has been improving until today it was great.  Meals - for breakfast:  tablespoonful baked beans, small piece bacon, two slices bread and mug of coffee.  Dinner:  roasted or baked beef, two potatoes, two slices bread, two carrots or two slices turnip and cup of tea.  Supper:  two slices bread, fried bacon, jam, cup of tea.  All in very small quantities, but if we have not enough we can go back for more if there is any left after everyone has been served.

We get no milk or luxuries of any kind and Thursday night they gave us a piece of cheese which the maggots had gone through but would not stay in and during supper the the cook was pasted with cheese for sports.  (We have four cooks) and about 170 men, although they only need 151 for the battery.  Likely they will transfer some somewhere else.  We rise at 6 o'clock; a man roars through like a bull, and if we don't get up the Sergt.-Major comes along and pulls us out.  We get up, half dress and race downstairs for a cold wash with only half enough clothes on, although we have to go outdoors and down a flight of stairs to get there.  Wash and come back to our bunks, finish dressing and fold over ticks and blankets, then at 7 o'clock fall in for roll call and one hour's drill.  Breakfast at 8 o'clock then nothing till dinner and nothing till supper 5:30 when we may go downtown till 10 o'clock and lights out at 10:10 o'clock.

We are only allowed out between supper and 10:00 o'clock p.m.  There is nothing to see except the pictures and twice per week is plenty for that.  There are three picture houses here:  Gem, Unique and Gaiety.  The Unique had great pictures and the Nelson Trio last week.  They are dancers and acrobats - two men and girl and they were pronounced the best ever by the men here.

The men here are mostly clean and good fellows but there are some toughs and bums but there are generally a lighthearted lot, without much kicking.  Some of the men have got some of their clothes, none have them all yet because they are not here or else they have not the sizes.  As soon as I can, I will send my clothes home but as yet I have not got a thing from the Government.  I may want that bag awhile because you dare not lay a thing down.  One chap hung a military coat in the dining room and when he went to get it, it was gone.  Another lost his puttees from the bunk, so my things would not last five minutes when I was away from my bunk.  Few have any toilet articles at all.  I had a great shave and wash this a.m. and when I get my change of clothes am going to the YMCA for a good bath.  I will tell you about our clothes when I get all of mine.  As yet, I have none at all.  We fell in with eight Digby men coming over and one (Peck) is a dandy barber so has to work a lot free gratis.

I will be glad when we start drill as I get tired laying around my bunk all day, but the officers are busy swearing the men in and only got through having them examined.  They marched about 30 down to the Military Hospital each day in two squads till done.  I do not know how many were refused as there are so many yarns about, but I think I passed all right.  I was sworn in last night and the major said he had not the doctor's report on me as yet.

I don't expect any money till the end of the month and he seemed doubtful about me sending money to you when I had a wife, but he sent the card in that way for a trial so I will know about it later.  Anyway, it will go to Windsor.  He said the Government pays its separation allowance direct instead of through the Patriotic Committee as Dr. Martell said.  I directed the twenty-five to you as per agreement.

The Ammunition Column have quarters in the regular barracks and are leaving soon but we do not expect to get in there because the 23-24 batteries were in this place till they went to England.  They were here in December and January when very cold and there was no heat so one chap froze his ears in bed.  But since that they have put in a furnace and some steam pipe which warm the place some.  There are about 90 horses which the other men look after from the barracks.  There is a Notting Park here where they exercise the horses and the stables run between it and these grounds like a fence cut up into box stalls each with a double door so you can open the top for air but still keep the horse in.  These are being fatted for England and will leave soon.

We get no drill with horses in the country at all, only hand and foot drill.  We have what is called a fatigue party here each day of 12 men who do the dishes and sweeping and I served on that party today.  We also have a guard of four men and a corporal which is changed every 24 hours.  Each man has two hours on and six off with a dandy little shack and stove with lots to eat and beds to sleep in.  But each man must tramp up and down when it is his turn on, day and night, rain or shine.  The sanitary conditions are excellent; good latrines, incinerator and a man to take swill each day.  A great chance to keep pigs.  Our officers are gentlemen Major Crocker, Capt. McDonald, Lieut. Harding, Sergt. Major Bates and one other coming, I hear.  No non.-coms. have been appointed yet, although two or three stiffs expect office and are sucking around but don't say much to the men because all they get is sauce.

Several have been taken to hospital and some have come back, nothing serious, colds mostly.  Arthur Smith was ruptured long ago but I think they are going to pass him after finding out he was never sick.

The Public Buildings are nice and I will send some cards later.  Our crowd is the worst in the bunch to carry on, so there is nothing dull, can hardly get a chance to write.  There are about 25 guns here (18 pounders, I think) which we will drag about by hand for drill.

We only use the small part of this building and have to go down to the armouries in the town (when we go) for clothes.  The livery stables here are only small shacks in alleys and backyards, although there are many fine private houses here.  Let me know about that colt home when you write.

The officers run a canteen here where we can buy milk, pie, drink, tobacco, etc., but I don't spend any money there.  I think a little milk in our tea would be better than the sugar they put in.  They cook in large boilers that takes two men to lift when filled.  There are four dandy ranges made on purpose for this sort of thing, I guess - low, long, and wide with a large oven and tank.  We have ten sinks, I think, in a row and if we want hot water we take cold and go into the furnace room and turn the steam into it.

W have had no scraps nor trouble of any kind.  There are some awfully stupid fellows here who will be put into an awkward squad, I hope, because they spoil all the others.  They won't pay attention at all but when they start to drill in earnest that will have to stop.  This is supposed to be a dry town, but you know how to get liquor in a dozen places if you have no uniform.

Perhaps Aunt Alice would like to see this letter.  I could not write it again, too much work.  I wrote Ada, but not one like this.  So let her have it too.  Sunday is the best chance to write here, although not much better than any other day.  We have two or three South Africa Veterans here.

My clothes are awfully baggy looking from laying around in them, so I hope to get my uniform soon.  The water was very calm coming over so none of us were sick.  Mr. Doering gave us each $1.00 the day we left instead of a supper and I have hardly spent that yet.  Sometimes an orange or tobacco or pictures is all.  I am going to get along in the grub they give us and buy nothing in the food line.  We all feel fine and go to each meal with a good appetitie and a large scramble to get served first.  A man needs physic once in a while on this food, though.

Well, I have told you all I can think about, so do not know what I will write about next time.  Perhaps something will turn up.  I would be glad to hear from any of you as often as you like but do not expect much from me because I do not like that job much.

Yours with love, Clarence

C.A. McCann
28 Field Battery
Fredericton, N.B.

© Copyright 2010 Pamela Wile. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


I have said these letters were "from across the pond" meaning the big one known as the Atlantic Ocean.  However the first 19 letters were written in Fredericton and one was written while onboard ship outside of Saint John, N.B.  Clarence didn't have a chance to mail this one until he arrived in England.  He thought they might stop in Halifax where he'd be able to post it.  He had hoped for permission to go home before going overseas as his wife, Ada, had given birth to their third child and first daughter on May 9, 1915 but that didn't happen.  Clarence didn't see Nova Scotia again until May of 1919.

On November 16, 1998, one of my cousins, typed the introduction to the transcripts of these letters.  This is what s/he wrote:

"This brief resume of Clarence McCann and his 1915-1919 military experiences was put together by the remaining nine members of his first family of nine boys and five girls, most especially Bob, who volunteered to transcribe the nearly 100 original letters, and, as you can see, did an excellent job.  Its intent is to inform any and all of Clarence's thoughts and feelings during those four long years he was separated from his young wife of two and a half years and his two infant sons.

Clarence McCann was born June 8, 1891, in Windsor, N.S., one of four children of Arthur and Ella McCann.  He married Ada Smith in July, 1912, and in Feb. - March, 1915, he left for Fredericton, N.B., to join the Canadian Army.  Some three months later he was in England and three months after that he was in France to become part of that hell on earth known as World War I.

Until Clarence was released from the army in May, 1919, he never once was able to return home to Windsor and family after enlisting in 1915, and during those four years what thoughts he must have had of returning safely to enjoy a long and happy life with those he loved and away from the carnage he had known in Europe.  But such was not to be.  For in August, 1936, his wife Ada (our mother) suddenly, and at the early age of 42 years, died short hours after giving birth to her fourteenth child.

Although the whole family suffered a crushing blow, one can hardly imagine how Clarence must have felt: no wife and companion, no mother for his fourteen children, eleven of whom were age sixteen or younger, and in the middle of the Great Depression.  In addition, his employment was not full time or guaranteed.  The grief and stress he must have experienced was unimaginable.

But somehow he managed to keep his family more or less together for a number of years, after which he married again, this time to Gladys M. Hines, who bore him three more sons, two of whom died in infancy.  Then fate struck another cruel blow in June, 1947, when Clarence died suddenly, a few days short of his 56th birthday.

These early and sudden deaths of our mother and father have left a great void in the family history, but in the past few years following the death of Clarence's sister, Lela, in 1979, and the subsequent break-up of her home, many letters written by Clarence to his father, mother, sister and brother between the years 1915-1919 have given us a chance to know something of him in his younger years.  We can only imagine how many more letters he must have written to his young wife, Ada, our mother, and we live in hope that one day some of them will turn up and add more to our search for family history.

When contacted, the director of the War Museum in Ottawa, John Granstein, said he would, on behalf of the museum, be glad to receive Dad's war medals plus the letters and related documents which included a copy of Statement of Service in the Canadian Armed Forces and Dad's discharge certificate, and so, on December 1, 1998, Bill delivered same to the Museum along with a complete transcript of the letters.  Eventually, the plan is to display a selected portion of the letters for public viewing.  Also, as I understand it, the letters will perhaps provide further information to war researchers.

Well done, Bill!"

© Copyright 2010 Pamela Wile. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.