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, October 24, 2010

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.

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