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.

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.