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, March 20, 2011

July 17, 1915

Dear Father & Mother:

Since I wrote you last wrote you not much has happened, so I have not much to write about. Just the same old routine, those who have horses drilling with the guns, and those who have not cleaning harness. Last Saturday, Fredericks and I went down to Sandgate to have a real feed. We went to a tea house and had a piece of ham, two eggs, a cup of coffee, six small slices of bread and butter and eight pieces of different kinds of pastry each and the lady charged us three shillings (75 cents); oh, they do soak Canadians. On Sunday, we went into Folkstone to the Soldiers' Recreation Roooms and had our supper. We had pudding and custard, brown bread and butter, cocoa and pastry for one and six (30 cents)and, believe me, we were filled up, and only 15 cents each. This place is purely for soldiers, having billiard tables, ping-pong, books, two pianos, lunch room, gymnasium, and writing room with paper and ink, and is nicely fixed up and is always filled at night, so we go there every night.

Last Sunday night, the steering gear of one of the buses went wrong and a woman standing on the sidewalk was driven through a fence and killed. Her daughter went one way and got clear, but her mother got excited and was caught as though she had never moved.

On Monday, we got one hundred new horses, but everyone of them had to go to the sick lines with ringworms so we can't work them for some time.

On Wednesday, we went to the ranges at Hythe for our shooting examination. It is about four miles and downhill all the way on an asphalt road so it was all right going. We left at seven and it was cool. Coming back it was all uphill and in the middle of the day and mighty hot. We had two rests on the way, but my clothes were wringing wet. However, they always let us march at ease, so we walk the easiest way we know how and carry our rifles anyway we like. The first round was to see in how small a space we could put five shots at one hundred yards. I put all five in a four-inch circle. The next round was at a target the size of a man's head, in fact, made to represent a man looking over a bank. I made two bulls and three inners. I think I did very well considering that I never fired a bigger rifle than a 44-40 in my life. About ten days ago, I tried my skill at a .22 range in Folkstone and made 68 out of 70. That's as good as has been done by Canadians here, but I have used a .22 quite a lot so was more at home.

On Wednesday, I was on picket from 2 - 6 a.m. and did not intend going to the range, but our officer told me to come along. So I hurried my breakfast and dressed but the others had gone. I met our captain going on horseback and he told me to come along on a bus, so I went down to Sandgate to catch one and had to wait an hour. When I got out there, they had fired the first series and the captain was a bit sore at me for waiting, but I did not mean to walk out and back too after doing picket half the night. Anyway, I never fired a shot that day, but I will have to go again likely, while the others have finished. I will let you know how I do when I go. I have to shoot 15 shots - five rapid fire at 200 yards, and five rapid and five slow at 300 yards. In rapid fire we have 30 seconds to load and fire five shots and make the best score we can.

I can get any kind of clothes I want around here dirt cheap, about ten days after payday. The only thing I bought was a pair of Fox puttees that sell in Fredericton for $2.80, and I got them brand new from one of the boys for one bob (24 cents). They sell in the stores for $1.60 here. All other clothes are correspondingly cheap in this country.

Two days agao we got word that Col. Sam Hughes was coming for inspection and then the fun started. We were out drilling morning, noon and night, rain or shine for two days, leaving 70 men or 35 men to move in line anywhere and there was some awful growling around here, mind you. If we had some kind of drill every day instead of cleaning harness all the time, we would not have to do a month's drill in two days. However, he is gone, and all O.K. Yesterday afternoon, all the troops handy lined up on the field for a little practice. We came in at 4:00 o'clock and started stables. We no sooner got our clothes off and were cleaning horses than our Lieut. Col. Rathburn made us fall in for an hour's drill with no greatcoats and it was raining like the deuce.

After that I got paid. I got four pounds and you will get the twenty this month. Ten of my twenty was what they stopped for clothes at Fredericton. Yesterday, I left my letter purse in my pants with my monthly pass, the address in my lunch from Fredericton, the letter and address in the socks I got from there and about six shillings and someone stole the whole business. They would take the milk out of your tea if they could. I would not keep much, but for the box I keep locked.

The 600 in our barracks went on parade at 8:30 this a.m. All shined and were inspected by our O.C. We went out to the field at ten and were inspected by Col. Hughes and R.H. Borden and a lot of other officers, Canadian and English. There were between 35-40,000 men there, all Canadians, from every branch of the service and dressed in Khaki. It was fine with bands playing, but tiresome standing.

More next time,

© Copyright 2011 Pamela Wile. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission

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