October 6, 1915
Letter From Capt. J. W. Margeson.
To the Editor of The Register:
As we are on the eve of departure from England for the Continent, I thought it might interest y9ur readers to receive a brief account of our sojourn in this country. We have been here since May 31st, preparing for the work which must now be undertaken. Our camp is beautifully situated, sheltered between the hills in the County of Kent. In this valley about 75,000 Canadian boys are in training. London is 60 miles away and on week-ends I occasionally run up to see the sights in that most wonderful city. One of the famous Cinque Ports, Hythe, lies just in front of us on the Atlantic Ocean. Only a few miles distant to the south-west William I. landed in 1066, and a few miles to the north-east Julius Caesar landed in 55 B.C. and made Britain a Roman Province. I have visited both spots and I can assure you it made me think. Only one mile from this camp stands the castle where the murderers of Thomas a Becket halted on their journey to Canterbury. At Sandgate, two and a half miles away, the great Temperance Reformer, John B. Gough, was born. Canterbury, with its religious associations, is only 15 miles distant.
In my spare moments I have seen as much as I could of this country for I many never travel this way again. The training has been very thorough. Our men came from Nova Scotia physically fit to undertake hard work and hard conscientious work they have done. From 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. there has been little time for play. All the men have had their practice at the Hythe shooting ranges, which are looked upon as the finest in the world. Trench warfare has been undertaken and it would surprise you to see how quickly the 25th Battalion can "dig themselves in " and prepare to meet the foe. Much more has been accomplished which I am not privileged at the present time to make known. However, you can take it from me that the boys are ready prepared to fight, prepared to die if necessary for the preservation of those liberties which Canadians have enjoyed across the seas.
Our Brigade (the 5th) is comprised of the 22nd Regiment (French Canadian); 24th Regiment (Victoria Rifles, Montreal); 25th, (Nova Scotia) Regiment. Col. Watson is brigadier. He has seen service at the front and is an excellent officer. Col LeCain is very popular in the battalion; the boys have every confidence in him and are prepared to follow him wherever he leads. Major L. H. McKenzie, of Stellarton, the adjutant, is one of our hardest worked officers. I have recently been appointed assistant adjutant, which, with my duties as paymaster, gives me long working hours. However, that is what I came over for and so long as my health is good, I shall not complain.
We have just completed our list of men for the front. We are taking 1025 officers, non-commissioned officers and men, together with several interpreters. We have not had a death in the battalion since coming across. The men are kept in the best possible physical condition get plenty of good, fresh air and are well clothed and fed. We hear no grumbling from any one. The 17th Battalion is our reserve battalion, from which we will get our drafts of men as we require them. We are only allowed to take 35 lbs. personal baggage on the transport, the rest we must carry on our backs.
Tomorrow morning we have a parade in full marching order and inspection by the brigadier. I can assure you it will tax all my strength to carry my load. The boys from Lunenburg County are all well. Capt. W. L. Whitford is my room mate and is looked upon as one of our best officers. Lieuts. Mosher and Murphy are doing creditable work. Harry MacIntosh, Lunenburg, is quarter-master Sergeant, C. Company, while Sergt. Roy King is in the same Company. G. C. Nicholl is in the quartermasters stores, Gordon W. Hall is the medical orderly and expects soon to be transferred to the Royal Flying Corps, Sydney Hallimore and Thomas Nass are both hard workers, Frank Zwicker, Harold Aulenbach and Joseph Bolivar are on the staff as batmen, J. Neilson and W. H. Corkum are always on the job. The latter is Enams son. G. Edmonds is in the A.M.C. Lieut. Gerald Cragg and the boys with him are getting on fine. J. W. Hamm, of New Germany, is a shoeing Sergeant in the Artillery. M. Freda, from Chester, is not far from us. Harry Chase is with the 6th Mounted Rifles. Capt. R. J. MacMeekin, formerly of the 17th, is with the Canadian Army Dental Corps. He looks well and feels fine. I hope I have not left any names out but as I have only a few minutes to draft this hastily written letter I may have done so. There is one thing Lunenburg County can be proud of "No crime sheets appear against our boys." All seem convinced of the hard and serious task which lies before them.
Of the boys in the first contingent I heard good reports from all. I saw Hilchey, Caldwell, Millett, Mader and Wile. The former was wounded. The rest of the boys I have not run across as yet, but hope to before long.
I noticed by the press that patriotic meetings were held in Lunenburg County on the 1st anniversary of the war. Meetings are good, but action must follow them. We need men, but above all machine guns and ammunition. We have been fighting men against guns. We cannot keep this up. We will win, but not until our guns are as effective as those of our enemy and our ammunition as plentiful. Our men are better, but we need the stuff to back them up. Thank Heaven it is coming and before long you will see the result of it. The man who sits at home and thinks this war can be waged successfully without doing something is making a mistake. All cannot come over here. It is at great personal sacrifice that many of us have come. Everyone can do something to help the cause along. The purchasing power of $1.00 is more today in Canada than it is here.
I saw Admiral Beattys squadron the other day and it certainly was a sight to see the Dreadnoughts and smaller craft all ready for battle but unable to find an opponent ready to grapple with them.
I hear no politics discussed over here. The people are thinking of other things. I would like to see our Canadian people following their example.
We have had inspections by the King, Lord Kitchener, the Premier of Canada, Sir Sam Hughes and the Hon. Bonar Law. All seemed pleased with the troops as they passed under review.
I must not stop without mentioning the good work of the hospital staffs. The Canadian doctors and nurses from Canada are also doing a noble service. The Red Cross Church Institutes and Y.M.C.A.s are on the spot lending their aid. Taken together it is a great organization running like a perfect piece of machinery.
It has been raining nearly every day since St. Swithins, but we hope to see a change soon.
We have been visited with hostile air craft, but so far no bombs have fallen on our camps, although I think this was one of their objectives. Our airmen are right on the job. We should not, I suppose, fight in the spirit of revenge, but the action of the Huns in submarining passenger ships and killing women and children is enough to make our blood run cold. You can hardly realize the dastardly type of warfare they wage. We will fight fairly and will win in the end.
I must bring this rather rambling letter to a close as duty calls me elsewhere. Your readers have my best wishes. I merely ask you to think once in a while of your friends enduring hardships in France and the Dardanelles and I know you will do all in your power to make their task easier. The motto of the 25th Battalion is:
"Tho beaten back in many a fray,
Never strength will borrow
Where the vanguard stands today
The rear will come tomorrow."
J. W. Margeson.
East Sanding, Sept. 9, 1915.