5 August 1917
A Centenary Action

By 5 August 1917, the rain that had started on 29 July had still not stopped, much to the chagrin of stretcher-bearer Ralph Watson, who sarcastically called into question the allegiance of the weather man: 

“Still rain, rain, rain, no change. The trenches and shell holes will now be quite full… But we can’t fight the elements too, and as Germany has evidently enlisted the weather man on his side, what can we do? It is beyond words. You can safely arrange your Xmas festivities and leave me out.” (Watson, Letters of a Canadian Stretcher-Bearer, p. 154)

Whether under rain, sun, or shellfire, there was little to be done by the average soldier other than try to grin and bear the brunt. In letters written home, troops often described their suffering in light-hearted descriptions, such as Watson continues to do in his letter from 5 August 1917. 

“Last night, Fritz came back a bit in this little burg. None came too close to our particular bedroom. At least, we didn’t consider it too close, though I guess if shells burst near enough to your house in Ottawa to throw mud and bricks down your basement steps, you wouldn’t sleep much. It depends on your point of view… Last night was the best night I ever had, with my own pillow and sandbag blanket… I pinched a few sandbags today, tied them together, dried them out, and have what I think will make quiet a blanket.” (Watson, Letters of a Canadian Stretcher-Bearer, p. 155) 

Today’s photograph of Canadians on Salisbury Plain has been colourized as part of the Vimy Foundation’s First World War In Colour project. Learn more about this project, and see additional photographs, by following this link:   http://www.vimyfoundation.ca/projects/ 


“Canadians mudlarking on Salisbury Plain, 1914.” Fortunately for Canadians they were accustomed to mud, having been indoctrinated in its finer points while training on Salisbury Plain.
Credit: Library and Archives Canada / PA-022705 (modified from the original).
Colourized by Canadian Colour.
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