Gunner Bert Cox
August 13, 1918
My Dear Carl, Herbert, Murrill,
I'd give anything to see a New York paper of this date to read the headlines, I'll bet that there's no less than three inch type being used. I'd like to be able to tell you all about the details, but will do my best to explain the main points.
For four nights before the 8th we worked from dark to dawn preparing our position. It rained quite a lot at this time, and the heavy mud made a good silencer for the traffic on the roads . The battle opened up at 4:20 AM the morning of the 8th of August under a heavy mist which lasted until 10:00 AM. It was the sort of ideal morning for a battle which one seldom sees.
Every gun shot together and the thing was off. I never heard anything like it in my life, neither has anyone else, as it was about the biggest show that has ever been staged on the Western Front. Several times I could not hear my own gun fire, and for half the series, I laid and fired the gun myself. After 3 hours, I was practically deaf. We fired our first shot at 4:20 AM at 800 yards and in three hours, the enemy was out of our range ( 6,500 yds).
Within ten minutes of the start, the tanks, by the hundreds, and cavalry, by the thousands, were passing our guns. It made an awful pretty picture to see the tanks and cavalry looming up in the mist, over the crest, just about dawn. The field guns began to pass us at a gallop, too, not to mention the infantry by the hundreds of thousands.
By 5 AM, the prisoners began to go by and this procession continued all day. The thing that struck me as being most funny, was, the way the prisoners would dangle right along by themselves, no escort, to the prison cage about a mile away. If there were 30 or 40 together, they would have an escort, but they mostly passed in twos or threes, all alone or four would carry one of our wounded on a stretcher. We spent considerable part of the day checking them over; getting souvenirs and talking to those who could speak English. They nearly cleaned us out of cigarettes and emptied our water bottles.
They all seemed tickled to death to be taken prisoners. They said the attack was a complete surprise. They were used all day, as stretcher bearers. The Major brought up some of them, to watch us fire our guns. Must have given them an awful feeling to think those shells were going over to kill their own flesh and blood.
The wounded Canadians, Imperials, Australians, Americans, and Germans just streamed by all day. The Infantry said the barrage was perfect. Every gun lifting together. I forgot to mention that the flashes of the guns for miles back, figured conspicuously, in the picture described above.
About noon, I took a walk up to the front lines of the night before, and it was a terrible sight of dead and wounded. The Red Cross men were then taking them away. Only one enemy plane came over our lines that day and he didn't get back. I saw a Hun plane brought down yesterday, and I went over to see it. It was smashed into small strands and the airman was in a pulp among the pieces.
We followed up the advance right along, so the gun pit, I am writing this in now, probably had a Fritz gun in it last week. It is hard work, but it is great fun to have them, for once, on the run. We are not allowed to use any light after dark on account of the enemy planes are quite busy with bombs.
On the first day, we had one Officer and one man wounded. The second day ..one man wounded and on the third, we lost our leader, Major Ringwood, while making his reconnaissance for our present position. He's the man we need at this moment, more than at any other time. He knew his own and every other artilleryman's job perfectly and was never stuck. He was the instructor at Kingstown, Ont. for ten years and has trained over 50% of the Canadian Artillery officers in France.
His horse's head was blown off, but he had only one wound, right through the heart. His body was left in a trench over night and the next day, I volunteered with 7 others to bring it in. We looked for hours, before we found it, but finally did so, near the front lines. The Hun was strafing us furiously and several times I thought we would need more than one stretcher. We had to carry him two miles and he weighed 225 pounds…no easy job.
The troops have been held up on cigarettes, something awful, since the push started, because, of course, the canteens could not advance as fast as we did. Yesterday the YMCA got a stock in, quite close to our guns and believe me, it is like finding a gold mine. The weather is ideal and the health of the troops, like my own, is in the pink of condition. If there are any points that you do not understand, write and ask me and I will do my best to explain if I can.
Write soon, will send the next "Circular" to Murrill.
Lots of Love to the wives and kids and selves, from your affectionate brother,