It happened this week in 1916

July 2 - 8: Compiled by Dave Humphrey from the archived newspapers held at the Cranbrook History Centre and Archives

July 2 – 8: Compiled by Dave Humphrey from the archived newspapers held at the Cranbrook History Centre and Archives


Children can do their bit … There have been many complaints this summer of windows being broken in vacant houses and of gardens being robbed or injured, and in one instance recently a landlord had to spend in the neighborhood of $70 replacing broken windows before he could rent his house.

This sort of vandalism is at any time a serious matter, and the more so at present with glass advancing in price so rapidly on account of scarcity caused by the war.

The mischief is caused in nearly every case by children, and it is up to parents to take proper steps to stop this. The chief of police has asked and been promised the co-operation of the teachers in impressing the children with the seriousness of the situation, and we believe if the parents will also use their influence to impress upon children the fact that they can do their bit to help along the cause of the Empire by conserving the glass and the garden produce, the children will willingly work with the authorities and help to put a stop to this wasteful and malicious damage.

Letter from the front … Mr. and Mrs. John Laurie received a letter from their son Robert, who having fully recovered from his wounds is back with his regiment in Belgium. Describing recent events at the front, he writes:

Believe me, it has been some time, I was not in the attack but we went up just after daylight with a supply of bombs, and we had a hot time of it too, and then we went in that night to hold the line that we had taken back. It was not our division that lost the trenches but we had to take them back, and the boys showed Fxxxz that they were just as hot stuff as last year when we stopped their drive near here.

It was some fight and no language can describe the condition of the country in which it took place. It is just churned up and blown to smithereens. To make things worse we have had a week of rain since the German attack, and it has been cold, but today is better.

I went up to the front line again last night, June 15th to help carry out some of the wounded. We only came out of the trenches yesterday morning and as soon as we got a little sleep we got out the wounded who had to be carried. We couldn’t do it before on account of the heavy shell fire. Last night things were nice and quiet, I guess the Germans were carrying out their wounded too.

We took quite a few prisoners and they were very pleased for they will have a soft time now until the end of the war.

One thing that some of my company saw is worth telling. One of our kilties was wounded in both legs, and an arm, and along came a German with a shattered arm. He took the kiltie on his back and carried him to a dressing station, the Jock holding the German’s shattered arm up with the only sound limb he possessed. It was surely a picture for an artist to paint.

We got a good shelling in the fight but I came out without a scratch. Don’t be surprised if this letter is somewhat erratic as my head is nearly bursting and I am generally on the blink from lack of sleep, mostly, I guess.


Another from the front … The following letter was recently received by Miss Hewitt from her young brother on the firing line:

At the present time we are in a rest camp about four miles behind the firing line. We can hear the heavy guns but of course we are not troubled with the shells.

Our first visit to the trenches was about a week ago. We marched up from our first billets to just behind the firing line, about fifty miles all told, in three days. It was a hard job and a lot of chaps were knocked out.

We arrived in our billets behind the firing line about midnight and left at dusk next day for the trenches. At the entrance to the communication trenches there was a village battered beyond recognition. The church had not escaped and had but two walls left standing. On entering the communication trenches we were spotted by a German machine gun which immediately gave us our baptism of fire. Luckily the bullets all went high so no one was hurt.

You have no idea what the trenches are like. They are an absolute labyrinth of mystery. Guides are necessary to take you from one part to another. Even after a week I only knew the sector on which we fought.

The trenches we held were in a hilltop and the French had lost 1,700 men in establishing the position. We relieved an Irish Division which had been formed of Ulstermen to resist Home Rule. They had enlisted in a body and Fxxxz was very bitter against the Irishmen as the Ulsterman were equipped by Germans. Rather annoying being shot down by their own machine guns.

Of our stay in the trenches I have little to say. As the papers report there was “little or no activity on the Western front.” However, here is a typical day:— Sunset—all men stand to on the firing step to repel any attack. As dusk falls, night sentries are posted. Periscopes are useless so the sentry has to stand upright and risk stray bullets. During the night the trenches are as light as day. Star shells are fired and then it is that pot shots are taken. Of course during the night listening posts are posted near the enemy’s lines. However, on our front there was such an elaborate network of landmines that it was too dangerous to advance any posts.

We had two saps in front of our own barbed wire from which we kept a look out at nights. It was a nerve racking ordeal and the night I spent five hours in one will not soon be forgotten. There we were armed with bombs. In the darkness we could not see ten yards on front of us. As soon as a star shell flared up they turned a machine gun on us so we had to lie low and listen.

During the night all repairing is done. Barbed wire has to be mended, new trenches dug. Dugouts enlarged and a thousand and one other jobs. Before dawn all parties are withdrawn and a stand-to follows. With each stand-to there is heavy firing. Artillery opens but not often on the front drive positions, machine guns rattle an opening chorus, and we have our morning strafe.

As soon as day breaks, sentries are withdrawn and only a few observers left posted. They observe through periscopes and note any movement of the enemy.

Then comes the rum issue with the order to stand down. Rifles are cleaned and we look forward to breakfast if the ration party has not been troubled.

‘Till sunset there is little to do. Men try to sleep; others play cards or watch the aeroplanes running the gauntlet of the enemy’s fire. All day long you can hear the shells screeching overhead and wonder where they will land.

Of course we do have things out of the ordinary. One evening they bombarded our sector with a compression gun. It makes no sound when fired so you get no warning. We were all standing to when the first one dropped a few yards short. The next one blew in the parapet, so did its successor. Two more blew in snipers’ dug outs—empty at the time. We were constantly showered with earth and spent shrapnel but apart from slight shocks no one was injured.

As a repayment our artillery opened and we soon had a fine show going. Three high explosive shells dropped in their first lines and blew sand bags and earth and most probably a few Germans sky high. You can guess it was our turn to smile and they soon quietened down.

Next day we had the parapet to rebuild where they had blown it up, and yours truly got the job. Some job! Three of us stood on the firing step and worked bent double. Every time we showed ourselves to put sand bags on top Fritz gave us a turn with the machine gun. Then some fool showed his shovel above the top and we cleared off expecting a shell, but none came so perhaps they had not seen it.

Unfortunately the shock was too much for one of the chaps and he has been sent into hospital.

However, I think it great sport as, if you are careful in passing certain ports of the trench which the Germans have got spotted and at which they snipe all day long, you are comparatively safe. They will snipe at anything but they are not first class shots, relying on fixed rifles which they align on certain places and fire whenever anyone passes the spot.

All round it beats training hollow. After five or six days the strain is intolerable through lack of sleep and it is with no sighs of regret we see the relieving battalion coming into the trenches. Unwashed, unshaven, dirty and dog tired we slowly file out into the shell-swept village and trudge along to our billets in silence. By midnight we are in our havens and sleep the sleep of the just till bath time on the morrow.

Dave and the bear … Fish and bear stories are now in season, but so far the crop has not been at all plentiful, only one bear story having as yet come to hand. The honors in this case fall to our well-known sportsman, Mr. Dave Sutherland.

Dave and a number of our prominent citizens were coming home from a drive down the Moyie road in Mr. Harry McKowan’s new auto, when a young cub was sighted on the roadside gazing spellbound at the first “buzzwagon” it had ever seen. Feeling insulted at the intensity of its stare, which Mr. McKowan took as a direct libel to a brand-new car, the auto was stopped and the party immediately gave chase to the cub, intending to capture it and bring it along for a few days’ vacation in the Cranbrook “cooler”. But the cub had other intentions and took refuge in a tree. Thereupon the party began to throw sticks and stones at the cub in the hope of making it mad enough to come down and show fight, but there was nothing doing.

So Dave beat it up into the woods to secure a further supply of ammunition, intending to evade a commission on the same for Col. Allison. Going manfully into the thick bush, as becomes an intrepid sportsman, Dave suddenly came face to face with “ma”, who immediately opened her arms to show him how much she loved him. But while Dave is not remiss in taking in a “bunny-hug” he has no desire to take a “bear-hug”, so he strategically retreated in the direction of the auto, at the same time shouting “timber down the hill” to warn the others.

Mr. McKowan with great presence of mind immediately “tooted” his Klaxon, and while “ma” was wondering what new species of animal was proposing to her, and whether to say “yes”, Dave climbed in, signalled “all aboard”, and away they went leaving the bear still considering.

Dave strongly resents the imputation that he did not act in all respects as becomes a mighty hunter, and points out that in gracefully retiring his sole thought was to lead “ma” on so that she, too, could observe the shining wonders of Harry’s new Studebaker.

He is also most emphatic that he did not sing that popular chorus: “O Lord, if you can’t help me, for goodness sakes don’t help that bear.”

Cranbrook now has a band … Once more Cranbrook is on the map with a brass band, and one which made an excellent impression on their first appearance, which took place at the Women’s Institute picnic on Tuesday night. The band mustered fourteen players, nearly all of whom were beginners who have been taught the rudiments of music and playing by Bandmaster R. W. Russell.

Mr. Russell is to be congratulated on the success which has attended his efforts to get a band started again.

The band has made no appeal for funds and has gone in debt for a small quantity of music to start with. We have no doubt the citizens will be glad to take this load off the shoulders of the boys when they are given an opportunity to contribute, and will loyally support the band and keep it going, for without funds no organization can long be kept on its feet, and it is a recognized fact that a band does much to enliven and advertise a town.


Local militia battalion … Every Cranbrook man of military age who cannot go overseas should be willing and ready, even anxious, to enroll himself in the local militia battalion for home defence purposes.

Some people seem to labor under the impression that there is no need for maintaining home defence organizations. Such a view is a mistake. There is far greater need for a well drilled and disciplined home defence force in time of war than in time of peace. Canada is at war.

This Dominion is engaged in the greatest struggle of all times. There is therefore greater need today for the manhood of Canada to be ready for home service than ever before in the country’s history.

But, we hear it said, there will never be any occasion demanding service at home. It is hoped that this may prove to be true, but no man knows what a day may bring forth.

Visitors to Sewell Camp during the summer of 1914 remarked that it seemed a great waste of time and money to have several thousand men undergoing military training because there was no country in the world with which Canada could go to war but the United States, and war with our cousins to the south was unthinkable. Yet in less than two months Canada from ocean to ocean was resounding to the tramp of armed men departing for the battlefields of Europe in defence of Canada’s liberties, the integrity of the Empire, and the cause of world civilization.

Follow the activities of the German propaganda all the world over and let any man dare say there is no need for preparedness at home. And remember, says an Eastern paper, that as the German cause goes down to defeat the bitterness and rancour of their agents and sympathizers in all parts of the world, even in Canada, will increase.

If the enemy were at Canada’s shores today, the men of Cranbrook would be among the first to volunteer. Of course they would. Why not, then, be trained and ready? What fighting value would you and others have as an untrained, undisciplined, unorganized mass?

It is in realization of these facts that a Citizen’s movement, endorsed and supported by the local military authorities has been started with the object of recruiting B. Company of the 107th up to full strength.

This is a movement worthy of the whole-hearted support of the men of Cranbrook. If you cannot go overseas, surely you can be wearing at least a Home Service uniform. Every Canadian worthy the name should be wearing the King’s uniform, either for overseas service or for home service.

Serve overseas if you can, but if you can’t then serve at home, but serve. You can at least make the small sacrifice of a little of your spare time, when some thousands of your fellow citizens have made the much greater sacrifice involved in overseas service.

Signed on behalf of the Recruiting Committee of the 107th, W. A. Nisbet, E. Y. Brake, Ira R. Manning.

Council meeting … A special meeting of the city council was held Tuesday night, present Mayor Clapp in the chair and Aldermen Hanson, Santo and Leask. The entire business of the meeting consisted of passing several by-laws.

By-law No. 158 reducing the licenses of hotels by $15 every six months was given its third reading and passed.

By-law No. 152 Temporary Loan By-Law Amendment altering the rate to 6% per cent was given its third reading and passed.

By-law No. 159, High School Debenture By-law, providing for the raising of $6,000 to be used in the purchase of St. Mary’s School for use for High School purposes was introduced and given the necessary three readings and will be submitted to the ratepayers for approval on the 21st day of July, Mr. T. M. Roberts being appointed Returning Officer.

On motion the by-law will be published twice in the Cranbrook Herald, and may be found elsewhere in these columns.