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Frank Swannell Diaries: Part I

Diaries of Frank Cyril Swannell Learn more.

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BC Archives MS-0392 - Box 1, Volume 4-5

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the range. All my section were lying on the straw. A high explosive shell caught the roof and got twelve of us. The shell seemed to burst in my left ear and I was covered with debris, but miraculously escaped. We have now four left our of our section of fourteen. Nearly all my chums are gone. I helped Middleton, who was lying next to me, back to the dressing station. He had two holes in the thigh. Poor VanDyk, who lay the other side of me, had his upper lip and chin nearly blown off--a horrible sight that I can't get out of my thoughts yet. He will recover, though. Oh it's a pretty thing, this civilization fin de siecle! The wounded get the congratulations out here. They are lucky!

Well, no use worrying--and it's wonderful how soon one gets cheerful when given a few days beyond the range of the gins. To see us today you would think soldiering a picnic. I can talk French pretty well and soon get acquainted with the simple country folk. They are wonderfully brave, these French women. Tell me about their husbands or sons at the front, and are exceedingly kind to me when they know about my children. Well, here I got acquainted with a refugee, who has lost everything. "Mais, cest la guerre, monsieur; cest terrible, la guerre!" (But it is war, monsieur; it is terrible, this war.) This good woman is now working with a baker and today she gave several of us a wonderful dinner. Wonderfully good coupe aux herbes (vegetable soup), shrimps, mackerel, pommes de terre frites (friend potatoes), salade, and of course the inevitable coffee and vin blanc (white wine). We regularly gorged and it cost only three francs each. So you see we soon forget, or try to forget, the poor lads we had left amid that hell. I suppose it is good philosophy, though--the main thing is not to think.

Do you know it is wonderful the meaning the word "comrade" has here! This war seems to bring out the best in us. A fortnight ago I got cracked on top of the head and nearly knocked out with a spent shrapnel bullet. Next nigh I should have gone on sentry at midnight, but found in the morning that Kenney Bateman and Bill Guiney had done four hours for me because they though I was in pretty bad shape and needed sleep. They took their own turn, too. Poor Bill went to England the other day with four or five pieces of high explosive shell in him.

Well, Lorne, I must close. Will try and write again in a week or so. The post corporal is just around for the mail.

Yours very truly, FRANK SWANNELL.

BC Archives, MS-0392 Box 1 Volume 4 FRANK SWANNELL PAPERS Diary and enclosures, 1915.

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