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  • ... "[do] you demand truth for its own sake, or merely to prove yourself right? - p. 138,This Star Shall Abide

Saturday, November 10, 2012

NEIL SNOW FORSYTH WORLD WAR I

(1914-1919)
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Grandfather Neil Snow Forsyth kept detailed journals for most of his life. The following record, from his time of service during World War I with Canadian troops, was arranged and compiled for his history by his daughter Ruth Forsyth Horne in 1996 from his journals. We sincerely appreciate the work of all that contribute to such valuable records. As much as possible she retained his spelling and punctuation

This record, and the postcards from the many places he saw in England, may be accessed at the LDS Church History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. A brief history, on this blog, of his childhood and growing years is titled 'Neil Snow Forsyth history'. Further history of  Grandpa Neil's courtship and marriage, the years the growing family lived in Magrath, and Cardston, Alberta, Canada, the years of WWII, and their golden wedding and Chloe's death, build a more detailed story that is completed with additional records for later years of his second marriage, and his death.

His words are often measured carefully into names, dates and travel but as we read we may wish to remember the human emotions such events might engender, not only for him but for his family. He lived in close proximity to parents and siblings, and his wife's brother (Lorenzo Hatch) lived with them to attend school in Magrath. Neil and Chloe had only been married for less than 2 years when the war began and their first child, Thomas Rex Forsyth, was about 1 1/2 years of age. From  Neil's own words we read:

"June 7, 1914 – Before there was any signs or thought of war breaking out, I asked Patriarch [John L ]Gibb to come to dinner with me one Sunday, to give Lorenzo a blessing. After he had given Lorenzo one, I asked him to give me one, .... When I got this [patriarchal] blessing and read it over no one had thought of the first world war and Chloe and I both thought I would sometime be called on another foreign mission. We layed it away and forgot what it said.

"Sept 1, 1914 – Our second son Neil Scott [Forsyth] was born.  On Sunday Nov 1, [1914] I blessed our 2nd son and gave him his name, Neil Scott.
Neil Snow Forsyth 

"Dec 1, 1914 – I was elected on the Magrath School Board. Jan 7, 1915 I was made Chairman of the Board, I was re-elected in Dec 1915 and continued until I left for overseas June 20, 1916.

"** 1914 – When the war started in 1914, and Canada offered to send men to fight, I talked a lot against it and said let them fight their own battles. But after it had been on for two years, and some of our boys had been killed (I) began to think different.

"I talked to Chloe about going and helping bring it to an end, but never mentioned it to any others til April 1916. My bro in-law, Ammon Mercer [husband to his youngest sister Florence] and another of our school teachers and 4 more young men had enlisted and they were having a farewell dance for them. Major Hugh B. Brown came down from Cardston that morning to be at the dance. When I came from the office that night, I wanted Chloe to get ready and go to the dance with me, but she didn't feel like going. [From subsequent events we know she was about 5 months along with Uncle Ken.] She said I could go, if I promised not to enlist. I said I wanted to have a talk with Major Brown, but I wouldn't enlist. I went and had a talk with him, he asked me what Chloe thought about me going, and I said she didn't want me to go. He said he would not approve of any married man going without his wifes consent. When I got home she asked me what he said, and when I told her, she said, It’s decided that you don’t go. There was no more said about it. **

"May 15, 1916 – I was at the station when the train from Cardston came in and I saw Major Brown get off. While we were eating dinner that day Chloe said, I hear Major Brown is in town again, I have been taking to Florence this morning and I have decided that if you think you should go, I would rather you would go now with Major Brown and our own boys, than go later with someone else. [*This connection to Major Brown was later instrumental in Neil's life being spared and getting proper care, when someone gave him poison as cough medicine.] I said, Shall I phone Major Brown when I get back to the office and tell him I am ready to enlist, She said suit yourself. So I called Major Brown and arranged the time to give my employer a 30 day notice and I would be ready to leave July 1st.

Front of Neil's World War I registration
Back of Neil's World War I registration

"Sunday morning I took Rex and went to SS. Chloe stayed home with Scott, when I got home Chloe asked me if I remembered the blessing Bro. Gibb gave me, we thought I would be called on another foreign mission. She said “This is it.” She had read that blessing while I was at SS. Then – I read it and we both felt that it was intended that I should go to war, and we felt sure I would return safely.

"June 10, 1916 – I got word from Major Brown that I must report at Medicine Hat for duty on June 20 as they were to leave there for overseas June 22. On June 12, we took stock at the lumber yard and turned it over to Campbell, but I stayed to on to help him until June 19.

"June 20, 1916. I went to Medicine Hat and stayed at a hotel that night. My sister Florence Mercer stayed at that hotel and was still there to see her husband off the morning of June 22. We passed through Fort Williams June 23.

"June 26, 1916 – We arrived at Ottowa at 4 a.m. at 8 a.m. we marched up to the parliament building and were inspected by His Honor the Duke of Canaught. As we went through the English speaking settlements across Canada, the people welcomed us with cheers, but the French settlements in Quebec Province had no cheers for us. We stopped and marched through the town of North Bay. A small boy came and took hold of my hand, and held it all through the parade. He told me his father had gone to the war. It made me think of my two boys at home with their mother [who happens to be 7 months along expecting their third child]."

From a history of Hugh B. Brown we learn, "Hugh B Brown was called by his stake president in 1912 to go to Calgary and take military training preliminary to organizing a Latter-day Saint contingent for the Canadian reserves, … It had been reported in Parliament at Ottawa that the Mormons were disloyal and would not support the motherland if a European war occurred. One of the members of Parliament from Lethbridge, Alberta, responded that the Mormons were loyal but wanted to be led by their own people.

President Wood called [Hugh B. Brown] along with four others, William G. Ainscough, Ben H. May, Andrew Woolf, and Clyde Brown, to take the military training necessary to become officers. Hugh trained every week for three years, rising from lieutenant to captain and finally major. The chosen officers organized a squadron in Cardston, the Twenty-third Alberta Rangers, and trained as cavalry at Calgary. With the outbreak of war in 1914, he was asked, along with the other four Mormon officers, to form a squadron for overseas duty. His unit became part of the Thirteenth Overseas Mounted Rifles in 1915 and, after training at Calgary and Medicine Hat, landed in Liverpool in 1916.

While en route to Liverpool, in Petawawa, Canada, a riot broke out among the 1,500 soldiers of the larger contingent within which the Mormon squadron had been placed. The quickly assembled officers recommended immediate use of armed force to quell the meeting. [Major Brown] argued against this and walked unarmed among the rebellious troops. He spoke with them for almost two hours, standing on a table top taken from a nearby tent. The situation was sufficiently grave that full mutiny could have been attempted and lives lost. However, the troops were finally persuaded to return to their tents and no charges were brought."

Grandpa Neil's record continues:

"June 28, We reached Halifax at 2 p.m. We went right on board the liner Olympic with 5,000 other troops. Early the next morning they pulled out into the harber and stayed there all day. Then 4 men were taken off, as German Spies. We set sail at 6 p.m. July 4, (6 days crossing) two torpedo boats met us and escorted us into Liverpool Harber. July 9, The Germans made an air raid on the British coast, near enough for us to hear the bombs drop.

"July 18, Major Brown and Sgt. Major Harrison with 16 of us pirvets were transferred to the cavalry and the next day we went to Summerset Barracks and were assigned to the ‘Fort Gary Horse’. I was right at home in the saddle, and got along very well.

"July 27, 9,000 Canadian troops landed at Liverpool. We keep hearing the big  guns in France, There is considerable activity in the air here too, day and night.

"Aug 29, Sam Hughes was here inspecting us. We stood in the rain all day and got soaked through, while he stood under a hedge with an umbrella over him and kept dry. Today I got a letter from Bro. Faulkner, telling me that he, Sis Faulkner and Nellie were in Cheriton. He had enlisted in Calgary and brought his family over with him. I went and spent the evening with them. Aug 30, I got a 6 day leave. I went to London, then Coventry. I visited saints and friends as I travelled to Birmingham. Sun Sept 3, I went to the Conference Home for SS. Then Pres. Laird and I went to Spearbrook and held Sacrament service. After that we went home with Fred Lamb. [Neil baptized Fred Lamb February 1909.] I was one of the speakers in the evening meeting. Later Pres. Laird and I went to Dudley, Woodside and Tipton visiting saints along the way. Sept 5, we went back to Dudley and I left to return to my unit. When I got there that evening, there was a letter telling me my third son was born Sept 2, and that Chloe had named him George Kenneth [Forsyth].

"Sept 14, I went to Ceasors Camp after supper, My bro. in-law Ammon Mercer, Roy Harris and I went to Faulkners and we all went and saw ‘The Battle of the Somm’ at the Electric Theatre in Folkstone. Sept 17, we had church parade this morning, Ammon Mercer, I and Gifford spent the rest of the day at Faulkners. We had a very pleasant afternoon and evening in song and conversation. 

approximate places locations in England and France
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"Sept 26, 1916 – I had a bad cough this morning, and I went on sick parade. The Dr. put me on light duty, and they sent me to the sick horse lines. I was coughing around there and the corporal in charge took me into the saddle room, where he had some cough medicine. He took a quart bottle off the shelf, and told me to take a good drink of that. I tasted it and it tasted like a canker medicine mother used to make, so I took 3 or 4 swallows. He told me to lye down on some sacks there and go to sleep, so I did. About 5 a.m. Sept 27 I woke in a dimly lighted room with a soldier sitting by my cot. I told him I had to go to the bathroom, and he took me to one where I had a good movement. When I came back I asked him where I was and he said I was in the guardroom. I told him I wanted to see Major Brown. He couldn't leave till a change of guard came at 7 a.m. then he went to get Major Brown. I could see bugs crawling up the walls, and I couldn't go back to sleep. Major Brown came over with the Dr. He asked me what I had to drink the day before, I told him the corporal had given me some cough medicine. They went and found the corporal and soon came back, and asked how much I drank of the stuff. I told him 3 or 4 swallows. He said, God man, you drank enough to kill 3 men, that was Beladonia Poison, one spoonful is a dose for a horse, Now they sent me to the hospital where they took good care of me.

"Major Brown made a thura [thorough] investigation of the case. The Dr. that sent me to the guard house was discharged, and the horse lines corporal was reduced to the ranks.

"Oct 13, I was released from the hospital and the next morning I got a 10 day sick leave and went to Birmingham and stayed at the Conference House with Pres. Laird that night.  Oct 15, I went to SS in Birmingham then went to Coventry for Sacrament meeting. Oct 17, we administered to Bro. Lamb today as he was sick. I stayed at Mrs. Roe’s visiting the saints there. Oct 19, I went to Dudley and visited there and in Tipton the 20th, then back to Birmingham on the 21st and 22nd. Oct 23, I returned to Somerset Barracks.

"Nov 11, I went to the YMCA in the evening and heard the Rev. Capt. Cameron give a very good talk on morality, and the harmful effects of immorality. Nov 18, I went to Cheriton and bought Christmas presents and mailed them to Chloe and the boys.

"Nov 21, I started a course in musketry and on Nov 30, I passed musketry with the highest score ever made in B Squadron, I scored 137 out of a possible 140. Dec 1st I was ordered to wear cross guns on my tunic for my marksmanship.

"Dec 3, I was on Folkstone picket duty from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Dec 8, we practiced shooting with gas masks on. All last week we were busy doing cavalry drill, bayonet practice, bom throwing, horseback wrestling, etc. Dec 18, I got a Christmas box from home.

"Jan 2, 1917 – When I went for a horse to ride on troop drill, the officer in charge told me that Buck was the only horse left and all the men were afraid to ride him. I saddled him and got on and rode him without any trouble. He was nervous and high strung, but not mean, so he was detailed to me, and I rode him on troop drill as long as I was with the cavelry.  On Jan 6, as we were leaving the drill grounds Cap’t Ben May saw that the gate was closed, so he told me to ride ahead and open it. I started out on a gallop, Buck was anxious to run so as we neared the gate, I gave him free rein and he jumped it with ease.

"Jan 7, I was on Church Parade. Then I was detailed to do a 24 hr guard at the Water Tower. The next week I was on the stable picket, clipped the horses, patrol duty and guard duty at Moor Barracks Hospital.

"Jan 22, We had special parade all day and Major Hugh B Brown invited me to his quarters for the evening. Jan 31, I left Shornecliff at 5:15 p.m.  I stayed with the Elders at Deseret that night. I went to Coventry and visited for two days. I stayed at Mrs. Roes one night. Then I spent 3 days in Nuneaton, then went to Dudley where I stayed with Dr. Angus overnight. I went to Birmingham Feb 6, and had dinner with the Elders there, then I went on to London. I caught the 10 p.m. train at Carmon ST. Station, and arrived back at my unit at 1 a.m.

"Feb 8, While on troop drill my horse fell with me, but I was not hurt. That evening I was put on a draft for the Canadian Army Veternary Corp. I went to the medical officer for inspection and enoculation, then was transferred with several others to huts on St. Martins Plains. Feb 13, I was on stable picket. The weather is warming up some and things are thawing out.

"Feb 20, I paid 3 shilling and 3 pence for barbering tools, and the first week I made 4 shilling and 4 pence cutting hair in our camp. Mar 17, there was a Zepelin raid over England and one bomb dropped so near us that it shook our huts.

"Mar 25, A  general mobilization order was given for all troops to stand ready for further orders. We could hear heavy shelling all day, and there were rumors of a German raid on England. Mar 27, We saw a submarine going out this afternoon. Mar 28, We loaded two carloads of horses on the train for Crowborough.  Mar 30, we got 33 wounded horses from France. One called Kaiser Bill, the orderly Cap’t ordered him shot because he was so vishous, but Sgt Lorten suggested they let me take him for a while and see what I could do with him. They had him tied with tow ropes, one on each side of his stall. The report was that he was mean to kick, strike and bite. The next day I could curry him all over and the next day I took him out on exercise ride and got along fine with him.

March 1917 front of fold letter from Chloe to Neil first page

March 1917 inside fold letter Chloe to Neil

March 1917 back of outside, written beside first page, letter from Chloe to Neil 

"April 1, 1917 – After supper I got word that Major Brown wanted me to come over to his apartment.  I went over and he and Cap’t Ainscough were there, and he was really feeling blue.  He had returned from conducting troops to France a few days before.  Now the Colonel had put another Major in his place and had told him he could either revert to the ranks or return to Canada for discharge.  He said, if he reverted to the ranks he would probably be sent to France with troops he had never seen, and never see any of the boys he had brought over.  If he returned home he could never make the mothers of those boys understand the position he was in here.  There was only 16 of us here with him, and now he was being taken from us.  He felt it was almost more than he could stand.  Captain Ainscough had been given the same ultimatum, and they were returning home together.  The colonel liked to have his drinking parties, and because they would not join them, and because either of them could handle the troops better than he could, he was jealous of them."

Hugh B. Brown *, while serving as a member of 'the Council of the Twelve'  later told his experience as a story titled 'The Currant Bush'.  "[The General] went into the other room to answer the telephone, and I took a soldier’s privilege of looking on his desk. I saw my personal history sheet. Right across the bottom of it in bold, block-type letters was written, “THIS MAN IS A MORMON.” … When I saw that, I knew why I had not been appointed. I already held the highest rank of any Mormon in the British Army. He came back and said, “That’s all, Brown.” … I saluted out of duty and went out. I got on the train and started back to my town, 120 miles away, with a broken heart, with bitterness in my soul. And every click of the wheels on the rails seemed to say, “You are a failure. You will be called a coward when you get home. You raised all those Mormon boys to join the army, then you sneak off home.” I knew what I was going to get, and when I got to my tent, I was so bitter that I threw my cap and my saddle brown belt on the cot. I clinched my fists and I shook them at heaven. I said, “How could you do this to me, God? I have done everything I could do to measure up. There is nothing that I could have done—that I should have done—that I haven’t done. How could you do this to me?” I was as bitter as gall.
And then I heard a voice, and I recognized the tone of this voice. It was my own voice, and the voice said, “I am the gardener here. I know what I want you to do.” The bitterness went out of my soul, and I fell on my knees by the cot to ask forgiveness for my ungratefulness and my bitterness. While kneeling there I heard a song being sung in an adjoining tent. A number of Mormon boys met regularly every Tuesday night. I usually met with them. We would sit on the floor and have a Mutual Improvement Association. As I was kneeling there, praying for forgiveness, I heard their voices singing:

“It may not be on the mountain height
Or over the stormy sea;
It may not be at the battle’s front
My Lord will have need of me;
But if, by a still, small voice he calls
To paths that I do not know,
I’ll answer, dear Lord, with my hand in thine:
I’ll go where you want me to go.”
(Hymns, no. 75.)

I arose from my knees a humble man. And now, almost fifty years later, I look up to him and say, “Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for cutting me down, for loving me enough to hurt me.” I see now that it was wise that I should not become a general at that time … I have done better than I would have done if the Lord had let me go the way I wanted to go.”

The friendships these men formed during their war experiences endured for the rest of their lives. I return now to Grandpa's own record and words:

"April 20, I was put in command of the exercise ride and I did it on Kaiser Bill, I am riding him regular now, and they say I am making a real horse of him.  April 21, there was a sea fight off the coast of Dover, we could see it from our lines.  On April 24, I started on my vetenary coarse.  April 30, I was on stable picket again.  We can hear the big guns across the channel all the time now, day and night. .  May 14, we left the huts of St. Martins plains and moved into tents joining the cavelry depot. The fruit trees are out in bloom around here now and the weather is good.

Neil Snow Forsyth 1917

letter to Chloe  7 May 1917

"May 25, I was reading in my tent when I heard the whir of planes in the distance.  Soon I heard the bombs begin to drop and I got up and went out.  I saw 2 drop on St Martins plain.  It was only seconds till they were dropping around us.  One man was killed and two wounded near our pharmacy.  A trooper named Preston was shot full of shrapnel, I heard him cussing the Germans as I ran toward him, I picked him up and started for my tent.  I had only gone a few steps when he fainted.  Just then two soldiers came with a stretcher and took him to the hospital near our lines.  The bombers were then down bombing Folkstone.  There was 30 as near as I could count them.  Two of our tents were blown to bits and several others were full of holes.

"May 27, I went to Folkstone and saw the damage done there.  About 75 people were killed, in many cases it was impossible to tell who the parts belonged to, and they gathered them up in baskets.  A number of soldiers were killed at Risborough, and at St. Martins plain, and many other civilians and soldiers were wounded.

"May 30, 1917 – I was on a draft of 30 men chosen to go to France.

"June 5, We went on board of the G, 08 and set sail at 2:45 p.m.  There was  3 transports loaded with troops.  We reached Boulogne at 4:30 p.m.  They were loading two hospital ships with wounded soldiers as we landed there.  We marched to a rest camp for the night.  We had a good nights rest, and left at 7 a.m. to march to Etaples 20 miles distance.  When we finished breakfast this morning the men filled their canteens for the march, some with tea, some with beer, some laughed at me for filling mine with water.  I told them they would see by night which was best.  A pal who marched beside me filled his with tea.  After lunch it was very hot and several of the men fell out and were picked up by transports.  Later in the afternoon a very large man in our section was about to fall out, I took his pack and urged him to stay with us, but he dropped out on the next 10 mile rest.  One man just in front of us was about to quit and my pal took his pack so he stayed on.  One big strapper who had filled his canteen with beer, fell while marching and was picked up by transport.  We reached Etaples at 6 PM, with my pal and I each carrying two packs so he argued that tea was as good as water.  I was 38 and he was 28 so it really didn’t prove a point.

"June 7, We all left for Harfleur to the Haver veternary hospital.  I was assigned to go to No.1 dressing shed and was put to work with sick and wounded horses.  June 30, I was kicked by a horse and was in the base hospital till July 8.  I went back on duty in the dressing shed July 13.  There are also many German prisoners being garded here.

"July 30 While down in Le Haver in the afternoon I saw a shipload of U.S. troops landing there, as the U.S. had entered the war, and were now sending troops into France.   Aug 18, I went into Le Haver and bought $10 of presents and mailed them to Chloe and the boys at home.

"Aug 26, The Canadian troops in the Le Haver district held religious meeting in the YMCA.  They asked me to speak and I gave them the L.D.S. understanding of the three in one God head.

"Dec 12, I sent Christmas presents to mother, to Chloe and the boys, and to my sister Belle F Gardner in Lund Nevada.

"Jan 10, 1918 -** I have been having some prolems with my stomach ever since the Beladona incident. I have had several bilious attachs so the medical board suggested I have my eyes tested, Sat Jan 26, I got me a new pair of glasses. **

"Feb 7, I was on stable picket and got 2 ribs broken by a horse crowding me into a partition and was off duty til Feb 11.  Feb 27, I was ordered to put a lance corporal stripe on my left sleeve.

"Mar 6, 1918 – We were up for medical board, and for inspection for leave in the afternoon.  I bot 2 lbs of butter in Ruellen that evening for the Franks. Mar 7, We went to Le Haver for our leave but our ship didn’t show up till Mar 9, so we spent one night at the Salvation Army and spent the next night on board our ship and set sail for England Mar 10. We landed at Southampton at 8 a.m. and arrived in London at 11:30 a.m. I went right out to Deseret. They asked me to be the speaker at their evening meeting. ** As on previous leave, I visited the Faulkners, Mrs. Roe, Pres. Laird, Dr. Angus and other Saints as I travelled to Coventry, Dudley, Nuneaton and Birmingham, and returned to Le Haver for duty Mar 6. **

"Apr 10, I was given my second stripe and did my first night as corporal of the gard April 15.  May 17, I was made a Veternary Sgt.  I went in charge of remounts to the front in the 14th bregade of the Canadian artillery.

Sgt. Neil Snow Forsyth about 1918

"Mar 24, I reached Rovon at 7:45 this morning, I arrived in Coloune at 5 p.m. May 25.  The next morning on muster parade I learned I was on the wrong rout.  About 11 a.m. I was told that I had to go back to St. Paul and would be directed there which way to go.  At 12:30 I got on a train for St. Paul.  There I was directed to go to Mont. St. Eloy.  There the officer in charge of a supply train phoned around trying to find the 14th bregade, but failed to get any trace of them.  He was determined not to have me on his hands overnight, so he told me to take my equipment and start walking up the road, and he thought I might find some trace of them.  It was nearly sundown and shells were dropping all around us.  I started out and I found very little traffic and no buildings in sight.  There was here and there a demolished house but no one around.  I kept walking till after dark, then I came to a demolished house by the road with a truck in front of it.  There was a soldier there on gard. I asked him if he could tell me anything about the 14th brigade.  He told me the Sgt. driver of the truck was sleeping in that house and he might tell me something.  I went in and woke him, but he could tell me nothing.  It was then 10 pm so he told me I could sleep there.  The Sgt. And his Batman were Canadians.  The next morning the gard showed us a big hole about 50 yards away where a German shell had dropped during the night, and left a hole big enough to bury the demolished house.   The Sgt. told me to leave my equipment there and follow the road to the left.  He said I would find a Military Police on that road that could likely tell me where to go.  So I went and soon came to the police.  He told me the 14th brigade went up that road about 2 days before.  I went back and got my equipment and started on again.  About a mile up the road I came to an infantry unit.  They were just having breakfast.  Hyrum and Charley Broadbent were with them, they were both 13th men from Leavitt, Alberta.  They told me the 14th was a short distance up the road.  I walked on till I came to their lines and I was assigned to the 61st battery that had lost it’s vet a short time before.  They gave me a nice looking black mare as a mount.  I like her and got along fine with her.  It was nearly noon when I arrived at the battery May 27, 1918.

"June 1, I was appointed caterer for the Sgts. Mess. Each Sgt. Gave me 5 franks to buy anything I could at the French farms, as I was free to go any place in our eria.  I had a staff officers belt so I was never stopped by Military Police.  Whenever I ran out of money each Sgt. would give me another 5 franks.  So we lived high and I got fat.  I weighed 186 all the time I was in France, 20 lbs above my usual weight.

"June 5, I saw a German plain brought down by our anti aircraft guns.  Today I was assigned a Mr. Pennycook as my Batman.  He stayed with me till after we left Belgium after selling all our horses in May 1919.

Batman Mr. Pennycook about 1918

"June 26, Pennycook and I were riding across some of the battle eria, and we rode across one ridge litterly covered with scores of dead Canadians.  At the foot of the ridge we crossed the deserted machine gun positions that had done the dirty work.

"June 30, a large gun with a 54 ft barrel was brought in on the railroad and stationed right by our lines.  It’s name was Bochey Buster, it was there just 4 hrs, fired 19 shots on a bridge 20 miles from here, over Vimy ridge.  The shells weighted 1600 lbs each.  There was a plain flying overhead that told them the results of their shots.  After the 19th shot the plain reported the bridge totally demolished and they took the gun back down the track.  We never saw it again.

"July 12, while lying on my back watching a fight in the air, something said to me “sit up quick” As I sat up I heard a thud right where my head had been.  I turned around and dug a hot splinter out of the sod.  It was rough and as big as my two fingers, sharp on one end. ** Once again my life had been spared**

"July 14, I rode over to the infantry lines and found Walter Berryesser, who was one of the 13th CMR boys [Canadian Mormon Recruit].  He and I went and found Will Leavitts grave at the foot of Vimy Ridge where he was killed.  We place empty shells around his grave so they could find it later for proper burial.  Walter was very discouraged and the next afternoon I got a horse for him, and we rode up to the north end of Vimy.  Many shells were dropping around there, so we put our horses in a dugout and walked up to the top of the ridge.  Ammon Mercer had given me a description of the place Roy Harris had been buried alive in the trench were Ammon was wounded.  It was on the flat, east of Vimy Ridge.  We could see a heavy infantry battle going on down the ridge so we rode back to the 61st lines and Berryesser went on to his unit.  I never saw him again.

"July 30, 1918 – We received orders to break camp and at 2 a.m. Aug 1st we were bombed along the road by German planes, but had no casualties. We entrained at Anbigmy at 10:30 a.m. and detrained at Bacoul at 5 p.m. We then moved on to Cagney which we reached about 2 a.m. Aug 2. We saw 4 observation balloons brought down by our guns, near Amons.

"Aug 8, our big drive started at 4:20 a.m., 10 mins ahead of the Germans. By 5:30 a.m. we had them on the run and we pulled our wagon lines and started after them. We camped that night on what had been the German lines that morning. The stream of water there was so bloody that our horses would not drink it. It had cleared by morning. We stayed there all that day burying the German dead. Their disks were sent to Germany to be registered.

"Aug 10, We moved on under heavy firing all day. ** For the next 10 days we were under heavy shelling by day and air raids by night. Our unit lost no men or horses. **

Aug 22, we moved to Solvex, we arrived there at 3 a.m. – Aug 24, My 39th birthday, I had a shave by a French lady barber. We entrained at Solvex at 4 p.m. and arrived back at Anbimy at 5 a.m., Aug 25. We detrained and moved up to Arris Front, in heavy rain. It rained hard for about 24 hours.

** We are on the front lines now, with constant shelling mainly from ground troops with some loss of life and horses. By Sept 1 we had the Germans on the run, or retreating so fast it was hard to keep up with them. Sept 3 we lost our Sgt. Major and two Sgts. **

"Sept 27, We moved to Queant, on the way a gas shell burst right in front of me.  The road was so crowded that I couldn’t get away from it and my horse so hard to control that I was unable to put my gas mask on till I had enough gas to make me real sick.  One horse was so badly burned from the explosion that I had to stop and dress his burns.  I went to the Dr. that night and asked him what to do, he knew that I never took the nightly rum ration, so he told me to go to the quarter master and asked him to give me all the rum I could drink.  I went to him and he set a jug of rum and a pint cup and told me to help myself.  I drank two cups of rum (medicinal) and went to bed.  I was still too sick to eat any breakfast, and I stayed sick for 3 days.  Sep 29, I went to see the veterinary officer of our brigade, I was still sick from the gas.  When I rode up to his dugout, his batman took my horse and sent me in.  When I went in I saw a quart bottle of old Scotch whiskey he had just opened.  He saw me look at it, so asked me to have a drink.  I told him I thought it would do me good, he told me to help myself.   I took a good drink, then talked over the business I had with him.  When I go up he asked me to have another drink, which I did.  I didn’t get back to our lines till after supper, but I felt hungry so I asked the cook to fix me some.  He knew I hadn’t eaten much, so he fixed me a good super.  I got up the next morning feeling much better.

Sep 30, 1918 -  We moved to Bourlon, across the Canal DuNord. It was hard fighting all the way. ** During the next few weeks the fighting is constant, but we have the Germans moving out of France and Belgium.**

"Nov 1, The kickoff for the big drive was at 5 a.m. and was a huge success. The next day we moved on to Angin and the next we moved to Valenciennes, then to Mons and Quievrain, Belgium. Nov 10th we reached Thulin and were ordered to remain there.

"Nov 11, The Armistis was signed by the Germans. Nov 13, we received orders to start for Germany with the army occupation, to remain till the peace terms were signed.

"Nov 18, We got up early and started on as usual, headed for Cambrai, St. Vincent. There was a lieutenant riding just ahead of me who had only been with us a short time. I had never spoken to him, I didn’t even know his name. We had only gone a short distance when he dropped back by me, and said, “I saw in the English paper last night that the Pres. Of your church just died.” I was so surprised that I asked, “The Pres. of my church?” He answered “Yes, Joseph F. Smith. He must have been a remarkable man to hold all the positions he was holding at his age. There was a long article in the paper about him.” He then rode by me for about an hour asking questions about him, and the teachings of our church. He was very friendly with me from then on.

"Dec 13,  I was assigned to billit with a very nice German family the Unclebrauch, a man and wife, a daughter and a son. The son had just been released from the German army. I soon learned that he and I had been just over Vimy Ridge from each other for about 6 months during the summer. They had another son still in the service who was not allowed to come home while we were there. The mother was very nice to me and kept my boots polished and insisted I have breakfast with them every single morning.


"Dec 25,  Christmas morning they brought me a large plate filled with fruit, candy, nuts, etc. They insisted that I go with them to their married daughters for dinner. None of the German service men could come within 20 kilometers of the occupied territory while we were there. For them to treat me so well, when I knew their own son could not come home for Christmas because of me, spoiled the day for me. They noticed how I felt and tried to cheer me up, but I could only think of home and of their son in the German army, and I sure had a miserable day.

"Jan 17, [1919]  We went to Wahu and entrained for Belgium. Jan 23, I was told to report to Bregade Head quarters for my leave to England. ** I travelled again from London to Coventry, then Birmingham, where I attended a Saturday night social, then Sun. Feb 2nd attended Sunday meetings and spoke in both meetings. **

"Feb 3, Pres. England and I went to Dudley and visited the saints there and I stayed at Dr. Angus that night. I went to Coventry and visited til Feb 7, then went to London and did some business, and attended the theater, then went to church at the Dessert on Sunday.

"Feb 10, 1919 – I sent a parcel home, and went to a show in the evening.

"Feb 11, I went to Folkstone and sailed for France. We landed at Callis, then travelled by land to Brussels.

"Feb 14, I went to Antwerp. I visited the Notre Dame Catherdral, also St. Pauls. I saw several paintings in each by Ruben and Vandyke. 

"They were 128 years building Notre Dame in the 14th century. St. Pauls had statues of the ancient apostles, and of the crucificiton of Christ, and of the Virgin Mary. Also a reproduction of Purgetory, and of St. Peter when the cock crew.

"I saw a Canadian officer in one of the cathedrals, I saw him talking to another soldier, so when I met him later I asked what the officer said to him. He said “He wanted to know how I got here without being caught by the Military Police.” So we were all in the same box!

"Feb 19, Since returning I have been busy selling our horses to the Belgium Gov’t.

"Mar 15, I went to the YMCA and saw ‘The Merchant of Venice.’

"April 15, I have the last of our horse ready to ship.

"April 26, I went on a 3 day pass to Brussels and Waterloo and returned to camp April 29.

"May 1, we left for Le Havre, passed through the war torn country side, then sailed to Southampton. We stayed at Whitely Camp to wait for the boat back to Canada and home!

"May 16, 1919 - ** Because there was not a ship available to take us home, I took leave to visit my mission area again. At Deseret I met other Canadian Soldiers from the 13th Bregade. From there I went to Coventry for Sat. and Sun. and I was the speaker at their evening meeting. Then on to Dudley and Tipton where I stayed overnight with the Angus family. May 20, I went into Birmingham, but found no one home at the Conference House or Bro. Lambs, so I stayed at Sis Lily Pitts that night. She had a boy 12 and a girl 10 who had never been baptized, also a sister who is not a member of the church. So I talked about baptism and other doctrine while I was there. I extended my leave so I could baptize all three the following Sunday.**

"May 26, I returned to Coventry and then on to London where I saw a show ‘In the Night Watch’.

"May 28, I sent a suitcase home by C.R.O. then returned to my unit. Again our ship was given to another unit so I was given yet another leave to visit my mission.

"June 10, Our unit entrained for Liverpool, where we boarded the Scotion and after a short delay we finally pulled out June 13, 10 a.m. The seas were rough, so I was sick much of the trip home. June 18, the ship received a wire announcing the Hanley Page had flown the Atlantic in 19 hrs and 20 min.

"June 19, We entered the Gulf of St. Lawrence in the evening. We had a pleasant two day voyage up the St. Lawrence and docked at Quebec at 5:30 p.m. We left for Montreal at 7:30 a.m. and arrived there at 7:30 p.m. June 22 We got off the ship and onto a train.

"June 26, We arrived in Medicine Hat at 1:20 a.m. We went to the Demobilization Bldg and had a bath and went to bed. We were demobilized at 8:30 a.m. and left for Lethbridge at 12 noon. Emil Ehlert was there with Chloe and the three boys to meet me, and he took us to Magrath in his car. Kenneth will be 3 years old Sept 2 and he sat on my lap for the first time on the way home. 

"July 8, I went to Lethbridge and joined the Great War Veterans Association and had some work done on my teeth. I have worked around the home ever since I got back, fixing up some of the things that had been neglected in my absence...."

As Neil adjusted back to civilian life more children joined the family in Magrath and the family prospered. In 1924, not long after the dedication of the Alberta LDS temple in Cardston, he tells us that they decided to leave Magrath and move to the Cardston area. 

"Mar 24, 1924 – I went to Cardston and saw Mr. Perry, the Soldier Settlement Field Man. He took me out and showed me the ¼ section south of town that they wanted me to buy. April 5, I decided to buy the land in Cardston. April 7, Mr. Perry came and checked my stock and equipment and I signed the contract with him."

His daughter Ruth tells us, "I remember my Dad as a great story teller, he having been a school teacher in his younger years in Utah. On cold winter nights the family would gather as he brought his big trunk from the closet under the spiral staircase, it was full of his souvenirs from his mission [to England] and his 3 years in the first World War. I have his large book of Postcards from all the places he served on his mission, as there were no cameras in 1907 this was his way of preserving his memories. He had a bible in a walnut shell. From his years in the service he had his revolver and steel helmet, a bayonet and 2 cannon shell casings. Mother occasionally used the shell casings for flower vases. I still have the Belgium lace handkerchief he purchased from the factory when he was in Brussels after the war in April 1919. Along with his stories he loved to sing the war songs; 'It's a Long Way to Tipperary' and 'When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again' and other's. 

"He also told us faith promoting stories of how his life was spared on two different occasions ... He knew he had been protected from serious harm."

* Many other speakers and articles have referred to this experience of Hugh B Brown.  A recent April 2011 General Conference talk  As Many As I Love I Rebuke comforts and guides those seeking to understand such experiences.