Chain of Command
War Diaries
Letters and Diaries of the 19th
The 69th Battalion

Brought on the site from various sources, the letters and diaries of the 19th give a first-hand account of what life was like in the battalion. Every letter and diary entry is in chronological order and noted with what was going on with the battalion during this time. Many of these examples can be found at The Canadian Letters And Images Project, and can be used for educational or non-commercial use.

Pvte. John Law, Machine Gun Section, May 21st, 1915

SS Scandinavian

May 21, 1915

My Dear Mother,

This beautiful trip is almost over tomorrow. Two British torpedo destroyers, just came along, one on each side, an hour or two ago, and we all have a feeling of perfect safety now. We left Montreal, as you probably know on Thursday about 11:15 AM, we were Marched from the train right onto the boat. There was a fair crowd at the dock to see us off and one girl got so excited that she missed her footing and fell off the dock unto a raft below. It was quite a high fall but she was not hurt very much for she waited around to see us off a couple of hours after she was lifted up again. The boys threw her all kinds of buttons and badges, enough to start a shop. Well when we at last got started I believe every boat and locomotive whistle around started to blow and salute over and over again. The trip down the St. Lawrence was very pretty up until the time we dropped our pilot but from then on it was rather bleak, snow still being on the high hills on either side. The weather was cold the first 5 or 6 days of the trip and today is the first really fine day we have had that is due probably to the fact that we are about 80 miles south of Lands End, England a course which it seems was necessary to follow in order to avoid submarines as much as possible. There was really nothing of interest, a couple of days it was rough and a large number were sick. I escaped. We past an old Norwegian sailing vessel in mid ocean and later on a Dutch steamer, the Maasdijk of Rotterdam but no signal or salute was passed between us and the latter vessel although the first one signalled. We also saw other ships away off in the distance but but these two passed at of a mile.

Our Machine Guns were unpacked and placed on deck for the purpose of potting a submarine and also for target practice, the Gun at the rear of the ship was used for target work. Boxes and barrels were thrown overboard and we shot at them. There was some good shooting at a hundred or perhaps one hundred and fifty yards but further than that the gun was useless as the roll of the ship would not allow 4 good sighting. Therefore for the purpose of shooting a sub I think it would have been a waste of ammunition. However it was good sport and practice. Was just up on deck before turning in. All lights are out and port holes covered with towels, life boats are swung ready for instant use and land is in sight as we have just passed a couple of lighthouses on Bishop’s rock. The little torpedo boats are still there. They seemed to come from nowhere and just take their places as though it was the usual thing to do. Was down in the stoke hold tonight and was surprised at the size and number of furnaces. Thirty six in all and about sixty stokers, the hardest toughest men I have ever seen and shovelling coal for all their worth. Our quarters are second class. The officers and seargants are first class but A company who came first on board were put down in the hold, the steerage. It smells terribly down there and I wonder how they put up with it at all at all. Our section was fortunate in coming last in the march and getting the good berths. We all eat third class which however is not so bad.

Well mother will write again soon. Have you called on Mrs. Elliott with Agnes yet. I suppose William is sailing by now and having a good time which he deserves. Marion and Eudora were real good to slip me that tobacco at the last moment and I certainly enjoy it. Will close now and hope to hear from you as soon and as often as you can.

Your loving son


Pte John Law
Machine Gun Section
19th Battalion
4th Infantry Brigade
2nd Can. Expeditionary Force
War Office
London England

above is my address. I can hear Marion say “My how important he feels” am I right.

Pvte. John Law, Machine Gun Section, July 6th, 1915

6 July 1915

My Dear Mother

Your letter June 20 came today. I have written 2 letters, small ones to you and 2 long ones I hope you have them all in order. You know it takes sometimes a little over 2 weeks to get mail from Toronto so you will see how it is. Yes, I have been getting quite a few from Toronto, nine in one mail, six in another and only two and others besides to-day. I have also been getting letters from Scotland and it keeps me busy to answer them all.

What do you think of the photos. The ones of the twins in Hamilton turned out poorly as it was a dull day, and one I took of Logan, who is a 2nd Liutenant in Manchester. I am sorry they turned out so, for I took particular pains to get the best I could. I even went so far as to take two snaps of to everybody, just to make sure so you can imagine my dissapointment.

I have the films yet and if you are desirous of getting any more, just ask for them and I will send them to you.

So you are worrying about my washing. Young kids come around the camp to collect it and do it good and cheap. Sometimes I do my own and sometimes let them have it. We have hot and cold shower baths and sometimes go down to the sea to swim. On Sunday Allan Lynch and I rented a row boat at Folkestone, rowed out about mile. It was smooth as glass, and jumped it, it was good sport. So you see Mother we are well of and there is no need to worry at all.

The English strawberries and cherries are great, the strawberries are the size of a medium sized tomato and are delicious. Orvil and I had some in London with thick Devonshire Cream.

My feet are all better now and the English boots, although heavy and clumsy, I must say are comfortable for me, although some of the fellows cannot wear them at all.

Tobacco and cigarettes I still have a lot of. It is very cheap over hear and you get twice the quantity you get for the same money at home. We were issued with housewives, good ones too, with needles, darning wool, pant buttons and batchelor buttons, safety pins and thread, and we have also been issued with extra pairs of good socks.

There are a lot of flying craft around here. English parsevals, (dirigibles) areoplans and monoplanes, both French and English.

London is all dark at night so is Manchester and all seaside towns and villages, but Glasgow is all lit up as usual.

Agnes writes quite a few letters as does Mary. I have also got one or two from Eudora two from Marion and three or four from William, and a little booklet from Father. I am sure I have received all the mail which has been sent me and I thought you took it for granted which was the reason I did not tell you so. Believe me if I don’t hear from you when it is time I will cable. I have been going on the principle that you would like to hear of what is of interest over here instead of filling up a letter with questions etc and in turn you tell me the things of interest at home, which, you do.

The pictures I am sending are not all, as the ones of the twins and in Hamilton I sent back to London to be printed anyway. They did not print them the first time as they said it was not worth it. They evidently don’t realize what they are worth to me, else they would have done it in the first place.

The weather here has been clear and bright ever since we came over about 2 days rain in that length of time. It is just like Toronto weather with the exception that the atmosphere is a wee bit heavier and more humid as Marion calls it.

Last night at 11:30 PM when in the trenches we had dug up on the hill about a mile from here, we heard the distant firing of the big guns in France. Yesterday was a long day as we were working from 6 in the morning until 12 at night.

Tell Eudora both Orvill and Mack would like to get a card or a letter from her.

Orvil’s address is
Capt O A Elliott
5th Field Ambulance Corps
2nd C.E.F.
Army P.O.

Macks is the same as mine with the exception of his number which is 56132.

Will close now hoping you are all well and enjoying the best of health and happiness

Your affectionate son.


My address

Pte John Law
Machine Gun Detatchment
19th Battalion, 4th Inf Brigade
Army Post Office
London Eng. 2nd D.E.F.

Pte John Law
19th Batt, 4th Inf Brig.
Army P.O. 2nd C.E.F.
London Eng.

It is not so long when you abbreviate it.

P.S. There will be more pictures in a few days I hope.

Pvte. Norman Browning, July 28th, 1915

A Letter from Pte. N. Browning

Below we give in part, a letter received by Miss Browning, from her nephew who is at Sandling Camp. This letter was dated July 28th.

Dear Aunt Lizzie:-
Things are going on as usual here, about all it amounts to is trench digging, instructions and long marches. We did an eighteen mile march Tuesday and quite a few of the fellows had sore feet after it, me for one. I had five blisters on one foot and two on the other.
Premier Borden and Gen. Sam Hughes inspected the 2nd Contingent a week ago, about 14,000 soldiers were there, but I don't think that is the whole contingent. It rained pretty heavily for awhile. The inspection took place at Beachwood Park. This last month it has been raining almost every day.
About three weeks ago the 4th Brigade held a Field day of sports. Lord Brooks, the Brigade Commander, gave a cup to the Battalion making the most points. The 19th won it easily. The 4th Brigade consists of the 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st Battalions. Lady Brooks presented the cups to us this afternoon, and also other prizes won by different men.
According to what you told me of Lieut. Morgan's men, it doesn't do to expose oneself the least bit. Those German snipers certainly must be great shots too, by stories we hear from men who have been there. I think the man who exposes himself without cause does no good for the country or himself either.
A lot of the men are taking a course in bomb throwing. I am going in the next class. From what we hear it is a great thing at the front for a man to know how to make one, light and throw it. A lot of bombs at the front are made of small jam tins packed with a few bits of iron broken from an old stove, some stones and pieces of gun cotton besides the explosives. They put nails, bolts, screws, etc., in some of them, but of course all these are used when the shrapnel runs out.
The Colonel told one of the fellows in our hut that we would be away from here with in a month. It was good news, everybody seems pretty tired of staying here. I don't think the U.S. Germans will ever raid Canadian Territory. I am sure it wouldn't do them any good. But I think if the U.S. go against the Germans, they certainly will have outbreaks there and bad ones.
Well, I got my furlough alright, six days. I went to Glasgow and couldn't have had a better time. I got there a week ago Sunday morning at 9 o'clock. Mr. Wilson and one of his brothers met me. That day we went to see three of Mr. Wilson's brothers living in Glasgow. We also went to two or three Parks and through the big Art Building there, which is certainly a fine place. In Glasgow they have lady lamplighters, lady ticket collectors at the stations, boats, and also car conductors. Monday we went to Dunoon, a summer resort where another of Mr. Wilson's brothers is staying for the summer months. They gave us a good welcome. Tuesday we went to Helensburgh, where Mr. Wilson's sister and family are staying for the summer. Next day her three daughters, us two and another fellow walked eight miles through the country to a place called Luss, just a small village near Loch Lochmond. Right around there is the best scenery I think I ever saw. The water and hills are fine. We sailed down Loch Lochmond to Ballach and took the car from there to Dumbarton where we took the train for Glasgow. Thursday we went to Rothsay. The beach there is something like Scaraboro Beach Park. We went on to Wemmess, and later on to London and then back to the camp. In London I met the Co. Quartermaster Sergant, and we spent the time together, seeing all the sights. Considering the time we had we saw a great deal. Well, I had six pretty good days of furlough and am certainly glad I went to Glasgow for them.
We have a little trouble drawing our money, as they are keeping $20 off each man before we go to the front. They call it a reserve; in case a man gets discharged, he will have something to fall back on.
Your loving nephew,

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