At the Remembrance Ceremony this year, I read a World War I letter that was written 100 years ago on November 11, 1918 by my great uncle, Hugh Wright, who was serving somewhere in France on that day.
Hugh Wright from Shepody, Albert County, enlisted in the 26th Battalion on November 17, 1914 at the age of 19 years. After training in Saint John, the 26th Battalion sailed to England on the ship “Caledonia” in June 1915. After more training in England, the 26th sailed to France and from there to the battlefront. Hugh served in Belgium and France, spending 17 months in the trenches. In February 1917, he transferred from the 26th Battalion to the 4th Siege Battery of the Canadian Artillery and was a gunner for the remainder of the war. His letter written on the day of the Armistice, expresses the joy and relief felt by all the soldiers in knowing that the war was finally over and that they would be returning home. However, to transport over 260,000 Canadian military from overseas would take months!
During the First World War (1914-1918) when the soldiers had to spend Christmas far from home, separated from their families and friends, Christmas cards were important reminders that there was life outside the trenches and outside of the war.
Besides my great uncle's many treasured WWI letters that have been safely kept for over 100 years, there are also special Christmas cards that he sent from overseas. Hugh Wright sent an embroidered silk “A Very Merry Christmas” card on Nov. 24, 1915 (see picture). The embroidered flags of Britain, France and Belgium form the colourful bow on the basket of holly leaves. Embroidered silk postcards were very popular during the First World War and were sent by soldiers to convey affectionate messages or special occasion tidings, as well as patriotic sentiments. They were most commonly made in France and were sold in nearly every shop. The back of the card had space for a message and address. The cards could be stamped and mailed, but usually the soldiers wrote a message and mailed them in envelopes.
During World War I, the battalions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force had their own Regimental Christmas cards. They were professionally printed cards which the soldiers would order to send their good wishes to family and friends. Some of the cards were quite elaborate with embossed badges and designs.
While serving in the 4th Canadian Siege Battery, Hugh sent two regimental cards, one for Christmas 1917 and the other for Christmas 1918. The regimental badge of the 4th Siege Battery is embossed within the maple leaf on the 1917 card. Inside, the names of the four battles in which the 4th Siege Battery fought are printed.
On the Christmas 1918 card the word “Remembrance” is embossed, a suitable word as the war was then over. The message was “May Christmastide bring no sorrow and the New Year Herald Glad Tidings of Victory and of an Abiding Peace.” Hugh personally signed this card.
Hugh Carlyle Wright was born May 10, 1895 and died June 18, 1958. He is buried in Hopewell Cemetery.
Nov 11th 1918
My Dear Father;
Just a few lines today to let you know that we are both well and that the war is at last over, so you will not need to worry anymore.
The armistice was signed early this morning and everyone thinks it will last for good. The hostilities ceased at 11 o'clock this am. Father you have no idea how happy I am and I think I have reason to be. I can hardly realize that it is true, but it is and just think that we will be home in a few months.
Well, Father I can't write much today. I received a box from home a few days ago with some maple syrup and it sure was good.
Well, will close with Love to all.