WORLD WAR I


(HENRY COMEAU from Cape Breton reads the following letter. He is 39 years old.)

 
August 15, 1939
 
Dear Robert,
 
Your Uncle Henry is a celebrity. Aunt Madelaine and I have just got back from Ottawa where we attended the dedication ceremony of the War Memorial. On the train, I remembered my first trip from Cape Breton to Halifax in 1917. I was just seventeen then, as you are now, and off to fight a war. The recruiting officer had come through town, all spit and polish, talking about our chance to serve the Empire and see the world, and it sure sounded like a lot more fun to your Uncle Paul and me than risking our lives day in and day out for a hold full of smelly fish.
 
Before we knew it we were sailing out of Dartmouth on the S.S. Halifax for England. Thousands of us stuffed into the bowels of that big ship, tossing and rolling on the open Atlantic. Your uncle Paul joked about giving up fishing to become a fish. And that's what we were like, too, fish in the hold of some big ship. It was horrible, all right, but not as horrible as what we went through in France. The trenches, the mustard gas, the rats, the dead lying were they had fallen for days on end before we could get to bury them.
 
As you know, your Uncle Paul died at Vimy Ridge, the battle that showed the rest of the world that Canada was a strong, independent nation in its own right. Your Uncle Paul paid dearly for our country and I know he would have loved the ceremony in Ottawa. Crowds of people on Parliament Hill cheered as we veterans marched passed the Prime Minister and Their Majesties King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. It reminded me of the docks in Halifax when we came back from the war. That was another wonderful day your Uncle Paul never got to see.
 
I sincerely hope that Prime Minister MacKenzie King was right when he spoke about "peace in our time" and about it being the "War to end all wars". The situation in Europe right now does not look too promising, but I truly want to believe that your Uncle Paul did not die in vain and that you, young Robert, will never know the horror that is war.
 
Yours truly,
 
Uncle Henry