Category: Remembrance

Letter from a trench in France

“Our greatest excitement this week was the gas-attack. Bower Heney and I were up on top of the telephone dugout about 11 o’clock at night taking a look around the country watching the flares and the occasional burst of a shell when gradually one battery after another began opening up a way up on the left until every gun in that sector was going as hard as it could go. 18 pounders, 4.5 inch Howitzers 4.7s and 60 pounders and in the quiet night air they seemed even louder than ever. Away up on the line we could see a perfect shower of flares going up and occasionally a red flare would hover a little longer than the rest. This of course being our SOS.

A light breeze was blowing down from that direction and sure enough we scented the gas; a sort of thin mist it looked like and we weren’t long in putting on our gas helmets or gasperators as the men call them. At first we were rather nervous about it as the Bosche is always pulling off something new, but after about 20 minutes of it and we were still all right we settled down to it and in an hour and a half it had passed over and we could take off our helmets. The bombardment we made on the German front line was evidently too much for him for he never made any attempt to leave his trenches. There were quite a number of our infantry casualties as a result of not having sufficient time to get on their helmets and two of our horses that were up at the battery with the wagon are going to die, so we were really lucky in getting through it so easily.”

Excerpt of a letter from Lieutenant Patrick Gemmill [Grandfather] to Emily Gemmill [Great-Grandmother], August 11th, 1916.

Patrick Gemmill


Patrick Gemmill survived the Battle of the Somme, Vimy Ridge and the Second Battle of Passchendaele.

In 1939 he returned to France as a Colonel.