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George Leslie Lawson was the eldest son of Alex and Mary Lawson of Mundleville (or Main River), Kent County, New Brunswick. On April 22nd 1915 at the age of 211 he enlisted in the 55th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force to “go off and fight the Hun”. After training at Sussex (N.B.) and Valcartier, George sailed to Europe on the SS Corsican in October of 1915. In April 1916 he transferred to the Royal Canadian Regiment in France.
In July of 1916 the British High Command initiated the offensive which soon became known as the Battle of the Somme. It was a hellacious affair, most charitably seen in retrospect as a “learning experience” for the Allied military brass. That is to say that they learned –some of them – how not to fight an offensive against barbed wire, trenches, and the machine gun. In so doing, however, they used up over half a million of their young soldiers, killing a similar number of young Germans.
The Royal Canadian Regiment, functioning as the 1st Battalion of the 7th Brigade of the 3rd Canadian Division, entered the fighting at the Somme in September 1916. On October 8th in a pre-dawn attack two companies of the RCR captured from the Germans a piece of trench codenamed “Regina”, but were only able to hold it until about 9:00 AM since the allied assaults both to their left and to their right had failed to gain the objective. After a few hours of desperate fighting with grenades (“bombs”), rifles, pistols, and bayonets, the RCRs were forced to retreat in poor order back across the mud of No Man’s Land to their starting trench. By the end of the day, over 200 men of the Regiment were counted missing – dead, lost in the mud, or captured.2
One of the captured was Private George Lawson. His family preserved for over eighty years a box of clippings, postcards and letters from and about him. I hope the unadorned transcription of these letters tells his story as well as it deserves.
Ross M. Dickson
2003 November 11th
[A piece torn from the “Family Herald and Weekly Star” newspaper, dated October 11, 1916.]
CANADIAN CAVALRY GETS
INTO ENEMY’S TERRITORY
Find Land Cleared of Germans for More Than a
Mile Beyond Courcelette, and Lines are Brought
Up One Thousand Yards
The doings of the Canadians from September 28 to October 3 are told in the following official communique from Canadian headquarters in France:
Severe fighting continued almost without cessation during the past week.
The Germans brought up reinforcements and fresh troops and opposed at times a desperate resistance to our advance. Attacks were succeeded by counter-attacks, and certain portions of the trenches were the scene of sanguinary hand-to-hand struggles.
The artillery duel and the artillery concentration upon the infantry was terrible. None the less, the endurance, courage and cheerfulness of our men were beyond praise and their attacks were delivered with unabated fury.
In the east and north of Courcelette our lines was materially advanced. There, for the first time since the Canadians have participated in the war, cavalry patrols were employed to maintain touch with the enemy.
On the evening of September 27, it was discovered that our advance had broken through the last immediate line of German resistance.
Some Canadian cavalry were ordered to patrol in the direction of Le Sars and Pys, in order to establish the new location of the enemy forces.
In consequence of their reports, our lines were promptly advanced and a new position occupied nearly 1,000 yards further forward.
To the northeast of Courcelette a Toronto battalion carried out this manoeuvre with success.
At the same time a New Brunswick battalion advanced to the south of Courcelette and established a more advanced position to the south of Regina trench. ...
[A standardized British Army postcard, probably designed to prevent the release of military secrets. The text is entirely preprinted and the correspondent sent their message by crossing out the lines which did not apply. Only the name and date are handwritten.]
NOTHING is to be written on this side except the date and signature of the sender. Sentences not required may be erased. If anything else is added the post card will be destroyed.
I am quite well.
I have been admitted into hospital
sick and am going on well.
wounded and hope to be discharged soon.
I am being sent down to the base.
I have received your
letter dated _______
telegram “ _______
parcel “ _______
Letter follows at first opportunity.
I have received no letter from you
for a long time.
Signature only: George L Lawson
Date: Oct 6th 1916
[A postcard in a standard German format, probably designed to meet Geneva Convention standards while excluding extraneous communication.]
(Westf.) Oct 23rd, 1916
I am prisoner of war and stationed at Dülmen, Westf.
My address is:
Name and christian name: George Leslie Lawson
Regiment: Royal Canadian Regt.
Gefangenenlager Dülmen i. W. Company 42 Groupe 3
[These phrases handwritten]
444498 Pte. George L. Lawson
Gefangenenlager Dülmen i. Westf.
Comp. 42 Barrack Groupe III
Nov 1st 1916
Just a few lines today to let you know that I am real well and am getting along alright. I wrote you a card two cards before this letter hope you received them both. I was taken prisoner on the 8th of Oct. am in Germany now, getting along alright. you can write and send parcels, anything would be welcome, a pair of socks or mitts would go alright, if you send any more parcels send eatables, I increased my pay home five dollars per month more beginning in Oct. when you write let me know if you are receving the 20 dollars per month alright. after awhile the Canadian Red Cross Society supplies us with some clothes and food. I didn’t get the cake or fudge before I was captured, it must have been pretty handy. I am not wounded. it is a miracle that I came out without a scratch. it soon be xmas, but the next I hope to eat at home, well Dear Parents I will close now for this time, hope you will receive this alright. Give my love to all the folks.
Your Loving Son
George Leslie Lawson
Dülmen i. Westf., Nov 5th 1916
Just a few lines to let you know that I am real well and getting along alright. my address is everything thats on the card thats not scratched out. hope you will receive this card alright, love to all the folks Your Loving Son George L. Lawson
[A standard-format postcard from le Comité International de la Croix Rouge, Genève -- Agence Internationale des Prisonniers de Guerre]
November 8th 1916
On a list received from Berlin, dated November 1st 1916
appears the name of:
Pte Geo Leslie Lawson No.444499
Royal Canadians “D” Coy.
(born at Wildford 2.1.94)
who is reported to have been taken prisoner at the Somme 8.10.16 and to have arrived from Cambrai, in the camp of Dülmen Germany 22.10.16
Prisoners of War International Agency
Please refer to P.A.6822
Dülmen Nov 12th 1916
Just a few lines to let you know that I am quite well, and am getting along alright, Hope to hear from you by xmas, you will be fishing smelts again by the time you get this, Love to all. Your Loving Son. George.
Nov 15th 1916
I am going to write you a few lines today to let you know that I am quite well, and am getting along alright. we have good Huts to live in. they are lighted with electric lights, we also have a stove, Just something like our own military Huts, we also do a little work around camp every day which keeps us exercised. we are also allowed to write four post-cards, and two letters a month, which is pretty good, write as often as possible, I will always like to hear how you are, and the news around Home, you can also send parcels if you wish. it wont cost you any postage to send parcels to prisoners of war, in the letter which I wrote to you two weeks ago I asked for socks and mitts. if I had a couple of pair of socks, and a pair of mitts I would be alright for quite awhile, after that you can send something eatable, something that I can mix up miself, a little oatmeal, or a can of cocoa, anything at all, something sweet, a box of fudge or chocolates occasionally would be very nice, after a time the Red Cross sends us some parcles, a parcel a week, and if you sign ten shillings per month of your pay to the Red Cross, you get two extry parcels a month, be sure to let me know when you write if you are getting the twenty dollars per month alright, I increased it to twenty just before I was captured, well Dear Parents I must close now for this time, Give my Love to all the folks,
Your Loving Son
George Leslie Lawson
i. Westf. Nov 26th 1916
Just a card today to let you know that I am quite well, and am getting along alright, hope this finds you all well, as this leaves me. Well I will close now for this time Love to all the folks, Your Loving Son, George Leslie Lawson
Dec 1st. 1916
I am going to write you a few lines again today to let you know that I am quite well, and am getting along alright. this is Dec. the first, you will be fishing smelts today again, this makes two winters I have missed fishing. will soon be xmas again. I hope to be able to eat my next xmas dinner with you. the climate hear is something like in England, quite damp and misty at times, I prefire the clear frost of Canada to this weather, the camp is built on nice sandy ground. which is very cold under feet at this time of year, in the summer it will be the other way about. I will be glad when I hear from you again. Cant expect word from you for a few weeks yet, if I hear from you xmas week, I will be satisfied once the letters begin to come everything will be alright.
I mentioned in the other letters about socks and mitts, if you send out a pair or two it will eb alright, then after that you needent sent any more clothes, if I want any I will write. for I think we get clothes socks, from the Red Cross, when the parcels begin to come, they also send canned stuff, and we also get some bread through the Red Cross from Switzerland. so in you parcels send something sweet now and again to flavor the other stuff, a fruit cake would keep alright, dont forget a little fudge or chocolate, send anything at all. well Dear Parents I have’nt got much news to tell you so will draw to a close for this time
Give my Love to all the folks Your Loving Son
George Leslie Lawson
[Received about 26 Dec 1916]
Friedrichsfeld, Dec 10th 1916
Just a few lines again today to let you know that I am real well, and am getting along alright. from now on, unless I move again this will be my address. hope this will find you all well. Love to all the folks
Your Loving Son George Leslie Lawson
[Received Jan 1917]
December 15, 1916
Dear Aunt Mary;
Isn’t it simply great? I was so pleased when I received you letter with the good news that George is still alive -- even if he is a German prisoner. It might be so much worse. We all ought to be ever so thankful, shouldn’t we? I wrote to George just as soon as I received your letter, for I think if I were in his place, letters would be a great comfort. I had never heard of Dülmen, Germany before, so I looked it up on a map to-day and found that it is a small place west of Münster and must be pretty nearly on the frontier between Germany and Holland. But doubtless you already know that. I rather liked to get the location in my mind. I think that is lots better than not knowing anything about it. An empty name like Dülmen sounds so foreboding.
It is hard to not know whether George is receiving your mail or not, isn’t it? But perhaps some other poor unfortunate is benefited by what you send. It is maddening isn’t it to think that someone else takes the things that you intended for your boy? I’d like to get hold of them!
Lots of love to all from
12 Spear St.
Melrose -- Massachusetts
Friedrichsfeld (bei Wesel), Dec 14th 1916
No.444498 Baraque No.32 Detachement No.204
I am going to write you a few lines again this evening to let you know that I am quite well, and am getting along firstrate, I am at a new camp now, as you can see by the address. this will be my new address from now on, unless we move again, well xmas will soon be hear again. I hope I shall be able to eat my next xmas dinner with you, be sure and tell me when you write, how the smelts are this year, I haven’t heard from you since before I was captured yet, but expect to hear from you around xmas time. and that you are all well as this leaves me, when you write be sure and tell me all the news you can think off, except war news, I wouldn’t advise you to mention any war news, as I want to get all your lettersk so we don’t want to write anything that wont pass the censors, write anything at all, except war news, tell me if they had elections in the U.S. this fall, and who got elected,
I suppose you are still tax collector yet, you will be haveing quite a time as usual with some of them.
I suppose Gordon & Archie will be helping you to fish this winter, I will hardly know Isabelle when I come home, She will be a big Girl, Did you get any Deer or moose this fall. you will have snow home no doubt long before this date, we only had a shower or two hear so far, the weather hear is pretty much the same as we had in England last winter.
Keept my little well cleaned we will get a moose next fall with it, it is just as good a make as I have seen yet, Well Dear Parents really there isn’t very much news to tell you, so I will have to draw to a close for this time, I am still as good a temperance boy as ever, believe in it stronger now than ever, the only thing I might get drunk on is Chocolate. I love chocolate. tell me when you write if you still receive the assigned pay alright, although this will be a little late. I still wish you all a Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year, well I will close for this time. Give my love to all the folks. I am as ever Your Loving Son,
George Leslie Lawson
[Received March 1917]
Friedrichsfeld, Dec 24th 1916
Just a few lines tonight to let you Know that I am real well and am getting along alright. tomorrow is xmas day. hope to be able to eat my next xmas with you, havent heard from you yet, but will not be long now Love to all Your Loving Son George
Friedrichsfeld (bei Wesel), Dec 31st 1916
No.444498 Baraque No.32 Royal Canadian Regt
I am going to write you a few lines again this evening to let you know how I am. Well dear parents this letter leaves me real well I am quite well and am getting along alright, hope you receive my letters and cards alright, I have wrote to you every week since I was captured, will soon be a prisoner three months. I haven’t heard from you since I was captured yet, but can look forward to some mail any day now, I will be delighted to hear from you when mail arrives, dont worry about me I am alright, tomorrow is New Years, we hope the war will be over this time next year. No snow hear yet, just had a few showers, but the wind is quite cold some days We are in barracks hear just the same as at Dulmen, they are quite comfortable, we have a good fire and electric lights, we also are working a little hear the same as at Dulmen. I haven’t received my Red Cross parcels yet, but expect them any time now. well the best of smelt-fishing will be over for another season, hope you caught a good few this year. you will be at the wood next. probably already, next thing you will be up River after Bass, I would like to have a good meal of Bass or eals now, I think I would prefere eals, Well Dear Parents I really have’nt got any news to tell you, so will draw to a close for this time, Give my love to all the folks Your Loving Son
George Leslie Lawson
[A postcard from the Red Cross --]
Geneve (Suisse), 9/1 17
Nous avons l’honneur de vous informer que nous avons adressé ce jour à Monsieur Lawson Geo. Leslie à Dulmen
1 colis de vires @12.50 [f? francs? L pounds?]
un second colis de 13.25
?? s???envoyé le 5/2 17
25.?? ?ontant de votre envoi du 10/1 17
nous avons de faire 2 envois car l’on ne peut actuellement exporter de Suisse plus de 5 Kilos devi?res par mois nous avons transmis v. lettre du 10 E___ ____ Service Spécial
Friedrichsfeld, Germany. Jan 7th 1917
Just a card tonight again to let you know that I am real well, and am getting along alright. expect to hear from you soon now, will be a prisoner three months tomorrow, time goes fast. hope this card finds you all well, hopeing to hear from you soon, Love to all. George L. Lawson
Friedrichsfeld (bei Wesel), Jan 14th 1917 (Rhld.)
Mr 444498 Pte. George L. Lawson
Royal Canadian Regt.
Detachement No.204 Baraque No.32 Camp No.61994
Camp des Prisonniers de guerre Friedrichsfeld (bei Wesel, Rheinland)
I am going to write you a few lines this evening, in answer to your Post Card which I received yesterday Jan 13th. it was dated Mundleville Nov 27th, 1916. I received it yesterday Jan 13th 1917. was awful glad indeed to hear from you again. and that you were all well, this letter leaves me real well. this card was the first mail for over three months, Glad that you heard that I was a prisoner and well, no doubt you would be anxious about me before you received that telegram, probably you received a telegram stating that I was missing first, but a presant I am alive a real well. I was not wounded at all in the attack on Oct 9th, the date on which I was captured, hope you will receive my letters and cards alright. I have wrote to you every week since I was captured. Well we hope we shall hear from each other every week now since the mail has begun to come, us Canadian prisoners will receive a parcel per week from the Canadian Red Cross Society in London after awhile, Liable to get one any day now. they also send us clothing, I received two cards from them on the 11th stating that two parcels were on the way to me, also asking for clothing measurements, these will be fine when they start coming, I dont think you can send parcels to me direct, if you send any send through the Canadian Red Cross 14 Cockspur st. London S.W. England, as I think this is the only way I will receive them. although the Red Cross send clothing you can if you wish send a few pair of socks, and soap. fudge or anything you know would be welcome, Well I suppose you will have lots of snow by this time, although it is damp cold weather, we only have had a few showers of snow so far. no doubt you will be busy getting wood out and fishing smelts at this date. be sure and tell me when you write all the new around Home. Well Dear Parents I am out of news so will close for this time. this makes six letters I have wrote to you beside cards since I was captured, hope you have received them all. we are allowed to write two letters and four post-cards a mounth. this is my new address now, Give my love to all the folks.
Your Loving Son
444498 Pte. George L. Lawson
Royal Canadian Regt.
Detachment No. 204
Camp No 61994. Baracke 32
Friedrichsfeld bei Wesel (Rheinland)
Friedrichsfeld, Germany. Jan. 21st 1917
Received your postcard dated Dec. 8th today, glad to hear that you were all well, as this card leaves me real well, also received card dated Nov. 27th and letter dated Nov. 30th. also two letters which you addressed to the Regt. dated Sept 27th and Oct. 4th. I have wrote to you most every week, will write letter next week Love to all George.
[Postmarked received in Moncton March 10, 1917]
Friedrichsfeld, Germany Jan. 28th 1917
Just a few lines tonight again to let you know that I am quite well and getting along alright, will write letter in a few days time, have received four letters which you addressed to Regt. last week, have nearly all old mail now. Give my Love to all the folks. Geo. L. Lawson
Friedrichsfeld (bei Wesel), Jan 31st 1917
Detachement No.204 Baraque No.32 Camp No.61994
Just a few lines again today to let you know that I am real well, and am getting along firstrate, I haven’t received any mail from you lately but hope to most any time, I received your two post cards and the letter of Nov 30th addressed to Dulmen,besides these I also received four letters which you addressed to the Regt. in France. I really have’nt got any news to put in a letter, a post card does almost as well, snowing a little hear these days not much snow fell yet, quite cold these last few days, my Red Cross parcels have commenced to come now, I received one with provisions, and one with clothing, got two suits of underclothing, two pair socks, I think I can depend on them supplying me with sufficient clothing for the winter. if I write for clothing now by the time they could get to me the winter would be nearly over, when the Red Cross parcels begin coming regular, everything will be alright. well there isnt much to write about, our letters are censored just like when we are in the Regt. well dear parents I must draw to a close now for this time. Give my love to all the folks
Your Loving Son
444498 Pte. George L. Lawson
Friedrichsfeld, Germany. Feb. 4th 1917
Just a few lines again today to let you know that I am real well, and am getting along alright. hope this finds you all the same, have’nt heard from you lately. but hope to soon again. Give my Love to all the folks. Your Loving Son George Leslie Lawson
[Following that letter there is a brutally long gap in the correspondence. Then the following returned letters appear, stamped “Als unbestellbar, an den Absender Zurück”, and also “Dead Letter Branch – Ottawa – Aug 16, 1917”.]
Mundleville Kent County N.B.
Canada Jan 29th 1917
Dear George. I am writing to you to night to let you know that we are all wel, and getting on all right. We were glad to hear from you again we received a letter on the 27th written after you had moved dated the 14th of Dec. I want to tell you that it takes from thirty eight to sixty two days for a letter to come from you so if you are well dont worry every thing will be all right only Trust in God. Papa hopes you will get his letters and also some of the parcels we sent we will not send any more for a time, I think you will get some from the Red Cross Society after a time. Gordon and I are fishing smelts they are very scarce now. We done very well this year, the price was good 8c a pound. Archie is going to school. Gordon and I are getting some wood on our own place not much hardwood yes I must clean that. no I did not get any moose or Deer this fall I hope you will be able to come home to get on next fall. I called one within a hundred yds. of me back at the Lines but he would not show himself. Isabelle is growing a big girl she is making a fuss for a Big doll these days. The Boys and I were down to Church on Sunday all the folks down there are well. we have had some very frostie weather this last to weeks down to twenty below zero. two or three days we havent much snow but enough to make good hauling nearly everyone is at the wood, we havent seen any of the folks from Black River for a long time but perhaps we will soon. you cannot think how proud Papa is to hear that you are still a good Temperance Boy I new you would be a man where ever you were I have kept your dues payed up at the Division all along. Gordon and Archie belong now. they all remember you and talk of you
yes George, Wilson was elected again
I have collected up to this fall I gave it up I had it six years Wm W Graham is in this year We seen a smoke down river at noon today Jack Dixons House burned today did I tell you Wm W Graham got his Barn and all his crop and two horses burned this fall a very heavy loss now I am about out of news so will close for this time all the folks at home and all around join me in love to you from your Loving Father and Mother
[Another in the same August 1917 packet from the Dead Letter Branch, this one also stamped “Décédé / Deceased”.]
Mundleville Kent Co. NB
Canada Feb 8th 1917
Dear George I am going to write to you tonight. We are all well and getting along alright, so far, and we trust you are well and getting along alright. I was just saying if you had the cloths on you that you had when you were taken Prisoner they must be very thin by this time. Well George we received your letter dated the 14th of Dec and your card dated the 24th of Dec we are expecting a letter in a few day. dont worry if you r letters are long in coming, every thing will be all right by and by we hope you will be spared to come home again. Now George we have our wood all in for this winter got it on our own place, most all soft wood. Gordon and I still keep at the smelts but they are scarce we have got about 60 lbs so far this week. Well this is a mild day but we have had some very cold weather hear this winter hope you are not cold where you are it will not be long now untill spring. we seen two crows yesterday perhaps Gordon and I will go to Rexton tomorrow I have not been down for a long time Ca[r]nival down at Rexton tonight we did not go. I think by the time you receive this Maude Mc and Len will be married. a little baby girl arrived at Thomas Irvings last night. Mamma is going to help Maud to make her wedding cake tomorrow. I have just finished making a box for to put a fruit cake in for you I hope you get it. Feb 9th mild morning looks a little like rain all the folks about are well we sold old Pet to Howard and we hauled the wood with Gennie and Dexter , gennie will be three in the spring. and we have Queen and Prince this year from M[ord]le. Now I cannot think of any news hope this will find you well all the folks at home join me in love to you from Mamma and Papa
Alex Lawson Mundleville
[And another in the August 1917 packet from the Dead Letter Office]
Kent Co. April 13th 1917
Dear George Just a few lines again tonight, to let you know that we are all well except Archie he has a cold and a tuch of his old Bronchitis. The weather hear has been very wet for some time, and the roads are very bad at presant I want to go to Rexton to morrow I gess I will have to walk, as St Nicholas river Bridge fell down about a week ago and it is not fixed yet and it is to far round by West Branch
Well George we have been looking for a letter from you for some time we received a card this week datted on the 4th feb it was 65 days on the way so you see it takes a long time sometimes. but dont worry the War will be over some day, and we hope that this wil be the last great war, that the World will ever see. Now George the ice is still in the river and no signs of it opening up yet this may be a late spring but we hope it will not be too late as the late backward springs dont seem to be so good for crops. We have eleven lambs now we only lost one so far but we have one for a pet and Isabelle has a great time feeing it it is under the stove at presant. We have no cows calved so far and we are very short of milk. Every thing is very high. We killed a pig yesterday I wish you had a piece it would go all right. now all the folks about are well and all join me in Love to you from Your Loving Parents
Mundleville Kent Co
COMITE INTERNATIONAL DE LA CROIX-ROUGE
AGENCE INTERNATIONALE DES PRISONNIERS DE GUERRE
Ed. Long, Hon. Sec. British Section.
Genève, March 23d 1918
Mrs. Alex Lawson
Your letter of Feb. 2nd to hand we beg to inform you that we are this day enquiring again at Friedrichsfeld regarding Pte. George L. Lawson. Our first enquiry of July 14. 1917 is still unanswered. As soon as we hear from [them] we shall let you know.
Yours v. truly
Comité International de la Croix Rouge
Agence des Prisonniers de Guerre
Reg. 2303807 Pte.
Canadian Forestry Corps
80 Coy. B.E.F. France
Aug 27th 1918
Just a line to let you know that I am well and enjoying a soldier’s life ha ha, the last letter I had from George he was up near the line he said that shells were burstin all around him and that you could go out in the field were they had been fighting and pick up all the Boche helments you could carry, he is in the 28 Canadian Inf. Battalion, he tried to get into the 26th Batt. but couldn’t manage it. Well, how is every body in Main River this fall is Grandma well has she been down to see Mother lately, how are Archie and Gordon I suppose the want to come to France better wait a while yet eh, we are having lovely weather there now in sunny France the nights are quite cool though althoug we are not working tonight having run out of logs did Mother come up to see you this summer. I am going on leave soon to Paris for a few days I was going to take it instead of Blighty but I think I will go to Blighty too we get 21 days from the time we leave until we return there is 5 of the boys going tomorrow I haven’t few a ticket yet 25 at a time I must get my picture taken and send you one I sent Mother and Katherine one they wasn’t get good were they got them taken at a small town here I weight 168 lbs that is a pretty weight aint it when I enlisted I weighed 145 lbs the army agrees with me don’t it ha ha, some of the boys call me fat but they all call me Mac.
I have a chum his name is Sydney Martin he is about my own age drinks very little can talk french as good as english I can parley pretty good for the time I have been here it is more of a slang and Patwa combined
guess this is all Au Revoir
[The same envelope contains a cross-out postcard like the one seen earlier, signed by J. G. McNulty, probably the "Gordon" writing above. Comparing the Soldiers of the First World War database of the National Archives with the 1901 Census Index at AutomatedGenealogy.com indicates this is probably James Gordon McNulty, Regtl. Nos. 2303807 and 832166, son of Robert and Catharine McNulty of Weldford Parish, Kent Co.]
Feb 13, 1919
I saw the Campbell fellow who had been in prison with George a few days ago and he gave me this little picture of George’s grave and asked me to see that you got it. He said he was going to see you when he got around to it so he will be able to tell you all he knows. He was not with George when he died but said that he fell down an elevator shaft in a coal mine where the prisoners were working and was instantly killed. Said the prisoners there were treated well. The only trouble was that they did not like the quality of the food they got. The boys who were with him when he was killed buried him and kept his grave fixed up while they were there. They also had this picture taken and hunted up the Campbell fellow as they knew he was from George’s home and gave it to him. I know you will be glad to get it....
[Further personal news omitted]
Big Bras d’Or
March 10, 1919
Mr. Alex Lawson
Dear Mr. Lawson:
Being I was your son Georges best pal while a prisoner in Germany, I thought I’d write you. I suppose you haven’t heard how he met his death.
He worked with
me in a coal mine in Bochum in Westphelia, Germany. And on Feb. 6th,
1917 when the shift was finished I waited for him on the level but
one of the boys who came up in the sme cage told me he had fallen out
of it & was killed
He was my best pal and always a jolly fellow during the hardest of times. All the boys at our Camp erected a tombstone on his grave at Bochum of which I am sending you a photo of.
When I get an answer to this letter I’ll send you his testament also another little diary book. You might like to have them. Any other information I can favor you with I’ll gladly do so to the best of my knowledge.
I hope you will not worry about George as he was always a nice fellow and well behaved. I also lost a brother myself year ago last June but its over now. And we hope things will be better after it.
Again regretting the loss of you Loving son.
I Remain, Yours Sincerely,
Big Bras d’Or
[A search of the National Archives database suggests this was probably Pte. Angus McAskill 478526, born 23 Jan 1897, enlisted 15 Sep 1915 at Sydney, Cape Breton]
Big Bras d’Or
Mr Alex Lawson:
Dear Sir –
I read your letter last evening and I am forwarding to you George’s testament and a little diary which I hope you will receive in good condition. you asked me if I was in the royal Canadian regt. yes I went to [war] in 1915 and I was taken prisoner with George. I did not know him untill then. that is a stone cross you see in the photo it is in a german cemetery above Bochum north station Westphalia germany. The germans were very cruel to us we had to do lots of hard work and there were plenty punishments for those that didn’t work well Mr Lawson I got no more to say so I will close
your sincere friend
Big Bras d’Or
Big Bras d’Or
April 18, 1919
From Angus mother
Dear Mr Lawson
Would like to know if you received the testament and the diary he mailed it as son as he received your letter if you didint get it will hunt it up as we have the receipt
Angus went away sailing again and we are so lonesome after him he is on the SS. Richmont he coudint content himself at home. My hart is in him poor fellow he don’t want to talk about how they were used in Germany I believe there was lots worse of than they were he spoke well of your son he said he was his best friend and we believe he is where there is no pain or sorrow and some day they will meet us with outstreched hands. we can simuthize with you as we lost a beloved son our oldest he was 20 years when he enlisted on the 29 of august 1914 never saw him since that day. he was on the police force in halifax that winter now we would like to hear from you once more and tell me if George’s mother is living yours sincerely
Mrs Norman MacAskill
Big Bras d’Or CB.
The collection of papers also contains a number of unused postcards with scenes of Camp Sussex (N.B.) and Camp Valcartier (Quebec). Unfortunately neither the picture of George's original grave marker nor his Testament, both mentioned in the text, seem to have survived.
In 1923 George's grave, along with 69 others from the POW camp at Friedrichsfeld, was moved to the Cologne Southern Cemetery.3
The original spelling, punctuation and capitalization are as far as possible unaltered in this transcription.
1 National Archives of Canada, RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 5469 – 35. His attestation papers can be viewed on the World Wide Web by starting from http://www.archives.ca/02/02010602_e.html and searching for "Lawson, George, 444498."
2 R. C. Fetherstonhaugh, The Royal Canadian Regiment 1883-1933. Reprinted 1981 by The Royal Canadian Regiment.
3 Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site. See also http://www.cwgc.org/cwgcinternet/casualty_details.aspx?casualty=902004.
The MacIntoshes of Black River.
This page last updated 2005 March 11th.