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Mitchell, Harris William, North Edmonton, Alberta, Class of ’17 (B.S.A.). Military Service: Private, Reg. No. 100314, 66th Bn., Signal Section. Attestation Papers.
Additional Biographical Information:
Ever since they won the International Class cup in their first year the ’17 Class have been apt to pride themselves upon their debating powers. It is quite certain, however, that when Harris W. Mitchell failed to put in an appearance last fall, having joined the colors, his year had lost one of the soundest logicians that the M.A.C. has seen. Harris, however, has adopted a different way of expressing his ideas. He does it by waving a couple of little flags. Always a wholehearted enthusiast in anything he took up, we presume that he has inhibited every other mode of communication, as in spite of the earnest endeavours of some of his class mates to wheedle a short article out of him respecting his new hobby, we are convinced, that in order to obtain such, one of us will have to go to Edmonton and receive it in signalling code. Never mind, fellows, Harris is with us in spirit, though, judging by the cut he seems to be reserving most of the flesh for his own use.
University of Manitoba, Archives and Special Collections, Managra, v. X, No. 5 (Mar 1917), 64-65.
Undergraduate, H. W. Mitchell, 100314, Base Co., 66th Batt. Signal Sect.
University of Manitoba, Archives and Special Collections, Managra, v. XI, No. 1 (Nov 1917), 9.
H. W. Mitchell (France, Aug. 29, 1917)
To speak of myself, I have been employed first as a lineman and now as a company signaller. This work may savor a little less of the hardships and dangers than the average in trench life, but it hardly can be classed among the bomb-proof jobs. Indeed, there are times when it is quite as trying as any of the front line duties. Sometimes I have wished to take my place as a rifleman in the platoon and feel that I was doing my best to strafe Fritz, but I suppose if we each do our own part well, there can little now be asked of us.
Second only to the beauties of England, I have found France a most attractive place. While I do not suppose this is the garden of France, it has indeed magnificent scenery. At a distance the red roofs of the villages showing through the groves of trees look very picturesque. Closer inspection may be disappointing for the farming villages are neither clean nor neat, and the buildings are frequently very dilapidated. The farms are, however, well kept and the farmers thrifty. The mining villages are neater and more orderly, apparently having been built by the mine owners. It is unfortunate for France that while the portion of occupied territory is small, it is the richest and busiest part. The wreckage left after the waves of battle have passed over a city is practically complete. In places the bricks themselves are broken to powder; iron structures are twisted and crumpled beyond recognition. The factories and mines will in time be re-opened, but the homes which each pile of bricks represents will not so soon be re-established.
The days pass slowly for us here and we long for the end, but I know that the friends at home wait not one whit less anxiously and their task may be harder to bear than ours. When we finish our work we rest, but the wives and mothers waiting at home never rest – their’s is the hardship.
Should anyone wish my address, it is Pte. H. W. Mitchell, No. 100314, D. Coy., 27th Battn. Canadian, B.E.F., France. I expect Teddy (E.A.) Blake will rejoin his battalion soon. He was decorated with the M.M. last April and has been down the line sick most of the summer.
Yours sincerely, Harris W. Mitchell.
University of Manitoba, Archives and Special Collections, Managra, v. XI, No. 2 (Dec. 1917), 35.
H. W. Mitchell
France, Feb. 13, 1918.
Dear Miss Wood:
It is quite a while since I wrote last, though I sent a note to Mrs. Reynolds in thanks for Christmas remembrances from M.A.C.’s Red Cross Society. It is really impossible for me at times to keep up correspondence as I might have wished. This is not due so much to lack of time as to lack of inclination and inspiration. The former is seldom in control, the latter is always out of control. So, quite a number whose letters might have been helpful to me have dropped off my address list. My good friend, Mr. H. E. Hallwright, is the only one of my former classmates with whom I still maintain communication. This is only natural – the world does not stop for us, but casts us in ever diverging paths, leaving only the memory of these friendships and their mark on our characters.
The one diversion which has marked the past few weeks for me was a fourteen day furlough to Blighty [England], this included Christmas week. I had wondered for a long time where Christmas Day would be spent, in the front line trenches, in support dugouts or in some French village. It had never occurred to me that I might spend it in Old England. Did the famous chalk cliffs of Dover ever look more welcome than to our boatload on Blighty leave. As it was I missed the train at Euston and spent the greater part of Christmas Day travelling. Rugby, Crewe, Warrington, Lancaster, Blackpool – though train was slow but I reached Kendal (Westmoreland) at last and in time to enjoy supper at a fine old English farm home. I shall not be sorry for that trip up through the English midlands, even though it did take Christmas Day. The country around Kendal appealed to me very much. It seemed to speak of home more than any spot I had previously seen. Not that the hills of the Lake District are comparable to our western plain, but they seemed to speak of freedom. Perhaps it was the freedom from military restrictions that made it seem to me like home. Certainly I shall visit it again if I am spared to do so, and shall not miss a visit to Windermere as I did this time.
Continuing northward, I arrived at the fair city of Perth in quest of my brother serving in the Forestry in one of the many camps at work on Scotch forests. Two days in the neighbourhood of Perth and two in Glasgow brought me to the time limit, and the next day dark rows of houses marked our march on the streets of a French port.
Two weeks may pass quickly, but they are a most enjoyable variation and life becomes worth while again. Hardships and isolation soon mar the varnish of civilization. We often wonder whether the habits of life here would supplant those of civil life. We often joke about our camp etiquette and many other everyday contrasts and wondered if we should ever tolerate the restrictions of society. A few days in Blighty surely help to remind us that we are still citizens of the Empire, and that the future of our country depends not only on what we do in the battle line, but on what spirit and energy we may take back with us to civil life.
We have each of us made hundreds of prophecies about the future of the war, but which of us has not been a false prophet. I think that both the Entente and the Central Allies have at more than one time misjudged the situation, hence how can we poor mortals be expected to judge. I have stopped making even mental forecasts; things have been so contrary to expectations.
Another 365 days may change the situation greatly, perhaps not materially. Maybe they will bring peace, but “maybee’s” don’t make “honey” so we are told.
I would like to write a bit of shop about my own work as a signaller, but though there might be a great deal of interest, it would not be censorable. There is nothing very romantic about sitting over a field telephone tapping off messages or copying the same. The linesman’s end is a bit more interesting. At the company end, those off duty act as linesmen when the lines go out, they are on the job searching for the break or for leaks, until either found or until they meet the battery linesmen who have started forward from the other end.
That is only one side of our work, but of other branches I had better be silent.
I have not seen any copy of Managra this winter. I hope you can arrange to send me a copy as I am still quite interested in the doings at M.A.C. In the matter of papers it is important to use the latest address. I think you know mine as “D” Co’y 27th Bat. Canadians. That should find me anywhere.
I shall try to write again at intervals, for the present Au Revoir.
Your Sincere Friend,
Harris W. Mitchell
University of Manitoba, Archives and Special Collections, Managra, v. XI, No. 5 (Mar. 1918), 58.
Word from Mitchell
No, 2 Coy.,
11th Can. Res. Battn.
Dec 13th, 1918.
I write to thank the Red Cross Auxiliary of the M.A.C. for their kindness in again remembering me with a Christmas parcel. I received the parcel today on returning from my hospital leave and must say it was very welcome. Canadian chocolate is always appreciated as chocolate is almost an unknown quantity in England at present, at least edible varieties.
You may be surprised to find that my stay in hospitals was only terminated two weeks ago when I started on leave, but the influenza epidemic must be blamed for at least six weeks’ delay. I am perfectly fit now and have felt so all summer.
I am looking forward to an early return to Canada. We understand that his camp will be closed soon as far as we are concerned. Whether we will stay in Rhyl longer, or not, is another question. I have just missed a chance to return by Panama and Vancouver. It is a six weeks’ trip, but I would gladly have taken it even though I expect to get home as soon by waiting.
I have just received the fourth circular letter from the College. I was very sorry to hear of Mr. Cunningham’s death, I had understood that he had a staff appointment in Witley district, but naturally he would not wish to remain stationed in England even if permitted.
If I get a chance to wait in Winnipeg on my way home I shall certainly not miss the chance of visiting the College. As I see my position now, I scarcely think that I will be able to complete my course for a few years at any rate.
Please convey my thanks to the ladies of the Red Cross Auxiliar.
Very sincerely yours,
Harris W. Mitchell,
University of Manitoba, Archives and Special Collections, Managra, v. XII, No. 2 (Feb. 1919), 18