A. Y. Jackson, Letter to Jack, Sept. 1915

[ Gas Attack, Liévin ]

Gas Attack, Liévin, A. Y. Jackson, 1918, Canadian War Museum, 19710261-0179, Jackson comments, ""I went . . . one night to see a gas attack we made on the German lines. It was like a wonderful display of fireworks, with our clouds of gas and the German flares and rockets of all colours." His exuberance does not seem matched by the colours in the painting, with its dull browns and blacks broken by small flashes of colour on the horizon. These colours evoke the broken landscape, and the painting suggests how any sign of life on the front line of battle — even grass and trees — had been destroyed over months of fighting. Note the colour bars laid underneath the image when it was photographed. These colour bars help enable printers to correctly reproduce the colours in the image

A Company
60th Btn. C.E.F.
Valcartier, Que

My dear Jack,

This is a rainy Sunday afternoon so I am attending to a little correspondence while the rest of the tent are wrapped in slumber. We expect to leave soon for the other side. One company is going to this week. Valcartier becomes too cold in September, even now it is cold at nights.

Am beginning to feel like a Tommy now, eat drink and sleep, intellectual pursoots all abandoned. Of course I am fearfully censorious at times and I still think a lot of things a model citizen and soldier ought not to. But there is more satisfaction at kicking from the inside than sneering from the outside. The way some of our noble French Canucks patriots do.

Well Jack, I think you can sleep with an easy conscience, you have done all that can be expected of a man. If the rest of the patriots had shown half as much spirit here and in England, we would not be in such a devilish mess at present. I don’t think I ever in my life took so little pride in being British. Our papers are nothing but a long wail about What is Roumania going to do for us. Why doesn’t Greece help us? Is America going to leave free countries to do it all. You wouldn’t need to be in the 60th long before you found out that the men Canada is sending to defend her honor and not the class of men she would allow to represent her under other circumstances. The rough neck and the out of work far outnumber the patriot. Volunteers by pressure. This may not be so in all the battalions, but I think it is becoming more and more so all the time, and when you hear all the bosh talked and written about our precious honor, Christian ideals, etc. it just about makes you sick. As a matter of fact people who entrust their national honor to men they would not allow to enter their houses in times of peace are not worth fighting for.

I don’t admire our military system much, still too many trappings left over from feudal days, and the men are not taught to distinguish between what is vital and what is mere show. Musketry is a farce. They fairly shove a man through in about five hours, while he spends five weeks [sloping?] and presenting arms properly. The human material is good, but amateurish all through, and that means we pay the price when we get to the front, and our officers run into the Hun boys who have made a study of tactics from their youth up.

Well do good Jack, drop me a line when you find time.

Ever sincerely

Source: Library and Archives Canada/Bibliotheque et Archives Canada, MG30 D351 'Naomi Groves Jackson fond', Container 94, File 19, A. Y. Jackson, Letter to Jack, September 31, 1915. Notes: Courtesy of the Estate of the late Dr. Naomi Jackson

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