Letters home from the Great War

Sifting Through the Archives

Arthur William Hammond

Arthur William Hammond

by Val Wilson

 

Arthur William Hammond: An interesting face, don’t you think?

We came to know about this man, Arthur William Hammond, while sorting through our archive files. We found a series of letters he had written to his mother between 1914 and 1918. Letters are considered a primary source for researchers as they can tell a lot about what people of the actual time period thought about the events they were living through.

Arthur Hammond was British, originally a Royal Horse Guard, who served in France during the First World War. In 1915, as a trooper with the Guard, Hammond writes to his mother of the upcoming assignment in France, “I have passed for a 1st class marksman in shooting so my course has not been wasted.”  He tells of embarking at the Southampton on the RMS Viper and his safe arrival at the base (“Somewhere in France”).

In many of his letters from “Somewhere in France”, Hammond writes of the Germans, some of them only “young boys” in the trenches.  Hammond would spend about two years in the trenches and his letters home reflect his experiences.  On Nov. 3, 1915, he writes of “an exciting time”, when he and another officer came across a German tunnel in which the other officer “shot a German and blew up most of the German tunnel…”

In March, 1916, Hammond put in an application to be transferred to the Royal Flying Corps.  He felt that the R.F.C. would be a “very good thing, leave regularly every three months and return for home service after a year out here.”

A year later he brings his mother up to date on his hopes, “We are very busy at present, great expectations from both sides as far as I can see, however, I hope I shall see it from above in an aeroplane, as I have put in another application, but it will stop my four months training at home which I was hoping to accomplish.”

By April, he was back in England training and by the end of May, Hammond expected to be leaving for France once again.  He arrived in France in September and on Oct. 29 he writes to his father, “What do you think of me as a full bloom aviator?  It is very interesting work tho a little strenuous at times…”

Hammond was now a part of the Royal Flying Corps 2nd Squadron.  His position was an observer for the squadron as it was responsible for reconnaissance of enemy ground positions.

Hammond’s fame is connected with two aerial engagements.  The first took place on Feb. 18, 1918; as gunner of his aircraft, he shot down two German fighters and was awarded the Military Cross. The second took place on March 27 of the same year, and involved 2nd Lt. A.A. McLeod, a Canadian pilot. The battle saw Hammond awarded with the bar to his Military Cross. However, this award came with a very high price.  Hammond “had been wounded six times when the machine crashed” and McLeod, “notwithstanding his own wounds, dragged him away from the burning wreckage at great personal risk from heavy machine-gun fire from the enemy’s lines.”

Lt. Hammond lost his leg because of his injuries. Although McLeod appeared to be recovering well, upon his return to Canada, he contracted the Spanish Influenza virus; in his weakened state he developed pneumonia and died.

Hammond’s letters not only opened my eyes to life during WWI, but also led me to connect with his great-niece, who was excited to learn more about this family member; she now has a copy of the letters to enrich her own life.  In addition, the letters led to a kind of online family reunion among other members of the family, who hadn’t known of each other or of the letters.

If you are interested in reading these letters, please visit the Comox Air Force Museum Library!

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

G.P. Vanier in Courtenay has six members of the community who have tested positive; Island Health identified seven staff and 78 students who will be required to self-isolate. Black Press file photo
SD71 identifies eight positive cases of COVID-19 and instructs 108 people to self-isolate

The letter noted that all who have tested positive did not contract COVID-19 within the school sites

Geoff Garbutt takes over as City of Courtenay CAO on April 14. Photo supplied
Courtenay council selects new city CAO

A new Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) will be joining the City of… Continue reading

Two vehicles collided Wednesday morning north of Courtenay on the Old Island Highway. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Two-car MVA north of Courtenay

Accident took place after 7 a.m. on the Old Island Highway

COVID cases in the Bella Coola Valley have dropped to just four active cases (file photo)
Comox Valley COVID spike the result of ‘a series of multiple social gatherings’

North Island Medical Health Officer Dr. Charmaine Enns says the recent spike… Continue reading

FILE – A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

Province is expanding vaccine workforce as officials ramp up age-based rollout

Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.'s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
456 new COVID-19 cases in B.C., 2 deaths

Since January 2020, 78,278 have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in B.C.

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Vaccinating essential workers before seniors in B.C. could save lives: experts

A new study says the switch could also save up to $230 million in provincial health-care costs

The Town of Comox will formally examine speeding within the town. Black Press file photo
Comox to examine speeding within town

Following discussions at various council meetings, Comox council will formally examine speeding… Continue reading

A male customer without a face mask is seen inside a Burnaby Canadian Tire amidst an altercation with store security and staff members. (Video/Screen grab)
VIDEO: Man arrested after allegedly punching Burnaby Canadian Tire staff over mask rule

Mounties received reports Monday of a customer having punched more than one employee

According to a new poll, a majority of Canadians want to see illicit drugs decriminalized. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Majority of Canadians think it’s high time to decriminalize illicit drugs: poll

More than two-times the B.C. residents know someone who died from an overdose compared to rest of Canada

Photograph By @KAYLAXANDERSON
VIDEO: Lynx grabs lunch in Kamloops

A lynx surprises a group of ducks and picks one off for lunch

A conceptual drawing of the preferred conveyance route for the Comox Valley Sewer Service.
Preferred conveyance route chosen for Comox Valley Sewer Service

The Comox Valley Sewage Commission approved a plan Tuesday to upgrade the… Continue reading

Most Read