Letters home from the Great War

Sifting Through the Archives

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!

 

Just Posted

SLIDESHOW: Remembrance Day in Courtenay

The annual ceremony took place in front of a large crowd under rainy skies.

CVN invites the public to learn about wolves

Comox Valley Nature is pleased to host a public lecture featuring author Paula Wild

Hornby Island gets ready to build Arts Centre

Construction is planned to start in the coming year

BCTF rejects mediator’s recommendations for settlement

Negotiations between B.C. teachers and the province will continue

Elevates plans to do concert series in Cumberland again

Summer event aims to make the arts barrier-free for the community

VIDEO: Hong Kong police shoot protester, man set on fire

It was the second protester shot since the demonstrations began in early June

Early morning house fire north of Courtenay Sunday

Courtenay Fire Department attended the home around 5:30 a.m.

Sportsnet fires Don Cherry after negative comments about immigrants

Don Cherry had said immigrants don’t wear poppies like other Canadians do

Trudeau’s new cabinet: Gender parity because it’s 2019? Or due to competence?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will soon appoint his new cabinet

Canada among three G20 countries least likely to hit emissions targets

It says Canada, South Korea and Australia are the farthest off

Conservatives’ Scheer wants Trudeau to open Parliament Nov. 25

That’s five days after Justin Trudeau is scheduled to swear in a new cabinet

Last remaining Centurion tank from the Korean War makes its journey ‘home’ to B.C.

Tank arrives in B.C. the day before Remembrance Day after a more than 4,500-kilometre transfer

‘Your vehicle burns a lot of fuel:’ Victoria drivers wake up to angry notes

‘This handbill was left on your vehicle because your vehicle burns a lot of fuel,’ notes read

Canadians mark Remembrance Day this morning

This year exactly 101 years to the day after the end of the First World War

Most Read