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1st Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade
Pte. Richard William Mercer
Personal Letters from the Great War: 1915 - 1919
Edited by Dwight G. Mercer
March 2003
 
Introduction

The following letters and post cards represent the known surviving correspondence sent by Private Richard William Mercer (911016), Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF), to his parents in Canada and his aunts and uncles in England while serving as a volunteer in the Great War.  In addition, some other letters are included to better represent his military service experiences.

Private Richard Mercer was a modest, quiet soldier. Where most men lasted less than a year "up the line" in combat, he served for an extended period of time.  Unbeknownst to most, this combat was in an élite and relatively unknown, mobile Canadian armoured unit.  He was twice wounded and injured once. An 'Unknown Soldier' left in the mud of Passchendaele was a best childhood friend.  Many other friends were wounded or did not return.


Pte Tom Tracy (KIA)         Pte Richard Wm. Mercer            Pte Walter Wylie
c. November 1916 - Somewhere in England
Photo © Dwight G. Mercer

Richard Mercer began his voluntary military service in April 1916 at the age of nineteen years with the 196th Western Universities Battalion, "B" Company (University of Saskatchewan).  He received his basic training at the forgotten Camp Hughes in western Manitoba.  He later entered the trenches at the Front in April 1917 as part of the Borden Motor Machine Gun Battery.  The Borden Battery was a unique and highly trained 56-man military unit.  Where most Great War efforts were static, this was an armoured mobile strike force that was totally motorized and equipped with machine guns and wireless radio.

Pte. Mercer experienced several major battles.  They included the Battle of Hill 70, the horrors of Passchendaele and the extremely high casualties of the 1st Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade which was dispatched to the Amiens sector during the Ludendorff Offensive in March 1918.  Later he saw action during the Last One Hundred Days beginning with the Battle of Amiens and ending with the Armistice. Military service closed with the Allied Occupation Forces in Germany and he did not return to Canada until May 1919 and even then was delayed in Winnipeg by the Winnipeg General Strike.

The Canadian Corps is considered by many war historians to be among a handful of élite Allied military formations of the Great War.  The Borden Motor Machine Gun Battery, within the 1st Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade, might then be considered by some as perhaps the élite of the élite.

These personal letters, with footnotes, remain a "work in progress".  They are intended to partially tell the forgotten story of a "Quiet Solder" from the Great War.  The work will be expanded as new material is researched.  In addition, this material is being incorporated into a larger body of family history- a history that will more fully document the experiences of Pte. Richard Mercer and some of his chums from the Great War in France and Belgium.

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