Vimy Ridge parcel from Mother: fountain pen, cake and candy

Today is the 93rd anniversary of the first day of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

“Theirs was a story of unspeakable horror, unmitigated heroism and ultimately, of inspiring victory,” the Queen said in her statement today.

“This tremendous sacrifice can rightly be regarded as a defining moment in the history of Canada and is one which we will never forget.”

And now, said the Queen, “they are gone and all Canadians mourn our collective loss. Yet they will remain forever etched in the hearts of a grateful people and on the pages of our history as symbols of service, honour and dedication.”

Canadian Artilleryman Harry Whitfield Mollins—my Grandfather—took the time to write in his pocket diary that day when Canadians attacked along a 6.4 km front in one of the key battles of WW1:

Easter Monday, April 9        Weather: Fine

On fatigues all day. This is the day of the big “strafe.” There was a heavy bombardment at 5:30 a.m. and the infantry went over from Vimy Ridge to the right. Large numbers of prisoners and guns were taken. Vimy Ridge fell into our hands. Parties of prisoners passed our position all day. All seemed glad to have been captured. Our casualties were not very heavy. Nice parcel from mother this evening containing fountain pen, cake, candy, etc.

I find it so moving—and amusing for some reason—this picture in my mind of my Grandfather, sitting in a muddy trench after a day of the chaos of gunning, prisoner exchange and comrades dying. That he should be writing in his journal and enjoying homemade cake and candy on this day is so strange and lovely.

Even more moving, is the picture of my Great-Grandmother back in Moncton preparing and packing up these small things for her son away at war.

I’ve never really been sure what traits have been passed down to me from this Grandfather I never knew. It seems, at least, we all share an appreciation of small things and knowing this, is no small comfort.

HW Mollins Nov. 11, 1895 – Dec. 8, 1945

Thanks to my uncle, Carl Mollins, for lovingly transcribing all the war diaries of his father.

3 comments on “Vimy Ridge parcel from Mother: fountain pen, cake and candy”

  1. Suzanne: Thank you for your thoughtful words – a lovely tribute to my Dad and my Grandmother. What a warm and loving picture of my Grandma packing treats to send to my Dad – at war! I, too, am so grateful to Carl for transcribing all Dad’s diaries for us. mum

  2. Very moving diary entry of our Grandfather’s. Most moving and emotional for our Mum and Uncle Carl – imagine -their Dad’s words!

  3. Very nice Suzanne. I went to the War Museum in London a few weeks ago and it was fascinating, but depressing.

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