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Leslie Scherer in the Scottish uniform of the 48th Highlanders. Collection courtesy of Norman MacInnes.
(Courtesy of The Memory Project/George Leslie Scherer)
"I fired my 1st shot the second night just after midnight. I got the fellow I shot at just in front of our wire. I won't forget the feeling as I pressed the trigger that night + I hadn't got over it when I wrote."
My grandfather left Ridgetown, Ontario in January 1916 at the age of 19 to join the 48th Highlanders. The following are excerpts from letters he wrote to Catherine Crawford, who after the war became my grandmother.
Toronto, Jan 14, 1916
…so Lawrence & I went down to the armories last night. Just as we got there, we met a Highlander officer. I told him we wanted to join the 134th & he said, "Come right along with me," Suddenly he looked up at me + said "Say how tall are you? We can't take anyone under 5'-5". I told him I couldn't quite do it, but I showed him a letter which I had received from Col. Donald, saying that if a man was specially well built, he would stretch a point in his favor. "Well", he said "You certainly deserve some consideration under the circumstances and you're well built all right. He took my measure and I just went 5' 4 1/2" But he let my hair stand up and it just stood high enough to touch the scale at 5'5". Well he thought that would do if I could pass examination….
But the worst blow came this morning when I went down to be examined. When I entered the room, another officer said " Say, how tall are you" I answered quite confidently "5' 5", He wouldn't allow for my hair and with my low heeled shoes on I just touched 5' 3 3/4" "see that!" he said, "I'm sorry but we can't take you – you're too short". My heart dropped right down to my boots and I thought it was all up, but I produced the letter again. The officer took me in to see the commander. ..he joked about the matter for a while, but finally he said that he'd put a pair of high heeled shoes on me and, … He would add my height to my friend's and divide it by 2 and make up for my deficiency in that way. In my bare feet I stand 5' - 2 1/2"…
Rome, Nov. 28, 1917
I made my first trip in the trenches at Vimy Ridge + for mud that piece of line had them all beat. I fired my 1st shot the second night just after midnight. I got the fellow I shot at just in front of our wire. I won't forget the feeling as I pressed the trigger that night + I hadn't got over it when I wrote. On Feb. 27th 14 Fritz raided our machine gun post and yours truly was on sentry. It was an awfully dark night. Of course it was too late to fire the gun, … but some way or other I managed to alarm the rest of the crew + we beat them off. The joke of it all was I received a bunch of daily Mails from home a few weeks later and on the front page of one was a full account of the whole thing. I bet mother little dreamed that little Leslie was the sentry she was reading about.
The second time I went over was at Vimy on Apr. 9th. That was a great day for the Canucks, and it was then I had my first real go at Fritz.
So you see we've had quite an exciting time of it all year and I consider myself extremely lucky to be still at it.
Wishing you a very Merry Xmas + a Happy New Year, I remain
Yours Sincerely Leslie
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