Great War Armistice 100 Years ago; Letters from two Trochu Boys

deBeaudrap Tribute

As this is the 100th anniversary of the end of the Great War and the Armistice of Nov. 11, 1918, the views of two local soldiers may be of interest to readers.

Xavier deBeaudrap left the family ranch east of Trochu at the outbreak of the war in 1914 and served a few months at the front with the French Foreign Legion before enlisting with the British Army, Remount Division at Southampton, UK. He spent most of the war shipping horses across the English Channel to the front in France.

Andre deBeaudrap, Xavier’s younger brother, was conscripted to the Canadian Expeditionary Force in the spring of 1918 and was training in England when the war came to an end.

Many of their letters to family have been translated from French by the Trochu and District Museum. Here are excerpts from some that were written around the end of the war:

Oct. 19, 1918 from Andre:

If the war ended this fall, I wonder what they would do with us? Would they return us, or the old soldiers? Will Canada be required to keep an army in Germany? Maybe they would return the farmers first.

Oct. 27, 1918 from Andre:

I remain in quarantine in tents at Frensham. It is definitely not as comfortable as the reserve, but I console myself that the longer we remain in quarantine, the slower we get to France.

The newspapers claim that Hungary will make peace before Nov. 1 and also that the Emperor of Austria will abdicate.

Nov. 2, 1918 from Andre:

I am still segregated and have therefore not yet had a leave. When I get one, I think I’ll just go to Southampton to visit Xavier.

If what one reads in the newspapers is true, Hungary has become a republic and all the Slavs will join us to attack the Boches (Germans) through Austria. If this is true, the Boches will be attacked from all sides and I don’t see how they can face all those armies.

The newspapers are starting to talk about how England will fill up when troops demobilize. They say she will keep all her young soldiers for two years. I hope that it is from her own troops that she’s speaking and not from her colonial troops.

Valenciennes has just been taken by the Canadians. They fight very well and are much better than the English troops. When one reads English newspapers, one would think that only the English are involved in this war. They rarely speak of French success, but each time they take a prisoner, they know how to make it known.

Nov. 6, 1918 from Xavier in Southampton:

I hope that I will be able to see you again one of these days when the war comes to an end. It is only a matter of time and maybe will not be long. Fighting may be over when you read this.

Austria and Turkey are finished and the Boches cannot last long. In the meantime, we are busier than ever before shipping horses by the thousands which means something big is being prepared somewhere. It may be the last shot. We sent 1500 horses Sunday and 1000 the last two days and 1500 tomorrow.

I had a letter from Andre this week. He is good as always and I think he will never see the front. I would not be surprised if he finishes his training and he may be among you before long.

I do not know how long they will keep me after signing a peace. I am likely to be one of the longest to stay because I am young and not expensive to the government.

There is a rumour tonight that the Boches have asked for an armistice, but I do not think it is true. The Allies have just had a meeting at Versailles and I guess they decided to be hard on the Boches.

Nov. 9, 1918, Bramshott from Andre:

Here I am, finally arrived at my reserve unit since Wednesday. Bramshott is only 8 miles from Frensham, a 2 hour, 15 minute march. The camp is full, so we are put in tents until there is room in the huts. Everyone here expects the Germans will accept the terms of the Allies and that hostilities will cease this week.

Nov. 21, 1918 from Andre in Bramshott:

I still have not heard anything official on our return to Canada. Our dear Prime Minister Borden is here now. We pretend that he came to get his army back as soon as possible. He wants the whole Canadian Army back by spring. I hope that Xavier will be at the ranch in the spring to help you.

April 16, 1919 from Andre in Kinmel Park:

I received a letter from Xavier a few days ago and he told me he is in hospital. He had a fever that lasted 24 hours and he is alright, but he should stay as long as possible which might help him to be demobilized faster.

I have a new job, along with Bun Postill (also from Trochu) as a camp policeman. One of our responsibilities is escorting prisoners.

April 22, 1919 from Andre:

You heard correctly about the riots at Kinmel. Indeed, I believe that the soldiers had to complain about different things but that does not excuse what they are doing. I think it’s a lack of discipline that reigns in the Canadian Army. In this camp there is no discipline and it is uncommon to see soldiers salute officers. They arrested 150 men who are undergoing hearings in Liverpool. Some may be executed.

May 19, 1919 from Andre:

The Canadian Army is asking for volunteers to go to France to arrange the Canadian graves, but I am careful to not put my name on the list because those who go do not know when their job will be finished.

June 24, 1919 from Andre:

I returned to Portsmouth last week on leave and I saw Xavier every day. He wants to farm once he gets back but would like to know if he has the same rights in Canada that Canadian soldiers have with regard to land and loans that the government offers.

Kinmel Camp was to be cleared by June 15 but is not yet. I do not know when I’ll be at the ranch but would like to be there in time for the hay harvest.

Nov. 17, 1919 from Xavier 1 year after the Armistice:

A word in haste to tell you that I am in England again after finishing my family tour (in France). I still do not know the date of my departure but will be on the next boat unless something extraordinary happens. At the moment, they do not know when there will be a boat because of strikes in the United States and vessels are unable to return because they cannot get coal. It is likely I will leave at the beginning of December and hope to be at the ranch for Christmas.

After spending longer in post-war England than his wartime service, Andre deBeaudrap was eventually discharged from the Canadian Army on July 18, 1919 in Calgary. He was back on the ranch that he loved.

In the case of Xavier deBeaudrap, he had ventured off to war in August of 1914 as people speculated that “the boys will be home by Christmas.” He finally made it home for Christmas of 1919, more than a year after the Armistice.