DURING THE WAR, Private R. B. Dick served in the British Expeditionary Force (or possibly the Canadian Expeditionary Force) as a foot soldier in the 52nd Battalion. In October 1918, he was transferred to the 27th Battalion, which saw considerable action on the front lines.
Although not from Sheridan, Sheridan County, or even Wyoming, Private R. B. Dick apparently counted several Sheridan residents amongst his acquaintance, at least one of whom was fortunate enough to correspond with him.
In the letter reproduced below, Private Dick provides a fearsomely graphic account of what it was like to be a stretcher bearer in the middle of a major battle.
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State Historic Site
Just a few lines to let you know that I am well and safe. I was transferred from the 52nd Battalion to the 27th and reached the 27th last Sunday. That same night we went up the line until two days ago. The party I was with acted as stretcher bearers and, believe me, war certainly seemed to me an awful waste of life as we carried out man after man, some slightly wounded and others seriously. Night and day the whole battle field vibrated with the thunder of the big guns. The boys would go over, and we would follow with the stretchers.
I will never forget our last night as long as I live. I know that in the near future I will be going over the top with a rifle instead of a stretcher, but no matter what happens, it will leave no deeper impression than did that last night. There had been hard fighting all day, real hard, and we were weary, but the night time was worst of all. Most all night we wandered over the shell torn land, guided by the groans of the wounded. Oh, it was horrible. Every once in a while, the Germans would send up a flare and make the night like day, the snipers’ bullets would whistle past us and the shells fall close by. As I look back on it all, it seems like a dream.
It was about three o’clock in the morning when we took a rest in a trench close by the roadside, but I could not sleep. The wounded were being put into ambulances on the road. On one of our trips while a line of stretchers were going down the road, a German plane spotted us and, believe me, it was nip and tuck for cover. He swept the road with machine gun bullets. Just a little ways further down, we picked up a serious case. A red-headed, freckled-face boy lay moaning. We saw he was pretty bad, so we went over to him. He was shot in the stomach and on the way he died. We just took him off the stretcher and buried him by the roadside.
So it goes, from day to day, as it has gone on for the last four years, men and good strong men, bleeding and dying for the cause of justice and freedom, but we are winning now, the Germans are retreating, and the silver lining is beginning to show through the storm cloud. Very soon now, peace will reign over battle torn France. Some of us will come home again and the rest sleep beneath a foreign sky. No matter what happens, I want you to always know that everything will be well. “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.”
Good night, and God bless you all.