THE EMMA GEES
by HERBERT W. McBRIDE
Captain, U. S. A.
Late Twenty-first Canadian Battalion

TO THE MEMORY OF WILLIAM EMMANUEL BOUCHARD
Lance-Corporal, Machine Gun Section
Twenty-first Canadian Infantry Battalion

KILLED IN ACTION AT COURCELLETTE
SEPTEMBER 15TH, 1916

In Flanders’ fields the crosses stand–
Strange harvest for a fertile land!
Where once the wheat and barley grew,
With scarlet poppies running through.
This year the poppies bloom to greet
Not oats nor barley nor white wheat,
But only crosses, row by row,
Where stalwart reapers used to go.
Harvest in Flanders
–Louise Driscoll

INTRODUCTION

When the final history of this war is written, it is doubtful if any other name will so appeal to the Canadian as Ypres and the Ypres Salient; every foot of which is hallowed ground to French, Belgians, British and Colonials alike; not a yard of which has not been consecrated to the cause of human liberty and baptized in the blood of democracy.

Here the tattered remnants of that glorious “contemptible little army,” in October, 1914, checked the first great onrush of the vandal hordes and saved the channel ports, the loss of which would have been far more serious than the capture of Paris and might, conceivably, have proved the decisive factor in bringing about a Prussian victory in the war.

Here the first Canadian troops to fight on the soil of Europe, the Princess Pat’s, received their trial by fire and came through it with untarnished name, and here, also, the First Canadian Contingent withstood the terrible ordeal of poison gas in April, 1915, and, outnumbered four to one, with flank exposed and without any artillery support worthy of mention, hurled back, time after time, the flower of the Prussian army, and, in the words of the Commanding General of all the British troops: “saved the situation.”

Here, too, as was fitting, we received our baptism of fire (Second Canadian Division), as did also the third when it came over.

For more than a year this salient was the home of the Canadian soldier and Langemarck, St. Julien, Hill 60, St. Eloi, Hooge, and a host of other names in this sector, have been emblazoned, in letters of fire, on his escutcheon.

Baffled in his attempts to capture the city of Ypres, the Hun began systematically to destroy it, turning his heaviest guns on the two most prominent structures: The Halles (Cloth Hall), and St. Martin’s Cathedral, two of the grandest architectural monuments in Europe. Now there was no military significance in this; it was simply an exhibition of unbridled rage and savagery. With Rheims Cathedral, and hundreds of lesser churches and châteaux, these ruins will be perpetual monuments to the wanton ruthlessness of German kultur.

When we first went there the towers of both these structures were still standing and formed landmarks that could be seen for miles. Gradually, under the continued bombardment, they melted away until, when I last passed through the martyred city, nothing but small bits of shattered wall could be seen, rising but a few feet above the surrounding piles of broken stones.

Glorious Ypres! Probably never again will you become the city of more than two hundred thousand, whose “Red-coated Burghers” won the day at Courtrai, against the trained army of the Count d’Artois; possibly never again achieve the commercial prominence enjoyed but four short years since; but your name will be forever remembered in the hearts of men from all the far ends of the earth where liberty and justice prevail.                                                           H. W. McB.

NEW NAMES FOR OLD LETTERS

When reading messages sent by any “visual” method of signaling, such as flags, heliograph or lamp, it is necessary for the receiver to keep his eyes steadily fixed upon the sender, probably using binoculars or telescope, which makes it difficult, if not impossible, for him to write down each letter as it comes, and as this is absolutely required in military work, where nearly everything is in code or cipher, the services of a second man are needed to write down the letters as the first calls them off.

As many letters of the alphabet have sounds more or less similar, such as “S” and “F,” “M” and “N” and “D” and “T,” many mistakes have occurred. Therefore, the ingenuity of the signaler was called upon to invent names for certain of the letters most commonly confused. Below is a list of the ones which are now officially recognized:

A pronounced ack
B    ”        beer
D    ”        don
G    ”        gee
M    ”    emma
P     ”    pip
S     ”    esses
V     ”    vick
Z     ”    zed

The last is, of course, the usual pronunciation of this letter in England and Canada, but, as it may be unfamiliar to some readers, I have included it.

After a short time all soldiers get the habit of using these designations in ordinary conversation. For instance, one will say: “I am going over to ‘esses-pip seven,'” meaning “Supporting Point No. 7,” or, in stating the time for any event, “ack-emma” is A.M. and “pip-emma” P.M.

As the first ten letters of the alphabet are also used to represent numerals in certain methods of signaling, some peculiar combinations occur, as, for instance: “N-ack-beer” meaning trench “N-12,” or “O-don” for “O-4.”

“Ack-pip-emma” is the Assistant Provost Marshal, whom everybody hates, while just “pip-emma” is the Paymaster, who is always welcome.

Thus, the Machine Gunner is an “Emma Gee” throughout the army.

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