Veteran Stories:
Jay Batiste Moyer

Army

  • Jay Batiste Moyer served with the Western Ontario Regiment during the First World War. He started writing this letter on April 6, 1917, three days before he was killed. Some of his writing was censored.

    Jay Batiste Moyer served with the Western Ontario Regiment during the First World War. He started writing this letter on April 6, 1917, three days before he was killed. Some of his writing was censored.
  • On this second page of Jay Moyer's letter, he talked about one of their best officers who was killed in the latest trip out of the trenches. He wrote that the men in his battalion were feeling very sad about it.

    On this second page of Jay Moyer's letter, he talked about one of their best officers who was killed in the latest trip out of the trenches. He wrote that the men in his battalion were feeling very sad about it.
  • On the third page, Jay Moyer shared his feelings of being fortunate in the latest action. He came back to his trench unharmed but his clothes were badly torn by barbed wired. Collection courtesy of Mr. Moyer's nephew, Jay Moyer.

    On the third page, Jay Moyer shared his feelings of being fortunate in the latest action. He came back to his trench unharmed but his clothes were badly torn by barbed wired. Collection courtesy of Mr. Moyer's nephew, Jay Moyer.
Enlarge Image
Listen to this story

Transcript

The shoebox was kept in a special place in our mother's cupboard. Violet took it from the shelf, set it carefully on the table by the window. She took off the lid and looked at the letters arranged inside. Mother had kept all of Jay's letters since he enlisted in 1915. A year and a half ago, he had been seventeen.

His latest letter lay on the table beside the box. Violet picked it up.

"March 26, 1917, France

Dear Mother,

It is raining this morning. There is no parade, so I thought I'd have a good chance to write and tell you about the letters and box I received last night. One letter was from you and Jesse, and the other from Violet. So long since I had from Violet, I thought she had forgotten me. There has not been very much Canadian mail for some time, and we began to think it must have been sunk."

The letter continued, but Violet's eyes went back to the first paragraph, and re-read it with some distress. Of course he didn't really think she had forgotten him. She wrote to him regularly, and a steady stream of boxes was sent to France, many of them including pair after pair of socks which she knitted herself. When the war ended, she would put down her knitting needles, never to pick them up again, but for the duration, she knitted for her younger brother, nineteen years old, forever hungry and apparently on his feet a lot. She had written less often lately, as her exams at the normal school loomed, but she had written, and as soon as exams were over, had written again. Some of the mail indeed must have been sunk.

Now she sat down at the table and looked with disfavour at the sheet of paper she had found to write her letter. It was larger than note paper, torn from ledger with holes punched down one side and wide column ruled on the other. Violet believed in doing things right. The letter required note paper, but driven by equal measures of guilt and exasperation, she picked up her pen and addressed the unsuitable paper before her.

"Dear Jay,

I meant to write to you sooner, but could find no note paper. I have not found any yet, as you may guess from this, but I would wait no longer. It is not because I have so much to say, but because in a letter from you which came yesterday, you surmised that I must have forgotten you. Of course you know better than that, but I want to make quite sure the fact that I haven't."

She filled two pages on both sides with her neat writing, full of family doings and news of friends, and relatives invalided at home, wondering where he was at that moment, and if he was involved in the recent heavy fighting. When she had finished, she inserted Jay's latest letter at the end of the box and ran her fingers over the edge of the envelope. First of all were the letters from the training camp in the Toronto Exhibition ground, followed by the letters from the training camp in England, then the letters from somewhere in France. Her letters paused at the last letter written from England and pulled it out. She didn't need to read it – she knew what it said – but she opened it anyway. A message hastily scribbled:

"September 15th, 1916, Friday

Dear Mother,

Just a few lines to let you know that we are going over to France this morning. This is a picture of the boys in our tent.

Cheer up, mother dear. Don't worry – everything will be alright.

Your Loving Son,

Jay"

Follow us