Private George Henry McBride

A Soldier's Tribute

The following letter and poem where written by Private J. Alvin Surerus, a fellow soldier, who knew Private McBride in Canada and had served with him in France.

Somewhere in France
July 11, 1917

Dear Miss McBride,
In a letter which I received from home a few days ago, mention was made of the death of your brother George in the trenches of France. I have no intention of probing a wound which is now somewhat old, but I certainly desire to express my sincere sympathy with your family on their bereavement. I hadn't known George until he took possession of the feed store but during the summer of 1915 we spent many evenings together and our relations were always pleasant. I can assure you that we who are still permitted to carry on over here think of our vanished comrades and mourn their loss as certainly as the people in Canada and none of them is in our minds more than George.

We know that it seems hard to part with one's friends and relatives but you at any rate have the assurance that he died doing his duty as a soldier should and you need have no fears that his end wasn't peaceful. Every soldier whom I have met over here is quite willing to face the future because he is perfectly convinced in his own mind that he is doing his duty in the present. I am enclosing a short poem which expresses somewhat our appreciation of our vanished comrades, that "deathless army" which will never return to Canada but who will never be forgotten.

A letter to Spr. J. A. Surerus, #507278, Canadian Corps Signal Headquarters would be greatly appreciated by me.

Yours sympathetically,
J. Alvin Surerus

The Comrades We Left Behind

What will old England do? What will the empire say?
When the thunder of guns has vanished, and the battle clouds fade away,
When corn grows on filled-in trenches, green grass upon No Man's Land,
When hysterical cheers are silenced by the strains of the raucous band.

What of the shattered heroes, who win through the grim ordeal?
What prize for the fairy armies, that have made our war powers real?
High sounding words of pity, at most a meager dole,
Poverty, rags and sadness, and death in some lonesome hole.

But we shall remember our comrades, the boys that we left behind.
Dead in the sap and the mine head, that the enemy countermined,
Dead in rat-haunted dugouts, dead in the slime and the mud,
Dead in the huge shell craters, whose edges are red with blood.

Dead where the barbed wire mazes, caught in a deadly net,
Dead 'neath the far flung ruins, of a blown-in parapet,
Dead where the shrapnel spattered, dead 'midst the bullets hail,
Dead where the bombs and mortars, beat down like a winnowing flail.

Together we toiled in training, together we yearned for the front,
Together we fixed our bayonets, on the morn of the glorious stunt,
Not one of them thought of dangers, not one of them cared or feared,
"Over the top and forward," together we charged and cheered.

What if the wounded suffer? What if the dying die?
They suffer and die contented, without a groan or a sigh,
They suffer and die contented, their little bit gallantly done,
Their bayonets red and dripping, with the blood of the frightful Hun.

With them we have shared our rations, with us they have laughed and cried,
With them we have lived full moments, with us they have lived and died,
So sacred things all the ages, keep this in the Empire's mind,
Remember that deathless army, the comrades we left behind.

home battlefields resource centre the archive culture & war collector's forum