Clifford Almon Wells was born in Toronto, Canada, March 12, 1892. He was the youngest son of Professor James Edward Wells, M.A., LL.D., and Frances Barbara Moule, his wife. Professor Wells, educationist, editore, and publicist, died when Clifford was six years old. When he was twelve years old his mother became the wife of the Reverent O.C.S. Wallace, D.D., LL.D., at that time Chancellor of McMaster University, Toronto. When he was eighteen years old he enrolled as an undergraduate of Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, his stepfather being then the pastor of the First Baptist church of that city. Four years later, when he received the degree of Bachelor of Arts, his ability in the acquisition of knowledge and his skill in teaching having given a clear indication of what his vocation should be, he entered upon graduate work in the department of Archeology in his Alma Mater, in preparation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy and to qualify for university teaching. In 1915, on the completion of one year of graduate study, he was awarded a Fellowship, and so marked had been his progress, and so evident his exceptional ability, that his future seemed especially promising. During the summer of 1915, he decided that it was his duty to relinquish his Fellowship, abandon his studies, and take his part as a Canadian in the European war. In September he enlisted as a Private in the 4th University Company, one of the reinforcing companies of the famous Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry. Although without previous military training his advancement was rapid, and when his company went overseas in November he was a Platoon Sergeant, and two months later received his commission as a Lieutenant in the P.P.C.L.I. Later he was transferred to the 8th Battalion. His perfect health, physical strength, and endurance, exceptional intelligence, and great diligence and conscientiousness in whatever task he undertook, may be regarded as the explanation of the quick transformation of the quiet student and book-lover into the efficient soldier.
His letters cover a period of eighteen months. They were written in railway cars and on board ship; in tents in England, Belgium and France; in huts, shacks, furnace rooms, and ruined houses; in London boarding houses and hotels; in French farm-houses, and German dugouts; in the midst of the awful clamors and crashings and thunders of artillery, and within sound of the coughing of a sick German in the front line of enemy trenches.
He wrote of things which others have written about; of things which displeased him, most of these relating to the commonplace of life. But in addition to the commonplace there will be found in these letters a surprising variety of topics, and withal such graphic descriptions, thrilling or amusing stories, and information on many matters of interest to all who have friends overseas that the letters will both entertain and enlighten.
His last dated letter was written the 20th day of April, 1917, eleven days after the battle of Vimy Ridge. Thankful because he had had a part in that battle, exultant and confident in view of the great victory, he bade his mother not to be disquieted or alarmed for him. Before this letter reached her she had received official notice that he had been killed in action on the 28th day of April. Eight days later she, who had always been the embodiment of health, strength, and abounding and radiant life, was fatally burned in a tragic accident, which could not have occurred had not her mind been pre-occupied with the thoughts of Clifford. She died in Montreal, May the 20th, twenty-two days after the death of her son in France.
No son can read these letters without finding in them a call to nobility of character and heroism of spirit; and no mother can read them without realizing that such letters could be written only to a mother who represented the highest tupe of patriotic and Christian womanhood.
The letters, other than those addressed to his mother, are of two classes. There are letters which, though addressed to other members of the family, were intended equally for her, and a number of letters of a different character addressed to his brother George. The latter are inserted in order that a more complete picture may be given of his experiences on the battlefield than he wished his mother to see.
To make certain allusions intelligible to readers outside of the circle of the family and intimate friends the following information is given: Professor WElls had a family by his first wife, of which Emma, Frank, and Arthur were living when these letters were written. Dr. Wallace had two children by his first wife, who are referred to by their abbreviated names of Raw and Croy. He refers to his own borthers, the sons of his mother, as George and Ned. "Molly" was his petname for his mother.
He and a Hopkins classmate spent their holidays one summer as deckhands on a freighter on the Great Lakes: this explains his reference to his "life as a sailor." Other allusions relate to a visit which his mother and he made to England, France, and Germany during his summer holidays in 1913.
For the editor to have used a heavy hand upon these letters, cutting out personal allusions, and the expression of opinion and criticisms which later might have been modified would have been to rob them of much of their piquancy and human quality. This is why they are published as they were written.
Westmount P.Q. July, 1917.
Wells, Clifford Almon -- Correspondance.
Guerre mondiale, 1914-1918.
World War, 1914-1918 -- Personal narratives, Canadian.
|Title||From Montreal to Vimy Ridge and Beyond|
|Author||Wells, Lt. Clifford Almon|
|Publisher||George H. Doran|
|Published Place||New York|
|Library of Congress Control Number||17029626|