Thursday, July 1, 2010

Robert John Edwards

        In the collection of the London Room, London Public Library.

Robert John Edwards #190186 was born on March 2, 1892 in the County of Suffolk, England. He died in London, Ontario January 25, 1977. He was a well know maker of stained glass windows in the London area. He joined the Canadian expeditionary Force on March 22, 1916. At the time he was living in Union, Elgin County, Ontario.

                                     Library and Archives Canada

 “I enlisted on the 22nd. March 1916. My training, what little I had, was in St. Thomas- I had very little in Canada. I had some at the ranges over London west at the Coves. They picked me out there as a sniper, my being a crack shot, and they sent me on a six weeks training course in England. There was 12 men in the group- the crack shots. I joined the 1st. Battalion in the Second Battle of the Somme. That’s where I got my initiation. That was October, 1916.

We would be back of our trenches- behind them. We would hide anywhere - I can remember being in a hollow tree one time. Another time I got up into an old house and I crawled up and sniped from the top of a big square chimney.

Half a mile down there might be another sniper, then we would cover the area facing us. We had telescopic sights right on the rifle. We would be in our cubbyhole all day- maybe all night and move early in the morning. We’d take our food along- whatever we had- and we might sit all day without firing. Of course, when we fired we sort of exposed ourselves to a certain extent, but just a single shot didn’t make much noise because there was firing all along the line.
             1st. Battalion's #2 Scout Platoon Library and Archives Canada

(Vimy Ridge) It was mostly sniping and observation. You’d have a big map and mark out these places on the map and get your locations and distances and then memorize them so you’d really know where you were shooting. As a sniper you’d carry a long distance. In some instances we might even be a few hundred yards behind the lines. We used Lee-Enfields. I took the Ross (1) to France with me but exchanged it for a Lee-Enfield. They (the Rosses) were too big and clumsy for sniping. I remember once, I picked out a German sniping post. I finally got a range on that and it wasn’t very long before they soon disappeared somewhere. They knew that somebody had got track of them so they soon disappeared. I remember all through the winter of 1916, I was in a place called Soucez, right in the Souchez Valley, back of Vimy ridge- I sniped there all that winter in 1916 and the spring of ‘17. The Battalion was in the line, but the line was very quiet, other than the sniping. There was about a dozen snipers in the battalion- three from each company. As a sniper we got out of a lot of fatigues. I’ve seen me going into the line and taking up a position on a step and stay there all day and all night and maybe never fire a shot. We used a telescopic sight on the rifle. We were shooting (the target) may have been three or four hundred yards, but we knew the distance. We had previously checked out the potential targets on a map so we knew the exact distance of each. We spent the winter with the battalion training, shooting, bombing with the Mills bomb and keeping in shape.”(2)

(1) The Ross Rifle was Sir Sam Hugh’s baby. The problem with it was that it tended to jam at absolutely the worst moments in a fire fight, and became nothing more than an expensive club.
(2) Interviews by William G. McKenzie with veterans of the 1st. Battalion in the London Room, London Public Library.

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