Calgary Herald

DONALD FRASER (1882-1946)

was a Scottish immigrant who worked as a clerk at the Merchant’s Bank in Calgary. He enlisted in the 31st battalion of the Canadian Expedition­ary Force. He fought at St. Eloi Craters, the Somme, Vimy and Passchenda­ele, where he was wounded and sent home,


April 9, 1917 Vimy

As the zero hour of 5:30 a.m. approached, we came to life and gazed intently towards the German line. A terrific crash that resounded to the heavens heralded the attack. … A constant stream of 18-pounder shells was sent pouring down on to the enemy front line amid ear-splitting explosions and smashed and scattered the trench to the winds. Heavy shells would rock the earth and create enormous craters. The noise was bedlam. The Germans franticall­y fired their S.O.S. lights into the sky vainly calling to their guns for help. Lights of every hue in the rainbow flashed up from their line. Their trench and the vicinity was alive with fire and appeared a blazing inferno as the shell bursts spat out long tongues and jets of flame. Our eyes were glued in wonderment to the line and we felt that ungodly havoc was being wrought on the Hun. The shelling was so intense that the line was illuminate­d nearly all the time.

… When in line with Neuville St. Vaast bordering Guillermot trench the enemy sent over a few shells bursting a hundred yards behind us. At first we took them for whizbangs on account of their rapid flight and did not pay much attention, but as the range was being lessened (I) and a few others dropped into a shallow trench a little to the rear . …

I was on the point of climbing out of the trench when a shell with a dull pop burst on the parapet almost in my face. My breathing stopped at once. With mouth open I could neither breathe in nor out. Breathing was paralyzed. It was a peculiar sensation. In a flash I knew it was a gas shell and it completely fouled the air.

In a fraction of a second I had my respirator on and was breathing freely, but not before I caught sight of Porter on my left, who looked as if he was a goner and had not the strength to do anything. He was on the elderly side and I thought should not have been in this action. However, we were signalled at the moment to move on.

 ?? Photo of Donald Fraser courtesy,
Library and Archives Canada ??
Photo of Donald Fraser courtesy, Library and Archives Canada

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