Family of Soldiers
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Family of Soldiers
Three brothers leave the farm and head into battle
Roy Macfie and his brothers, Arthur and John were farm boys from Parry Sound, Ontario. When the First World War broke out in 1914, they all wanted to enlist but they knew that they were also needed on the farm. Food production was essential to the war effort, but farm hands were scarce.
Roy Macfie served for four years in Europe during the First World War, much of the time engulfed in mud and filth, in trenches filled with rats, lice, and rotting bodies. (Courtesy of the Macfie family)
Roy Macfie served for four years in Europe during the First World War, much of the time engulfed in mud and filth, in trenches filled with rats, lice, and rotting bodies. (Courtesy of the Macfie family)

The two older Macfies decided to sign up for the same battalion. But John was kept back, to help his little brother, Norman, and his three sisters on the family farm.

Roy wrote a painful letter to his father before heading off to war.

"I don't think I have enough worldly goods to bother making a will, or anything like that. I think you will know what to do if I don't come back. I'll leave the colts to John and the rest you can put onto the farm."

When the Macfie brothers enlisted near the beginning of the war, Canada had virtually no professional army. Most recruits were young, inexperienced, poorly trained and badly equipped. The daily misery of trench warfare would be their teacher.

Roy Macfie spent the next four years engulfed in mud and filth, in trenches filled with rats, lice, and rotting bodies.

"There is a new story going around every few days about where we are going. I don't care where it is as long as there is no mud," wrote Roy.
Nineteen-year-old John Macfie, a farm boy from Parry Sound, Ontario, was killed during his first battle in the First World War. (Courtesy of the Macfie family)
Nineteen-year-old John Macfie, a farm boy from Parry Sound, Ontario, was killed during his first battle in the First World War. (Courtesy of the Macfie family)

John Macfie waited patiently for two years to join his brothers. By the time he arrived in Europe, Arthur had already been wounded and John joined Roy's battalion at the front. John wrote to his sister, Gladys:

"Dear Gladys: We have got up to our battalion all right, have been here four or five days. I was up to the trenches for one day. I saw Roy and will be able to see him quite often. He seems to be toughing it good. He looks just as fat as ever."

It was Johns first and last letter from the front. The 19-year-old was killed in his first battle. His brother, Arthur wrote home:

"Dear Mother and Father: This will be a terrible shock for you folk, as you will hardly have heard that John was in France before you would get the word. But if he has gone now, it was because he didnt hang back any. And I know that you would sooner hear the "killed in action" than to ever hear that a Macfie hung back."

Roy Macfie came home safe and sound.

His brother Arthur also returned from the front, only to be killed a few months later in an explosion, while clearing stumps.

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