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Mail Tribune 100

Jan. 21, 1916


The difference between shingling house roofs in Medford and fighting Austrians in Europe prompted "Billy" Erskine, who once enjoyed the former employment here, but who went to the war and got shot and now lies in a London hospital, to write to his friend, Harry Rheinerberg, a plumber of this city, and tell him about some of his thrilling experiences while enjoying the war game.

Erskine left Medford about two years ago, going to Canada. In that country he heard the call of the big noise in Europe and at once enlisted to fight for the cause of the Britons. He became a cavalryman and had many experiences at the front that taught him the vast difference between peaceable industrial pursuits and the grim occupation of slaughtering his brothers with shot and shell, poisonous gas and liquid fire. 

In a terrific charge into the enemy's lines, where the lightning flashes of death-dealing missiles of murder were blinding both man and beast, a shell killed Billy Erskine's horse under him and tore a few pounds of flesh and bone from his body between the shoulder blade and the hip.

Men and horses screamed and pitched and fought and struggled all about the wounded and dying, the cursing and praying, the men of fierce frenzy and fighting fury, while Billy lay there, unable to move or call, or be heard, if he had the strength to call, watching the frozen field of battle being drenched with blood. There he saw, in all their ghastliness, the horrors of wanton war on the one hand, and loyal sacrifices on the other.

However, Erskine survived the battle, was picked up, received first aid and is now recovering a London hospital. His letter to Rheinerberg indicates that he yet has enough of the fighting spirit in him to go back to the front and stay until the fatal moment comes for him, too.