August 26th 1916
“A Tribute to our Noble Officers, Capt. E. S. Ayre, Lieuts. G & W Ayre”
As I am one of the survivors of the survivors of the battle of July 1st which, as you know, proved so devastating to our Regiment, and in which your gallant sons fell; and moreover being an observer and messenger in D. Co. over which Capt. Eric was O.C I feel it my duty to drop you a line to their memory, especially Capt. Eric.
I must confess I was not very well acquainted with Lieut. Gerald, as he was platoon officer in another Company; but the testimony of the men of his platoon who survived that day. He was cool and feared not the task. I was personally known to both, Lieut.W. Ayre and Capt. E.S.
Lieut. W. led his platoon in a most cheering and cool manner until fatally hit in the head by a shrapnel. I saw him fall, but he was dead before I reached him.
Furthermore, I must join with the other old boys in admiring the unique way in which Capt. Eric managed his Company on that fatal day. He was continually busy during preparations in seeing that every man had necessity and often times told us in his genteel way that we would make good on that day, and I am sure he had the confidence and high esteem of his men. On the morning of the advance, being near him all the time, I was deeply touched at the cool, reserved and fearless way he undertook that deadly task. He jumped on the fire-seep, and the last words I heard him say were “Now men go to it, come with me” and over he went leading old D. Co., as if on a demonstration in some quiet field.
Everything was in perfect order as we waded off through an overwhelming hail of machine gun bullets, accompanied by shrapnel. I rushed on with our good old Capt. and glancing around saw but a few men scattered about, but still going ahead; turning again I saw Capt. Eric fall, and rushing up to him saw his wound was fatal; but in the shadow of death, with the wave of his cane he urged his men forward. I was touched with his courage, and only then began to realize what was happening. He, with his brave cousins and comrades, has paid the supreme sacrifice, and at this game, we cannot tell who next of us will be called upon to pay the same debt.
We, although we hate to think of our loss in him, feel proud of Capt. Ayre, and moreover every man in his Company realized long before that day, that he was made of the stuff that makes a perfect gentleman, as well as a daring courageous soldier. On behalf of the old boys of his Company, who are pals with me at old game still, I must tender you my heartfelt condolence and deep sympathies in this, your great loss.
He is one we shall always honour; one whose deeds will travel down the history of Terra Nova. He died fearlessly and nobly, and we feel proud of him.
With deep regret, I am.
Source: COLL 158- 6.02, Centre for Newfoundland Studies Archives, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, NL