Presented here are the memories of one Canadian who made the pilgrimage to the Vimy Memorial. Without further ado, and with thanks to the author, Bonny Hoyer, please read. Private George Cunningham November 10th, 2013, I found myself quietly being regarded by a petite older woman on a bus in Paris, France. I smiled at... Continue Reading →
Barrington Rucker[i] appears to have had a sense of humour evident in his attestation papers when he enlisted with the Canadian Expeditionary Forces. Arriving from Virginia at Windsor, Ontario, he joined the 18th Battalion on February 15, 1915 and claimed his “Trade or Calling” was an “Orange Picker.” The officers assisting this man to enlist... Continue Reading →
Young’s Point, Ontario, is approximately 25-kilometers north-east of the City of Peterborough. Founded in 1825 and named after the first family to settle there, it is the south terminus of Curve Lake and a set of locks (No. 27) of the Trent-Severn Waterway connects it with the Ontonabee River which forms the Katchewanooka Lake. This... Continue Reading →
Introduction[i] A soldier of some ability and reputation joins the 111th Battalion at Galt, Ontario. As the 111th Battalion began to fill its ranks its composition was like that of the 1st and 2nd Contingent. Its demographics included a large proportion of men who were born in the British Isles, and of that there were... Continue Reading →
The Battle of St. Eloi Craters was the first "blooding" of the 18th Battalion as it took part of operations when the 2nd Canadian Division was tasked in the efforts to take possession of the craters. The Canadian Expeditionary Force Resource Group presents a video montage relating to this event. https://youtu.be/Z1udIgw3dow
As a civilian, the whole idea of experiencing combat is foreign to their experience. Watching intense war scenes in movies like Steven Speilberg’s Saving Private Ryan, or the gritty realism of Sam Mendes’ 1917 can capture aspect of combat, but not the visceral emotion and feeling an individual may have during engagements. War documentaries, such... Continue Reading →
Two photographs have striking similarities. The men are uniformed and look seriously, almost in admonishment, at the camera. Five hold swagger sticks and most of the men sport moustaches. If not for the captions on the photographs the sleeve brassards at the bottom left-hand jacket sleeve cuff would indicate what they all shared in common... Continue Reading →
WARNING: Some details in this post may be disturbing to readers. In a news clipping titled Letters from the Soldiers in the Paisely Advocate dated October 16, 1918, Private Edgar Joseph McAfee writes in it, “Let me know in your next letter if Jack Dobson is still living. I helped carry him out of... Continue Reading →
4TH CANADIAN INFANTRY BRIGADE NARRATIVE OF OPERATIONS. SOUTH OF SCARPE 26TH, 27TH, AND 28TH AUGUST, 1918.[i] CONFERENCE, DIVISIONAL H.Q. 23RD AUGUST. During the afternoon the G.O.C.[ii] and Brigade Major attended a conference at Divisional Headquarters, ETRUN where proposed operations for the advance South of the SCARPE were outlined. BRIDGE CONFERENCE, BERNEVILLE, 23RD AUGUST. During the... Continue Reading →
Private Ira William Sumner had been, in peace time, a clerk for the London Life Insurance Company. With the advent of the war in August 1914, he felt that is duty was bound to a different path and enlisted with the 18th Battalion on April 10, 1915. This was very close to the departure of... Continue Reading →
Three buddies, aged 25, 27, and 31-years old, from Walkerton joined the 18th Battalion on the last two days of October 1914. They were from Walkerton, Ontario, and they would be distinguished as being three of the few “Originals” to serve the entire war with the Battalion. We have a unique perspective of their war... Continue Reading →
The photograph in the newspaper clipping is grainy, yet you can tell that the young man in it is smiling proudly, at ease, in his 7-button Canadian Expeditionary Forces uniform. The date of the photograph is unknown but is undoubtedly taken at some time prior to the September 1918 publication in the London Free Press.... Continue Reading →
John Taylor Dewar (left) with his older brother, William Robb Dewar (Right). Man in middle is unknown. My Great-Uncle, Private John Taylor Dewar, reg. no. 730016, died from wounds received near Telegraph Hill, south-east of Arras, France on April 3, 1918. He was 20-years old at the time and his death became an object memory... Continue Reading →
Christmas 102-years ago. The 18th Battalion was stationed in the Allner region of Germany. It had arrived December 17, 1918, and with the war’s end and the approach of Christmas the men of the 18th were going to be able to celebrate their first Christmas in peace since 1913. Below is the War Diary entry... Continue Reading →
Captain Frederick George Newton was an original member of the 18th Battalion when it was formed in the fall of 1914. His records indicate he joined the Battalion on December 28, 1914 and served with the Battalion until he was assigned to the 4th Field Company on October 21, 1917. During his service with the... Continue Reading →
The last in the 3-part series about Private Hugh Russell, reg. no. 54180, a British Home Child. Thanks to Kristen Den Hartog for this detailed account of this man. This helps us keep the memory of those that served and the variety of the backgrounds of the men who served with the 18th Battalion.
“We all sympathize with you in your great affliction…”
In Part 1 of Hugh Russell’s story (see also Part 2), I recounted Hugh’s early years and his arrival in Canada with the Barnardo’s organization in 1906. I mentioned, too, that his sister Ethel followed with the same organization in 1908, and that his brother, Robert, came in 1912. What prompted parents Thomas and Sarah Russell, the coppersmith and weaver from Belfast, to send their young children away? I haven’t quite got to the bottom of this, but I have been able to find out a little more about Ethel and Robert.
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Part 2. Kristen Den Hartog expands on the life and experience of this soldier with additional research and insight.
“It seems a person is in danger wherever he is.”
Last time, I told you about the early years of Hugh Willis Russell, who came to Canada at age 11 with the Barnardo’s organization, and landed in Wingham, Ontario, only to cross the ocean again in 1915 as a soldier. In January 1916, in a letter to young Graham Wray, the son of the farmer Hugh worked for, Hugh claimed war was “a great life,” and that soon he’d be able to “kill a lot of Germans.” But his enthusiasm for war quickly diminished.
It’s interesting to note that when Hugh first enlisted, he was described as having no distinguishing marks or tattoos, but at some point overseas, he had a horse’s head and a horseshoe tattooed on his forearm. His love of horses is evident in his letters home to Graham, some of which were published in the
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Kristen Den Hartog expands on the life and experience of this soldier with additional research and insight.
I’ve mentioned before that I’m currently working on a new book about WW1 soldiers and medical staff returning to Canada after the war. The book is non-fiction, though not family-related this time, however the research chops Tracy and I acquired writing The Cowkeeper’s Wish have come in extremely handy for this new project. Sometimes the stories are so fascinating I go down rabbit holes and disappear for great lengths of time.
So it went when I came across an article about a man named Hugh Russell. I was on a mission to find out more about shell shock — what we would now call PTSD — and how men grappled with it for years after the war was over. In a newspaper archive, I found a 1937 article about a veteran having gone missing from the farm he was working on near Wingham…
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With special thanks to Kristen Den Hartog who made me aware of this soldier. She is currently researching this soldier. Please reach out to her if you can assist her. The impact of physical and psychological injuries to the soldiers that served with the 18th Battalion will never be fully understood. These injuries were, however,... Continue Reading →