Part 3: A WW1 Barnardo’s Boy

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.

The Cowkeeper's Wish

“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.

This passport picture of my grandmother, Doris Deverill, comes to mind as I work on Ethel’s story. Doris was the inspiration for The Cowkeeper’s Wish, and came to Canada in the care of a woman who became like a mother to her. Doris’s parents had died, and if…

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Part Two: A WW1 Barnardo’s Boy

Part 2. Kristen Den Hartog expands on the life and experience of this soldier with additional research and insight.

The Cowkeeper's Wish

“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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Part 1: A WW1 Barnardo’s Boy

Kristen Den Hartog expands on the life and experience of this soldier with additional research and insight.

The Cowkeeper's Wish

Wingham, Ontario, around 1910, courtesy McCord Museum

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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What’s In a Name?

History and memory can be tenuous. As time passes and the source of history - the people who experienced the events - fade with each death. With each passing year after an event, be it small or world shaping, there is a loss of the source of information about the event. There are books, archives,... Continue Reading →

The First to Die

With thanks to Patrick Dennis, Colonel (RET’D), OMM, CD who reached out to me and pointed me in the right direction. His work to inform us about the role of conscription can be best appreciated by his book, “Reluctant Warriors: Canadian Conscripts in the Great War” Without his help and his work my interest and... Continue Reading →

New Blog Header Image

Thanks for Peter Moogk for reaching out to me we have another moment if the 18th Battalion's history captured and shared. This image shows the officers of "C" Company in September 1915 at West Sandling. To put that month in context, the Battalion left for England on the night of the 14th and had been... Continue Reading →

“…because life in the trenches was less irksome and monotonous and no more beastly than in places like Bouvigny Huts”

Bouvigny Huts. Bouvigny Huts. Those two words may have spelled mixed feelings with the Battalion. This would be the first time they ware billeted there but other battalions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force reported the conditions for this facility in the rear that “…life in the trenches was less irksome and monotonous and no more... Continue Reading →

Two Men. Two Scouts. One Raid.

On the night of July 26/27 men of the 18th Battalion carried out a “minor trench raid”. The weather was “Fine but dull”[i] on that day. In that raid were two men, originals with the Battalion, who both have quite different stories. Private Forrester Private Alfred Forrester, reg. no. 53648[ii] war service started out rather... Continue Reading →

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