He is Still Living

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 →

He Was a Miller

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

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 →

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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