October 2018
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All-Telling Messengers

Posted By on October 17, 2018

French soldiers of the Great War.

French soldiers of the Great War.
The faces of war – one wonders how many saw home again?

Two French Memorial Sites of the Great War

Several years ago, in company with an English friend, we were driven to several sites of conflict and memory. From place to place there was much to absorb and all the while I felt, Would I ever be able to find my way around these places? 

Time has passed and we have traveled several times since, across the paths of soldiers and citizens in search of their times, in search of their places. We have learned much about them and equally about ourselves. As we gathered more knowledge, more familiarity, we would leave the Western Front for the Gallipoli Peninsula. Here too we encountered paths of soldiers and citizens…and still there is more to learn, to see, feel…and experience.

Travels to sites of conflict leave their marks, their paths on our beings. It has been some while since I thought upon two French sites that I have visited and how they were to effect my time and sense of place. Though many years have passed since the Great War, from which their creation necessarily arose, these sites remain all-telling messengers, holding the fallen witnesses of the war to end all wars…the Great War for civilization.

Notre Dame de Lorette

Notre Dame de Lorette

Notre Dame de Lorette. The largest French Cemetery of the Great War. To this day I recall my feelings and first impressions of this haunting and brooding site.
(P. Ferguson image, September 2005)

The French National Memorial and Necropolis is the resting place of 40,000 identified and unknown Great War French soldiers. Located on high ground, the site, during the Great War, was the focus of much fighting between October 1914 and October 1915. Some 120,000 soldiers from both sides were killed in the intense and bitter fighting for the ridge. Designed by Louis-Marie and Jacques Cordonnier the basilica and memorial buildings were built between 1921 and 1927. The site’s haunting embrace of the ridge and land looks out across the Douai Plain and the city of Arras.

Louis Marie Cordonnier

Architect Louis Marie Cordonnier, together with his son Jacques, were the designers of the Notre Dame de Lorette memorial site.
(Wiki Commons image)

Cordonnier was also instrumental in the reconstruction of French civic and church architecture destroyed during the Great War.

The French Memorial (Ossuary) and Cemetery at Gallipoli

At long last, in 2012, a dream came true to visit the Gallipoli Peninsula. Inspired by Peter Weir’s film Gallipoli I had learned Mr. Weir traveled to the site where no doubt he learned much from this landscape. Now, in 2012, we were led by our hosts, Peter Hart of the Imperial War Museum and Roger Chapman. We wandered a new world of paths carved by soldiers from the beaches to the ridges. While there we learned much about the Turkish soldier and the Allied soldiers who came here. British, Australian, New Zealanders, Newfoundlanders and French.

French memorial and Cemetery Gallipoli.

The French Memorial (Ossuary) and Cemetery at Gallipoli.
(P. Ferguson image, June 2012)

Surprisingly the French presence on Galipoli has been overshadowed. When one learns that there were nearly as many French soldiers killed here as ANZACs (8,141 Australians killed – 7,447 New Zealanders killed) it is astonishing that these sons of France and French Colonial Africa sit among the shadows of other nations on the Peninsula or worse have been forgotten by distance and interest. Located at Morto Bay, Seddülbahir this memorial site includes 3,236 graves and four ossuaries containing the remains of 12,000 unidentified soldiers.

Let us hope that more interest will be taken in the Corps Expéditionnaire d’Orient.

October Evening in Chilliwack

Posted By on October 7, 2018

The parents of James Cleland Richardson. Mary and David Richardson of Chilliwack.

Mary and David Richardson. Parents of Piper James Cleland Richardson V.C.
(Chilliwack Progress, August 20, 1947, p. 6)

As Families Do

An October evening in Chilliwack. The Richardson family, mother and father, family – without the sounds of overseas. Perhaps within their chairs, cups of tea and Dundee cake. The crackle from a fireplace and as families do talking of their day. Yet within their speak, the name of one – James – James Cleland – piper, soldier, son – memories, stories – questions kept to self. And then those concerns shared in the company of one and other, David and Mary, parents to James keeping their family assured.

As the fire grows dim, one more log for warmth. One more cup of tea, another slice…this day 8 October 1916, without the sounds of overseas.

Kin and Kindling

Posted By on September 23, 2018

Poppy cross at St. George's Memorial Church, Ieper (Ypres), Belgium. (P. Ferguson image, August 2018)

Poppy cross at St. George’s Memorial Church, Ieper (Ypres), Belgium.
(P. Ferguson image, August 2018)

…each day

It’s about loss…a familiar theme to the tracks of war…along the fields, the woods, the towns. Too many memorials…nearly one per town…too many headstones…row on row… too many lives…so many /so few memories. Rust, blood and petals.

Repeatedly I remind myself that my visits to this peace were once the chaos of another’s every day. I walk alongside the landscapes once familiar to ancestors. They are gone now…the soldiers – their mothers, their fathers, from either side of many languages.

And though I will remember each day these paths of kin and kindling I understand that this generation, I speak, has provided notes to my letters to my words. I can never repay them other than to continue walking this crimson ground to find their souls, their place, their peace.

Rest now dear brother, dear sister…each day.


…and because loss means something different to each of us…

51st (Highland) Division Memorial (1924)

Posted By on September 3, 2018

The 51st (Highland) Division Memorial near Y Ravine. (P. Ferguson image August 2018)

The 51st (Highland) Division Memorial near Y Ravine.
(P. Ferguson image, 9 August 2018)

Friends are good on the day of battle

Located near to Y Ravine, within the present day Newfoundland Park, the 51st Division Memorial commemorates their success during the Battle of the Ancre 13 November 1916. The memorial project was aided by the good work of  Lieutenant Colonel Nangle, the former Roman Catholic padre of the Newfoundland Regiment. Nangle was instrumental in the creation of the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial and when issues arose to site the 51st Memorial, due to poor ground, Nangle offered a position where the memorial would overlook the forked gully of Y Ravine, facing east towards the village of Beaumont-Hamel.

Approaching the 51st (Highland) Division Memorial near Y Ravine. (P. Ferguson image August 2018)

Approaching the 51st (Highland) Division Memorial near Y Ravine.
(P. Ferguson image, 9 August 2018)

George Henry Paulin was chosen as the memorial’s sculptor and the model for the statue was Company Sergeant Major Bob Rowan of the Glasgow Highlanders. However, for the face of the statue, Paulin chose to use that of his brother Charles Paulin. The statue was placed atop a pyramid of Rubislaw granite that came from Garden & Company of Aberdeen, Scotland.

The Gaelic inscription on the 51st Memorial, "La a 'Blair s'math n Cairdean (Friends are good on the day of battle)."

The Gaelic inscription on the 51st Memorial, LA A’ BHLAIR S MATH NA CAIRDEAN (Friends are good on the day of battle).
(P. Ferguson image, 9 August 2018)

Unveiled on 28 September 1924 by Ferdinand Foch the former Allied Supreme Commander, the memorial was dedicated by a Reverend Sinclair who served as a Chaplain within the Division.  During the dedication Flowers of the Forest was played by the pipers of the 2nd Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.

Individuals Mentioned:

Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Matthew Mary Nangle was ordained in 1913 and served throughout the Great War with the Newfoundland Regiment. In 1917 Nangle returned to St. John’s, Newfoundland where he delivered lectures about his experiences on the front-lines, whilst encouraging others to enlist. After the war Nangle was chosen Director of War Graves, Registration, Enquiries and Memorials and was Newfoundland’s representative to the Imperial War Graves Commission, London. In 1926 Nangle left the priesthood and emigrate to Rhodesia where he married and became a farmer and politician. Nangle died in 1972.

George Henry Paulin attended the Edinburgh College of Art and received his Diploma in Sculpture in 1912. He later attended L’Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris and the spent four years in Florence at his own studio. Trooper Paulin served during the Great War with the Lothians and Border Horse but was discharged after being trampled by a horse. Captain Paulin next enlisted in the Royal Flying Corps serving as an Observer and subsequently joined the Royal Naval Air Service in January 1918. Paulin was often employed with Military Intelligence. Following the war Paulin established a Glasgow studio, later moving to London. During the Second World War Paulin attempted to rejoin the services but was rejected. Undeterred, Paulin served the war effort working in precision engineering at a munitions factory and subsequently joined a camouflage section. Paulin’s London studio was destroyed during the Blitz. He died in 1972.

Company Sergeant Bob Rowan was probably awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal during the Great War. It is interesting to note that Rowan’s unit was not part of the 51st Highland Division.

Charles Ross Paulin was a 2nd Lieutenant in the Indian Reserve. He died in Lucknow, India 18 February, 1916 and is commemorated on the Dollar Academy Memorial, Kirkcudbright, Scotland. His death is not recorded by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Ferdinand Jean Marie Foch was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Armies 26 March 1918. On 11 November 1918 Foch accepted a request from German forces for an armistice. Afterwards Foch advocated for terms that would make Germany unable to pose a threat to France ever again. Foch believed the terms of the Treat of Versailles, signed 28 June 1919, were too lenient on Germany. Foch’s prophetic remark, This is not a peace. It is an armistice for twenty years.

Reverend P. Sinclair DSO served with the 51st Highland Division attached to the artillery and frequently with various field ambulances. Sinclair, who was once wounded, was taken prisoner of war during the March offensive when he was captured at Doigines, 21 March 1918. His final rank was Colonel.

Link to the Great War units of the 51st (Highland) Division.

…and now we have been

Posted By on August 19, 2018

Woolen poppy upon the Menin Gate Memorial.

Woollen poppy upon the Menin Gate Memorial.
British Legion Great Pilgrimage 1928-2018.
(P. Ferguson image, 8 August 2018)

Thread Fourteen

…and now we have been…and we have returned.

The landscapes of France and Flanders…London…have offered of themselves…their connections to us. We have rediscovered, found, observed and, above all, we have become connected. In finding the threads between the thimbles and needles we have bore witness the fabric of history…perhaps patchwork…but ours for all time.

There will be more visits, more patches to find. Some pieces will be easy paths of discovery – the information presented to us, others will only be revealed through our searching. In assembling these pieces each stitch becomes our own. The global quilt of history is there for all to see, but it is for you to discover how it is made.

…and now we have been… Words not lost upon us. We are well, we are safe, we are not hurt. Unlike so much of what we study…we have returned.