July 2014
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The 100ths are Soon upon Us

Posted By on July 25, 2014

Searching for the Great War 100 Years Later

Soldiers on the Western Front.

Soldiers on the Western Front.

“Some wars name themselves…This is the Great War. It names itself.”

Maclean’s Magazine, October 1914, p. 53

“Every intelligent person in the world knew that disaster was impending and knew no way to avoid it.”

H.G. Wells (Writer)

“…an old world of swords, lances and bugles would be shattered by the machine gun and the howitzer.”

Richard Holmes (Military Historian)

Poppy from the In Flanders Fields Museum, Ieper, Belgium.

Poppy from the In Flanders Fields Museum, Ieper, Belgium.

In each town and city, across many nations there are reminders of a difficult past centered on the Great War years 1914 – 1915 – 1916 – 1917 – 1918. Soon these 100th anniversaries will be upon us with many events, exhibitions, gatherings, and acts of remembrance reflecting upon a time that was not our best. How will we chose to remember these times?

There will be the personal stories of men and women who went to war, the stories of those left behind to wonder when, when, when…when will it be over? Then there are those whose anguish and desperation brought hardship to their days and yet they had the ability to rise each day and carry forth. What of those left behind to remember…or the children raised without a parent or parents..the families who lost one, two, three or more family members? What of the place names where these souls were lost caught in the tumult of this whirlwind? Have you been to Vimy…have you been to the waterfields of Passchendaele…have you stood at Maple Copse in the shadows amongst the trees and headstones of history?

The Waterfields: The battleground of Passchendaele.

The Waterfields: The battleground of Passchendaele.

The most effective way for any of us to have some understanding of what it is that this earlier generation encountered is to explore wherever and whatever we can. Is it a diary or a box of things left over from Great Grandfather’s past? Is it a Great War postcard addressed to your relative from someone you never heard of and yet the tone of the card carries a voice of familiarity? When you kneel upon the ground of the Somme and cast your eyes across the horizon towards another feature in the landscape what speaks to you? The view is more than what you see and hear it is also what you feel.

I have told many people about my travels across France and Flanders telling my audiences that if you have a chance to visit this now peaceful land it will provide gifts and legacies you will carry forever. The memories will be engrained in such a way that you too will want to share the stories of your experiences, your connections to the Great War. Some visitors, however, will not be sympathetic to the attempts at finding peace in these landscapes with their memorials, cemeteries and commemorations but still these individuals will have come away with a deeper conviction of their beliefs about a time that was not our best, but one that is equally worthy of constant consideration.

When searching for the Great War of 100 years ago you may not have to go too far. Here at home it is not far away. It may be in the churches or in an old building in town. It may be in an old house you walk past everyday where the news of a Great War loss was first heard by the family. It may be a city centre where the community gathered to hear of the armistice and celebrated into the night.

The War Memorial at Westwold, B.C., circa 2004.

The War Memorial at Westwold, B.C., circa 2004.

When visiting other communities see if you can locate their memorial, their commemoration of their town folk who did not return to see their community change. Where is it located? Was it easy to find? Was it where you thought it might be? Remember too that these community projects were filled with the contemporary intensity of knowing the many names recorded and of their families. During the unveilings many will have recalled when they heard, how they heard, where they heard these familiar names and each year afterwards they would continue to gather at this record thinking upon a time before the Great War when junior or Robbie sauntered along the road filled with the hopes and dreams of tomorrow not knowing of the years ahead 1914 – 1915 – 1916 – 1917 – 1918.

Change Your Stars…

Posted By on July 20, 2014

…and follow your feet…

Film clip from “A Knight’s Tale”: After changing his stars and following his feet home, Will (Heath Ledger) returns, after several years, to Cheapside, England to reunite with his father (Christopher Cazenove) who has become blind.

It seems a long while since I managed to find words to key together. Yet upon reflection of the many changes that have occurred over the last year and a half I again look inwardly, knowing all along what has been required. The idea has been there for a long while, yet the touch of the keys has been missing. Keys…those small black, plastic blocks with white letters that once allowed my fingers to clatter across the board penning a few lines of understanding together.

I am rested – I set my hands upon the board and the keys seem familiar again as I carve out these words from the confines of formerly hidden spaces. As I feel the goodness and warmth of my soul rise again the clatter from the desktop encourages me. I am here! I have not gone too far – I have just been away.

The last time I chose to share some understanding I wrote about “A Thousand Stars Away”, and once again it is the stars that kindle my heart and tell me to set in words what I have known I must do for so very long. Believe in yourself – no matter what obstacles are set in your path – stay true to your principles – flourish in your integrity. Keep your head held high and value the respect and support of your friends because they have and will stand beside you for many years to come. Know who you are and what you represent. Reflect upon your achievements and stay familiar with them as we often let our own past go in favour of something new.

And when it is time to wander along a new path, remember that it is possible to change your stars and to follow your feet home. The journey may take you in many directions yet – believe in your dreams – for no amount of knowledge can equal your path of imagination. It takes imagination for the wise to think of the questions and answers to pass on as knowledge. It takes imagination to think of solutions to complexities. It takes imagination to see that when one door closes it simply points you in another direction. It takes heart and courage to find a voice in the wilderness but with the stars above and your feet below one day you too will find your way home…home again.

The Piper of 1 Bn RIF, Tunisia, 78th Div – 8th Army.

Posted By on April 20, 2014

The Piper of 1 Bn RIF, Tunisia, 78th Div – 8th Army.

A Thousand Stars Away

Posted By on December 1, 2013

Talbot House, Poperinge, Belgium.

Talbot House, Poperinge, Belgium.

Visiting Talbot House 2013 

Sometimes it is worthwhile letting some time pass by. It’s an opportunity for better reflection and gathering those thoughts that have laced their way through our day until this moment when at long last it is time to sit down and put virtual type to virtual paper.

The most memorable visit on our recent sojourn to France and Flanders was a stop at Talbot House, Poperinge, Belgium. It was here that soldiers of the Great War were able to get away, even if momentarily, from the harsh realities of the frontlines in the Ypres Salient.

As I stand at the front of the building I look upwards to the sign dated 1915 – ? The last time I was here the building was covered with scaffolding but this time we are told of a side entrance whereby we gain entry into this wonderful site. It is filled, from the outset, with the hearts and souls of those who have passed through here from 1915 – 1918. It was here that soldiers gathered for a bit…and then returned to the scorched and twisted landscape…some never to pass this way again.



I was immediately taken with the house and its furnishings and signs. It is here that the Great War is at peace today. I remember climbing about the stairs, looking at the rooms and then to the stairs leading to the loft. The stairs were rather pitched and narrow, but still we managed to climb into the loft where church services continue to be performed.  After having watched, in another part of the building, a short film on Talbot House troop entertainments, we settled onto some chairs and it was here that our guide brought her words to us, creating an even greater sense of this place. “Twenty years ago there were veterans here. Their eyes, a thousand stars away. They don’t see you. They see other things”. (Annette, Camalou Tours) These words continue to remind me what Talbot House meant to those who visited during the Great War, and how their experiences have shaped some of us fortunate to have met a few of those witnesses to the war to end all wars.

Holier Ground Than Any. The loft at Talbot House.

Holier Ground Than Any. The loft at Talbot House.

Private Harry Patch died July 25, 2009 at the age of 111 years, 1 month, 1 week and 1 day. During the Great War he served with the 7th Battalion, Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry as an assistant gunner with the Lewis Gun section. Harry Patch was wounded September 22, 1917 at Passcehendale, during the Third Battle of Ypres.

Final Mural

Posted By on September 16, 2013

Heres a look at the final mural

In this version:

• Changed Metcalf’s socks to regimental tartan.
• Swapped the regimental and WW1 Canadian flag postions (Thank you 2Lt Shaw)
• Revised Jimmy’s upper body: Matched photo reference for shoulder width and head/upper body proportion
• Revised Jimmy’s face: Matched shadow color and value to other three VC winners.

Whew. I hope this is done!



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