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The Water Diviner and the Search for Canadian Great War Stories

Posted By on August 29, 2015

16th Canadian Machine Gun Company. The water and mud of Passchendaele.

16th Canadian Machine Gun Company. The water and mud of Passchendaele.

Finding Water – Finding Story

When I was young, some forty years ago, I came to British Columbia and lived near a place that my maternal family had called home since the 1860s. Having lived in many places, across Canada and overseas, this new place of generational connection was foreign to me. Yet I wanted familiarity – a sense of connection and slowly I found my place and began to listen to the voices that echoed the knowledge of my ancestors. Though the stories were largely family centric and especially spoke of their logging and hunting history, they spoke on occasion of neighbours, friends and characters – a rich culture of storytelling – and so I listened…

Once upon a time…

I recall some chatter about divining wells the art of walking the lay of the land, in search or perhaps a feeling for finding that vital liquid known to us as water. I recall at least one instance of watching a diviner set upon their work attempting to make me a believer. However, belief was not the issue, curiosity held me steadfast and being some 10 years of age this appeared to be magic. We may not have found water that day, and fortunately I did not have to dig a really big hole in the ground, but the story and memories remain with me – the day I spent a couple of hours climbing about the hillside of my former home following the water magician.

Many years later – 2014…Russell Crowe has found the story of a diviner whose young family is part of the Australian story of Gallipoli. Once again I am turned to the fine film productions that bring Australia’s Great War story to life, Gallipoli (1981), ANZACS (1985), The Light Horsemen (1987), Beneath Hill 60 (2010) and The Water Diviner (2014).

The Water Diviner (Fear of God Films).

Russell Crowe, The Water Diviner (Fear of God Films) 2014.

As in all my wanderings in search of this history for my home, Canada, and a way to bring it forward for eager people to see, I cannot help but ask myself where is this history in our deliveries? Apart from the film Passchendaele (2008) there has been a dearth in discovering our own stories. Many Canadian families speak of their connection to the days of the Great War – proud of their association, recalling their loved ones, or in many instances speaking of relatives they never met, whose service continues to be passed to the next generation as deep and rooted connection to family.

Saving Private Ryan (1998). James Francis Ryan with family at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial.

Saving Private Ryan (1998). James Francis Ryan with family at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. Though, from the U.S.A., and not Great War related the image clearly shows the generational family in support of their loved one.

Today, however, where do we find our own national or provincial history of these days that jaggedly shaped the 20th Century without care for who it affected? This connection to Canada’s Great War is all around us – and we should be and can be inspired by Australia’s willingness to connect to this difficult past. In that regard The Water Diviner is a wake-up call to remind us all that the first step towards recognizing these times is for all of us to become empathetic to this shared past – this legacy that is ours to share both the good and the bad. History cannot be changed nor the pitfalls of war, but Canada’s stories are still to be found – the challenge is to find those who will speak and provide the voice of leadership and for us to listen – to remember – to preserve – a record of these time through exhibits, histories, collections and film.

It is like the water diviner on my hilltop an opportunity to connect to family, friends and characters and yes it can be magic – I have that feeling!

There and Back Again

Posted By on August 22, 2015

British Columbia's Eric Valentine Gordon. Scholar, Soldier, and Professor.

British Columbia’s Eric Valentine Gordon. Scholar, Soldier, and Professor.

Eric Valentine Gordon

I can imagine them gathered around a table perhaps with a jug of ale, mead or warm cider. Finger foods, breads, meats and good conversation abound in tales of great imagination possibly anchored in some old tale of Norse or other. What brought them together…a common interest to share and then so many years later, so many tales, so many readings these stories released as films that I enjoy watching time and time again or the books I have returned to re-reading them with renewed imagination. What pray tell can these wanderings of tales of old could I be reckoning with?

I return again to Tolkien and his hobbits and rings, towers and kings, orcs and wizards. I have written before of Tolkien’s Great War and now I add his friend and Canadian soldier, Eric Valentine Gordon. Born in Salmon Arm, B.C. in 1896 Gordon was a student when he enlisted into the Canadian Field Artillery at Shorncliffe Camp, England, 11 August 1916. Gordon, service number 1260262 was, at the time of his enlistment, a student at University College, Oxford.

I originally found Mr. Gordon’s name amongst those Rhodes Scholars that I had previously researched with Great War service and was pleased to find Gordon’s C.E.F. record there among his brethren. Although troubled since childhood with asthma the condition did not stop Gordon from enlisting into the C.E.F., though it was soon apparent that this malady would take its toll and he was discharged in November 1916. For the good Mr. Gordon there would be no trenches or dire landscapes as witnessed by Tolkien.

J.R.R. Tolkien in 1916. A great friend of E.V. Gordon.

J.R.R. Tolkien in 1916. A great friend of E.V. Gordon.

There are many stories of those who served in the trenches and saw action at the familiar place names of the Great War. There are fewer stories though about those who were discharged due to medical disabilities and other reasons. I think upon those who did all they could to serve and am reminded of what must have been a rather small group of brothers the H.R.V.C., (the Vancouver based Honorably Rejected Volunteers of Canada) who had tried to enlist and for whatever reason were unable to serve despite their great desire. The H.R.V.C. had insignia, a lapel pin similar to those issued by the Canadian Patriotic Fund, or similarly the Silver War Badge. There were many other insignias produced at this time and all were important distinguishing marks to be worn during these times of conflict.

It is true that there were antagonists who harassed those they thought should be in uniform, Why are you not serving your country? and who at times distributed white feathers, representative of cowardice, to those they deemed were not doing their bit. Having actually seen an original feather and accompanying note it is very much another astonishing symbol representative of a complex time.

These pins, many subject to punishment if worn unlawfully, marked the man as one who had served or attempted to serve and displayed to potential antagonists that they had attempted to serve the cause or had been discharged from active service.

Returning to the good Mr. Gordon, I was inspired to learn, that he had worked with Tolkien and the two became great friends, who perhaps shared stories that led to the creation of that famed series of books now further immortalized by Peter Jackson.

Gordon, “Being no longer physically fit for war service” returned to school. He had attended Victoria College and McGill University prior to the Great War and afterwards taught at Leeds University 1922 – 1931 and Manchester University until his death in 1938. Gordon worked with Tolkien on A Middle English Vocabulary and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Together they created the Viking Club where Icelandic sagas of old were read, and amongst friends and faculty beer was consumed. Together Gordon and Tolkien enjoyed the creation of Anglo-Saxon songs that were later privately published as Songs for Philologists.

Gordon’s wife Ida later became a visiting professor at the University of Victoria in 1970. Their daughter Bridget  MacKenize, a lecturer in old Norse at the University of Glasgow, inherited several personal papers and books related to the friendship of her father and Tolkien. These documents were purchased by the Special Collections department of the University of Leeds. The University’s catalog description records, “The six letters, 11 manuscripts and two books include a copy of the extremely rare Songs for the Philologists, penned by Tolkien, Gordon and others, and a first edition of The Hobbit dedicated by its author to Gordon, his wife and young children.”

For me this research of friendship has taken me there and back again from re-reading The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings series, re-watching Jackson’s interpretations of these journeys and to my Alma Mater, the University of Victoria. I see them all, the characters, Gandalf and Bilbo, Frodo and Sam of Tolkien and Gordon’s great imagination and creativity, those who are quite “little fellow[s] in a wide world after all” and see that indeed there really is no such thing as little fellows. All peoples are unique in their gifts of sharing knowledge for all. Thank goodness.

We Are Parts of Many Things

Posted By on August 16, 2015

Notre Dame de Lorette. The largest French Cemetery of the Great War. To this day I recall my feelings of my first impressions. A site of great human impact.

Notre Dame de Lorette. The largest French Cemetery of the Great War. To this day I recall my feelings and first impressions. A site of great human impact.

A Journey and Study of Context

It was a curious thing I set out upon.  

Having traveled many times to London, England and ventured forth from various rail stations to different parts of the United Kingdom, I took on more and more the role of the observer of place. These built structures and landscapes were more than just single accomplishments of man and nature they were all interconnected, parts of many things.

To travel adds dimension to one’s soul, it takes us on journeys where there is much new to see, people to chat with, to learn from, experience and share. Yet what was that one curious thing I did and how did it add to my understanding of being parts of many things?

The pre-2014 main lobby of the Imperial War Museum. Large objects captivated the visitor.

The pre-2014 main lobby of the Imperial War Museum. Large objects captivated the visitor.

I return to the former exhibits (pre-2014) at the Imperial War Museum, London where I became caught in their interpretation of the Great War and the Second World War. It was here that upon entry you encountered the large “anchors” of those desperate times, the weapons of war, the tanks, and rockets, transport and other devices. These icons held visitors in place and set the tone for the building – what else did this hall of collected material hold?

The pre-2014 IWM hall leading to the Great War and Second World War displays. Strength in simplicity on a complex subject.

The pre-2014 IWM hall leading to the Great War and Second World War displays. Strength in simplicity on a complex subject.

So as I moved away from these stunningly large objects I walked down the hall towards the galleries that held the smaller objects of the time. There was, in the introductory hall of large images with their simple messages beside, the sympathetic awareness that considerable forethought was ascribed to the delivery of what was to be seen. We were made to feel in that hall – the emotions of conflict – we became aware that all were affected, we saw raw human emotion – in effect one part of many things. This introduction did not disappoint, and I realized that this was a cumulative effect, the entry way not thought without the next part, the introductory hall and so it would continue.

One exhibit from the IWM pre-2014 Great War galleries.

One exhibit from the IWM pre-2014 Great War galleries.

It was at the IWM that the curious thing I did was to record all of the exhibit items (several hundred pieces), whether objects or documents, images, art, or other in my own personal catalog. This could not be done in one go and took a few visits over a few trips to accomplish but this diary of inclusion started a passion within me to seek beyond the obvious and to realize that single items although significant unto themselves were greater in a greater context. I could from this time appreciate those who had walked down this path to ask the questions that took us beyond the thing and delivered us to the why of history. Story upon story, connection to connection, objects with documents, oral history with art, all combined – all in a greater context – parts of many things.

Admiral Beatty artifacts including a naval signal about the armistice.

Admiral Beatty artifacts including a naval signal about the armistice.

This personal practice continues to evolve as I wander about the many sites of my interests. No matter what historic site, what museum, what context I am in I always think upon the more. What more is there that we can think about? What will take our interpretation to the next level? Will it be a photograph or sound, a phrase, a work of art, a moving image or an object – what brings it together that makes for a greater context – a greater understanding that connects the many to a past that previously felt unconnected?

The inclusion of natural history specimens in the IWM exhibit made for interesting conversation.

The inclusion of natural history specimens in the IWM exhibit made for interesting conversation.

As I walk the many sites of conflict that I have journeyed to, I see the reminders of that past and search for that image or feeling I can take back with me – to use one day in publications, exhibits, or film. I try to think beyond that which is in front of me, the weather, the wildlife, changes to this landscape. I reflect upon the silence, and the noise of the past. What did it sound like, what colour was this landscape? What was the litter of war?

Within the wooded area, the Hawthorne Crater, Somme.  A day of exploration and memory. Capturing our feelings about these sites, this sympathetic awareness or emotional archaeology delivers so much in interpretation.

Within the wooded area, the Hawthorne Crater, Somme. A day of exploration and memory. Capturing our feelings about these sites, this sympathetic awareness or emotional archaeology, delivers so much in our interpretations.

To apply this methodology to other historical subjects, apart from military history, has given me the greatest of pleasures. Forever caught in the desire to bring greater understanding to a subject, to attempt to harness the feel of a time, without implying what is to be felt may be difficult but it is the effort that makes it worth attempting. By being appreciative of all that may affect the what, the is, the why or the how allows me to grow as a historian, all the while being sensitive to the understanding that we are all parts of many things.

A Scottish Soldier

Posted By on August 7, 2015

Great War Canadian Scottish Battalions

There was a soldier, a Scottish soldier

Who wandered far away and soldiered far away…

 …And on a hillside, a Scottish hillside

You’ll see a piper play his soldier home…

The Scottish entertainer Andy Stewart (1933 – 1993) penned the lyrics A Scottish Soldier set to the traditional Scottish tune, Green Hills of Tyrol. In 1961 the song spent 36 weeks on the singles charts in the United Kingdom, and made its way onto the charts in South Africa, India, and the United States. Of interest to this writer is that the song reached Number 1 in Australia and New Zealand…and so too in Canada.

The 91st Regiment, like all pre-Great War Canadian militia units, recruited for the CEF.

The 91st Regiment, like all pre-Great War Canadian militia units, recruited for the CEF.

The Scottish soldier in Canada has been out and about for a very long time and today’s musings look back upon the formation of a new Canadian Army – 1914’s Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF). Prior to the creation of the CEF there were several Scottish units in the Canadian Militia including the 13th Scottish Light Dragoons, the 5th Royal Scots and several others. Of special militia note to the creation of the 16th Battalion CEF, four pre-war units heavily influenced the men and spirit of the 16th. At Camp Valcartier men from the 50th Regiment Gordon Highlanders (Victoria, BC), the 72nd Regiment Seaforth Highlanders (Vancouver, BC), the 79th Regiment Cameron Highlanders (Winnipeg, Manitoba) and the 91st Argyll Highlanders (Hamilton, Ontario) were brought together to create the 16th Battalion CEF.

The 5th Regiment (Royal Scots) of the Canadian Militia recruited for the 13th, 42nd and 73rd Battalions CEF.

The 5th Regiment (Royal Highlanders), of the Canadian Militia, recruited for the 13th, 42nd and 73rd Battalions CEF.

Of the 50 infantry battalions that served in France and Flanders, as part of the four Canadian Infantry Divisions, eight units were of Scottish background. There were many other Scottish Canadian units who, much to their great sadness, were broken up in England to provide reinforcements in the field. The many CEF Scottish Canadian units include:

Units that Served in France and Flanders

13th Canadian Infantry Battalion (Royal Highlanders)

Motto
Nemo Me Impune Lacessit
(Let No One Provoke Me With Impunity)

March Past
The Highland Laddie

Mobilization Headquarters: Camp Valcartier, Quebec.
Served in the First Canadian Division. Third Infantry Brigade.
France and Flanders: February 16, 1915 to March 16, 1919.

Three soldiers awarded the Victoria Cross
Lance Corporal Frederick Fisher (Posthumous. April 23, 1915. Near St. Julien, Belgium).
Private John Bernard Croak (Posthumous. August 8, 1918. Amiens, France).
Corporal Herman James Good (August 8, 1918. Hangard Wood, France).


15th Canadian Infantry Battalion (48th Highlanders)

Motto
Dileas Gu Brath
(Faithful Forever)

March Past
The Highland Laddie

Mobilization Headquarters: Camp Valcartier, Quebec.
Served in the First Canadian Division. Third Infantry Brigade.
France and Flanders: February 15, 1915 to March 23, 1919.


16th Canadian Infantry Battalion (Canadian Scottish)

Motto
Deas Gu Cath
(Ready for the Fray)

March Past
Scotland My Home*

Mobilization Headquarters: Camp Valcartier, Quebec.
Served in the First Canadian Division. Third Infantry Brigade.
France and Flanders: February 15, 1915 to March 24, 1919.

Four soldiers awarded the Victoria Cross
Piper James Cleland Richardson (Posthumous. October 8/9, 1916. Regina Trench, Somme, France).
William Johnstone Milne (Posthumous. Vimy, France  April 9, 1917).
Lance Corporal William Henry Metcalf MM and Bar (September 2, 1918. Arras, France).
Lieutenant Colonel Cyrus Wesley Peck DSO and Bar (September 2, 1918. Cagnicourt, France).

*There is some discussion that All the Blue Bonnets Are Over the Border may have been the 16th’s March Past. A WWII recording suggests that Blue Bonnets may have been adopted in 1918. Date confirmation of either March Past has yet to be confirmed.


42nd Canadian Infantry Battalion (Royal Highlanders)

Motto
Nemo Me Impune Lacessit
(Let No One Provoke Me With Impunity)

March Pasts
The Highland Laddie and Who Saw the Forty-Second

Mobilization Headquarters: Montreal, Quebec.
Served in the Third Canadian Division. Seventh Infantry Brigade.
France and Flanders: October 9, 1915 to February 7, 1919.

One Soldier awarded the Victoria Cross
Private Thomas Dinesen (August 12, 1918. Parvillers, France).


43rd Canadian Infantry Battalion (Cameron Highlanders)

Motto
Ullamh
(Ready)

March Past
Piobaireacchd of Donald Dhub

Mobilization Headquarters: Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Served in the Third Canadian Division. Ninth Infantry Brigade.
France and Flanders: February 22, 1916 to February 10, 1919.

One soldier awarded the Victoria Cross
Lieutenant Robert Shankland DCM (October 26, 1917. Passchendaele, Belgium).


72nd Canadian Infantry Battalion (Seaforth Highlanders)

Motto
Cuidich’n Rich
(Help the King)

March Past
Scotland the Brave

Mobilization Headquarters: Vancouver, British Columbia.
Served in the Fourth Canadian Division. Twelfth Infantry Brigade.
France and Flanders: August 13, 1916 to May 5, 1919.


73rd Canadian Infantry Battalion (Royal Highlanders)

Motto
Nemo Me Impune Lacessit
(Let No One Provoke Me With Impunity)

March Past
The Highland Laddie

Mobilization Headquarters: Montreal, Quebec.
Served in the Fourth Canadian Division. Twelfth Infantry Brigade.
France and Flanders: August 13, 1916 to April 19, 1917 when disbanded.
Men from the unit transferred to the 13th / 42nd / 85th Canadian Infantry Battalions.


85th Canadian Infantry Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders)

Motto
Rex Vocat
(King Calls)

March Past
The Highland Laddie

Mobilization Headquarters: Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Served in the Fourth Canadian Division. Twelfth Infantry Brigade.
France and Flanders: February 10, 1917 to May 4, 1919.


Other Numbered Infantry Battalions of the CEF

17th Canadian Infantry Battalion (Seaforth Highlanders)

Motto
Cuidich’n Rich
(Help the King)

March Past
Piobaireacchd of Donald Dhub

Mobilization Headquarters: Camp Valcartier, Quebec.
One of four battalions absorbed into the Seventeenth Reserve Battalion.


67th Canadian Infantry Battalion (Western Scots)

Motto
Sabaid
(Fight)

March Past
All the Blue Bonnets Are Over the Border

Mobilization Headquarters: Victoria, British Columbia
Served in France and Flanders, not as infantry, but as the 67th Pioneer Battalion and later the 4th Pioneer Battalion of the Fourth Canadian Infantry Division.


92nd Canadian Infantry Battalion (48th Highlanders)

Motto
Dileas Gu Brath
(Faithful Forever)

March Past
The Highland Laddie

Mobilization Headquarters: Toronto, Ontario.
One of six battalions absorbed into the Fifth Reserve Battalion.


96th Canadian Infantry Battalion (Canadian Highlanders)

No Motto

March Past
Lass O’Gowrie

Mobilization Headquarters: Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
Absorbed by the 92nd Canadian Infantry Battalion.


105th Canadian Infantry Battalion (Prince Edward Island Highlanders)

No Motto

March Past
Unknown

Mobilization Headquarters: Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.
Absorbed into the 104th Canadian Infantry Battalion subsequently one of five battalions absorbed into the Thirteenth Reserve Battalion.


113th Canadian Infantry Battalion (Lethbridge Highlanders)

No Motto

March Past
All the Blue Bonnets Are Over the Border

Mobilization Headquarters: Lethbridge, Alberta.
One of nine battalions absorbed into the Seventeenth Reserve Battalion.


134th Canadian Infantry Battalion (48th Highlanders)

Motto
Dileas Gu Brath
(Faithful Forever)

March Past
The Highland Laddie

Mobilization Headquarters: Toronto, Ontario.
Part of the Fifth Canadian Division. Thirteenth Infantry Brigade. Division did not serve in France and Flanders. One of thirteen battalions absorbed into the Twelfth Reserve Battalion.


154th Canadian Infantry Battalion (Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders)

Motto
No Motto
March Past
The Highland Laddie and Bonnie Dundee

Mobilization Headquarter: Cornwall, Ontario.

One of nine battalions absorbed into the Sixth Reserve Battalion.


173rd Canadian Infantry Battalion (Canadian Highlanders)

Motto
Al Bainn Gu Brath
(Scotland Forever)

March Past
Bonnie Dundee

Mobilization Headquarters: Hamilton, Ontario.
One of five battalions absorbed into the Second Reserve Battalion.


174th Canadian Infantry Battalion (Cameron Highlanders)

Motto
Ullamh
(Ready)

March Past
Unknown

Mobilization Headquarters: Winnipeg, Manitoba.
One of four battalions absorbed into  the Fourteenth Reserve Battalion.


179th Canadian Infantry Battalion (Cameron Highlanders)

No Motto

March Past
Piobaireacchd of Donald Dhub

Mobilization Headquarters: Winnipeg, Manitoba.
One of four battalions absorbed into the Fourteenth Reserve Battalion and nine battalions absorbed into the Seventeenth Reserve Battalion.


185th Canadian Infantry Battalion (Cape Breton Highlanders)

Motto
Rex Vocat
(King Calls)

March Past
All the Blue Bonnets Are Over the Border

Mobilization Headquarters: Broughton, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.
Part of the Fifth Canadian Division. Thirteenth Infantry Brigade. Division did not serve in France and Flanders. One of nine battalions absorbed into the Seventeenth Reserve Battalion.


193rd Canadian Infantry Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders)

Motto
Rex Vocat
(King Calls)

March Past
Scotland the Brave

Mobilization Headquarters: Truro, Nova Scotia.
One of nine Battalions absorbed into the Seventeenth Reserve Battalion.


194th Canadian Infantry Battalion (Edmonton Highlanders)

No Motto

March Past
All the Blue Bonnets Are Over the Border

Mobilization Headquarters: Edmonton, Alberta.
One of eleven battalions absorbed into the Ninth Reserve Battalion and one of nine battalions absorbed into  the Twenty-First Reserve Battalion.


219th Canadian Infantry Battalion (Highland Battalion)

Motto
Siol Na Fear Fearail
(Breed of Manly Men)

March Past
Unknown

Mobilization Headquarters: Aldershot, Nova Scotia.
One of nine battalions absorbed into the Seventeenth Reserve Battalion.


231st Canadian Infantry Battalion (Seaforth Highlanders)

Motto
Cuidich’n Rich
(Help the King)

March Past
Unknown

Mobilization Headquarters: Vancouver, British Columbia.
One of four battalions absorbed into the First Reserve Battalion and three battalions absorbed into the Twenty-Fourth Reserve Battalion.


236th Canadian Infantry Battalion (New Brunswick Kilties / MacLean Kilties of America)

Motto
Nemo Me Impune Lacessit
(Let No One Provoke Me With Impunity)

March Past
MacLean March

Mobilization Headquarters: Fredericton, New Brunswick and Camp Valcartier, Quebec.
One of three battalions absorbed into the Twentieth Reserve Battalion.


241st Canadian Infantry Battalion (Canadian Scottish Borderers)

No Motto

March Past
All the Blue Bonnets Are Over the Border

Mobilization Headquarters: Windsor, Ontario.
One of six battalions absorbed into the Fifth Reserve Battalion.


246th Canadian Infantry Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders)

Motto
Siol Na Fear Fearail
(Breed of Manly Men)

March Past
Glendaurel Highlanders

Mobilization Headquarters: Halifax, Nova Scotia.
One of nine battalions absorbed into the Seventeenth Reserve Battalion.


253rd Canadian Infantry Battalion (Queens University Highland Battalion)

No Motto

March Past
Unknown

Mobilization Headquarters: Kingston, Ontario.
One of six battalions absorbed into the Fifth Reserve Battalion.


Special Mention

50th Gordon Highlanders Overseas Infantry Draft

Motto
Buaidh No Bas
(Victory or Death)

Unit related to the 50th Regiment Gordon Highlanders, Canadian Militia.


1st 92nd Overseas Infantry Draft

No Motto

Unit related to the 92nd Canadian Infantry Battalion.


14th Winnipeg Reserve Battalion

No Motto

Unit related to the Cameron Highlanders, Winnipeg, Manitoba.


Ethnicity and the CEF

Apart from these Canadian Scottish battalions there were other CEF battalions that recruited based upon ethnicity. These included eleven French Canadian Battalions (22 – 41 – 69 – 150 – 163 – 167 – 178 – 206 – 230 – 233 -258), four Canadian Irish Battalions (121 – 199 – 208 – 218), two Canadian Scandinavian Battalions (197 – 223), one First Nations Battalion (114), and five American Battalions (97 – 211 – 212 – 213 – 237).

 

Christ Church Cathedral and the Canadian Scottish

Posted By on July 25, 2015

The Colours of the Canadian Scottish Regiment. Christ Church Cathedral, Victoria, B.C.

The Colours of the Canadian Scottish Regiment. Christ Church Cathedral, Victoria, B.C.

Reflecting Upon Regimental Colours

The Canadian Scottish Memorial at Pioneer Square is located near to Christ Church Cathedral adopted by the Canadian Scottish regiment as their Regimental Chapel, September 16, 2001. A recent visit to the memorial and cathedral reminded me once again of connections to the Great War. Of particular interest to the Canadian Scottish Regiment are their Regimental Colours hanging above, their drape, colour and symbol resolute for all to see. As I gently raise the camera to my eye I reflect upon regimental pride in the Colours, not just of the Canadian Scottish  but so too of those who defended the Colours at all costs.

This includes two soldiers from the 1879 Zulu Wars when Lieutenant T. Melville and Lieutenant N.,J.A. Coghill attempted to save the Queen’s Colours of the 1st Battalion, 24th Regiment of Foot. Coghill and Melville were embroiled in the Battle of Isandhlwana, when the British army lost 52 officers and 806 NCOs and other ranks. An additional 471 Africans serving with the British were also killed. For their attempt to save the Colours, Coghill and Melville were posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross albeit many years later in 1907.

Melville and Coghill found with the Colours.

Melville and Coghill found with the Colours.

The last time Regimental Colours were carried in action was on the 26th of January, 1881, at Laing’s Nek. They were carried by the old 58th Regiment, now the 2nd Bn. the Northamptonshire Regiment. Colour-bearers were always a target for the enemy’s marksmen, and on this occasion the officer carrying a Colour was mortally wounded. Lieutenant Hill Walker remained behind to bring him in, and was awarded the V.C. for his gallant conduct”.

(Major T.J. Edwards, M.B.E., F.R.Hist.S., “Some Military Customs and Survivals,” The Army Quarterly and Defence Journal: Volume XXXIX, October 1939 and January 1940”)

And so – slowly as the camera is drawn to my eye, the Colours are brought into the frame, the shutter is snapped and once again I step back reflectively wondering what else I may come across to reflect upon.

From Zulu Dawn, “Save the Colours”.