December 2017
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MacKendricks and The Thistle

Posted By on December 14, 2017

The Highlander's Christmas - 1916.

A Scottish soldier on sentry duty, “One Flag, one King”. The Highlander’s Christmas – 1916.

The Christmas Card and the Table

Imagine please, if you will, MacKendricks. Chuntering as he did in the sanctity of his space MacKendricks had outlived – all family, all friends. Each day a similar caned path to The Thistle where with pewter near to hand he sat at an edge-worn, darkened wise table carved deep with letters, words, dates, expressions and the familiar – more than a few of his own hand. Though he seldom spoke, he was not impolite but nodded to patrons should he wish to acknowledge them. MacKendricks’ lined and duned face, thick to the touch had felt the close glow of the sun, the rasp of the sand and history. Save for one day of the year, each day the same for this man of the line.

On Christmas Day The Thistle, hearty with patrons, knew no less kindness than to serve goodwill for all. MacKendricks would appear in better clothes that once fit a larger frame, a better glass near to hand with better spirits to cling to his person. From his pocket he removed the one gift he provided to himself each year a simple card that on this day of days he allowed himself to read once again. “Hearty good wishes for a happy time at this glad season. One Flag, one King. Yule-tide Greetings. Be prepared for joy and gladness, Christmas morn is dawning clear, Cast away all thoughts of sadness – Joy be thine throughout the year! Joy and Peace – God’s greatest blessings, May they ever hover near! James Christmas 1916”.

And then, MacKendricks stood, charged glass in hand – “Friends make winter warm!” and drank as the card returned to its pocket. Towards the door he would go – his chuntering returning to form. All eyes upon him as he opened the door and drew in the good air, the cool, the pure. Before he stepped to the ground MacKendricks rested his eyes, reopened and walked knowing with each step he was closer to next year’s visit with Jack. The edge-worn, wise darkened table knew too well the spirits of old souls who reside carved deep amongst the letters, words, dates, expressions and the familiar.

Wherever Ye May Be

Posted By on December 10, 2017

A Great War highland Dancer at Christmas.

A Great War highland laddie and lassie at Christmas.

Dance to Remember

I have known an army Christmas, with family together at home wherever home might be and an army Christmas where the Sergeant, posted to distant parts, is with us in spirit near to hearth and self. It is at Christmas that thoughts also drift to those unable to be with us.

The Great War witnessed the Christmas season in 1914 with a truce envisioned by many as carols, songs, food and football among enemies. Yet turmoil still reined…the devil (or devils) amidst the spirit (or spirits) of goodwill. Though we prefer reminders of joyous times there are many who would know a difficult time during this time of festival. Christmas Day and the Great War, including a few years beyond the armistice, saw from 1914 through 1920 the loss of 1,205 British and Commonwealth troops. Even Christmas 1914 despite the refrains of Stille Nacht / Silent Night across the trenches, knew without calm, without brightness the loss of 148 soldiers.

Our image today is about a bonnie, bonnie Christmas though the silent message is the apart of the season, our absent friends, laddies and lassies who may just dance to remember.

And It’s a Lucky Man

Posted By on December 2, 2017

The unique, the meaningful, the personal

I wander about the stores and vendors attempting to find a little something to add to the Christmas season – something for someone special. It seems that the drizzle of the rain dampens the season as I struggle through endless offerings in search of the unique, the meaningful. More and more, for myself, I begin to realize that Christmas has become about cumulative experiences and how unconnected past events can be drawn together, like today’s pattering at the keyboard. And so it is Christmas. Several days in search of words until I sit down sifting through images…finding what I think is the right one, the unique, the meaningful but now, having had the “Aha” moment, it now includes the personal.

Often I take my ear to sound recordings, it’s Christmas this should work. However, a steady plod of virtual auditions has left me helpless until I stumble upon or perhaps reconnect experience, each offering an image, a tune, the sharing of experiences, unique, meaningful and personal. This is the introduction to a pipes of war Christmas about family and experience, soldiers and home. It is about events near to and during Christmas, the milestones and the ones we remember. It is about being a lucky man to love and be loved, a lucky man that gets to kiss your face.

To all who gather here our next few weeks will celebrate the season – remember them well and remember our milestones – they come but once in a lifetime but remain with us for all time. Happy and Merry Christmas to all.

A Great War Christmas postcard..."a lucky man that gets to kiss your face."

A Great War Christmas postcard…”a lucky man that gets to kiss your face.”

Come and Sit With Me

Posted By on November 8, 2017

Memorial bench at the Airborne Memorial, Oosterbeek, Netherlands. (P. Ferguson image, September 2009)

Memorial bench at the Airborne Memorial, Oosterbeek, Netherlands. (P. Ferguson image, September 2009)

The Roar and the Whisper

So many lives to remember. Those who did not return and those who survived. Those who walk each day with the reminders of someone. These reminders not shadows, but real events, real lives, husbands and wives, sons and daughters, parents, family, friends and lovers. We see their faces every day, feel their warmth and hear their voice, the roar and whisper of love.

Bench at Mt. St. Eloi crater, south of Ieper (Ypres). (P. Ferguson image, September 2017)

Bench at Mt. St. Eloi crater, south of Ieper (Ypres). (P. Ferguson image, September 2017)

Recently I was reminded again that some people spend their whole lives together, For June…1917 – 1992…From Joseph who always sat beside her and it made me think…two lives…of an age…one born during the Great War – that war to end all wars. Was her father a soldier? Was her mother a nurse? Did June and Joseph meet during the Second World War? What did they endure…what did they share? Yet the best memory that we can carry, for a couple we do not know, is to learn they sat side by side.

Memorial bench at Hedgerow Cemetery, Belgium. (P. Ferguson image, September 2017)

Bench at Hedgerow Cemetery, Belgium. (P. Ferguson image, September 2017)

I see these benches overseas set upon a landscape that lets one reflect, lets one rest. They call…not to our names but to our desire…to sit…to watch…to reflect…to learn…to understand. And it is here that we come to terms with …not everyone gets to spend their whole lives together.

Memorial bench at the Oak Bay War Memorial, VIctoria, B.C. "In Loving Memory of Frederick Sydney Button CSR [Canadian Scottish Regiment] 1922 - 1944 / Sarah Charlotte Button 1883 - 1977 / 1994". (P. Ferguson image, June 2017)

Memorial bench at the Oak Bay War Memorial, VIctoria, B.C. “In Loving Memory of Frederick Sydney Button CSR [Canadian Scottish Regiment] 1922 – 1944 / Sarah Charlotte Button 1883 – 1977 / 1994″. (P. Ferguson image, June 2017)

It is in our power to remember, to appreciate an elder generation, our generation, this generation. Those who have gone before their time, those who carry the roar and the whisper…and yes we will remember them each day…our own way…for our time…and theirs.

Gallantry and the Third Battle of Ypres

Posted By on October 21, 2017

Lady Haig Poppy Cross at Passchendaele. (P. Ferguson image, September 2016)

Lady Haig Poppy Cross at Passchendaele. (P. Ferguson image, September 2016)

The 16th Battalion C.E.F. (The Canadian Scottish) at Passchendaele Ridge

In mid-October 1917 the Canadian Expeditionary Force was ordered to move towards Passchendaele Ridge, Belgium in relief of troops from Australia and New Zealand. The first attack, by Canadians at Passchendaele, occurred 26 October 1917. By mid-November when the Ridge was captured by the C.E.F. they had suffered the loss of 15,654 soldiers.

Soldiers of the 16th Battalion C.E.F. started their journey to the “waterfields” of Passchendaele 20 October 1917 and on arrival were held in Divisional Reserve at Wieltjie. On 2 November 1917 the 16th moved to Gravenstafel Ridge where they relieved the 116th Canadian Infantry Battalion, a unit of the Third Canadian Division. Between 2-8 November 1917 the Canadian Scottish were moved in an out of the frontlines returning to Divisional Reserve at Wieltjie 9-10 November 1917.

Shell fragments near Passchendaele. (P. Ferguson image, September 2016)

Shell fragments near Passchendaele. (P. Ferguson image, September 2016)

Passchendaele Ridge Awards

The Military Medal for Bravery in the Field

420375 Corporal Charles Arthur Bent
Later awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal
Born: Exeter, Devonshire, England ( 7 March 1874)
Trade or Calling: Farmer

During the last tour in the trenches at PASSCHENDAELE RIDGE, this non-commissioned officer was in charge of a post in advance of the lines, where he was thrown entirely on his own resources. The place was under continuous heavy shell-fire, but his coolness and bravery were such that he had perfect control of the situation during the whole tour. His men have the utmost confidence in him and speck in the highest terms of his inspiring devotion to duty.

28910 Corporal Alexander Fullarton Hamilton
Born: Lamlash, Arran, Scotland (3 April 1893)
Trade or Calling: Electrical Engineer
Died of wounds at No. 2 Casualty Clearing Station (Shrapnel wounds left arm, left side)
9 November 1917
Age 24
Buried at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Belgium
Headstone Inscription: “THY WILL BE DONE”
Son of Mr. and Mrs Robert Hamilton of Blairbeg, Lamlash, Arran, Scotland

While in command of a carrying party which came under the heaviest artillery fire, this N.C.O. has complete control of the situation and kept his men under perfect command. He placed them so as to avoid casualties as much as possible and ultimately delivered all the ammunition in his charge to the dump. Subsequently in the trenches before Passchendaele he was most zealous in getting the wounded to the dressing station under shell-fire and showed entire disregard for his own safety.

Passchendaele Memorial at the location of Crest Farm, Zonnebeke, Belgium. (P. Ferguson image, September 2013)

Passchendaele Memorial at the location of Crest Farm, Zonnebeke, Belgium. (P. Ferguson image, September 2013)

722112 Private Ernest Sydney Dunning
Born: Townsville, Queensland, Australia (6 April 1882)
Trade or Calling: Laborer

On the 8th November 1917 in the trenches at PASSCHENDAELE RIDGE, a number of men in an exposed position in a forward shell hole were wounded and buried by shell-fire. Although the place was bombarded continuously, Pte. Dunning went to the spot and rescued all the men in turn from where they had been buried and brought them into the trench. He was most fearless and his prompt and brave action was undoubtedly the means of saving the lives of the men he rescued.

154616 Private Ernest Lister Hornby
Born: Blenheim, Kent County, Ontario
Trade or Calling: Engineer

During the last tour in the trenches at PASSCHENDAELE RIDGE Nov. 2nd/8th 1917, where the battalion had heavy casualties, being under unremitting shell-fire, this man was indefatigable in his duties as Stretcher-Bearer, exposing himself to the greatest perils in order to render first aid to the wounded and superintend their conveyance to safety. His splendid services on this occasion as on many others won the admiration of all ranks.

Looking from the Passchendaele Memorial towards the waterfields. (P. Ferguson image, September 2013)

Looking from the Passchendaele Memorial towards the waterfields. (P. Ferguson image, September 2013)

28915 Sergeant Charles Henry Leslie
Born: Trondra, Shetland, Scotland (13 May 1888)
Trade or Calling: Sailor

During the last tour in the trenches at PASSCHENDAELE RIDGE this Sgt. Was a striking example of the influence of a good N.C.O. on the men under his command. [He] was constantly up down the trench cheering and aiding his men digging out those who had been buried and caring for the wounded. His long and faithful service in the trenches has won for him the unstinted regards of his Company Officer and the men under him.

29369 Corporal Alexander Mowat
Later awarded Bar to the Military Medal
Born: Halkirk, Caithness, Scotland (16 August 1893)
Trade or Calling: Pipefitter’s Helper

During the last tour in the trenches taking over a new position near PASSCHENDAELE on the 2nd/8th November 1917, the N.C.O. showed conspicuous energy and initiative, taking his section out under heavy shell-fire and superintending their digging in in a good tactical position. During the whole tour he was untiring in his duties under the most exhausting circumstances. He also took charge of the stretcher-bearers in his Company during the most fearful hours of the bombardment and was successful in having all the wounded carried out, the dead buried and the position was consequently over in good shape.

Looking from the Passchendaele Memorial towards Zonnebeke. (P. Ferguson image, September 2013)

Looking from the Passchendaele Memorial towards Zonnebeke. (P. Ferguson image, September 2013)

77015 Sergeant Thomas McRae
Born: Aberdeen, Scotland (7 April 1889)
Trade of Calling: Stonemason
Later awarded Bar to the Military Medal

During the last tour in the trenches at PASSCHENDAELE RIDGE, this N.C.O. was a remarkable example of coolness, sound judgement and fortitude. With restless energy he passed to and fro in the trenches cheering his men and aiding them to their work, digging out the buried and caring for the wounded. His dour indifference to danger under the most terrible circumstances cannot fail to cheer and inspire all those about him. On this occasion as on many others he was a splendid example to all.

A20113 (430113) Lance Sergeant James George Souter
Later Lieutenant
Born: Aberdeen, Scotland (18 November 1893)
Trade or Calling: Farmer
Died 9 October 1918
Age 23
Buried at Duisans British Cemetery, Etrun, France
Headstone Inscription: “EVER REMEMBERED BY THOSE WHO LOVED HIM”
Son of Margaret Souter, of Greystone Corse, Lumphanan, Aberdeen, Scotland and the late James Souter

During the last tour in the trenches at PASSCHENDAELE RIDGE Nov. 2nd – 8th 1917, this N.C.O. displayed magnificent qualities of leadership. He was always present where the shell-fire was heaviest, encouraging his men and assisting the wounded. His nonchalance at these times proved a great inspiration and help to the men under him. On all occasions he has proved himself to be a brave and efficient soldier.

Other Awards

No awards of the Distinguished Service Order, Military Cross or Distinguished Conduct Medal have been specifically traced for actions at Passchendaele by soldiers of the 16th Battalion CEF. These awards will no doubt reveal themselves with further research. Citations for these awards do not contain data as to where they were awarded. Once research has been completed they will be added to this article. No awards of the Victoria Cross were made to the 16th Battalion for Passchendaele.