January 2021
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These Legs Need to Journey

Posted By on January 16, 2021

Pen and Key

The quiet suggests a slight hint of echo within my ears. They too…like all of self are searching, my mind races towards an endless sea of pages, facing not upwards but viewed from their edges. Within the constant turning only the blur of ideas. No story…no pictures…only endless notes posted haphazard to a mind board…these legs need to journey.

My eyes stumble time and time again…is this just more of the same? This observer of history’s reminders and remainders is stymied. Our constant companion the menace of the time lurks…no menace wanted here…and so the pages of my virtual book of ideas continue to flip. Surge no surge. Nothing anchors within…only the drag of a chain and flukes seeking a foundation.

I have watched Ted Talks (Andrew Stanton) about clues to a great story, chosen to watch John Carter (2012) and channeled Edgar Rice Burroughs; The 39 Steps (1935) but these are not the steps I seek; V for Vendetta (2005) – a menace here too…interesting but no path for my musings;…The Red Baron (2008) soaring but wanting; and The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943), intriguing but mostly in its brief treatment of the Blitz.

I come to realize that my usual treasury of resources is not delivering…film, sound and soundtrack, the words of others…all require my own journeys to find connection, similar and dissimilar…joys of discovery. These legs need to journey…finding the places and things that bring all together…when resources are easier at hand and the pen and key become willing partners again. Still have I missed something…I still haven’t found what I am looking for and yet here I am…

All About Biscuits

Posted By on December 21, 2020

A HAPPY XMAS FROM DARDANELLES 1915 Army biscuit, Imperial War Museum, London. (P. Ferguson image, September 2017)

Army biscuit, Imperial War Museum, London.
(P. Ferguson image, September 2017)

A Christmas Dardanelles Army Biscuit

The four inch square number 4 Army standard biscuit, and other known varieties, were hard as a rock, made of whole wheat flour and lacked nutrients. The mostly loathed biscuit was produced during the Great War by British firms such as Huntley & Palmers, based in Reading. The biscuit could be a challenge to a soldier’s dental work but soldiers, being an inventive and resourceful lot, managed to find creative uses to allow the biscuits to pass for palatable by soaking them in tea or water. Or alternatively, by turning them into picture frames, canvases, postcards and message boards. Some of these army issued refashioned biscuits became the subject of a 2015 exhibition produced by the Reading Museum and The Museum of English Rural Life. See The First World War in Biscuits”. 

Huntley and Palmer was founded in 1822 and became equally known, apart from their biscuits and cakes for their fine decorative and prized tins.  During the Great War not only did they produce No. 4s and seemingly Nos. 1- 5, 9 and 10, but they also converted their tin shops to the production of cases for artillery shells. See: Huntley and Palmers tinsThe firm, The Most Famous Biscuit Company in the World continued in the biscuits and cakes trade until 1976 but has recently returned to operations.

Huntley and Palmers Great War biscuits were impressed with the lettering “Huntley & / ARMY No. 4 / PALMERS”. Presumably other varieties include different numbers and other manufacturers.

My dear soldier friend

Posted By on November 11, 2020

11 November 2020. The Memorial. Victoria, B.C.

11 November 2020.
The Memorial. Victoria, B.C.


My dear soldier friend,

Again, I see you upon the high ground ever watchful.

Each year we visit. Your sharp-eyed gaze has again passed across these horizons a hundred tens of thousands of times…Your watch… infinite…embedded within you, all that have passed, all here this day and all you know who will follow…this due…to the peace you brought, one day, short days ago. We remember you and yours…your constant vigil…for this…thank you, thank you, thank you.

11 November 2020. The Memorial. Victoria, B.C.

11 November 2020.
The Memorial. Victoria, B.C.

I see too your bronzed image has aged not but a day as we who are left come closer to our guard. I have learned much from you…your watch…your hope. Your experience, your service has provided our peace. Long may it remain for us to keep its warmth and share its comfort with others.

Know too that I am grateful for this ground on which we stand together…your ever-watchful eyes, my thoughts with you. Keep safe and thank you again for the enduring voices you have given, to all people, on this day that we remember…your watch.

Until we chat again…

A dear friend


All images by P. Ferguson 11 November 2020

Cutting Into Chalk

Posted By on October 30, 2020

The Vimy Ridge Visitor Education Centre. (P. Ferguson image, September 2017).

The Vimy Ridge Visitor Education Centre.
(P. Ferguson image, September 2017)

Three Soldiers of the 16th

In 2017 we journeyed to Vimy from Ieper (Ypres, Belgium). It was my first experience driving on the continent and although prepared (having a plan for the day) and filled with hopeful arrival times, we were not without diversion. In one instance, with the white towers of Vimy on the distant horizon, road construction, within a nearby town, directed us far off course and it was some while before we were on the recognized roadway to Vimy.

Visitors to the Vimy Ridge Visitor Education Centre. (P. Ferguson image, September 2017)

Visitors to the Vimy Ridge Visitor Education Centre.
(P. Ferguson image, September 2017)

We visited this day to see the new Vimy Ridge Visitor Education Centre inaugurated in April 2017 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the battle (9-12 April 1917). Several others, many from Canada, were here amongst us wandering about the popular exhibit, a showcase of Canada’s Vimy experience. Allward and the memorial, traces of war, the personal, the context here amongst the chosen stories.

A visitor at the soldier's graffiti exhibition, Souterraine Impressions. (P. Ferguson image, September 2017)

A visitor at the soldier’s graffiti exhibition, Souterraine Impressions.
(P. Ferguson image, September 2017)

However, in a temporary exhibition space that I happily came upon were modern casts of graffiti from nearby tunnels. Featuring soldier stories and their work, the “I was here” workings included those of Alvin Kines, Daniel Holmes (wounded at Vimy) and John Cameron (wounded at Vimy) all of the 16th Canadian Infantry Battalion (The Canadian Scottish).

Alvin Kines

Alvin Kines

John Cameron

John Cameron

The project Souterraine Impressions represented the work of several underground would-be sculptors and carvers and grateful thanks to the Canadian Historical Documentation and Imaging Group (CANADIGM) who reproduced the soldier’s work as 3-D prints. Those of us fortunate to see the exhibit at Vimy could not help but think upon those who knew this this place well…Kines, Holmes, Cameron and others.

The work of Alvin Kines and Daniel Holmes.

The work of Alvin Kines and Daniel Holmes.

We had chosen a good day to be car bound instead of on foot or pedal bike. Our visit to Vimy was accentuated by the onslaught of a hard rain. As torrents claimed any form of dry clothing I managed to wander towards the memorial and revisit with the figures that remain in steady contemplation. Man, woman with storm clouds above. Vimy is a fine place to visit in weather of all sorts and, as I have been known to mention…somehow it’s always seems better when it rains. Our trio of soldiers survived the war, perhaps their recollections once again brought to the fore by some time spent in 1917 cutting into the chalk of tunnels.

The work of John Cameron.

The work of John Cameron.

The Souterraine Impressions exhibition closed at Vimy in November 2017.
The exhibit had been on shown previously and continues to travel.

*An image of Daniel Holmes has not been traced.
Perhaps one day he will be here amongst his fellow carvers.

Scotland and the Victoria Cross: The Little Wars of Queen Victoria

Posted By on September 25, 2020

Storming the Peiwar Kotal.  By Vereker Monteith Hamilton, 1891. Scottish-born John Cook was awarded the Victoria Cross. (Wiki image)

Storming the Peiwar Kotal. By Vereker Monteith Hamilton, 1891. Scottish-born John Cook was awarded the Victoria Cross.
(Wiki image)

1860 – 1900 (excluding the Second Boer War 1899-1902)

Following the Indian Mutiny or Sepoy Mutiny, British soldiers and sailors found themselves deeply involved in colonial battles across the British Empire. The “pink” of the globe was well known to students and diplomats of Empire, so too the gun and cannon of powerful, organized troops against spirited adversaries defending their lands, their beliefs.

Apart from Queen Victoria’s little wars, other empire nations also subjected many to cultural and resource conquest. Separate and yet strangely together this competition of empirical adversaries carved incomprehensible borders…they established the fence…in search of wealth and power, seldom inclusive of indigenous rights and titles.

The Indian Mutiny is also known as the Indian Rebellion by those whose world view see it from a differing perspective of the Empire. Within the list of names below we see other nations, portions of India now Pakistan, Ashanti now Ghana, Burma formerly Myanmar now Myanmar, Rhodesia now Zimbabwe. Language too has changed…so too the British Empire.

During the period from the end of the Indian Rebellion 140 soldiers and sailors of Queen Victoria’s little wars were awarded the Victoria Cross…13 were born in Scotland. Brave deeds enacted against brave foes…valour on both sides of the empire equation.

The Recipients

John Leishman McDougall VC

Taku Forts (Third China War)
21 August 1860
44th Regiment of Foot (East Essex)
Born: Probably Edinburgh, Scotland (1839)

John Carstairs McNeill. From Celebrities of the Army, 1902. (Wikimedia Image)

John Carstairs McNeill.
From Celebrities of the Army, 1902.
(Wikimedia Image)

Lieutenant Colonel (later Major General)
Sir John Carstairs McNeill VC GCVO KCB KCMG

Invasion of Waikato (New Zealand Wars)
30 March 1864
107th Regiment of Foot (Bengal Light Infantry)
Born: Colonsay, Argyllshire, Scotland (28 March 1831)

Lieutenant (later Captain)
James Dundas VC
Dewan-Giri (Bhutan or Bhootan War)
30 April 1865
Bengal Engineers
Born: Edinburgh, Scotland (10 September 1842)
Died during the Second Anglo-Afghan War (23 December 1879)

Donald Macintyre. (Wiki Image)

Donald Macintyre.
(Wiki Image)

Major (later Major-General)
Donald Macintyre VC
Lalgnoora village, North-east India (Lushai Expedition)
4 January 1872
Bengal Staff Corps and 2nd Gurkha Rifles
Born: Kincraig, Rosshire, Scotland (12 September 1831)

Samuel McGaw (Wiki Image)

Samuel McGaw
(Wiki Image)

Lance Sergeant (later Sergeant)
Samuel McGaw VC
Amoaful, Ashanti (First Ashanti Expedition. Third Anglo-Ashanti War)
21 January 1874
42nd Regiment of Foot
Born: Kirkmichael, Ayrshire (1838)

Captain (later Major)
John Cook VC
Peiwar Kotal, Kuram Valley, India (Second Afghan War)
2 December 1878
5th Gurkha Rifles
Born: Edinburgh, Scotland (28 August 1843)
Died of Head Wound received near Argundeh (11 December 1879)
Died at the Sherpur Hospital, Afghanistan (19 December 1879)

Lieutenant (later Lieutenant Colonel)
William Henry Dick-Cunyngham VC
Sherpur Pass, Afghanistan (Second Afghan War)
13 December 1879
92nd Regiment of Foot
Born: Edinburgh, Scotland (16 June 1851)
Killed in Action Siege of Ladysmith, Natal, south-east Africa (6 January 1900)

George Sellar (Wiki Image)

George Sellar
(Wiki Image)

Lance Corporal (later Sergeant)
George Sellar VC
Asmai Heights, near Kabul, Afghanistan (Second Afghan War)
14 December 1879
72nd Regiment of Foot
Born: Keith, Banffshire, Scotland (1850)

Captain (later Major General)
William John Vousden VC CB
Koh Asmai Heights near Kabul, Afghanistan (Second Afghan War)
14 December 1879
5th Punjab Cavalry, Bengal Staff Corps
Born: Perth, Scotland (20 September 1848)

Charles James William Grant (Wiki Image)

Charles James William Grant
(Wiki Image)

Lieutenant (Later brevet Colonel)
Charles James William Grant VC
Thobal near Manipur, Burma (Anglo-Manipur War)
27 March 1891
Indian Staff Corps
Born: Bourtie, Aberdeenshire, Scotland (14 October 1871)

Herbert Stephen Henderson (Wiki Image)

Herbert Stephen Henderson
(Wiki Image)

Herbert Stephen Henderson VC
Campbell’s Store, near Bulawayo, Rhodesia (Matabeleland Rebellion)
30 March 1896
Rhodesia Horse, Bulywayo Field Force
Born: Glasgow, Scotland (30 March 1870)

George Frederick Findlater (Wiki Image)

George Frederick Findlater
(Wiki Image)

Piper (later Sergeant)
George Frederick Findlater VC
Dargai Heights, India (Tirah Campaign)
20 October 1897
2nd Battalion Gordon Highlanders
Born: Turriff, Aberdeenshire, Scotland (15 February 1872)

Sergeant (later Major)
John MacKenzie VC DCM
Dompoassi, Ashanti (Third Ashanti Expedition)
6 June 1900
2nd Battalion Seaforth Highlanders
Born: Contin, Ross-shire, Scotland (22 November 1871)
Killed: Commanding 2nd Battalion Devonshire Regiment at Festubert, France  (17 May 1915)
Buried: Guards Cemetery, Windy Corner, Cuinchy, France


Victoria Cross citations are readily available online or in hard copy publications.
An online keyword search of a recipient’s name should find a summary record of the award.
Search the London Gazette to find a published citation at the time the award was announced.