March 2017
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The Silver Cross Pub

Posted By on March 25, 2017

Te Silver Cross pub sign.

The Silver Cross pub sign, Whitehall, London, England. Removed earlier in the week  but later returned to its position. (P. Ferguson image March 22, 2017).

Whitehall, London, England

A recent walk along Whitehall, London, England took us past The Silver Cross pub, where much to my surprise I noted that the ornate pub sign was removed. The sign is patterned after the Canadian Memorial Cross, also known as the Mother’s Cross and the Silver Cross, I was concerned that the lack of the sign might indicate a change to the pub’s status. Was it going to change names as so many pub names have done – what was afoot? Upon entering the establishment I saw that the decor remained the same including the framed Silver Cross on the wall explaining to all who might explore the decor within – the significance of their name.

Canada’s Memorial Cross was created due to the Great War for presentation to mothers and widows (sometimes to both) of fallen Canadian sailors, soldiers, flying personnel and nursing sisters. The cross honoured the fallen, with their service number, rank and name of the person engraved on the reverse. Instituted in December 1919, Canada’s Memorial Cross has also inspired other nations with New Zealand implementing a similar design in 1947 to commemorate their fallen of the Second World War. Great Britain, in 2009, created the Elizabeth Cross which was made retrospective to deaths since the end of the Second World War. All three nations continue to present these silver crosses to commemorate the sacrifice of their nation’s sons and daughters and to honour those whose families might wear these symbols in loving remembrance.

And so it was with great happiness that a second walk past The Silver Cross on March 22, 2017, the sign had returned. Having just walked from Parliament Square, and in light of the recent events in London…I hope that the Silver Cross and its sign will continue to remind us all that remembrance is not just one day a year.

The Canadian Memorial Cross also known as the Silver Cross.

The Canadian Memorial Cross, instituted 1919, also known as the Silver Cross. (Veterans Affairs Canada)

Veterans Affairs (Canada)

Memorial Cross NZ

The New Zealand Memorial Cross, instituted 1947. (Museum of New Zealand)

New Zealand Defence Force

Elizabeth Cross

Great Britain’s Elizabeth Cross, instituted 2009.  Image by Sergeant Andy Malthouse, Ministry of Defence, via Wikipedia

Great Britain

The Silver Cross pub is located at 33 Whitehall, London, England. Just watch for the sign on the right hand side of the road as you walk towards Trafalgar Square.

Silver Cross pub

The Silver Cross pub, owned by Greene King, Whitehall, London. (P. Ferguson image, March 22, 2017)

The CEF Comes Home

Posted By on March 11, 2017

The SS Olympic by Arthur Lismer.

The return of CEF troops aboard the SS Olympic, Halifax Harbour, Nova Scotia, by Arthur Lismer 1919. The painting well illustrates the use of the dazzle paint camouflage scheme  The Olympic nicknamed Old Reliable transported more than 200,000 Canadian, American and British troops.

The Transports that brought them

Today while sauntering through countless images I happened upon this painting that I have always enjoyed for its subject matter and vibrant colours and interrupting angles. Arthur Lismer was an official Canadian war artist and I can only imagine what Lismer thought when encountering the abstract lines of the Olympic whose pattern – dazzle paint – was meant to make it difficult for the enemy to estimate their target’s range, speed and heading. In 2014 a vessel on the Thames was repainted in dazzle camouflage as one of many Great War Centennial pursuits. And so with this in mind I have found today a renewed interest in learning about the vessels that brought Canada’s Expeditionary Force home in 1919. I would be interested to learn of any corrections to the record below due to discrepancies in resource materials.

RMS Adriatic.

RMS Adriatic

RMS Adriatic (White Star Line)

Royal Canadian Regiment
42nd Canadian Infantry Battalion
78th Canadian Infantry Battalion
85th Canadian Infantry Battalion

It seemed the whole population of Halifax had turned out to welcome the returning troops. A dense crowd had assembled at every point of vantage on the waterfront, and as the “Adriatic” drew alongside the wharf hundreds of whistles were blown, bells pealed and bands played martial airs. (C. Beresford DSO MC, The 42nd Battalion CEF, Royal Highlanders of Canada in the Great War, 1931, page 308)

RMS Baltic

RMS Baltic

RMS Baltic (White Star Line)
15th  Canadian Infantry Battalion
43rd Canadian Infantry Battalion
52nd Canadian Infantry Battalion
58th Canadian Infantry Battalion

The Baltic stole silently past Chebucto Head and into Halifax harbor…The Atlantic was washing on the shores of home…The 15th Battalion, 48th Highlanders, came home 782 strong, of which 40 were officers. Of all those who had sailed out of Gaspé with them in that autumn so long ago, only a handful were with them now. (K. Beattie, 48th Highlanders of Canada 1891 – 1928,  1932, page 403)

RMS Carmania

SS Carmania

SS Carmania (Cunard Line)
5th Canadian Infantry Battalion
7th Canadian Infantry Battalion
10th Canadian Infantry Battalion
49th Canadian Infantry Battalion
Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry
4th Canadian Mounted Rifles
5th Canadian Mounted Rifles

The following day they entrained at Liphook for Liverpool, were addressed by the Lord Mayor of Liverpool, who spoke of the new bond between the Mother country and the Dominions and wished the troops bon voyage. Together with other units of the Third Division, they went aboard the SS Carmania, which weighed anchor in the darkness of the 9th and in the early morning was leaving behind the emerald fields of Cork and Kerry on its way to Halifax. ( S.G. Bennett MC, The 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles 1914-1919, 1926, page 155)

SS Cedric

SS Cedric

SS Cedric (White Star Line)
28th  Canadian Infantry Battalion
31st Canadian Infantry Battalion

With mixed feelings of joy at the prospect of going home and reluctance at leaving England, the men, in the early hours of May 19, entrained for Liverpool where the steamship Cedric awaited them. With sirens blowing and farewells from many friends who had come to see them off, the members of the Battalion embarked at 4 p.m.

On board was “Heinie,” the Russian pony, which had been the regimental mascot ever since its capture at Rosieres – smuggled aboard at Le Havre despite the protests of immigration officials, and now, after its wanderings with the Battalion on the Continent, on its way back to Canada. (H.C. Singer, History of the 31st Battalion C.E.F., 1938, page 444)

SS Caronia

SS Coronia

SS Coronia (Cunard Line)
18th  Canadian Infantry Battalion
19th  Canadian Infantry Battalion
20th  Canadian Infantry Battalion
21st  Canadian Infantry Battalion
27th Canadian Infantry Battalion

…on board the S.S. Coronia…That evening, when the ship sailed down the Mersey toward the Irish Sea, marked an almost precise anniversary of the day four years before when the Twentieth had set out from Montreal.

In the course of the voyage there were no parades, a most welcome time of leisure before resuming civilian life. All were free, more or less, to do what they pleased. Everyone enjoyed deck games and sports during the day and listened with interest and appreciation to the concerts, produced through the efforts of the Chaplain Services and the Y.M.C.A., during the evenings; that is, all enjoyed them who were not affected by the rough weather the ship encountered. (D.J. Corrigall DSO MC, The History of the Twentieth Canadian Battalion, 1935, page 305)

Empress of Britain, ca. 1910.

RMS Empress of Britain

RMS Empress of Britain (Canadian Pacific Steamship Company)

8th Canadian Infantry Battalion
16th  Canadian Infantry Battalion
44th Canadian Infantry Battalion
46th Canadian Infantry Battalion
47th Canadian Infantry Battalion
50th Canadian Infantry Battalion

At 3:00 A.M. April 26th, it left for Liverpool where it embarked in the Empress of Britain and at six-forty p.m. the same evening got underway for Canada, with many “Goodbyes to Blighty”. (H.M. Urquhart DSO MC, The History of The 16th Battalion (The Canadian Scottish) CEF, 1932, page 331)

RMS Mauretania

RMS Mauretania

RMS Mauretania (Cunard Line)
54th Canadian Infantry Battalion
75th Canadian Infantry Battalion
87th Canadian Infantry Battalion
102nd Canadian Infantry Battalion

The remaining days in England were not long in spending. The main body of the Battalion came over on May 4th, and thereafter the time was spent in passing Medical Boards and completing Demobilization returns, after which the last leave was enjoyed and on May 31st we left Liphook Station at 4:30 a.m. for Liverpool, reaching the Mersey port about 3:30 in the afternoon, when we immediately embarked on board the Mauretania. On the following day, the anniversary of the great naval battle of “The Glorious First of June,” the giant liner left her moorings and at 1:45 p.m. we crossed the bar on our way to Canada.” (L. McL. Gould MSM, From B.C. to Basieux, Being the Narrative History of the 102nd Canadian Infantry Battalion, 1919, page 128)

RMS Olympic

RMS Olympic

RMS Olympic (White Star Line)
1st Canadian Infantry Battalion
2nd Canadian Infantry Battalion
3rd Canadian Infantry Battalion
4th Canadian Infantry Battalion
13th Canadian Infantry Battalion
14th Canadian Infantry Battalion
22nd  Canadian Infantry Battalion
24th  Canadian Infantry Battalion
25th  Canadian Infantry Battalion
26th  Canadian Infantry Battalion
29th  Canadian Infantry Battalion
116th Canadian Infantry Battalion
72nd Canadian Infantry Battalion

The next day saw the Olympic hove-to in a blinding curtain of fog through which the danger of the yet unswept mine-fields barred progress. Towards evening the fog cleared, and the great ship continued her course…On June 13th the dull tolling of a bell-buoy came clearly through the mist, and the sea-washed superstructure of the outer buoy of Halifax Harbour slid past the port quarter. A short interval followed on anxious peering through the heavy fog for the first glimpse of Canada, and as the dim contours of the Nova Scotia coast loomed up, the troops broke into cheers. An hour later, the 72nd poured down the gang-way, and again set foot on Canadian soil. (B. McEvoy and A.H. Finlay MC, History of the 72nd Canadian Infantry Battalion Seaforth Highlanders of Canada, 1920, page 189)

1st Canadian Mounted Rifles
2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles
38th Canadian Infantry Battalion

HMS President on the River Thames, dazzle paint scheme, 2014.

HMS President on the River Thames, dazzle paint scheme, 2014.

Sound and Film and a Combat Medic

Posted By on February 26, 2017

Best Achievement in Sound Mixing…

Medal of Honor recipient Desmond Doss.

Medal of Honor recipient Desmond Doss. B Company, 1st Battalion, 307th Infantry Regiment, 77th Infantry Division.

…and the Oscar goes to…the team of Kevin O’Connell, Andy Wright, Robert Mackenzie and Peter Grace for their work on Hacksaw Ridge the story of American soldier and conscientious objector Desmond Doss.

The story of Desmond Doss was a familiar one to me and the Mel Gibson film certainly did not disappoint. For those of you unfamiliar with the story, Desmond Doss served his country but refused to carry a weapon. For his actions in saving the lives of 75 infantrymen during the Battle of Okinawa at the Maeda Escarpment (Hacksaw Ridge) Doss was awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest award for gallantry in the United States of America.

William Harold Coltman VC, DCM and Bar, MM and Bar. Stretcher bearer, North Staffordshire Regiment.

William Harold Coltman VC, DCM and Bar, MM and Bar. Stretcher bearer, North Staffordshire Regiment.

Doss’ story reminds me of another well known Great War soldier who would not take up arms, but served his unit, like Doss, as a combat medic. William Harold Coltman was awarded the Military Medal and Bar, the Distinguished Conduct Medal and Bar as well as the Victoria Cross.

…oh so many stories one could tell.

Dol Fodha na Grèine

Posted By on February 13, 2017

Private M. Morrison, 2nd Battalion Seaforth Highlanders. Son of John Morrison of Cross, Ness, Stornoway. Age 20.

Private M. Morrison, 2nd Battalion Seaforth Highlanders. Son of John Morrison of Cross, Ness, Stornoway. Killed April 25, 1915, age 20.

This Valentine’s Day…at the going down of the sun….

There it stood, at the base of one Scottish soldier’s tablet…here at Seaforth Cemetery, Cheddar Villa.

I am reminded of this image…this day…for its simplicity…its connection to a gravesite without mention of those who brought it here. Though it speaks to one it speaks to many.

Did you know?

Saint Valentine of Rome was imprisoned for performing marriages of soldiers who were forbidden to marry.

Imagery associated with Valentine’s Day includes winged cupids, heart shapes and doves. In context of the Great War angels…love and peace….remember them well.

Private Morrison graveside at Seaforth Cemetery Cheddar Villa.

The marker at Private Morrison’s place of rest.

The Weatherproof Fabric Trench Coat

Posted By on December 29, 2016

Detail from Burberry advertisement, Canada Weekly, January 1, 1916.

Standing in a trench filling with water during a torrential downpour. Detail from Burberry advertisement, Canada Magazine an Illustrated Weekly Journal, January 1, 1916.

Everything the Officer Needs

Every day I visit with my computer and cross paths with a well-known search engine and its equally well-known doodle. Today was a surprise as the doodle has provided the impetus to make use of its content together with some of my own Great War research kept on hand for just such a serendipitous moment.

GOOGLE, today, featured Charles Macintosh whose birthday occurred 250 years ago this day. Macintosh, born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1766 is the inventor of waterproof fabric and today his name, given to the well known men’s garment, is perhaps not as well known as the coat itself. However, where, pray tell, can we take today’s Macintosh doodle and celebration and apply waterproof fabric and the garment to some aspect of the Great War?

Very simply…to bad weather and advertising of the day. In Canada Magazine, an Illustrated Weekly Journal there is amongst its pages several classified advertisements for men’s trench garments including those made by Kenneth Durward (Conduit Street, London); Robinson and Cleaver (Regent Street, London); Morris (Sackville Street, London) and Burberry (Haymarket, London, Basingstoke, also available from provincial agents and of course Paris). There may well be other manufacturers spread intermittently throughout the Canada Magazine’s pages but, for today, these names are a fine gathering of haberdashery, especially for officers on campaign.

Battle in the mud and rain. Scene from the Paul Gross film, Passchendaele, 2008.

The Tielocken advertisements by Burberry are accompanied by much internal and lavish praise from its manufacturer, “Such comprehensive security that every part of the body is kept warm, dry and comfortable during the prolonged exposure that campaigning entails…the favourite weatherproof amongst Officers…Officers wishing their Tielocken Coats to be ABSOLUTELY WATERPROOF, regardless of hygiene, may have them interlined [with] impervious material without extra cost.” The black and white line illustrations of the Burberry ads feature a dapper officer, shown in a distinctive modelling pose with or without trench system, with or without weather hardships. “IMPERVIOUS TO RAIN, SLEET, SNOW, OR WATER WET, BUT NOT AIR-TIGHT. PROOF AGAINST WIND. LUXURIOUSLY WARMING”. Price: £5 5s in serge or £6 6s in whipcord. Apart from the Tielocken other varieties of Burberry all weather gear, included the Trench Warm Burberry and the Trench Coverall Kit.

Competitor Morris, the Civil and Military Tailor established in 1890, spoke equally of their Morris Trench Coat, “Equipped with this splendid garment officers in the trenches are assured of perfect body comfort. Extreme weather conditions, cold, damp or wet cannot affect the wearer.” Featured materials included waterproof oilskin, wool plaid, camel (detachable lining) and cloth. Prices were offered at the same levels as Burberry’s but, Morris included the Canadian conversion prices at $25.50 and $30.65 respectively.

Kenneth Durward offered the Military Raincoat trench coat, made of the “Celebrated All Wool Durwardette” at 3 guineas, and the British Warm lined with camel fleece at 4 guineas. Durward trench coats were made of khaki materials lined with either fleece, sheepskin or fur and interlined with oilskin. In direct correspondence to today’s Macintosh anniversary doodle the Morris trench coat, with detachable camel fleece lining, could be worn as an ordinary Macintosh when the lining was removed. Apart from their premises at Ulster House, Conduit Street, London, visitors were further encouraged to stop by Durward’s Stall, # 113, at the Active Service Exhibition, Knightsbridge, London (March/April 1916). Interestingly although the guinea, had not been in production since 1816, the term remained in use for many years afterwards and 1 guinea represents a value of £1.05 or 21 shillings.

Robinson and Cleaver offered similar gear to the above manufacturers. Their three trench coats were available in Mark I, II and III formats not unlike model numbers of a Lee-Enfield rifle or bayonet! However, their pricing structure in contemporary advertisements likely left much to be desired by officers unfamiliar with guineas, pounds and shillings. At one time goods were priced in England with the pre-decimal currency of pounds, shillings and pence and further complicated with terms such as guineas and farthings. Although the value of a pound may have been mathematically easier to comprehend, the representation of Robinson and Cleaver prices in shillings at 75/- and 55/- must have raised a few eyebrows trying to work out the trench garment’s value in pounds and further converted into Canadian dollars [12 pence in a shilling, 20 shillings or 240 pence in a pound. 1 pound equal to about $5.00 Canadian].

It is also of interest to contemplate the per diem pay of the following ranks to estimate the time it may have taken to pay off accounts. Colonels $6.00 plus $1.50 field allowance; Lieutenant Colonels $5.00 plus $1.25 field allowance; Majors $4.00 plus $1.00 field allowance; Captains $3.00 plus .75¢ field allowance; Lieutenants $2.00 plus .60¢ field allowance. Although some serving officers certainly had the means to pay for these private purchases, without placing themselves “on account”, other officers must have taken time to pay once outfitted with the latest in goods.

Charles Macintosh (1766-1843), Scottish Chemist,  inventor of waterproof fabric.

Charles Macintosh (1766-1843), Scottish Chemist, inventor of waterproof fabric.

So thanks to Mr. Charles Macintosh and especially thanks to today’s Google Doodle for choosing to celebrate Macintosh’s 250th birthday I have been able to rustle through my research and pull together a bit of corresponding trumpery for our musing. However, as always, I reiterate the value of returning repeatedly to valuable resources. There are gems in these journals and newspapers of the day, perhaps a line or two, a feature story or advertisement that just might encourage your hand within your fields of interest. Happy Birthday Mr. Macintosh and to all – Happy New Year no matter the weather and wherever you may be.