October 2016
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The 16th Canadian Scottish Were Here

Posted By on October 10, 2016

Wood marker from the Battle of the Somme.

“16th Canadian Scottish” wood marker from the Battle of the Somme. Canadian War Museum Collection.

 Mouquet Farm September 4-7, 1916
 Kenora Trench September 25-27, 1916
 Regina Trench October 8-9, 1916

One of two known preserved wood battlefield markers of the 16th Battalion C.E.F. (Canadian Scottish). The Somme marker is held in the collection of the Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, Ontario. The Vimy marker is exhibited at the Bay Street Armouries, Victoria, B.C. near to the Canadian Scottish Regimental Museum. The Vimy Cross stood for many years at Pioneer Square in Victoria.

Standing on the silent field of battle looking towards Adanac Military Cemetery, France.

Standing on the silent field of battle looking towards Adanac Military Cemetery, France. (P. Ferguson image, 2009)

Somme Casualties – 16th Battalion C.E.F. (Canadian Scottish)

Mouquet Farm  near Pozières (September 3 – 7, 1916)*
1 Officer (Killed / Died of Wounds / Presumed Dead)
8 Officers (Wounded)

97 Other Ranks (Killed / Died of Wounds / Presumed Dead)
243 Other Ranks (Wounded)

Thiepval Ridge / Kenora Trench (September 19 – 28, 1916)*
1 Officer (Killed / Died of Wounds / Presumed Dead)
3 Officers (Wounded)

41 Other Ranks (Killed / Died of Wounds / Presumed Dead)
90 Other Ranks (Wounded)

Ancre Heights, 1916, Regina Trench (October 7 – 9, 1916)*
8 Officers (Killed / Died of Wounds / Presumed Dead)
5 Officers (Wounded)

131 Other Ranks (Killed / Died of Wounds / Presumed Dead)
174 Other Ranks (Wounded)
26 Other Ranks (Prisoners of War)

*Urquhart, H.M., History of the 16th Battalion (The Canadian Scottish) C.E.F., 1914-1919, MacMillian Co. of Canada Ltd., Toronto, 1932.
Appendix III, page 406.

Piper J.C. Richardson VC Centennial Chilliwack, BC

Posted By on October 8, 2016

The rain drenched bronze statue of Piper J.C. Richardson VC, Cgilliwack, BC, October 8, 2016. (P. Ferguson image 2016)

The rain drenched bronze statue of Piper J.C. Richardson VC, Chilliwack, BC, October 8, 2016. (P. Ferguson image 2016)

A Time to Reflect and be Reflective

October 8, 2016

It is raining today, water hurtling down from a darkened sky. It is a time to reflect and be reflective, a time for a centennial eulogy that speaks to all of us this day…but what more can be said about this piper James that has not been said a thousand times before in so many finer words than mine?

It is important to remember, important to think upon deeds not words, important to think upon a seemingly forgotten word – honour. Still I would like to think…that James would like to think…that above himself there were so many others…and ultimately that his sacrifice, his deeds represent those of anonymous and unfamiliar others. Remember James…remember them all…

The diary and pipes of James Cleland Richardson VC at the Chilliwack Museum. (P. Ferguson image 2016).

The diary and pipes of James Cleland Richardson VC at the Chilliwack Museum. (P. Ferguson image 2016).

And So I Write

….Ultimately I set my sites as I craft my words aboard the Queen of New Westminster, a vessel that will always hold true my thoughts of remembrance for it is on board this vessel that I learned of my father’s passing not that long ago. I am saddened he, especially, could not be here this day…it is a thoughtful write….one important to present and one mirrored in this reflection. There are only two words that I anticipate stumbling upon, “fathers and mothers” and so, I do what I can –  to find a way, as we all do, to carry on. Stand to…Mr. Ferguson…Stand to!

Words from the Podium this day by Paul Ferguson

In a French farmer’s field north of Courcelette is a cemetery called Adanac. It is here that Piper James Cleland Richardson rests with his fellow soldiers. Today – it is largely quiet – a stark contrast to the incessant noise of the Great War when men from either side climbed over the top, pushed forward amidst obstacles, machine gun and rifle fire, shrapnel bursts, shell fragments, wire and untold mileu of hurt.

James Cleland Richardson was hurt…..wounded amidst this carnage, and died of these injuries October 9, 1916 a day after performing the deeds that earned him the posthumous award of the Victoria Cross. But who is our boy James…this soul that has brought us together this day to honour?

James is Scottish and Canadian, Seaforth and Canadian Scottish, a Boy Scout and cadet, civilian, soldier, piper, son, brother, ancestor and hero. James is of Bell’s Hill and Rutherglen, Vancouver and Chilliwack. He is an inspiration to many – not just here in this community but to those outside these borders. Even today there have been ceremonies at Adanac and elsewhere overseas to remember him. However not only should we honour James at this time, but we should also honour all that is connected to him by today’s remembrance.

Today is not just a history of over there but of right here. We gather before the former Chilliwack City Hall where community leaders and citizens met about Great War causes that this community would contribute to. Across the street, the United Church hosted a number of gatherings related to volunteer war work. Look to Five Corners where peace was celebrated in 1918 and look behind us to the Chilliwack War Memorial dedicated in 1923. All are reminders that the Great War is never too far away.

Remember too that today is but one day of many centennials that started August 4, 2014. Many more are to follow, Vimy, Passchendaele, Amiens…George Allan Evans, Dennis Peter Hepburn, Harold Milton White and others. So – as we gather here remember that this is but one day of innumerable days of potential – lost far too early. May their legacy, James’ legacy, Chilliwack’s legacy be that when and wherever we gather – we think of James and the others not just as heroes, warriors or as inspiration, but also as someone’s sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, relatives, friends and lovers.

All belong to this community, this family we know as Chilliwack, this country we know as Canada.

And for those who came this day…this reminder now and forever, A Hard Rains Gonna Fall. Thank you to everyone who made this event a tremendous success.

The Tin Hat on the Somme

Posted By on October 7, 2016

Prisoners taken in Regina Trench

Prisoners taken in Regina Trench, 1916. Note the prisoner escorts wearing the familiar tin hat of the Great War. Circa 1916.

I Heard the Clang of a Bullet

Some months prior to the attack on Regina Trench, 8 October 1916, Canadian troops were first issued with the steel helmet in the spring of 1916. Patented in London in 1915 by John Leopold Brodie of Buffalo, New York, the helmet came into general use when large quantities had become available for distribution. The first style helmet was rimless but a second model featured a reinforced rim and alterations to the liner. The helmet, commonly in use by soldiers of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, was officially called “Helmet, Steel Mk. I” and was first worn in action by Canadian troops around St. Eloi. Despite its weight, compared to the soft caps and other fabric head gear worn by troops previously, the helmet helped to prevent head wounds, though direct hits from speeding bullets, fragments, splinters and shrapnel balls still incurred their wrath upon soldiers.

A soldier of the 16th Battalion (The Canadian Scottish).

A soldier of the 16th Battalion  C.E.F. (Canadian Scottish) wearing the tin hat. Painting by Augustus John.

An officer of the Canadian Scottish, Acting Captain David Hunter Bell M.C., was killed at Regina Trench, 8 October 1916, and the regimental history records the following, “We had reached the enemy’s wire and were crouched down waiting for the barrage to lift. Captain Bell, resting on one knee, was looking at his wristwatch and remarked to me [Bell’s batman*], ‘it will lift soon.’ I was about to answer him when I heard the clang of a bullet striking his steel helmet. He fell over instantly and I knew he was dead. I have lost a friend and the 16th a brave, and well-loved officer.” (Urquhart, History of the 16th Battalion C.E.F., page 186).

*Batman – A personal servant assigned to an officer.

Gallantry on the Somme: The 16th at Regina Trench

Posted By on October 4, 2016

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

Regina Trench Awards

The Victoria Cross for Valour

James Cleland Richardson VC

Piper James Cleland Richardson VC. The award of the Richardson VC was not announced until October 1918.

28930 Private (Piper) James Cleland Richardson
Died of wounds August 9, 1916.
Buried at Adanac Military Cemetery, Miraumont, Somme, France.

For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty when, prior to attack, he obtained permission from his Commanding Officer to play his company ‘over the top.’

As the company approached the objective, it was held up by very strong wire and came under intense fire, which caused heavy casualties and demoralised the formation for the moment. Realising the situation, Piper Richardson strode up and down outside the wire, playing his pipes with the greatest coolness. The effect was instantaneous. Inspired by his splendid example, the company rushed the wire with such fury and determination that the obstacle was overcome and the position captured.

Later, after participating in bombing operations, he was detailed to take back a wounded comrade and prisoners.

After proceeding about 200 yards Piper Richardson remembered that he had left his pipes behind. Although strongly urged not to do so, he insisted on returning to recover his pipes. He has never been seen since, and death has been presumed accordingly owing to lapse of time.

The pipes belonging to James Cleland Richardson VC, now exhibited in the rotunda of the B.C. Legislature, Victoria.

The pipes belonging to James Cleland Richardson VC, now exhibited in the rotunda of the B.C. Legislature, Victoria. (P. Ferguson image.)

Regina Trench Awards

The Military Medal for Bravery in the Field

77374 Lance Sergeant Joseph Eli Goulding
Killed in action 8/9 October 1916.
Buried at Adanac Military Cemetery, Miraumont, Somme, France

In the assault on Oct; 8th 1916, he was badly wounded during the charge. Notwithstanding this he kept on with his company and entered the trench remaining there in command of his platoon for seven hours, until finally compelled to leave in a weakened condition by the effects of his wounds.

He has had a long and faithful career in the field.

77140 Lance Corporal Alfred Howard Hastings
Killed in action 2 September 1918.
Buried at Dominion Cemetery, Hendecourt-les-Cagnicourt, Pas de Calais, France
Hastings was later awarded a bar to the Military Medal for his actions at Hill 70.

During the action of Oct; 8th-9th, 1916, L/Cpl Hastings displayed gallantry and devotion to duty while acting as a Signaller [sic] and Messenger. He twice traversed the heavy artillery barrage carrying messages to the front line. On one of these occasions he led a party carrying bombs which were urgently needed.

By his coolness and resource in leading his party from shell hole to shell hole he succeeded in getting them and the bombs to the front line in spite of heavy shell and rifle fire . He assisted in keeping the telephone lines in repair and made several trips over the line at great hazard to himself.

During the eighteen months this N.C.O. has been in the field he has been noted for his devotion to duty.

Aerial View of Regina Trench, France.

Aerial View of Regina Trench and surrounding area, France.

A/20816 Sergeant William Black MacKissock
Died of wounds April 9, 1916
Buried at Ecoivres Military Cemetery, Mont-St. Eloi, France

During the action of Oct; 8th, 1916, his Company being scattered and broken, he rallied the remnants and again led them forward to the assault, and after encountering the wire, entered the trench dispersing the enemy. But for his timely action this part of the trench would not have been in our hands.

In the retirement which became necessary some hours later, he drew of his men in a masterly manner. He has always been a keen and resourceful soldier.

29246 Corporal James Clark McNeil

For conspicuous gallantry and ability on Oct; 8th, 1916, when after all his officers had been killed in the attack he organized his men and directed fire on the enemy. Later on the same day he volunteered to carry a message back to Battalion Hdeqrs [Headquarters], through a very heavy artillery barrage.

After delivering it he was severely wounded on his return journey to the front line.

William Henry Metcalf VC, MM and Bar was awarded his first award for bravery at Regina Trench.

William Henry Metcalf VC, MM and Bar was awarded his first gallantry award, the Military Medal, for bravery at Regina Trench.

22614 Lance Corporal William Henry Metcalf
Metcalf was awarded a Bar to the Military Medal for his actions at Amiens, France and the Victoria Cross for his actions at Drocourt-Quéant Line near Arras, France.

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty near Courcelette on the 7th, 8th, and 9th of October, 1916. On the night of October 7th, word was brought to Battalion Hdeqrs [Headquarters], that a man was lying in a trench some distance away, bleeding to death, this N.C.O. a Signaller [sic] volunteered to go and bind up his wound which he did although the trench was under terrific shell fire and he was in great peril. During the next two days he repeatedly went over the heavily shelled area and repaired broken telephone wires, thus keeping up communication with Brigade, which was of immense value to the situation. During twenty months service in the field his conduct has been one of uniform bravery and cheerful devotion to duty.

420537 Lance Corporal William James Moroney

In the capture of Regina Trench near Courcelette on October 8th, 1916, he was in charge of the battalion Machine Guns. He acted with the greatest coolness, resourcefulness and courage. The left flank becoming exposed through another Battalion being checked, he took a machine gun the whole crew had become casualties, and taking up a position alone in a shell-hole on the flank, kept back several attacking parties of the enemy. When his ammunition was exhausted he carried his gun back safely to the support trench where he set it up and stayed on duty until relieved the following night.

147320 Private Frederick Maitland Watts

During the action on October 8th, 1916 against Regina Trench near Courcelette, after all he [the] rest of the crews had become casualties he held a position on the left flank  (which was unprotected) with his Lewis gun, and kept up a heavy fire on the enemy, procuring ammunition from his comrades and from casualties.

When the line was forced to retire he covered the retreat with his gun, and finally brought it out safely under a heavy fire.

Other Awards

No awards of the Distinguished Service Order, Military Cross or Distinguished Conduct Medal have been specifically traced for actions at Regina Trench 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.

When the Menin Gate is Quiet

Posted By on September 29, 2016

Poppy Cross at Menin Gate. (P. Ferguson image, 2016)

Poppy Cross at Menin Gate. (P. Ferguson image, 2016)

Ypres Day Five of Five

Now that we have had our days in the sun, here on the Salient, it is time to go. A morning wander takes us to Menin Gate where there are few people and only the echoes of rumbling cars and trucks add to the murmurings amongst the names that live here.

In 1927, at the inauguration of Menin Gate, Field Marshall Plummer spoke to those assembled. Many were family and friends of the missing whose names line the panels . Plummer’s poignant message about those missing believed killed,…”He is not missing; he is here.”

When I walk through this gate, the Menin Gate, and all is quiet, it allows me to think upon these last few days. I remember the four nights that we have witnnesed The Last Post with many hundreds of others and who take with them this lasting memory of notes that play into the hall and never seem to fade away.

So too do I smile upon those few who come here during the day when the great gate is empty and I watch them cast their eyes upwards. Slowing their steps to take in a name or two or three. Perhaps a hand lingers upon their brow or falls along the side of their face as these names affect them.

And so as the Menin Gate continues to impart its wisdom upon all who come within its view, I say so long for now. The names upon the wall will continue with their murmurings as the bugles continue to play. They are here.