April 2016
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 A Family That Loves Me

Posted By on March 7, 2016

Percival Joseph Barnes, 31st Battalion CEF

Percival Joseph Barnes, 31st Battalion CEF

Information of Any Description

There from one of many pages turned during last evening’s research, a soldier’s portrait…

“PTE. PERCIVAL J. BARNES (183648) / CANADIA [sic] INFANTRY, (MISSING/ SINCE SEPT. 27). / Information of any description will be / welcomed by Miss E.M. Barnes, 68, / Durley Road, Stamford Hill, London, / N.” (Canada Weekly, January 6, 1917).

A family's search

A family’s search for their loved one.

There would be no welcome home for Percival, perhaps known to the family as Percy or Perce. Percival was eventually found and buried at Regina Trench Cemetery, France. Son of Joseph and Jane Barnes. Brother to Ethel Millie Barnes who forwarded to the Imperial War Graves Commission her brother’s memorial inscription “VINCIT”.

Ethel’s words with the passing years a reminder of the pain felt, an empty chair at home, memories and passing years. Perhaps someone here, a reader, may know how the family remembered or continues to remember to this day?

Private P.J. Barnes served with the 31st Battalion CEF, of the Second Canadian Division.

Behind the Wire 1915

Posted By on January 18, 2016

Great War Canadian officers interned in Holland.

“Interned in Holland”
Photo taken at Schevenigen of Canadian officers taken prisoner of war at the Second Battle of Ypres, 1915. Captain B.L. Johnston (3rd Battalion CEF), Major R.Y. Cory (15th Battalion CEF “48th Highlanders”), Lieutenant V.A. MacLean (16th Battalion CEF “Canadian Scottish”), Lieutenant F.W. MacDonald (15th Battalion CEF “48th Highlanders”). From  Canada Magazine, an Illustrated Weekly Journal.

16th Battalion C.E.F. Prisoners of War (Part 1)

At long last the first installment of Canadian Scottish soldiers captured during the Great War. This work would not have been possible without the tremendous effort of the late Ted Wigney whose work, in recording and publishing (for all) a record of CEF prisoners of war, was a fine accomplishment.

No matter how often one walks these fields of France and Flanders attempting to learn more about these days of fury, there is always one more feature or landscape , one more place to visit, one more path to walk. It is this call to the heart that builds upon my memories of previous visits, – these investigations into the soul of this earth, water, and sky. The feelings we sense of these places, the quiet now, the combat then, the light, the dark, the known, the unknown, all felt or witnessed by those who were here before us. Research is my kindling, fanning the spark to return time and time again.

Next visit will include a return to Larch Wood (Railway Cutting) Cemetery where my kindling of research has led me to the burial sites of two 16th Battalion prisoners of war. I wonder what we will feel this time as our ever watchful eye wanders across the horizon always searching…


 April 22, 1915

Wood, Andrew
Private        28691
Released December 27, 1918 

April 23, 1915

Adams, Charles John
Private      29178
Died of Wounds as Prisoner of War April 23, 1915
Commemorated Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Belgium

Annand, Archibald
Private       29176
Died of Wounds as Prisoner of War August 7, 1915
Buried Larch Wood (Railway Cutting) Cemetery, Belgium

Barlow, Frank
Private        28565
Released January 7, 1919

Bushnell, Lucien Hamilton
Sergeant       29072
Released November 18, 1918

Dougall, Thomas
Private        420842
Released December 18, 1918

Guilbride, Samuel Arthur
Private        28627
Released December 10, 1918

Hayward, Harold Blakeney
Private        28633
Released December 24, 1918

Hill, Bertram Thomas
Lance Corporal     28743
Released December 27, 1918

Hobbs, Selwyn
Private        29330
Released November 25, 1918

Houston, Richard
Private        29332
Released November 24, 1918

Long, Fred
Prvate        29113
Released December 7, 1915

Barbed wire picquet

Great War barbed wire picquet near Larch Wood (Railway Cutting) Cemetery Belgium.

Siberry, Richard
Private        29268
Gunshot wound lower left leg
Died of Wounds as Prisoner of War May 6, 1915
Buried Larch Wood (Railway Cutting) Cemetery, Belgium

Speirs, Lewis Maurice
Private        28867
Escaped May 2, 1918
Awarded the Military Medal
“In recognition of gallant conduct and determination displayed in escaping or attempting to escape from captivity which services have been brought to notice in accordance with the terms of Army Order 193 of 1919. To be dated 5 May 1919″.

Walker, William Harry
Private        28685
Released December 7, 1918

Warwick, Albert George
Private        29280
Released December 15, 1918

April 24, 1915

Bruce, Joseph Charles
Corporal        28715
Released November 18, 1918

Buchan, William
Private        21678
Released January 10, 1919

Bullock, Cecil Hurst
Private        29074
Released January 6, 1919

Chiverall, Sidney Joseph
Private        28853
Released October 7, 1915
Leg Amputated

Giles, Frederick
Private        29446
Released February 15, 1919

Grant, Peter Martin
Private        28976
Released December 19, 1918
Mentioned in Despatches

Hamilton, Harry Edgar
Private        28629
Released January 7, 1919

Hoggarth, Thomas Emanuel
Private        29106
Released December 9, 1918

Kiloh, James
Corporal        29565
Released December 27, 1918

McAuley, Malcolm Angus
Sergeant        23029
Released December 27, 1918

McNicoll, Donald
Private        28653
Released December 18, 1918

Ragbourn, Herbert William
Private        28866
Died of Wounds as Prisoner of War May 4, 1915
Buried Tyne Cot Cemetery, Belgium

Robinson, Peter Herman
Private        23045
Released December 23, 1918

Royston, Richard Cuthbert
Private        29015
Escaped April 15, 1918
Awarded Military Medal
“In recognition of gallant conduct and determination displayed in escaping or attempting to escape from captivity which services have been brought to notice in accordance with the terms of Army Order 193 of 1919. To be dated 5 May 1919″.

Williams, Edmund John
Private        29032
Died of Wounds as Prisoner of War May 1, 1915
Buried Niederzwehren War Cemetery, Germany

April 26, 1915

MacLean, Victor Alexander
Released November 18, 1918
Awarded the Military Cross and the Russian Order of St. Anne 4th Class
Military Cross announced in Supplement to the London Gazette 30 January 1920, page 1219
“In recognition of gallant conduct and determination displayed in escaping or attempting to escape from captivity which services have been brought to notice in accordance with the terms of Army Order 193 of 1919. To be dated 5 May 1919″.

Army Order 193 (1919)
“Rewards for Officers and Soldiers for services in the field and for services rendered in captivity or in attempting to escape or escaping therefrom.”

List of Prisoners of War (16th Battalion CEF) compiled from:
Wigney, Edward H. “Guests of the Kaiser; Prisoners-of-War of the Canadian Expeditionary force 1915-1918”, (CEF Books, 2008)


Posted By on January 5, 2016

Berlin Wall fragment

“CHANGE YOUR LIFE”. Part of the Berlin Wall on the grounds of the Imperial War Museum, London, 2012.

Bridge of Spies and my Zweibrücken (Two Bridges)

I step into the cold December night and wander towards the theatre. Tonight was to have been a blog about prisoners of war of the 16th Battalion CEF, but as I watch the blog become scrambled across the page I realize tonight is not the time to sort out the fineries of my document. There is a film to see and one I have been waiting to catch since its release – October 4, 2015.

Lately I have watched a number of films on the big and bigger screens, Spy, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Mission: Impossible Rogue – Nation, Spectre, Mr. Holmes, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. And there have been more…Mr. Turner, Beware of Mr. Baker,  Searching for Sugar Man, Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey.

As I quicken my pace through the darkness and watch my shadow grow beneath the lamps, I wonder what this evening’s feature will bring. Tonight is the story of other prisoners – Colonel Abel and Lieutenant Powers, the cold and the shadows. As I watch the opening credits I smile as I read, Based on True Events. Set during the Cold War of the late 1950s and early 1960s Bridge of Spies is somewhat set in my era, in a country that I lived in for three years. It makes me think of those years when the family Ferguson were residents of 3rd Fighter Wing (RCAF), Zweibrücken, Germany.

As the film unfolds its characters and story I am enthralled by the performance of Mark Rylance, as Rudolf Abel, and this evening as I read through Rylance’s profile I wonder why I have not encountered this actor before. His resume is wonderful, with a wide range of recognition and honours for his performances on the big screen, television and in theatre. However, it is not just the performance of Mr. Rylance, Tom Hanks and the cast of Bridge of Spies, it is the film’s staging and props, the cold and shadows and familiar imagery of my time in Germany that makes me recall my two bridges. Walking to school, Kindergarten, Grade 1, inoculations, Measles, the Beatles, Canadian Armed Forces Radio, the Rosengarten, Cameras, John F. Kennedy, James Bond, Bunkers, Tadpoles, Summer Recreation, Atomic Bomb Drills, Jets, filling jerricans, Canadian licence plates, the Army Post Office, softball, hockey, our German landlord, my teachers, students and Mom and Dad.

Enjoying these recollections of my youth I start to ponder the much larger political events of the same time. As I watch Tom Hanks become witness to individuals attempting to clear the Berlin Wall, I wonder what events occurred during my time of Cold War occupation. I find myself looking for casualty figures about my time in West Germany where some ways away a wall in Berlin, the great hurdle and barrier between West and East, led to the death of at least 90 individuals during the 1960s. I think about Spandau Prison (West Germany, 1947-1987) where the Four-Power Authorities (USA, the United Kingdom, the USSR, France) continued to meet throughout the Cold War…the Berlin Wall (1961- 1989) and how the Iron Curtain finally faded in 1991.

Bridge of Spies did not disappoint and I am refreshed by the creativity of the team. As I leave the theatre this evening I return to the cold, follow my shadow towards the clubhouse where I can return to the familiar clatter of the keyboard.

Did you know?

James B. Donovan

James B. Donovan, American lawyer. Defender of Rudolf Abel and negotiator of prisoner exchange that included Abel for American U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers and graduate student Frederic Pryor.

In 1945 James B. Donovan (played by Tom Hanks) was assistant to Justice Robert H. Jackson at the Nuremberg trials in Germany. Seven Nazi war criminals convicted at Nuremberg were imprisoned at Spandau Prison.

Picture Credit:
“James B. Donovan” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:James_B._Donovan.jpg#/media/File:James_B._Donovan.jpg

“My compliments to the Commanding Officer…

Posted By on October 8, 2015

Harry James Hall

“Dapper even in the worst surroundings.” Harry James Hall MC

…I am not able to carry on!”

Temporary Major Harry John Hall, MC, 16th Canadian Infantry Battalion (Canadian Scottish)

8 October 1916 

One of the great 16th Battalion characters of the Great War was the Scottish born soldier Harry John Hall. A soldier through and through, Hall had previously served during the Second Boer War 1899-1902. It was in South Africa that Hall first became personally familiar with the hail of gun fire from the Boer Kommandos and during the campaign he was wounded on at least four occasions. Hall’s Great War attestation papers record the following scars and marks at the time of his enlistment in December 18,1914…”Bullet wound in left thigh / Bullet wound left forearm / Bullet wound left shoulder / Shell wound right wrist.”

Hall was born in 1878 in Loch Alsh, Rosshire, Scotland and at the time of his enlistment gave his trade or calling as “Soldier”. Hall’s soldiering had taken him through a few familiar regiments of the British Army including 2 years service with the 3rd King’s Own Scottish Borderers, 4½ years with the 2nd Seaforth Highlanders with whom he served in South Africa and 2 years with the 20th Hussars.

Hall joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force in Winnipeg, Manitoba choosing the 43rd Canadian Infantry Battalion (Cameron Highlanders of Canada). In October 1915 he was in France serving on the Western Front with the 16th Battalion where his eccentricities endeared him to many of his regiment. Hall’s accomplishments on the Somme are well documented in the 16th’s fine history written by H.M. Urquhart DSO* MC.

Like Urquhart, Captain (Temporary Major) Hall was a recipient of the Military Cross, an award made for gallantry as a junior officer: “For conspicuous gallantry in action. He held his part of the line under intense fire for three days, displaying great courage and initiative throughout. He has previously done fine work.”

On October 8, 1916 Hall, in command of No. 3 Company, was badly wounded in the attack on Regina Trench. The unit history records:

He [Hall] was wounded previously [May 1, 1916] when in the Salient, and returned to the battalion with his wound still open. He underwent such strain and fatigue at Mouquet Farm that, on his arrival at the battalion headquarters, he collapsed. These “interference” with duty “as he called them”, gave him much concern.

On being carried out from the Regina Trench battlefield in a dying condition, his last message to his Battalion Commander was, “My compliments to the Commanding Officer [J.E. Leckie DSO], and tell him I am awfully sorry that I am not able to carry on.” (Urquhart, page 185)

Harry John Hall MC succumbed to his wounds at No. 9 Casualty Clearing Station, Warloy, France and is buried at Contay British Cemetery. He was 39 years of age. It is recorded that upon being removed from the battlefield with two wounds he was wounded a third time while on the stretcher.

Recognizing Bravery

Posted By on September 10, 2015

The Ordinary with the Extraordinary

All nations have their awards and many of these symbols of valour (valor), honour (honor), bravery, and courage are well known. They take on many names such as the Victoria Cross, the Légion d’Honneur, Croix de Guerre, Ritterkreuz (Iron Cross), and the Medal of Honor.

In earlier times, gallantry was recognized by the Romans (circa 753 BC – AD 476) with the presentation of gold necklets called Torcs, gold armbands known as armillaies and ornamental discs called phaleraes. These gold, silver or bronze discs, worn on parades, were mounted on the recipient’s breastplate. The Greek historian, Polybius, circa 200 – 118 BC, wrote about these awards:

An exhibit of Roman Phalera, from the Burg Linn Museum Center, Krefeld, Germany.

An exhibit of Roman Phalera, from the Burg Linn Museum Center, Krefeld, Germany.

After a battle in which some of them have distinguished themselves, the general calls an assembly of the troops, and bringing forward those whom he considers to have displayed conspicuous valour, first of all speaks in laudatory terms of the courageous deeds of each and of anything else in their previous conduct which deserves commendation“. (Polybius)

Napoleon Bonaparte wearing both the breast badge and star of the French Legion of Honour.

Napoleon Bonaparte wearing both the breast badge and star of the French Legion of Honour.

Many years later it is recorded that Napoleon Bonaparte said of his troops, “A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon”. France’s Legion d’Honneur (Legion of Honour) was introduced in 1802 and­ by comparison, Napoleon’s British opponents of that era had no gallantry awards available to them, save a few Orders granted to officers. It was not until the Crimea War (1854-1856) that the British introduced the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) in 1854 and soon followed by the Victoria Cross (VC) in 1856. As more thought was ascribed to the valour of sailors and soldiers in action more awards were developed such as the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal (CGM) in 1874, the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) in 1886 and the Conspicuous Service Cross (CSC) in 1901.

During the Great War several new awards were created by the British. Based on a tiered system, generally respective of field of service and frequently governed by individual rank. These new awards, introduced when the nature of warfare was greatly changing, recognized the requirement to provide additional recognition to service personnel in combat. There were circumstances whereby awards crossed over between services and naval personnel were granted awards generally available to the army and vice versa. With the creation of the Royal Air Force (RAF) in 1918, the new RAF soon saw the development of its own awards.

These new Great War awards included the renamed Conspicuous Service Cross, henceforth known as the Distinguished Service Cross (1914), the Distinguished Service Medal (1914), the Military Cross (1914), the Military Medal (1916), the Distinguished Flying Cross (1918) and the Distinguished Flying Medal (1918). Several of these awards were discontinued in 1993 when the older awards, the DCM and the CGM, as well as the DSM, MM and DFM were removed from the British system. At that time there was a desire to make available a series of awards available to all ranks rather than to continue with a system frequently based upon rank. As a result the DSC, MC and DFC were made available to all ranks as was the new Conspicuous Gallantry Cross  (1993).

The awards and other medals of William Coltman VC, DCM and Bar, MM and Bar. The bars indicate second awards.

The awards and other medals of William Harold Coltman VC, DCM and Bar, MM and Bar, North Staffordshire Regiment. The bars indicate second awards.

Many nations, outside the United Kingdom, discontinued the award of the Victoria Cross, creating their own series of national awards. However, the Victoria Cross’ cachet and the desire to re-implement tradition has meant that the Victoria Cross, has been reintroduced by several nations in recent years. Due to the present nature of conflict recently in Iraq and Afghanistan both Australia and New Zealand have presented their own awards of the Victoria Cross whereas Canada which also introduced its own Victoria Cross has not.

In 1986 Lord Michael Ashcroft began his collection of Victoria Cross awards by acquiring, through public auction, the 1945 Victoria Cross awarded to James Magennis a diver aboard the Royal Navy’s midget submarine HMS XE3. Having amassed a large collection, now on rotating exhibition at the Imperial War Museum, London, England, Lord Ashcroft’s collection includes two Canadian Great War awards to Alexander Brereton VC (8th Canadian Infantry Battalion awarded for an August 9, 1918 action east of Amiens, France}, and Thomas Dinesen VC (42nd Canadian Infantry Battalion for an August 12, 1918 action at Parvillers, France). Among the awards on display in the Lord Ashcroft Gallery, opened in 2010, are those acquired by the Imperial War Museum and included among them is the Victoria Cross awarded to Lieutenant “Jackie” Smyth VC, MC of the 15th Ludhiana Sikhs, Indian Army.

In 1973 Sir John “Jackie” Smyth wrote “When King George V decorated me with my V.C. in July 1915 he gave me a very cheap little cardboard box (which I still treasure) to go with it, saying: ‘I give you this highest decoration of all in this very ordinary box so that the intrinsic value of the medal and the box shall not be more than one penny.’”

"Jackie" Smyhe VC, MC

“Jackie” Smyth VC, MC

I recall when I first read this short mention of “Jackie” Smyth’s award and how these few lines have remained with me for all these days. So too do I recall my first visit to the IWM where upon seeing the Smyth award in the VC & GC (George Cross) Gallery how I was taken back to his writing. Somehow it is a reminder to me, forever anchored in my being, and although I cannot actually define this reminder it may be about the modesty of the recipient, a combination of humility, the ordinary with the extraordinary.