July 2016
« Jun    

Canadian in a British Regiment: 1 July 1916

Posted By on July 3, 2016

Hawthorn Ridge, Somme.

Hawthorn Ridge, Somme. On July 1, 1916, at 7:20 AM a mine was detonated on this German held position. The following letter, whose author remains anonymous, was published a few days after the 1 July 1916 attack. Mention is made of Dum-Dum ammunition whose use in warfare was first prohibited in 1898 and further ratified n 1899 at the Hague Convention. The protest banning their use was led by the German government.


Canadian Officer’s Graphic Letter.

The following is a letter from a young Canadian serving with an English regiment – an officer in the first line on the first day of the big offensive: -

July 1.

     I am writing this in a dug-out about 200 yards from German lines. My whole platoon is here with me, and we are waiting patiently for the order to attack. I am sitting on the sharp corners of a bully beef tin, a fat Tommy is asleep across my legs, and the German guns are making a fiendish row. A huge bit of shell has just landed outside the dug-out.

July 4.

      I have now a few moments to sit down and write a brief summary of my doings. First of all I slept on a real bed last night. I had only had about five hours’ sleep till then since June 27, and yet I felt most “horribly healthy.” On June 27 we went into the trenches, tramped about in mud all day and night. Our company had only one platoon’s frontage, and consequently the dug-outs were crowded. We were constantly getting shelled, and had to move our quarters. One dug-out we evacuated had seven men killed in it ten minutes after we left. On Saturday morning, July 1, a division went over on our left and another further down on our right. The line has a bend, and consequently the Germans were all driven into the village. The attack succeeded on both flanks and joined hands, making a pocket simply packed with Boches. This attack was preceded by seven days bombardment, and although the trenches and houses and wire entanglements were battered to bits, a great many of the enemy emerged from their deep dug-outs with machine guns practically unharmed the moment we advanced.

     At 2.30 the order to attack this village was given. My men were all asleep in the dug-out, but I had them all out and over the parapet fully equipped before 2.40. The fire that greeted us was so terrific that I sent a message to the company commander to find out what I was to do. He came personally to the spot where I was, just behind a gap in the wire entanglements (they had been cut the night before). I shouted out, “I am ready to advance.” He shouted back, “Get along then.” I jumped up and yelled “Come on, No. ―.” They rose and followed to a man, although they had been suffering heavily from rifle and machine gun fire while still on the ground in front of the parapet. I dashed forward, closely followed by my platoon sergeant.

     We were met by a perfect inferno of rifle and machine gun fire. I looked over to the German trenches, and it was a sight I shall never forget. The fire trench was on a steep bank about 150 yards of it parallel to our trench, and then it went up and away to our left. The part that went up the hillside was packed with Germans four deep, firing over each other’s heads. The part parallel to us was crammed so full that one line used the parapet and jostled each other for room while the remainder stood up on a step behind and fired over the first line’s shoulders. I could hear the machine guns, but could not see where they came from. I afterwards learned that they were 10 feet below the parapet in dug-outs fired through loopholes so that only a direct hit would knock them out. One look was enough. I ducked my head and ran for all I was worth – not back – but straight at the guns. I felt like some Johnny in the Light Brigade. My men fell like ninepins. Men collapsed or rather fell down headlong with a groan. My orderly fell by my side.

     At last I reached a small gully or shell hole or something. Down I flopped, and looked around – not up. The greater part of my platoon were either lying dead, wounded or dying in the short 100 yards that I had gone, so I came to the conclusion that it would be unwise to advance, especially as I found out afterwards that the German fire trench contained 500 men and eight machine guns in 150 yards of trench. My servant had six bullets through him, so I got him dressed up a bit. Another man had five shots through his arm in a two-inch group. Imagine the rate of fire the machine guns must have had. Another man crawled in with his arm shot in two. The German snipers, at any rate, were using dum-dum if not explosive bullets. The wounds were simply ghastly.

The use of expanding bullets, known as dum dums, provided propaganda discussions from both sides of the frontlines. Although Dum Dums were produced at the British India Dum Dum Arsenal, Calcutta, India.

German propaganda related to French Dum-Dum ammunition.The use of expanding bullets, known as dum dums and named for the British India Dum Dum Arsenal, Calcutta, India, provided ample propaganda value for either side of the fence during the Great War.

It would have been inadvisable to show one’s head, so I kept low. I soon found out I was being sniped at from German trenches to the right. I was pretty savage by this time – I suppose if I hadn’t been in such a rage I should have been frightened. I crawled out and took an entrenching tool from a dead man and dug myself in.

     I saw the wounded of my platoon trying to crawl up to my gully for protection, but as soon as they moved a machine gun was turned on them. The poor devils dropped flat, but that was not enough. The snipers had seen them move, and fired shot after shot at them with their dum-dum bullets until there was no doubt about their being alive. Then sent over shrapnel and coal boxes. I was simply furious and dying to get at them by this time, and so were the men.

Huge Lyddite Shells.

     The German fire gradually got less intensive, but in its place came huge lyddite shells which burst directly overhead. They made a great cloud of yellow smoke which was beautiful against the blue sky. Lyddite shells unfortunately explode vertically downward, and I had a few anxious moments as pieces of shell as big as your head sat down beside me. After that two beautiful white albatrosses with black crosses painted on their wings came over, escorted by a huge, grey battleplane, the whole followed by a perfect swarm of little white puffs of shrapnel from our anti-aircraft guns. They did not stay long, however.  Two of our battleplanes came along, and the whole lot fled.

     At dusk the Germans had retired to their dug-outs, leaving a few snipers and machine gunners on guard, and I was able to get back to our lines. When I jumped in, or rather fell headlong in as fast as I could, I found another regiment in our places. I was looked upon as risen from the dead.

     I enjoyed myself rather when I got to my shell hole. I was rather isolated, but comparatively safe. The sniping that I did kept my spirits up wonderfully. I also had a meal of bully beef, biscuits, and chocolate – so did my platoon sergeant, after some persuasion. He said he had lost his appetite.

Canada Illustrated Weekly, July 22, 1916 pages 93 – 94

You Don’t Seem So Far Away

Posted By on June 26, 2016

Patricia Colleen Dougan...my mum

Patricia Colleen Dougan…my mum

Miss You Forever

She was a Dougan…a Ferguson..a Rafuse. Daughter, sister, wife and mother.

She was half of all that I am.

She loved to dance, finding her way across a dance floor where one day she found herself in the arms of a soldier, a man she waited for. With the end of the Korean War Colleen and Eddie were married and had a son. Colleen, my mother, stood beside me through all my foibles and successes. She knew when to sing or knew just what to say, and though the years took my parents on separate paths and far apart she eventually found her way home.

When she came home, she was tired and frail. For the last few years Parkinson’s claimed her vitality and yet she fought back day after day. If one could only be so strong…and though I desperately wanted to save her, all I could do was let her go…perhaps on another path…where she might sing and dance again.

As I flip through image upon image of our family, her siblings and parents, nieces and nephews, she loved all. And then I find the one image that captured the heart of my father and here it sits before me. Mum…though for the last year you did not know me, speak or open your eyes…when I look upon you now…you don’t seem so far away.

Love you…miss you forever.

Patricia Colleen Rafuse (formerly Ferguson, nee Dougan)
August 1937 – June 2016

Canadian Scottish Stretcher Bearer on D-Day

Posted By on June 5, 2016

D-Day Stretcher Bearer William Garner, Canadian Scottish Regiment

D-Day Stretcher Bearer William Garner, Canadian Scottish Regiment

French Croix de Guerre, circa 1944.

French Croix de Guerre, circa 1944.

Sergeant William Garner
Croix de Guerre avec Etoile De Bronze (France)

On 6 June 1944 (D day) at COURSEULLES-sur-MER, France, K57764 Sergeant William GARNER, medical Sergeant 1st Battalion Canadian Scottish Regiment, landed with his unit on the beach amid heavy mortar and machine gun fire. Completely disregarding his own safety he began immediately to treat the wounded on the beach. While attending a badly wounded stretcher bearer, Sergeant William GARNER was hit on the face with splinters from a mortar bomb. Although bleeding very badly he continued his work and directed the work of his men until he became too weak from loss of blood to carry on. Although unable to advance with his unit Sergeant William GARNER has done his job. In addition to having treated as many wounded as possible, his display of courage and devotion to duty, inspired his stretcher bearers as they continued the advance without him, and set the very high standard which they achieved in the many battles which followed thus saving a great many lives.

Known Canadian Scottish Regimental Aid Post Soldiers
Bill Baxter
Doug Bolton
Mervyn Carlton
Jim Catteral
Dickie Duncan
William Garner
Bert Keller
Norman Lewis
Bob Trowsdale

Beach defences at Normandy, 1944.

The beach at Normandy, 1944.

The Regiment and D-Day

Some of the men did not get more than ten feet from the L.C.A. [Landing Craft Assault] before they were killed or wounded. The open beach made an excellent “killing ground”. The enemy knew it. So did the assault troops. The men ran across that open stretch as they never ran before, sending up fervent prayers of thanks as they did so that the sand was absorbing most of the shrapnel from the mortar bombs falling around them, and that the beach itself was not mined. So much happened in so few seconds as each man raced across the 75-100 yards of beach. A soldier would cry out, clutch his arm and feel the sticky warm blood beginning to soak his shirt. But he kept on going. Another would gasp and fall, not to rise again. (Roy, Reginald, Ready for the Fray, p.212)

Normandy, September 2009. (Image by WRP Ferguson)

Normandy, September 2009. (Image by WRP Ferguson)

Canadian Scottish Regiment Fatalities D-Day 1944
Lieutenant Francis G. Radcliffe
Private James A.E. Anglin
Private Edwin D. Boothby
Private Ronald V. Cameron
Private Robert N. Cooper
Private August J. Eckman
Private Clayton H. Evans
Private Walter E. Fahrni
Lance Corporal Andrew J. Finnie
Private Victor R.D. Garcia
Private Sigurd N. Huser
Private Leslie D. Jenkinson
Private William B. Lewis
Private Neil J. MacPherson
Private Adolph McCormack
Private Willford L. McLaughlin
Private Adolf G. Nilsson
Private Lawrence Osborne
Corporal John W.W.M. Parr
Corporal William G. Ritchie
Private John E. Stewart
Acting Lance Corporal John P. Thieme

Canadian Scottish Regiment Wounded D-Day 1944
Lieutenant James H. Russell
Lieutenant Vilheim R. Schjelderup
Lieutenant Robert E. Turnbull
Private Gordon T. Armstrong
Private James H. Ashley
Private Walter S. Barber
Corporal Maurice Barnett
Private Michael Belyan
Private William A. Brocklebank
Private John J. Buggy
Private William Bylyk
Sergeant Kenneth Byron
Private Sam Cook
Private Fred Darnton
Private Robert E. Ettinger
Sergeant James G. Forsyth
Private Benjamin M. Francis
Sergeant William Garner
Private John F. Grabish
Private Russell E. Greenwood
Private Harold D. Hammond
Private Clifford H. Hogan
Private Gunnar M.C. Hoybak
Private Philip P. Katchanoski
Private Earl L. Kellar
Private Gustave J. Kirko
Company Sergeant Major Rowland A. Knight
Private William Leier
Private Arthur S. Low
Private John A. MacIntyre
Private Gordon E. McDonald
Private Roderick R. McKenzie
Private Edward W. Morrisey
Private Emmanuel V. Neumann
Private James Nicoll
Private William O. Noon
Private Reuben Oldenburger
Private Reginald F. Oldershaw
Corporal Roy C. Parker
Private Edgar J. Parrent
Sergeant John H. Pelly
Private Andrew W. Pinchbeck
Private Michael Prokopchuk
Acting Lance Corporal Robert A. Robinson
Private William Semple
Private John Stewart
Regimental Sergeant Major James Stothard
Private Walter J. Sutyla
Private Robert W. Terry
Private Eric D. Thomson
Private John Thomson
Private Andrew F. Thynne
Private Robert Todd
Corporal Albert E. Truesdale
Private Frank W. White
Private Albert Wilcox
Private Albert W. Wilkinson
Lance Corporal Arthur Wilson

Jutland 1916: North American Fatalities Update

Posted By on May 31, 2016

In Memory of Fallen Comrades. Jutland Service 1933. British Pathé

Update to Two Days of May

A recent jaunt to the University of Victoria has found four other sailors with Canadian connections lost at sea during the Battle of Jutland May 31 – June 1, 1916.

Royal Canadian Navy

Engineer Lieutenant Stanley N. de Quetteville, HMS Indefatigable
Commemorated on the Halifax Memorial, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Only known R.C.N. sailor at Jutland. No other details known at this time.

Royal Navy

David William Shafto Douglas Commemorative Plaque.

David William Shafto Douglas Commemorative Plaque at St. Giles High Kirk, Edinburgh, Scotland. From Douglas Family history website.

Lieutenant-Commander David William Shafto Douglas, HMS Black Prince
Commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial, England.

Third son of Admiral Sir Archibald Lucius Douglas G.C.B., G.C.V.O., former Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth. The latter born at Quebec, Canada in 1842.

Captain Stanley Venn Ellis, HMS Defence
Commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial

Son of the Reverend Henry Venn Ellis of Alderton Rectory, Woodbridge, Suffolk, England. Husband of Kathleen Venn Ellis (nee Beavan), Victoria, B.C. Only daughter of the Honourable Robert Beavan, sixth Premier of British Columbia.

Royal Naval Reserve

Engine Room Artificer John Shearer Ross, HMS Indefatigable
Commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial

Son of Mr. and Mrs. John T. Ross, 15 Albion Street, Glasgow, Scotland. Former student of Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Two Days of May

Posted By on May 28, 2016

The Skye Boat Song. Perhaps appropriate for Two Days of May. 

North Sea near the coast of the Denmark Peninsula May 31 – June 1, 1916

The research dance has started again. Realizing that the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Jutland was on a fast approach I wrangled through several ideas firstly taking on the readily apparent. Perhaps a story of Boy 1st Class John “Jack” Travers Cornwell VC who was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions aboard HMS Chester at Jutland?

Stamp produced for the 150th Anniversary of the institution of the Victoria Cross, September 2006.

Stamp produced for the 150th Anniversary of the institution of the Victoria Cross, September 2006.

The research commenced and like a new sailor learning his knots, the rope or in this case research seemed endless. Will I ever tie this story together? Cornwell was 16 years of age when he was mortally wounded at his gun station. However, there will be many stories written about “Jack” at this time. Perhaps a story of other boy sailors at Jutland, perhaps the young midshipmen too…perhaps…perhaps…perhaps a bell…

This is the steady wake of crafting a story.

Eight Bells

Time was indicated aboard ship by ringing the ship’s bell which was usually inscribed with the ship’s name. The end of the watch was signaled by Eight bells that “can also be a way of saying that a sailor’s watch is over, for instance, in his or her obituary, as a nautical euphemism for “finished”. For more read: Ship’s Bells

A Knot Comes Together

At last we have a story. Bobbing and weaving or perhaps pitching, rolling or yawing is better terminology for this blog I make a connection. My days of learning knots was in my Wolf Cub (pre-Boy Scouts) days in Nova Scotia. It seems three knots are what I now recall – reef, bowline and sheepshank – the latter lost to my finger memory. Nonetheless there is connection here. Our next step, from Cubs, was Boy Scouts, where we could add to our gathering of patches and accolades. Cornwell was a Boy Scout whose gallant stand at Jutland was further honoured in Scouts with the creation of the Cornwell Scout Badge “…awarded in respect of pre-eminently high character and devotion to duty, together with great courage and endurance.” See: Awards for Gallantry and Meritorious Conduct.

Cornwell Badge

Cornwell Badge

And all of this brewed from an idea about a ship’s bell! Astonishing! Now to find the peal of the bell – eight strikes should not be too difficult to source but after some while searching for the steady tone of tradition we seemingly have lost the tide. Steady on…and in so doing, we find another day in May to recall at this time of year though the anniversary has recently passed.

Wreath in the North Sea. In Memory of the Battle of Jutland.

Wreath in the North Sea by artist Claus Bergen, 1936.  In Memory of German sailors killed in the Battle of Jutland.


Ordered in mid-1916 HMS Hood’s design was modified as a result of the action at Jutland being fitted with heavier armour. Being very costly to complete, Hood was the only vessel of four planned Admiral-class battlecruisers completed. The Hood was named for Rear Admiral the Honourable Sir Horace Lambert Aleaxander Hood K.C.B., D.S.O., M.V.O.who was killed during the Battle of Jutland aboard HMS Invincible which was repeatedly hit by salvos from the German battlecruisers SMS Lützow and SMS Derfflinger. Suffering a fatal shot that struck “Q” turret the resultant explosion and sinking claimed 1,015 lives. There were six survivors.

Rear Admiral the Honourable Sir Horace Lambert Aleaxander Hood K.C.B., D.S.O., M.V.O.

Rear Admiral the Honourable Sir Horace Lambert Aleaxander Hood K.C.B., D.S.O., M.V.O. Killed at Jutland 1916.

Eerily similar to the sinking of Invincible, Hood was sunk May 24, 1941 by the fifth salvo fired by Bismarck resulting in a devastating explosion in Hood’s magazine that broke its back. Three minutes later HMS Hood,  the pride of the Royal Navy was gone. 1,415 men lost their lives. There were three survivors.

It was the wish of one of the survivors, Ted Briggs MBE, that one day the Hood’s bell, discovered on the seabed in 2001, would be recovered as a memorial to his shipmates. The tide was in Mr. Brigg’s favour when on August 7, 2015 the bell was retrieved from one and a half miles below the surface by a remotely operated vehicle from the M/Y Octopus. Once on board it was discovered that the bell’s rim was embossed with a memorial inscription to Rear Admiral Hood, the vessel’s namesake, reading in part, “KILLED AT JUTLAND”. 

The recovered bell was then professionally conserved choosing only minimal surface cleaning and “leaving the staining and the calcified work casts as evidence of the time spent in the sea.” (Paul Allen Expedition Team website) On the 75th Anniversary of the sinking of the Hood, May 24, 2016 the bell was unveiled by Princess Anne and is now displayed at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard as part of the new Jutland exhibit at the National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth.

For those sailors whose watch is over…the sound of the bell has struck again.

North American Fatalities at Jutland

Able Seaman William George Cargill
Royal Navy (Age 22)
HMS Warspite
31 May 1916
Queensferry Cemetery
Son of William and Lois Berrill Cargill, of Chauvin, Alberta, Canada.
Born at Forfar, Scotland

Private Joseph Glover
Royal Marine Light Infantry (Age 22)
HMS Defence
31 May 1916
Plymouth Naval Memorial
Son of David and Annie Glover, of 21, Manning Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Native of Belfast, Ireland.

Able Seaman Henry Charles Gibbings
Royal Navy (Age 27)
HMS Southampton
31 May 1916
Portsmouth Naval Memorial
Son of John L. and Mary Jane Gibbings, of Huntingdon, Quebec, Canada.
Born at Godalming, Surrey, England.

Commissioned Royal Marine Gunner John Henry Goss
Royal Marine Light Infantry (Age 32)
HMS Lion
31 May 1916
Plymouth Naval Memorial
Son of Harry and Mary Ann Goss, of Stonehouse, Devon;
Husband of Edith Frances Goss, of Woods Lake, Vernon, British Columbia, Canada.

Yeoman of Signals Edwin Ethelbert Charles Greadon
Royal Navy (Age 31)
HMS Defence
31 May 1916
Plymouth Naval Memorial
Son of Charles and Cordelia Greadon, of 53, South Woodrow Boulevard, Birchcliff Heights, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Native of Ireland.

Ship’s Cook William Harris
Royal Navy (Age Unknown)
HMS Indefatigable
31 May 1916
Plymouth Naval Memorial
Husband of Susan Livingston Harris, of Canada.

Lieutenant Alexander Percival McMullen
Royal Navy (Age 24)
HMS Invincible
31 May 1916
Portsmouth Naval Memorial
Son of Alex. R. and Frances E. McMullen, of Dixie, Ontario, Canada.
Native of Tullamore, Ireland.

Able Seaman Alexander Simpson
Royal Navy (Age 38)
HMS Invincible
31 May 1916
Chatham Naval Memorial
Son of Robert and Elizabeth Simpson, of Dundee, Scotland;
Husband of Maggie Ann Simpson, of 22, Tay Avenue, Fairbank, Toronto, Ontario. Canada.

Leading Seaman Thomas Alva Thresh
Royal Navy (Age 22)
HMS Indefatigable
31 May 1916
Plymouth Naval Memorial
Son of Mr. and Mrs. J. Thresh, of 1638, Masson St., Rosemount, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Native of Bridlington, Yorks, England.

United States of America

Sick Berth Steward 2nd Class John Barry
Royal Navy (Age 29)
HMS Defence
31 May 1916
Plymouth Naval Memorial
Husband of Margaret Barry, of 1179, Third Avenue, New York, New York, U.S.A.

Ship’s Steward 2nd Class Henry George Shapter
Royal Navy (Age 23)
HMS Defence
31 May 1916
Plymouth Naval Memorial
Son of Henry and Florence Shapter, of 2, Southside St., Plymouth, England;
Husband of Edith Shapter, of 3681, Rolle St., Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.

Engine Room Articifer 3rd Class Andrew Thomas Anderson
Royal Navy (Age 25)
HMS Queen Mary
31 May 1916
Portsmouth Naval Memorial
Son of Daniel and Jessie Anderson, of 2,612, Canfield Avenue, Culver City, California, U.S.A.
Native of Edinburgh, Scotland.

North American Fatalities at the Battle of the Denmark Strait

Midshipman Thomas Norman Kemp Beard
Royal Canadian Navy (Age 20)
HMS Hood
24 May 1941
Halifax Memorial
Son of Comdr. Charles T. Beard and Kathleen A. Beard, of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

Midshipman Francis John Llewelyn Lloyd Jones
Royal Canadian Navy (Age 20)
HMS Hood
24 May 1941
Halifax Memorial
Son of Lt.-Col. Arthur Llewelyn Jones, O.B.E., M.C., and Marie Anna Rita Jones, of Revelstoke, British Columbia, Canada

Midshipman Christopher John Birdwood Norman
Royal Canadian Navy (Age 19)
HMS Hood
24 May 1941
Halifax Memorial
Son of Captain Cyril Norman and Lydia Joan Norman, of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.