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Blighty

Posted By on January 27, 2024

A wounded soldier destined for further care away from the frontlines. Canadian Official.

A wounded soldier destined for further care away from the frontlines.
Canadian Official.

Now me, I wasn’t scratched, praise God Almighty
(Though next time please I’ll thank ‘im for a Blighty)
From The Chances by Wilfrid Owen

Home

Blighty was Britain or England. The term was popular in both the First and Second World War but its origins were earlier. The word originated in India during the 1800s where blighty was used as slang to describe an English or British visitor. Additionally the term was used to describe specific items the British introduced to India such as tomatoes and soda water.

Blighty, as a term for home, was used by the British during the Second Boer War 1899-1902. Specific to being wounded a blighty was one when an injured soldier was bound for further care in Britain that required recuperation at home. Blighty magazine was a weekly edition produced during the Great War intended to be humorous featuring short stories, cartoons, poems and art such as illustrations and paintings.

Blighty

It seemed that it were well to kiss first the earth
On landing, having traversed the narrow seas,
And grasp so little, tenderly, of this field of birth
First three lines of Blighty by Ivor Gurney

For information on Great War military hospitals in the British Isles visit the Long, Long Trail.

Victoria Cross Review 1956

Posted By on December 20, 2023

Queen Reviews Men of Valour, 1956.
British Pathé

For Valour

For the Victoria Cross centenary Queen Elizabeth II reviewed an assembly of 300 men who held the nation’s and Commonwealth’s highest honour – the Victoria Cross. The review, conducted at Hyde Park, London 26 June 1956 respected the first presentations of the awards by Queen Victoria when she presented 62 awards at Hyde Park.

At the same time as the review an exhibition was held 15 June – 7 July 1956 at Marlborough House featuring several Victoria Crosses, citations and souvenirs retained by those who received the bronze cross pattee synonymous with valour. Included in the exhibition was the uniform worn by Queen Victoria at the time of the original V.C. presentations.

Marlborough House, The Mall, St. James's, City of Westminster, London. (Wiki Image)

Marlborough House, The Mall, St. James’s, City of Westminster, London.
(Wiki Image)

Several Canadian Victoria Cross recipients participated representing conflicts from the Second Boer War (1899-1902), the Great War (1914-1918) and the Second World War (1939-1945). Those with connections to British Columbia included: Edward Bellew (7th Canadian Infantry Battalion), Rowland Bourke (Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve), Robert Hanna (29th Canadian Infantry Battalion), John Kerr (49th Canadian Infantry Battalion), Filip Konowal (47th Canadian Infantry Battalion), John Mahoney (Westminster Regiment), Cecil Merritt (Saskatchewan Regiment), William Metcalf (16th Canadian Infantry Battalion), George Mullin (Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry), George Pearkes (5th Battalion Canadian Mounted Rifles), Cyrus Peck (16th Canadian Infantry Battalion), Ernest Smith (Seaforth Highlanders of Canada) and Charles Train (14th Battalion London Regiment).

One hundred recipients of the Victoria Cross were unable to attend the review.

Peace

Posted By on November 10, 2023

Peace003 - CopyLe Francport: 5:45 a.m.

The signature at this place…at this time…near to Compiènge went into effect at 11:00 a.m. marking an armistice between warring nations. The document signed by French Marshal Ferdinand Foch was only the beginning as this day, 11 November 1918, though a peace was not a formal surrender with Germany.

Prior to this day other armistices were signed by the Allies against former enemies Bulgaria (the Armistice of Salonika: 29 September 1918); the Ottoman Empire (the Armistice of Mudros: 31 October 1918); and Austria-Hungary (the Armistice of Villa Giusti or the Padua Armistice: 3 November 1918). There was now with the 11 November 1918 signing, peace, but the Great War with Germany did not come to a procedural and documented end until the Treaty of Versailles was signed 28 June 1919.

However, even before Versailles, in German East Africa…Zambia (Northern Rhodesia) German commander Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck along with about 1,500 troops continued to raid after 11 November 1918. At the Chambeshi River 14 November 1918 Lettow-Vorbeck was informed of the 11 November 1918 armistice. On 25 November 1918, his undefeated army surrendered at Abercorn.

What Will You Do For Us Afterwards?

Posted By on October 29, 2023

The soldier's question.

The soldier’s question.

Returned Soldier Writes of Ghosts

Too often the loser in that struggle was the ex-soldier, reduced to plead[ing] hopelessly with soul-less powers who renege their promises made, who grind these broken veterans to starvation, shame and suicide. (Will R. Bird M.M. (Returned Soldier) in Death So Noble, J. Vance, p. 119)

William Richard Bird was a soldier whose shared Great War experience with so many veterans became the impetus for his work as a writer. His brother, Stephen Bird, was killed by that war and William wished to take his place at the front. For two years William served with the 42nd Canadian Infantry Battalion (Royal Highlanders of Canada). From this time at the front and the emotional legacy left by his brother William penned two books And We Go On (1930) and Ghosts Have Warm Hands (1968).

Having decided in 1928 to become a fulltime writer his work appeared in the Toronto Star Weekly, Family Herald and the Saturday Evening Post. In 1931 MacLean’s Magazine sent William Bird back to France where his return to the conflict in the peace, became the series Thirteen Years After. The series further became a tour and a book. Yet for all of William’s efforts towards providing and sharing his experiences of this Great War, known to many veterans, war was not done with this former soldier.

William and his wife Ethel lost their only son Captain Stephen Stanley Bird (North Nova Scotia Highlanders) leading to William producing stories sharing his grief, and his connection to ghosts with warm hands.

What will you do for us afterwards the soldier asks?…I will write…I will read.

The Bird Family

Stephen Carman Bird was killed 8 October 1915, age 19 while serving with B Company of the 25th Canadian Infantry Battalion. Stephen is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) War Memorial. Previously reported missing it is believed that Stephen was killed by the explosion of an enemy mine.

Stephen Stanley Bird was killed 8 July 1944, age 24 while serving with the North Nova Scotia Highlanders. He is buried at Beny-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery, France.

William Richard Bird was awarded the Military Medal for Bravery in the Field. There is no citation for the award. William died 28 January 1984, age 92,

Ethel May Sutton Bird married William 18 June 1919 at Nappan, Cumberland, Nova Scotia. They had two children Stephen and Betty. Ethel died 25 July 1982, age 86.

Apart from Stephen and William Bird they had two more brothers. Lewis Bransby Bird and Hubert Craige Bird. Hubert served in the 193rd Canadian Infantry Battalion and was wounded 29 September 1918 in the left arm, left knee and head while serving with the 85th Battalion. By profession Hubert was a photographer prior to joining the army.

Battle of Loos

Posted By on September 18, 2023

German field gun captured at Loos. (Postcard image by St. Andrew's Service)

German field gun captured at Loos.
(Postcard image by St. Andrew’s Service)

War and War Trophies

Prior to the attack 533 British guns fired more than 250,000 shells during a four-day bombardment commencing 21 September 1915. At the time, the engagement was the largest Great War British offensive. The battle also marked the first use of gas by the British Army. Specialized units of the Royal Engineers released chlorine gas one hour prior to the assault. Weather was, however, not accommodating and gas blew back towards the British lines as well as settling in no-man’s land where the gas created considerable confusion.

The offensive proved that the German lines could be penetrated however the ability of the British Army to exploit attacks into major successes proved difficult. In the future to achieve success heavier bombardments would be required as well as more ammunition and better communications. More than 50,000 British soldiers became casualties at Loos. German losses were about half the British total.

Twenty-one Victoria Crosses were awarded for actions during the battle, including Piper Daniel Laidlaw (King’s Own Scottish Borderers), George Maling (Royal Army Medical Corps) and Kulbir Thapa (2nd Battalion, 3rd Queen Alexandra’s Own Gurkha Rifles.

Captured German guns from the Battle of Loos 25 September – 8 October 1915 were sent to England where some were publicly displayed in Horse Guards Parade near to Trafalgar Square. These events, exhibiting captured enemy equipment, were popular with the public and continued throughout the Great War. Many of the captured guns were later distributed to communities where they were displayed as trophies of war. In Canada two fields guns remain on exhibit in Esquimalt Memorial Park, British Columbia. Guns such as these are rare survivors as many of these community souvenirs were scraped during the Second World War to produce metals required for the war effort. The 77 mm field gun, shown in the postcard, was captured by the 19th (County of London) Battalion, The London Regiment.

Captured German Guns on Show – London (1914-1918). British Pathe.